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April 14, 2016

MaroonTV Busts Into Hollywood

For anyone with a Netflix account, last Friday was an exciting day. MaroonTV, the television and media RSO, teamed up with Ben Waltzer of UChicago Careers in Journalism, Arts, and the Media (UCIJAM) to host a talk with two television professionals, director David Solomon and writer Carla Kettner, at the Logan Center.

Despite being married and both working in the entertainment industry, Solomon and Kettner have generally worked on separate projects. Solomon is most famous for directing episodes for television series including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Kettner is known for her writing in shows such as Bones and Judging Amy. At the panel, the duo provided the room of eager prospective film studies students with an uncensored view into the life of a Hollywood insider.

The event’s Q&A format allowed the students to guide the conversation. Right off the bat, a student posed the million-dollar question: how do you get into the industry?

The question sparked an honest dialogue about the inaccessible and haphazard nature of the entertainment industry. Kettner began by saying, “It’s tough to get that first PA (production assistant) gig…[but] there is a lot more employment available in television” compared to in film.

She also emphasized that entering the industry as anything besides a white, heterosexual male is a huge advantage: “There is a shortage of female directors…[so] women and minorities have a leg up.” Solomon—himself a white, heterosexual male—quickly jumped in to agree.

The second question focused on what happens once you get your foot in the door: how do you get past an entry-level position to become an up-and-coming director or earn a seat at a writer’s table?

“Work hard and have people love you,” Solomon said simply.

Kettner fully endorsed his claim by advising that you should focus on “doing something you can do that no one else can, even if that means perfecting the little things, like being the best at getting coffee.”

Kettner recounted a story of a PA who would sit in on writing sessions solely to take notes. This PA never just took ordinary notes, though: she would insert positive quotes, images, or links at the beginning and end of the notes to brighten the mood of whomever ended up reading them. She would sometimes even include videos relating to ideas being discussed. These little things do not go unnoticed, Kettner emphasized: this woman was promoted to a writer, unlike other PAs they’ve had in the past.

The remainder of the conversation centered on how college students can decide whether this career path fits them and how to best prepare upon entry.

“It is not a job for the faint of heart,” Kettner warned.

However, at the end of the day, if it’s something a student loves to do, she completely encouraged the life the entertainment industry can provide. “It’s a little like the college vibe…like you never have to grow up. Someone is paying me a lot of money to write, and I would do it for free.”

Solomon summed up his practical advice in one word: “more.”

“For God’s sake, we can shoot videos on our iPhones,” he said. “There’s no excuse [not to do more].”

Without networking or prolonged outreach, very rarely do college students get to pick the brains of two renowned artists in such a rapidly growing yet impenetrable industry. With the advice provided from this session, the room full of aspiring artists left the conversation inspired to do—as Solomon put it—more.

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