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MSLCE Students Learn the Importance of Networking on LA Trek

By Sarah Bergeson

Over the course of five days in Los Angeles, my fellow MSLCE students and I had several amazing opportunities to learn about various media industries by speaking to professionals from film/television, music, and talent agencies.

We began our trip by meeting with several Northwestern alumni, led by Marvel Animation Manager Diana Theobald and Tristar Productions Creative Executive Malcolm Gray, who gave us an overview of relocating to LA from Evanston. They happily answered our questions about how Northwestern helped them with the transition and continues to provide them with invaluable resources.

One major asset mentioned was the NUEA, which connects Wildcats with a network of alumni and also offers several intriguing Northwestern-only opportunities, such as peer groups. These insights about the power of Northwestern were a fantastic, reassuring way to start off the week, and they continued to be echoed by later speakers who referenced support received from fellow Northwestern grads as well as the willingness of Wildcats to meet with other students and share their insights.

As we moved through our speakers and site visits, the importance of people continued to be a clear theme. All of our speakers mentioned, at some point, how crucial network building has been to their careers in LA. In the words of Jordan Cerf, and agent at William Morris Endeavor (WME), we are all going into a “business of connections,” so building and maintaining good relationships is a requirement for success. These connections enabled speaker Erika Weinstein at AMC to organically create the mentor/mentee relationship that has served her throughout her career. Finally, Kevin Gore of DMI advised us to “find that person” who can be a great mentor and “Vulcan Mind-Meld their brain, suck the wisdom out…then take them out to dinner for the rest of your life” since the information they provide is invaluable.

The last major theme spread across speakers was the idea of constantly learning. We heard it first from Northwestern alumna and Neophonic Music Supervisor Amanda Thomas who stressed the importance of “never finish[ing] learning the skill set” by continuing to update your knowledge. This theme resurfaced on Thursday when Benjamin “Jamie” Salka of Story Pirates told us “You don’t have to know anything” despite the “cultural pressure to know something you don’t.” Rather, you can learn by digging in to a new position and getting your hands dirty because “if you’re passionate, curious and excited about what you’re doing” you’ll find a way to figure out how to get it done. The NU Alumni we spoke to at Funny or Die later in the day repeated this by suggesting that we learn and do everything in order to get a bigger picture on the industry and open more doors by having a wider skill set.

The five days in LA with MSLCE provided my fellow students and I with great insight into the industries represented. Even though I, personally, do not plan to pursue a career in film/television, music, or an agency, I was able to learn several valuable lessons that could not be taught in a classroom.