Santa Clara and Hollywood both boast blue skies and palm trees, but the sheer size of the Hollywood machine can be a big adjustment for students heading south. Film and television production is the third-largest employment sector in Los Angeles County, and the industry as a whole is estimated to employ more than 18 million workers nationally. So it’s no surprise that SCU alumni are working in almost every corner of the industry—acting, directing, writing, working in production, producing, and working in talent agencies to find more actors, directors, writers, and producers. And in 2004, a few alumni set out to help one another connect.
Jovan Bell ’99 and Blye (Pagon) Faust ’97 founded the SCU Entertainment Alumni Group, and Gina Blancarte ’99 and Elizabeth Madariaga ’99 joined shortly thereafter. To recruit Southern California alumni, they reached out to members of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Alumni Association by hosting networking events and by starting a group on InCircle to promote activities and share information. The group already has more than 200 members with more than 80 signed on to a growing InCircle group.
Blancarte, now SCU’s associate director of alumni programs, worked for several years in Los Angeles for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which produces the GRAMMY Awards. She knew she wanted to be involved with helping other alumni who were in the same big boat. “It can be so hard to move away from what you’re used to and get conditioned to the industry,” she says. “We just wanted to feel connected, to talk with people who had similar backgrounds and the same kinds of daily struggles.”
Bell earned an MFA in cinema and television production from USC. In his work as an editor and as a broadcast coordinator, he has seen first hand the benefit of a networking group for professionals. Cofounder Faust runs a production company, KB Pictures, which she started after earning a law degree in 2001 and practicing in Los Angeles for two years.
The group came home to campus last October and, together with the Department of Communication and the Alumni Association, hosted a panel for current students interested in careers in the entertainment industry. Bell served as moderator; Madariaga, who works in production and development for television, was joined on the panel by Marty Ryan ’82, an actor who has worked steadily in television and films since 1995, most recently in episodes of “Veronica Mars” and “Boston Legal”; Nicole Bugna-Doyle ’95, who works in post-production for TV production and distribution company Carsey Werner; and Elizabeth Glotzbach ’03, who is an assistant at Paradigm Talent and Literary Agency. All stress the importance of internships, which are the best way for interested students to get a foot in the door. Being geographically close to Los Angeles makes summer internships a real possibility for SCU students, and there are plenty to choose from (especially of the unpaid variety). “Everyone wants an intern!” Glotzbach says.
This past spring break, SCU seniors were able to visit Los Angeles and meet with some of the group’s members for a look at life in various corners of the industry. Students were given the chance to shadow employees at several different companies, including MTV, Discovery Channel, DreamWorks Animation, and some post-production facilities.
“The thing about this industry is that there are so many jobs, and people usually know writing, directing, and acting,” Madariaga says. “The students really got to meet people who did everything.”
The group hopes to make the spring break shadow opportunities an annual event. For the coming year, plans are also afoot for more networking events, an actor’s showcase, and a panel at SCU. “Everybody wants to hear the Cinderella story,” Madariaga says. “It’s all about perseverance, in this business especially, but you can figure it out.”
—Sarah Stanek is a writer/editor for the Office of Marketing and Communications.