L.A., the city of fast cars and celebrities, and people who look like celebrities but aren’t,
and expensive … everything. I mean, everything’s expensive. Seriously, make sure you have a hefty bank account if you go, because, wow.
Anyway, why am I telling you this? Because nine classmates and I had the opportunity to head to the West Coast with two professors as part of a communication course (COMM-342: City Experience—Film, Television & Radio in Los Angeles) that was offered during the fall 2017 semester.
Now you might be thinking, “What does a trip to L.A. have to do with communication?” In a word, everything. Communication deals with television, film, radio and online content—all of which is produced by companies and studios in Los Angeles. We spent five days in L.A. in October learning about major communication companies and studios and seeing the sights, including some that most people don’t get to see. Here’s my recap, along with some of the things we learned.
On our first day, we went to Universal City Walk to get acclimated to the area. Universal City Walk, located next to Universal Studios Theme Park, has a movie theater, shops and restaurants. We also visited Whalerock Industries, where we met and talked with a Bellarmine alumna.
Emily Carroll ’08 oversees production and development at Whalerock, a media/technology company that produces premium online content and emoji packages. Carroll shared some information about how she got to where she is today and gave us advice on pursuing our own careers. She showed us around the studio she oversees and talked about some of the people she’s met and the experiences she’s had.
What we learned:
- Always be outgoing in your internship or career. Do any and all tasks that you can, so that when you leave that job or internship, they will realize how important you were to that company.
- Remember the names of everyone you meet because networking is a major part of landing any job. Who you know could one day help to provide unique opportunities in your career field.
The Paley Center for Media
While having lunch at a deli called Nate ’n Al’s, where a lot of celebrities eat, some of my classmates swore they saw Steven Spielberg. Others thought it was a lookalike. Look at the picture and judge for yourself. The debate continued until we arrived at the Paley Center for Media, a museum and archive of broadcast programs. Instead of having rooms of memorabilia, the Paley Center has screening rooms where you can watch old TV shows or listen to old radio programs. In one of the full-sized theaters, we watched a movie about a few television shows that are archived there and how they were produced. Our professors then had us comb through a bit of the archived programming and look for shows that our parents and grandparents would have watched.
What we learned:
- The importance of preserving history in the form of broadcast television.
- The Paley Center is the second-largest archive of broadcast programs in the country that is open to the public.
Warner Bros. Studios
The next day we took a tour of Warner Bros. Studios, where we saw sets for television shows like Friends and The Big Bang Theory and props and costumes for movies like the Batman franchise, as well as the vehicles used in the Batman movies. We saw props and costumes for other films in the WB Archives building. In the prop warehouse, which looks like a huge flea market, we saw items such as a mirror that was used in Beauty and the Beast and the Mr. Smith mannequins from the Matrix movies.
We then returned to our hotel to wait for our guest speaker, Jesse Heiman, known to some as “the world’s greatest extra.” He has appeared in dozens of movies and television shows as a background actor, often uncredited, and is probably most recognized for the 2013 Go Daddy Super Bowl commercial where he kissed supermodel Bar Refaeli. Heiman originally moved to California to become a writer, but when he was short on cash and needed work, a friend suggested that he sign up for extra work. That’s how his career began.
What we learned:
Warner Bros. Studios has an open studio policy. Any studio can film on its lot as long as it pays a fee.
- The same sets are used for multiple films, with a few tweaks made.
- Movie studios provide many different types of employment in the communication field.
- Unexpected turns in your career can end up being beneficial.
The Ellen Show and Rick Dees
On our third day in L.A., we attended a live taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Before the show started, we did a lot of dancing until Twitch, the DJ, came out. At one point, we even got Dr. Lara Needham—that’s right, the dean of the School of Communication—to get up and dance in front of the crowd. Ellen’s guests that day were Snoop Dogg, the rapper/producer, and actor Andrew Garfield. We, along with the entire audience, were invited back to attend Ellen’s “12 Days of Giveaways” holiday shows in December because of a mistake with the teleprompter when she was taping promos for those shows. (Several of us made the trip.)
Shortly after the show ended, we made our way down the street to the radio studio of DJ Rick Dees, who hosts the syndicated Weekly Top 40 Countdown and who had gotten us the tickets for The Ellen Show. He talked about what he currently does at the radio station and told us personal life stories that helped shape him and his career. (He also has a farm and a studio outside Danville, Ky.) The stories continued when we all went to dinner with him.
What we learned:
- The different jobs that are required to run a major television talk show.
- The importance of making sure a studio audience knows you are taping a promo for your “Days of Giveaways” and not inviting them all back to join you.
- Life lessons such as being generous and gracious to everyone but also watching out for people trying to take advantage of you.
Wild Canary Productions
Our final day was spent touring Wild Canary Productions—a company that produces animated shows for Disney Junior. We saw one unaired episode each of two shows that the studio works on. We also observed some of the steps involved in making an animated television show and talked to some of the people who work on the shows.
What we learned:
- There are many jobs at an animation studio at different stages of production.
- You have to work up to a job like this; you can’t expect to jump straight into it.
I asked Elise Martino, one of the other students on the trip, what she had learned during our time in L.A. Like most of us, she said the major thing she took away from all of our guest speakers was the importance of networking.
This was a fantastic trip, and I was lucky to go on it. It helped us to gain some perspective and learn about a side of the communication field that didn’t have to do with news or journalism. Plus, I got to ride the Batcycle.
By Tyler Hardin ’17
Tyler Hardin, who graduated in December 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in communication, was an intern for Bellarmine Magazine last fall.