Day Two


The sunrises in L.A.

By: Connie Tais

At 7 a.m., I wake up, thinking that it might be a dream to be looking at the sunny morning in L.A. Today, the official meetings started, and I could not be more thankful for all the amazing and inspirational professionals we met. 

Ou first stop for the day was at NBCUniversal where we met Dawn Olmstead ’91 who is the president of Universal Content Productions and Wilshire Studios. She was incredible friendly and welcoming to all of us. Listening to how she got started and all the hard work she put to find where her passion lays was very inspirational. She explained to us the different departments and people that are involved in producing a show. That provided me with a greater understanding of the various jobs and positions that collaborate to create new content. She even gave us a tour around the offices where we met with other professionals in areas such as development, marketing and legal. Afterwards, we had fun at the Universal CityWalk and took nice pictures!

The Sundance Institute was our second destination. There, we met with Ilyse McKimmie who oversees the Feature Film program, Toby Brooks and Iz Rubinstein who told us about other various programs that Sundance has for emerging artists such as the Ignite Fellowship and the Episodic program. Learning about all the support and opportunities to nurture stories and voices that Sundance provides made more excited to submit my scripts and films for their applications. I hope one day to be part of their programs to grow and learn more as an artist.

Finally, we had our first alumni panel experience at the Emerson campus. It was fantastic to meet all the alumni and hear about their experiences. They talked about strategies for pitching ideas and yourself as a professional, how to work hard to achieve your goals, and how to be more confident in various work situations. Since they all work in distinct areas in media, they gave us great advice that allowed us to get a better understanding of the industry in L.A. 

I am very thankful for this day, and even more excited to meet more wonderful and welcoming professionals and Hofstra alumni!

Maybe I don’t hate writing?

By: Kat Holm

Today was a rollercoaster of emotions for me; it has been difficult to comprehend everything that happened. The day started off bright and early on a bus ride to Studio City where we met Dawn Olmstead, the current president of Universal Cable Productions. In the meeting, I learned a lot about what goes into the development of television show and how it is decided on which streaming service the show will end up. It was also very encouraging for me to hear the success story of a woman making it into such a powerful position. After the meeting, Olmstead surprised us by taking us on a tour of the building, escorting us through all of the various departments.

Our next stop was at the Sundance Institute where my aunt had worked in the past. Here I learned about Sundance’s elite feature film program from Ilyse McKimmie, as well as Sundance’s Ignite program for 18-25 year olds. I didn’t know about all the labs Sundance had to offer and I am strongly considering applying for the Ignite program after hearing about what the lab entails.

After a quick trip to Copymat Hollywood, we made it back just in time for the alumni panel. This panel addressed many of my worries about starting my career. One of the biggest struggles I’ve had going through the TV/Film program at Hofstra is that I can’t figure out what to pinpoint as my career goal. The alumni at the panel reassured me that they weren’t completely sure which area of the industry they’d end up in either when they graduated. After the panel, I ended up in a conversation with Ben Mehlman about writing, a conversation which I never thought I’d have. I always tell people that I hate writing so I was surprised to find myself having a passionate conversation about it. I’m planning on sending some of my work over and maybe I don’t completely hate writing after all?

From 30 Rock to L.A.

By: Kalle Neuman

If you know me at all, you know that I am and always have been a huge admirer/fan of all things NBC. Well, today was like a dream come true. Not only did I get to spend time in the NBC building here in L.A., but we also got to meet with an incredible alum, Dawn Olmstead, who is the president of UCP and Wilshire Studios. I always had my heart set and vision so narrowed on getting to 30 Rock in New York (which I thankfully got to do last semester) that I hadn’t even thought about all of the things that NBC has to offer out in L.A. After spending just a couple hours with Dawn today and getting to see the offices up close, I’m already rethinking my entire life plan of settling in New York. Dawn taught me so much and opened my eyes to a whole new side of the company that I thought I already knew so much about. It was a hugely impactful meeting for me and I could not be more grateful for that opportunity.

Because this program is so amazing, that wasn’t even the only amazing thing that we got to do today. We also got to see part of Universal Studios, and then head over to the Sundance Institute. At that meeting, I learned a lot of things about film and development that I wasn’t aware of before, and Sundance has so many great programs for up-and-coming content developers that got me really excited. 

