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It's great that Curry has shuttles going into Boston so we could do things like go to Celtics and Bruins games throughout the season.

Monica Distefano '14
6th Grade Math Teacher
Major: Elementary Education

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Alumni Success in Hollywood Paving the Way for Curry COM Students

April 11, 2011

Many college communication professors try to give their students an idea of what it is like to work in the intense and exciting world of television and film.  But through Curry College's "Hollywood Productions: Up Close" class, students have a chance to experience the industry firsthand.

Every two years, during Curry's winter session, the three-credit course introduces a select group of advanced communication students to the behind-the-scenes world of Tinsel Town, where they spend a week in Los Angeles ensconced in the entertainment industry.   (Students interested in taking "Hollywood Productions: Up Close" are required to take a prerequisite class called "The Business of Hollywood" during the fall semester.)

The January 2011 trip was the fourth of its kind since 2005, each one more fruitful than the last, and has now become a catalyst to career success for several former communication students.

Many of those success stories are now Curry alums who are more than happy to return the favor, giving the students who attend the trip an all-access pass to the creation process of the popular media we consume every day, including sitcoms, talk shows and movies.  

"This class has grown every year.  Each time we go to Los Angeles, there are more and more Curry alumni who donate their time to give our students a taste of the industry," said communication department co-chair, Jerry Gibbs.  "Curry has planted a permanent flag out in L.A. and we are proud of the continued success of our alumni."

Successful Alums Leading by Example

One such alum is Joseph Morabito '06, (attended 'Up Close' 2005) who is wrapping up a successful year with NBC's "Minute to Win It."  He has also been hired as the Production Coordinator for a new NBC game show, slated to begin production later in 2011.  He graciously hosted the Curry delegation at both "Minute to Win It" and "Fox NFL Sunday," where he works part-time as well.

'Minute' host and Food Network star, Chef Guy Fieri took time out of his busy schedule to sit down and impart some advice to the Curry group, telling them, "When you come to L.A., you will all start at the bottom, but be aware that everyone is watching you.  And if you have the talent, you will move up the ladder quickly." 

Later, Chip Dox, the main scenic designer for "General Hospital," gave the group a guided tour of the show's massive sound stage, and as a bonus, they got a peek at the set of "Grey's Anatomy." 

Patrick Beck '06, whose television sitcom pilot "Graduates" (filmed at Curry's Milton campus over the summer of 2008) earned he and his writing partners representation from the United Talent Agency of Beverly Hills (UTA).  Today, his team has several show ideas and scripts being reviewed by studios and networks which are close to getting the green light for production.

Beck told the group that moving out to work in L.A. would initially be hard and that staying focused on short and long-term goals was the key to success.

Beck also had this advice, "Hollywood producers love the Boston work ethic.  Say 'yes' to every small opportunity.  But most importantly, set goals for yourself.  Set goals for one year...two years...and even five to ten years out."  

 Andrew Graziano '07 ('Up Close' trip 2007), who is now a technical manager with CBS Mobile Video Marketing team, sat down with the group to discuss his work with several CBS shows and entities. 

For the second straight trip, Graziano was helpful in getting the group access to "The Price is Right," where the group was able to sit in on a production meeting, take a private tour of the set and sit in the audience for a live taping.

Shortly after returning from the 'Up Close' trip as a student in 2009, Will Garten '10 had this to say about meeting successful Curry alums in Hollywood, "It was really encouraging because these people went to Curry and they are making it out there.  So, it tells me if I work hard, I can be another successful Curry alum in Hollywood." 

And now he is...Garten moved out West after graduation and works at NBC/Universal in the Universal Pictures Marketing Department.  This job opportunity arose during the 2009 trip, when Garten accepted an offer from Stewart Huey '85 (VP Creative Operations-Print at Universal Pictures) to come to Los Angeles and intern at Universal during the summer before his senior year at Curry.

Fellow 2010 grad Kimber Hamill, who also attended the trip in 2009, is experiencing professional success as well.   She is working at an L.A. public relations agency, promoting young actors. 

By sharing their experiences, Garten and Hamill were able to give the students a sense of what it takes to secure that coveted first job in the entertainment business.

