In the Spotlight

SCU students are making vital career connections in Hollywood thanks to an annual weeklong shadowing and networking program

In any industry, it’s important to have a personal network to move ahead. That is especially true in entertainment and film, where many screen credits are peppered with graduates from Los Angeles-based universities such as USC and UCLA.

For the past decade, Santa Clara University has been strengthening its own network in Hollywood with an annual industry-shadowing program during spring break. As many as 45 students make the weeklong trip to LA, led by Knight-Ridder/San Jose Mercury News Endowed Professor and Associate Professor Michael Whalen, where they meet with a variety of industry professionals.

“Students can meet with anyone, from a recent graduate who is a production assistant all the way up to Michelle Ashford ’83, who is the creator of Masters of Sex and has many credits as an executive producer and writer,” says Whalen.

In the past, students have met with industry giants such as Disney, Paramount, and the Creative Artists Agency. The idea is twofold: Students with a clear passion for a role in the entertainment industry can make those connections that are so key to fashioning a career, and students who may not have a narrowed focus can discover a role in the industry for themselves.

“Students make personal connections, turn around, and follow up in spring quarter, not just for internships, but for jobs,” Whalen says. “Last year alone, six students landed their current job from the program.”

For senior Alexa Burke ’16, a meeting with the vice president for broadcast distribution at Fox led to a summer internship. Over winter quarter, Burke is interning with producer Blye Faust ’97. Faust is co-producer of the movie Spotlight, which was recently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.

“The program shows the importance of knowing the right people and meeting as many people as you can,” says Burke. “The general consensus in LA is that no one got where they are alone, someone helped them get their job, and they really want to help the next person.”