Lastly, we had an alumni panel that was so interesting and helpful that I didn’t want it to end. All of the alums gave such great advice and told stories that were relatable in a lot of ways. We had a lot of great conversations as a group, and getting to connect with some of them one-on-one after the panel was such a valuable learning opportunity. I feel like I’m already going to walk away from this trip with so much more insight and knowledge about the industry than I had before. I can’t wait to talk to them again next week at the ceremony, and to continue meeting these amazing people and experiencing all of these new places I would have never been able to see on my own!

Settling nerves

By: Caroline Lea

Today was our very first networking stop, and it did not disappoint. The bar was set high at NBC first thing this morning by Dawn Olmstead, president of Universal Content Productions and Wilshire Studios. We had a great discussion about the content at Universal and Wilshire that she fosters into the content that we know and love, as well as her journey in the industry. With graduation coming up in a few months, I have recently become concerned about what happens if I decide I want to try out an area of the industry other than the one I start off in. With the television industry being made up of so many unique parts, it’s often hard to decide where you want to end up. Dawn explained how her career took many turns after starting out as an art director and finding her way to where she is now. Being told that it’s ok to take your time finding your place and trying out different aspects of the industry is something that isn’t often talked about and a huge relief to hear. 

After meeting with Dawn, I had the unique opportunity to continue the conversation of my nerves about graduating with my internship recruiter. Even though I am interning with NBC in New York this spring, my internship recruiter happens to be based in L.A. With two hours in our schedule for lunch, I jumped on the opportunity to use some of that time to meet with my recruiter. Hearing from the person whose job it is to make sure I have the best experience possible in my internship, and be a source for questions and guidance now and when I find my way into the working world after graduating, was another sigh of relief. So I have to say, so far the professionals of L.A. have been incredible and I can’t wait to see what’s in store! 

NBC & me

By: Michael Valentino

Today, was our first official day in L.A, and already, we are off to an amazing start. We got the opportunity to meet with Hofstra alum Dawn Olmstead who is the president of Universal Content Productions. She gave us a lot of valuable advice and answered all of our questions about NBC and her division. What was most striking to me was her inspiring words of wisdom, in which she explained that it doesn’t matter where you come from; all that matters is how hard you work. Working in this industry can sometimes be really tough, not having many connections, and a lot of times I can feel disheartened when comparing myself to kids who go to NYU or the “Ivys.” But Dawn’s advice was very inspiring, and her success proves that any of us can make it as long as we are kind and work for it.

I was very interested in learning about how Universal Content Productions (UCP) maximizes their revenue stream, and just how someone in Dawn’s position works with the Ad Sales division to ensure this occurs.  Dawn gave some great insights on how NBC has been shifting towards creating a less intrusive advertising experience through the fantastic leadership of Linda Yaccarino. As the audience continues to move toward a more ad-adverse attitude, networks will need to continue to shift their model to reflect those preferences. 

The emergence of NBCUniversal’s streaming app, Peacock, will also bring new challenges and interesting ways to advertise, as well as satisfy the consumer. I asked if there would be an increase in product placements to help decrease ad count, and Dawn explained that relying on this source of revenue wasn’t feasible because it was too inconsistent. Especially for content coming from UCP, product placements don’t always make sense. At the end of the day revenue is important, but the integrity of the show matters most, so alternate revenue streams must be discovered.  

Dawn explained that about 80% of scripted content on the platform would come from UCP, which makes this experience even more exciting. We were very fortunate to get a chance to meet with someone in her position. She is quite literally, THE BOSS. She was kind enough to bring us on a tour around the office and introduce us to key members of her team. I can’t express enough how grateful we all are to her for this experience, and even more so how inspiring it is to have someone who not so long ago was in our shoes and who has now gone on to dominate the industry.   

I give my greatest thanks to Dawn Olmstead for her time!

Meetings, meetings, meetings!