Our old friend, Hollywood producer John Wolk '92 continues to thrive not only in television, but film as well.  The ABC executive and his producing partner, Patrick Warburton ("Seinfeld," "Family Guy," "Rules of Engagement"), continue to collaborate on multiple projects.

Wolk invited the Curry students to the set of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" to meet with the producers, comedy writers and production assistants, who discussed their hard work as interns before they got hired.  The panel was kind enough to host the students in the private green room backstage.

"Overall, this trip was a great experience no matter what direction I decide to take my career," said Patrick Biagiotti (class of 2012).  "I received some invaluable pieces of advice this week.  Among them were:  promote yourself, network as much as possible and don't be afraid to work long hours."

Friends in High Places

In addition to the Curry alums, students on the trip also had the privilege of talking with some prominent people in the business.

Bob Del Valle, (who Professor Gibbs met through his role as an Academy of Television Arts and Science Fellow (link to article)), was a fan favorite, giving the students a look at the behind-the-scenes production work that accompanies a major HBO production.  Later, students were able to visit the set of the hit show, "True Blood."

"I almost went into cardiac arrest with excitement," said junior Courtney Russo.  "Bob Del Valle gave us some of the inside scoop on "True Blood" and even let us take a peek at some of the more iconic sets from the show."

What has now become a tradition of sorts on the L.A. trip, students visited with old friend Tom Patino, the production manager at the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno." This time around, Leno himself met with the group after they attended a taping of the show.  A Massachusetts native, Leno stressed the importance of taking that big first step and moving out to Los Angeles to begin their journey.

Students also had a chance to meet with another friend of Curry, Eve Light Honthaner, who has worked on such films as "Tropic Thunder" and "Titanic."  The Curry contingency had recently read Honthaner's book, Hollywood Drive:  What it Takes to Break in, Hang in & Make it in the Entertainment Industry and were thrilled to pick her brain about her experiences.

Honthaner also facilitated a visit to the DreamWorks Studio archives, were the group had a chance to see the props and costumes from some of their favorite movies.

The group also sat in on a live taping of the Emmy-award winning "Big Bang Theory" and afterwards had a chance to talk at length with one of the show's writers, David Goetsch.

Rounding out the week was a VIP tour of the Warner Bros. lot, a visit with independent filmmaker Suzanne Lyons and a visit to the 20th Century FOX post-production facilities, including the orchestra sound stage and Foley recording studio.  An added treat was seeing several stars from ABC's "Modern Family" walking the lot.

Event at Sky Bar at Mondrian

The week came to a close with a special event at the elegant Skybar at the Mondrian Hotel on the Sunset Strip, hosted by the Curry Communication department, the Office of Institutional Advancement and the Office of Admission.  The venue featured an outdoor pool overlooking the city of Los Angeles.

At the reception, students had a chance to interact and network in a social setting with the folks in the industry they had met during the week, along with several other Curry alums and parents. 

Alumni from the past five decades were represented, all who have had success on the West Coast both inside and outside of the entertainment industry.

"The Skybar was absolutely amazing; I had never seen anything like it.  I felt like I was at an exclusive celebrity party," said junior Alicia Fiori.  "It was so fun to talk to all of the alumni and hear how they got started in the business."

Not Just Fun and Games

As much fun as the group had on the West Coast, this trip was far from a vacation, and there were some conditions to be met to qualify for this privilege.

Prior to registering for the class, aspiring students were required to complete an application outlining their interests in the film and television industry along with their aspirations about pursuing careers in L.A. after graduation.  The professors reviewed all of the applications, picking thirteen deserving students for the 2011 class.

While in Los Angeles, participants were required to take quizzes on a daily basis.  These quizzes covered everything from what students had read in their textbooks to specifics of their daily meetings with industry professionals.  Students were also encouraged to prepare for those meetings by researching the biographies and career histories of those professionals.

All of this hard work culminated in a 12-page paper describing the week's activities, due shortly after the trip was over.

Bridget Shannon (class of 2012) summed up the experience, "This was a trip of a lifetime and I know my classmates feel the same way.  I learned so much and I know that I will now use this knowledge to the best of my ability.  I can truly say that this trip changed the course of my life."

Many students are now preparing to move to Los Angeles after graduation and/or pursuing a semester-long internship experience through Curry, where students will work full-time at an internship site and be housed in nearby Burbank, CA.


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