Lauren Vernea, Class of 2017
What is your current role(s)/project(s) and what are your responsibilities?
By day, I’m currently a freelance documentary associate producer based in New York City. On nights and weekends, I’m an actress, writer and narrative film producer. After doing my internship at the end of MSLCE, I was hired by the company for another project and from there, thankfully, the work kept coming. I’ve been able to work for some really awesome companies like Mass Appeal, Vox, and ABC News, producing documentaries for Netflix, PBS, Starz, and Fox. As an Associate Producer I work mainly with producers and editors, getting documentaries ready for air. This includes finding archival videos and photos, scheduling shoots, reviewing cuts, performing journalist duties, etc. My favorite aspect of the work is shaping the script/story and conducting interviews. I’ve had the opportunity to travel and lead shoots at music festivals and really cool events. I’ve met people I’ve looked up to all my life and learned from them. I wish I knew more about this industry before I moved to NYC and I tell other MSLCE students that reach out to me to look into it and take it seriously. It’s a really awesome industry.
Besides my day job, living in NYC really made me step up my game as a writer, actor, and singer. I’ve been able to take classes in all three of these areas and find professional work opportunities. I’m creating pitch decks, acting in plays, writing and performing sketch comedy at The People’s Improv Theater, singing in cabarets near Broadway at Don’t Tell Mama, and workshopping my comedy TV pilot scripts that I’m prepping to shoot next year. The people who live here are overly ambitious and it does rub off on you. It can be a stressful city to live in, but the access you get to the industry, outside of LA, is unparalleled. If you’re like me and you always wanted to work in entertainment, it’s a playground here.
Tell us about any interesting or unique projects you worked on during your time in the MSLCE program.
My favorite project during MSLCE would definitely be the fictional sketch comedy network we created called “Sketch Connect” in Entrepreneurship for the Arts with Prof. Greg Latterman. That was by far my favorite class of the program as I love creating creative organizations from the ground up. What made this class different, however, were the research tactics I learned and feedback I received through the class that allowed for the final product to turn out so much better. The Digital TV class with AJ Christian was amazing as he’s just an amazing and authentic person who genuinely wants to mentor creators of color. He really helped me find my voice and understand more about the TV industry as a whole.
What was your favorite experience with MSLCE?
My favorite experience with MSLCE would most definitely be the relationships I made with my cohort. Everyone had such interesting and culturally diverse backgrounds along with various work histories, which really enriched the entire experience. I love being surrounded by ambitious and creative people; going to class every day was so energizing for me. I also enjoyed writing for the program blog and feel that it helped me absorb more of everything given to us as students. I still keep in touch with mentors and professors I met in the program.
What did you learn in the program that you’ve been able to apply to your current endeavors?
The main thing I learned in MSLCE that I’ve applied to my current endeavors is that it’s ok to have multiple interests; just be strategic and do your research. MSLCE really drilled in us the power in research and preparation, whether we were prepping for a speaker series or applying to jobs. Once you get the job or a relationship is established, those soft social skills are just as important as your talent. Following through, tact, and being personable go a long way in making connections in the industry. I think now I’ve finally gotten to a place where I know who I am as a creative and I know how to leverage my abilities to achieve practical and artistic goals. MSLCE and my experiences afterwards definitely helped me get to that mindset.
What advice do you have for anyone considering the MSLCE program? Why did you choose MSLCE?
My advice would be to put everything you have into the program. Go to the all the events, network with people outside of MSLCE, and most importantly build within your cohort. Go shoot things together, create business plans, go to events together, whatever it is, it’s important to build a bond with the people you’re in class with. Hopefully, that will continue professionally and you can either help each other out in the future or work together. My cohort did really well professionally and I’m so happy for all of them.
Also, if you’re like me an actor, writer, singer, etc. who wants to do the program to gain business knowledge to propel your career, keep working on your artistic side. Use Chicago to train and perform. Invite people out to your shows and GET FEEDBACK. Don’t be shy in telling people you’re an artist and keep generating content. I made a short doc while in the program called Black Melodies that is still doing well and getting screenings in New York. It’s one of the things I created that really opened doors for me and Dr. AJ Christian and his Digital TV class definitely helped with the process.
If your goal is to work in New York or Los Angeles, use Chicago as much as you can and use Northwestern to connect with people on the coast, especially during the Industry Immersion Trip. I still keep up with executives I met on that trip. Work as a PA or get an internship at a production company. I worked at Answers Media during the spring quarter of the program as a paid intern. My supervisor there from New York really championed and mentored me. You will learn A TON and it will help you be taken more seriously when you go out to the coast and need a day job. Also GET A MENTOR. I have two mentors now through the Northwestern Mentorship program, one is a theater director the other is network executive and they both have opened my eyes to new strategies and opportunities.
I’m looking forward to eventually getting my TV pilots produced by a network, getting staffed as a writer on a show, and/or getting more acting opportunities in TV/Film. If any of these things happen I would be happy and I’m so grateful to MSLCE for giving me the tools to work towards these goals.