By: Marissa Santorelli

What a day. We started bright and early this morning by going over group assignments. We then headed out to our first destination: NBCUniversal. There, we would meet an alumnus of Hofstra University, Dawn Olmstead, who is the president of Universal Cable Productions at NBCUniversal. She introduced herself and showed us a beautifully edited sizzle reel. She then spoke about her career from Hofstra to her peak success. She told us all about the 12 departments that report to her, and the pivotal role that she plays in the company. Dawn discussed her life on a day-to-day basis, highlighting her role as a mother and wife to traveling from meeting to meeting. We learned all about NBC’s new streaming service, its release, and the specifics behind its launch. Towards the end of our meeting with Dawn, she gave us a bit of advice: get anywhere you can by utilizing your connections and your resources. She gave us tips on networking and then gave us one final piece of advice that really stuck out to me: “Be guided by your own voice and talent.” Wow. Immediately following, we were able to go on a mini tour of the 34th and 35th floor and then to her gorgeous office with the most breathtaking view of L.A.

We then took a shuttle to Universal Studios, where a big group of us got some incredible Mexican food. We then fooled around and, despite the time crunch, took photos in front of the Universal globe and the red carpet. Then we boarded the shuttle once more and took off for Sundance. At Sundance, we met Ilyse McKimmie, who is not an alumnus from Hofstra but a mutual connection through a professor from LHSC. They talked all about the film festival and their fellowship programs for up and coming filmmakers. They discussed content developing, collaborations, and what they look for in prospective content creators. From there, we took the shuttle back to E.L.A. to freshen up. Then we settled down and prepared for our amazing alumni panel at 6:15 p.m.

After eating some delicious pizza, we sat down with eight noteworthy alumni of Hofstra to discuss project/idea pitching and professional networking. The panel began with brief introductions and immediately dove into pitching. They told us great ways to prepare, what to expect, how to prep and how to approach the pitch. We discussed ways to go in confident and how to present yourself when pitching. One of the alumni, Delece James, SVP Development of Judge Mathis Productions, stated: “Take away someone’s ability to say no.” This really stuck out to me; I had to write it down. They all were so insightful and answered so many questions. It was heartwarming to hear such incredible things from thriving professionals who were once in our exact same shoes.

To end it off, we went to an incredible ice cream place named “Afters” when all was said and done. What a great way to end the day!

Where are they now?

By: Aliyah Dinkins

If I were to describe my day in one word, it would be inspiring. Our first meeting was with Dawn Olmstead, president of Universal Content Production at NBCUniversal, and her friendly executive assistant Alexa Sunby. The other students and I packed into this gorgeous conference room where I knew some big ideas were shared. Olmstead gave us insight to exactly what her job consisted of, answered any questions we had, and gave us an office tour.

The thing that was the most touching about the whole experience at NBC was hearing Olmstead’s story. She spoke about growing up with less, moving from being an art major to having an internship at “Saturday Night Live.” Her story was remarkable and touching because I relate a lot to it. The fact that she is a product of Hofstra and is now president of such an established company shows that the same could happen for me. 

Our next stop was Sundance Institute, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to helping budding creatives grow their voice. I found these professionals to be very down-to-earth and passionate about what they do. We ended our day with a panel of Hofstra alumni who were very honest about professionalism within the communications industry, the many pit-falls as well as success stories they experienced. After the panel, I was given the exceptional opportunity to speak one-on-one with these panelists, and garnered some advice that truly motivated me. The biggest takeaway that I got from today is to remember that everything happens for a reason. Until we meet again. . .

New to networking

By: Heather Konefsky

Today was our first full day in Los Angeles. We began the day by meeting Dawn Olmstead, the president of Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios. It was incredible to see all the attractions surrounding us at Universal and then be able to walk into the office building and see the difference in atmospheres. 

While meeting with Dawn, we learned so much. I really enjoyed listening to her take on what a streaming service should provide. She told us that a streaming service should be able to provide content that can be enjoyed by all audiences from babies to adults. This was interesting because most people think of streaming services and networks as appealing to one main target market, but appealing to all ages creates more possible consumers. It was also interesting to hear her say that much of her job is based on gut instincts. When speaking about how shows get picked up, she said a large part of it is having a gut instinct for if the show will still be relevant after the time it takes to create it, and if the people attached to the show are capable and a good fit. She also relies a lot on her gut when pitching a show if she receives multiple offers.

