Wednesday June 22, 2016

Flyers in Hollywood

The University of Dayton has gone Hollywood. In April, a group of media production students visited Los Angeles, where they toured CBS Studios, met with the executive director of the Producers Guild of America and attended a panel discussion with University alumni who work in the entertainment industry.

Now a sequel is in the works. The department of communication is working to make “Flyers in Hollywood” an annual event, said Joe Valenzano III, associate professor and chair of the department.

"The experience and exposure our students get, as well as the connections with alumni the trip helps to enhance, is a worthy investment for UD," Valenzano said. "In fact, we are exploring adding some other components to the trip that will make it even more valuable for our students."

Flyers in Hollywood is an expansion of an annual experiential learning opportunity for upper-level communication students. Each year, a group of Flyer TV lab managers accompany communication faculty to the National Association of Broadcasters trade show in Las Vegas, where they attend a career fair and learn about the latest industry trends.

Flyer TV is the University’s student-run television station. It gives students with an interest in television and multimedia production the opportunity to develop, write, shoot and edit their own programs for distribution on the campus cable network.

In 2015, students who attended the NAB show also stopped at the Denver studios of High Noon Entertainment, a production company that produces popular reality shows such as TLC’s Cake Boss. University alumnus Duke Hartman '74 is High Noon’s co-founder and chief operating officer.

This year, eight students visited Los Angeles on their way home from the NAB show for a whirlwind day of immersion into the entertainment industry.

The students were joined by Valenzano; Roy Flynn, a lecturer and Flyer TV station manager; and Jon Hess, a College of Arts and Sciences associate dean who preceded Valenzano as department chair.

Kerri Marks, who graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in media production, described the Flyers in Hollywood trip as a great experience, especially talking to alumni who have made successful careers in Hollywood.

"It was interesting to hear about each of their different career paths, some of which I'd never considered before," said Marks, a Kentucky native who served as Flyer TV’s remote manager during her senior year. "The best advice I received from multiple alumni was to find something you're passionate about and pursue it wholeheartedly."

The students started their day with a tour of CBS Studios guided by University alumnus Tom Fick '72, a network television producer who is founder and executive director of Project: Hollywood Cares. The nonprofit organization distributes donated DVDs, CDs and video games to deployed U.S. military personnel and wounded soldiers to help boost their morale.

The CBS Studios tour included the set of Entertainment Tonight, where a producer discussed possible industry careers with the students.

After the tour the students had lunch with University alumnus Kevin Meagher '73, co-chief executive of Pop Arts Media LLC, a television and web production company.

Then they met with Vance Van Petten, executive director of the Producers Guild, who offered his insights on the industry. That meeting was arranged by University alumnus Tom Mazza '81, a 25-year television industry veteran who is now chief executive of EveryWhere Studios, an independent production company.

The day concluded with a reception and panel networking event with eight alumni, including Fick; Meagher; Mazza; Matthew Arnold '99, an award-winning documentary filmmaker; Robert Burke '88, a motion picture marketing, publicity and distribution strategist; Kathryn Daley '76, president of Daley Entertainment; Jonathan Judge '93, who is executive producing and directing the reboot of Sigmund and the Sea Monsters for Amazon Studios; and Kerry McCarthy '88, vice president of domestic retail sales for HBO Home Entertainment.

"Cramming all that into one day was something else," Hess said. "The students were exhausted by the end of the day and I loved it. But what they got out of that one day was more than we could give them in a semester."

Valenzano said the trip illustrated the close ties alumni have with the University, regardless of how many years since they graduated.

"Their desire and willingness to help this generation of students in terms of understanding the industry in which they work and how to network is just inspiring," Valenzano said.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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