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On MSLCE Trek to LA, Purple Pride Abounds

By Evyenia Constantine

In true Midwest fashion, a late Spring snowstorm bid us goodbye as the MSLCE cohort embarked on its networking trek to Los Angeles, California. As we left the snowy arch of the Northwestern Campus in Evanston behind, we were soon greeted in LA with sunshine, palm trees, and the welcoming, smiling faces of Northwestern alumni eager to be our gracious hosts, and share with us their secrets to success in the entertainment industry.

We might have left the campus but the shared feeling of purple pride was as powerful as ever.Our trek began with a meeting with SoC alum Michael Janak and beloved SoC faculty member David Downs, who shared with us their experiences and stories of life and work in LA. During the meeting, I noticed my cohort and I were equal parts laughing out loud and taking detailed notes as we received both hilarious stories and thoughtful advice. This tone carried over to our meeting with NU alumna, Producer and Co-President of NUEA West, Jackie Laine, who gave us wonderful insights about the panels, seminars and events specifically for NUEA West members in LA. Encouraging us to reach out and engage, she told us, “Come to the events, build your network and reach out. We are all here to help each other.

NU alums really like to mentor.” True to her words, she then invited all of us to attend two events hosted by NUEA West, where we instantly had the opportunity to put her advice into action. In addition to the stories, advice and networking opportunities, the LA trek gave us the chance to participate in Q&A’s with all of our speakers and site visit hosts. After the Winter quarter in the MSLCE program where course work included Entertainment Law, Finance in the Creative Industries, and Digital TV, I had a wealth of knowledge and felt completely comfortable diving right into discussion. Because of the rigorous and relevant coursework, the Q&A’s felt more like a dialogue, and it was thrilling to contribute.

A session with Anikka Sellz , Director of Awards at Weissman/Markovitz Communications, provided valuable insight into how TV award campaigns are constructed and won through marketing techniques and publicity. A site visit to UTA, one of the top entertainment agencies in the world, gave us the opportunity to ask pragmatic questions about managing clients, as we were welcomed in both the mailroom and the boardroom. Andy Bohn, Co-Founder of The Film Arcade, gave us an incredible overview of the changing landscape of film distribution, in addition to further explaining the acquisitions process. Josh Goldenberg, an Agent at management firm, Kaplan/Perrone, provided us with his origins story in the business and gave us sage advice. ” Don’t ask for permission,” he told us, “go after what you want.”

Jill Leiderman, the Executive Producer of Jimmy Kimmel Live, was a sensational host, giving us a complete tour of the entire studio right before the show began and providing us with a private ‘green room’ experience. She even introduced us to another NU alumna, Casting Assistant Allyson Byers, who generously answered our questions about the casting process. Mrs. Leiderman’s enthusiasm, energy and passion were palpable, and the entire building was bursting with energy and excitement. As she fielded questions, gave approval for the opening monologue, and took us to the various production departments, I noted the grace and respect with which she handled every person and situation. Watching her work was a privilege, and a true lesson in leadership.

Our trip came to a close with a site visit to MGM, where we were hosted by Steve Stark, President of Television Production. With my background and passion for film, I was elated to see iconic stills from my favorite MGM films, as we made our way to the boardroom. In addition to his advice and industry insight, Mr. Stark gave us what I consider to be a master class in the art of pitching, as he captivated us with several new concepts for television programs currently in development. He spoke to us about the importance of storytelling and articulating with passion, all the while perfectly exemplifying both.

As the trek ended, and we traded the sunshine for slush, I thought back on the experience of being welcomed into the NU family of Los Angeles. Every one of our hosts has worked very hard to achieve their success. They were incredibly passionate, giving and helpful. We met with so many alumni that I now have started to think of Los Angeles as an extension of the NU campus, filled with bright and talented people striving hard to achieve their dreams. As a member of the MSLCE program, and the NU family, I am filled with purple pride. #GoCats!