Our second meeting of the day was at Sundance. We first met with Ilyse McKimmie who runs the feature film program. We also met with Toby Brooks who is the manager of Ignite and Iz Rubinstein who is the manager of the Episodic program. At the meeting, they explained that Sundance is so much more than just the festival. Sundance is a nonprofit whose main goal is to help emerging filmmakers, but they also maintain relationships with those who have been through their programs. Sundance runs labs that help writers and directors to find the most compelling versions of their stories. I found one of the labs to be extremely interesting. In the summer, Sundance runs a lab in which writers or directors rehearse, shoot, and edit previously written scenes. The footage is never meant to be used in a film, but it instead serves as a learning experience, so the writer or director knows what to change or do differently when shooting their films with a full cast and crew. 

Our last activity of the day was an alumni panel with eight alumni. They ranged in age and length of time they’ve lived in Los Angeles. This was really useful because it allowed us to see the different stages of where we can hope to be long-term. During the panel, the alumni talked a lot about pitching. Although they all have diverse backgrounds after college, they echoed very similar points. They agreed when pitching, you must be confident but not cocky, research your topic as much as possible, lead with a need, read the room, and find a group of people you trust or a mentor who can find the holes in your pitch. 

Since today was our first day of networking, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was extremely happy with how the day went. Everyone we spoke to was extremely nice and truly seemed like they wanted to help us and see us succeed. Everyone in the alumni panel even stayed an hour longer than expected in order to answer our questions. 

Connections, CityWalk and coffee ice cream

By: Jessica Zagacki

Day two of my Hofstra in L.A. experience began with a trip to NBCUniversal, where our group had a meeting with Dawn Olmstead, the president of Universal Cable Productions. This was an extremely exciting experience. Olmstead was very down-to-earth, and it was inspiring to see such a powerful, yet humble and kind woman in such a strong leadership position. It was also interesting to hear about her career trajectory as a Hofstra graduate, and she shared several valuable words of wisdom and advice with us. After we learned more about Olmstead and the work that is done at NBCUniversal, she was kind enough to give our group a tour of the building, which included meeting many of her colleagues and getting a look at her office with an incredibly breathtaking view.

After our meeting with Olmstead, we all took the tram up to the CityWalk for lunch. It was really fun to walk around to get food, look in the shops, and take a picture next to the iconic revolving Universal Studios Globe. Our next meeting was at the Sundance Institute with Ilyse McKimmie and some of her colleagues. I enjoyed listening to the work and opportunities availbale at Sundance. I love that they are committed to showcasing the work and narratives of diverse filmmakers and content creators.

Even though these networking meetings were highly beneficial and informative, perhaps my favorite part of the day was the alumni panel that we had in the evening. It was incredibly inspiring to hear from Hofstra alumni from different graduating classes and walks of life discuss their career paths post-Hofstra. They were all so genuine and kind. Each of them had valuable advice that they shared with us that I will remember and carry with me as I continue down my own career path. At the end of the panel, I approached Delece James, the SVP of Development at Judge Mathis Productions. Since I am extremely interested in pursuing a career in the development field of this industry, talking with Delece provided me with more insight into what a career in television development actually entails. Not to mention that she is also an extremely kind person.

Our night concluded with a group trip to Afters, an ice cream shop on Hollywood Boulevard. I got one scoop of Vietnamese coffee ice cream, one scoop of dark matter brownie batter ice cream, and topped it all off with peanuts, caramel sauce, and chocolate sauce. It was the perfect way to end a beautiful day. I cannot wait to see what day three in L.A. has in-store for me tomorrow. I am ready for another amazing day of networking, group bonding, and fun memories.

Every good industry is hard

By: Joe Gilberto

Today was simply exhilarating. I got to walk the halls of Universal Content Productions, the powerhouse behind many amazing scripted series across USA, Syfy, Amazon Prime, and many other esteemed platforms.  What’s more, we got to meet with Hofstra alumna and President of Universal Content Productions Dawn Olmstead. Hearing her speak was amazing. She was full of wonderful knowledge and advice. Getting to hear her story and how she went from an art student at Hofstra to president of a production company was fascinating. The great takeaway I had was to work hard and pay your dues. You are not going to start out as a producer or director, but as an assistant. It is key to do the best job you can in any role, in order to be recognized and move forward to bigger things. The myth of having to know someone in the industry is just that. It is about how you function as a member of a much larger team, and exhibit your talent and abilities for others to recognize and appreciate. It is hard work, but as Ms. Olmstead said, “Yes it’s hard, every good industry is hard.” That really stuck with me, and reminded me that while the entertainment industry is challenging, it is also immensely rewarding in the wonderful content we get to produce and share with the world. Ms. Olmstead even took the time to show us around both floors of her office, which was incredibly considerate considering how busy she is.

