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Chronicles of the first coast-to-coast symposium
Story by Charlotte Hsu
Months have passed since Kathryn Przybyla jetted to Los Angeles to learn about the entertainment industry and meet UB alumni who have made a name for themselves in Hollywood. But the communications student is still gushing about her experience at the first UB Coast to Coast (UBC2C) Entertainment and Media Symposium, which featured three jam-packed days of workshops, networking and mentorship opportunities for people interested in breaking into the entertainment industry.
An aspiring writer, Przybyla experienced a rare behind-the-scenes look at the Wilshire Boulevard offices of Variety, widely considered the entertainment industry’s most important trade publication (varietymediacareers.com was the symposium’s media sponsor). Later, she spent a full day learning about magazine journalism from Alan Steinberg, BA ’68, a bestselling author who has published articles in publications ranging from the New York Times to Penthouse, and she met and developed a relationship—which she maintains—with Carol Green, an entertainment public relations and marketing consultant and unit publicist for feature films and television.
Christine La Monte, right, BA ’69, theater, television and film producer, and Rosalind Jarrett, left, BA ’69, executive in charge of publicity for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, greet Steve Gaydos, executive editor of features with Variety and a keynote speaker. Varietymediacareers.com was a major sponsor of UBC2C. Click here to view a slide show of the Hollywood event. Photo by Renee Cascia
“It was so amazing. … If you ask any student that went to [UBC2C Hollywood], they would say it was so awesome. All of us want to apply to come back—every single one of us,” Przybyla says. She was one of 19 UB students and 20 alumni to receive a donor-funded stipend covering expenses related to the symposium.
UBC2C Hollywood, which took place the weekend of June 26–28 at locations including Writers Boot Camp at Bergamot Station Arts Center in Santa Monica, CA, drew more than 215 attendees. The event was sponsored by the College of Arts Sciences and produced by two UB alumnae with successful entertainment careers: Christine La Monte, BA ’69, an independent film producer and former film studio marketing executive who produced the award-winning short, Dandelion Dharma: and Rosalind Jarrett, BA ’69, executive in charge of publicity for the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Both sit on the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council. UB already is planning a second entertainment and media symposium for 2010, this one in New York City. (Watch http://ubc2c.com for more information about the New York City event.)
Though UBC2C Hollywood was open to the public, it was designed to bring UB students and recent graduates together with prominent alumni in the entertainment industry. The list of presenters who led Saturday’s workshops included La Monte, Jarrett and Steinberg along with Bobby Collins, BA ’73, an award-winning comic; Ted Kryczko, BA ’76, a Walt Disney Records vice president; Robert Lamoreaux, a children’s TV writer and producer who attended UB in the 1990s; Rob Lieberman, BA ’71, an award-winning commercial and film director who has directed episodes of the TV series Dexter; Linda Phillips Palo, MA ’75 & BA ’72, a longtime feature film casting director who has worked on such movies as The Virgin Suicides and The Rainmaker; Peter Riegert, BA ’68, veteran actor/writer/director who has appeared in more than 30 films, including Animal House, Traffic and Chilly Scenes of Winter; and Alan Zweibel, BA ’72, a multi-Emmy Award–winning writer, producer and director who began his career as part of the original Saturday Night Live writing team.
On the last day of the symposium, participants got the opportunity to spend a half hour with each of four entertainment industry mentors of their choice. The Sunday sessions were Przybyla’s favorite part of the program. Przybyla says Green, one of her mentors, encouraged her to apply for journalism internships in New York City and to pursue a career in the field. Since returning from the symposium, Przybyla has had an article published in the Buffalo Irish Times and researched writing opportunities for other publications.
“Definitely, it’s shaped what I wanted to do,” she says of UBC2C Hollywood. “I had a journal when I was little, and I used to write little short stories when I was younger, but I never thought of it as a serious thing.”
According to presenters at UBC2C Hollywood, Przybyla’s attitude was typical of participants.
“The students were great,” says Phillips Palo, who conducted an acting and casting workshop with her husband, Paul Palo, a director and producer; and Steven Christopher Parker, a young actor who has had roles in ER and Juno. “They had a lot of questions. They were very focused, they knew what they wanted. Most of them were from UB, and some of them had [attended] UB and had relocated out here. They were all very serious.”
“Attendees were open and eager to participate, and came with a real commitment to connect, network and learn,” says La Monte, who headed a workshop on independent film. “And that was what it was all about.”
For many UBC2C Hollywood participants, the event was a rare opportunity to see Hollywood from the inside. Many made connections with entertainment industry contacts, who continue to serve as mentors, and many are staying in touch with workshop leaders through social networking groups .
Lamoreaux, the TV writer and producer, says every student in his workshop has e-mailed him at least once since the symposium ended. He is keeping in touch with some who are moving to the Los Angeles area from Buffalo. During his workshop on writing for animation, he says, “I told them everything I could possibly tell them in eight hours—how I broke into the industry, how to get an agent, how to pitch materials, exercises on how to get better. And if you’re going to move to Los Angeles, which I highly recommend, what neighborhoods to live in.”
Like Przybyla, Lauren Mook, a May 2009 graduate who also received a stipend to attend UBC2C Hollywood, toured the offices of Variety, a special opportunity offered to some students.
“It was in their big office on the top floor of this giant skyscraper on Wilshire Boulevard with this incredible view of all of LA,” recalls Mook, who is interested in a career in entertainment media. “They talked to us about what they do, from advertising to journalism, and getting the magazine out there. … What struck me the first time was that the staff there were all so different—coming from different countries, all different ages, a good mix of people who were contributing.”
“That day was such a gift,” Przybyla says. “You can’t just go up to Variety and say, ‘Hey, can I get a tour?’” In fact, according to Jarrett, who arranged the day at Variety, most people in the industry will never have this kind of opportunity.
Of her UBC2C Hollywood experience, Mook says, “It was great. It was everything I expected. I didn’t really have an idea of what it would be like to go out there—you didn’t really know exactly what you were going to be doing. … I would definitely, definitely, definitely recommend it to any undergraduate looking to get into that industry.”
Charlotte Hsu, formerly a reporter for the Las Vegas Sun, is a staff writer for University Communications.
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