After our amazing time at Universal Content Pictures, we were welcomed into the Sundance Institute. There, Ilyse McKimmie taught us all about the transformative labs that the Sundance Institute had to offer in order to support young filmmakers and screenwriters. Personally, as someone very interested in writing for television, I was very excited to hear all about their Episodic Lab which focuses on supporting up and coming television writers and helps workshop their ideas over a six day intensive in Utah.  Afterwards, I had a chance to talk with the program manager, Iz Rubenstein. He was kind and interested in my ideas, and even encouraged me to apply. The program sounds like a dream come true, and I definitely plan to apply this February.

Finally, we finished off the day with a fun alumni panel back at the Emerson L.A. campus. There we heard from many great alumni working in places from Netflix to CBS. They offered wonderful advice on how to communicate professionally, and how to pitch both yourself and your ideas. After the event, I even got to talk with one of the alums one-on-one, Delece James, an SVP in development at Judge Mathis Productions. She gave wonderful advice for those wanting to start a career in development. I will not forget her advice: read everything that comes across your desk, even as a low level assistant, so that you can form an opinion and be prepared when someone finally asks to hear it. It was an inspiring end to a day that was full of opportunity. I am so grateful to have such a great alumni base that so readily supports its new students.

Here’s an idea

By: Joe Unda

I woke up to a very different view than I’m used to. For 10 minutes, I sat in my bed and watched, right from my window, countless cars buzzing down the busy L.A. street below. The people of L.A. were up and moving, getting started on a busy, brand new day. These people had important places to be, and so did I. 

We boarded our bus, and were off to our first stop for the day, NBCUniversal. The building itself was beautiful both on the outside, and inside. We boarded our elevators, and climbed up 35 stories to meet with an extremely talented, admirable individual, Dawn Olmstead. 

Dawn is the president of Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios. She deals with the development of the many series produced for and by NBC, both scripted and non-scripted. She calls her position a “producer on steroids,” which couldn’t be a more perfect description. Dawn provided us with some amazing insight into what exactly goes into getting one of these shows either on television or a streaming service. There are pitch meetings, phone calls, notes meetings, and so much care that goes into crafting and making sure a show gets done the right way. She spoke of her position and the processes she goes through with a lot of passion, and really had such an interesting, inspiring story of how she found her way, working diligently to get to where she is today. Dawn is truly an amazing, passionate person, and it was more than an honor to meet her. 

After a quick bite to eat and a photoshoot at the Universal Studios Globe, we were off to our next stop, the Sundance Institute. 

As someone studying film, I was very intrigued by this opportunity. We arrived and were soon greeted by the incredible Ilyse McKimmie, a director of the Feature Film Program. She shared with us some of the amazing, prestigious programs made available by Sunset. These programs allowed filmmakers to submit in-progress scripts and get notes, thoughts, and new directions for their projects. Ilyse detailed the different types of programs: one for feature films and another for episodic series, and how helpful each can be. This was truly a great, informative visit of how Ilyse and the people at Sundance are inspiring and helping filmmakers all over the world. 

We finished off our day with an alumni panel, where some extremely talented, experienced former Hofstra students told us about their experience in their careers with pitching, and presenting ideas in their fields. Each brought their own stories and insight to the table, and it was really one of the more eye-opening experiences I’ve had as a student of Hofstra. I felt I learned a great deal and gained confidence about sharing my ideas and the best ways to do so.

Wait, I just got an idea right now – I’m going to bed.

See you tomorrow, L.A. 

Dance with NBC

By: Christina Morgana

Just like that, the first day of meetings begins. I started my day at 8:45 to discuss the day’s events with the group. First stop: NBC Universal with Dawn Olmstead. Dawn is the president of Universal Content Productions, managing 100 or more people. She spoke about her daily routine, having internal and external meetings for shows. An internal meeting would include interacting with different departments to see the progression of a show, and an external one deals with meeting with heads of streaming services to pitch a show or participating in table reads. One thing that really surprised me were the amount of departments that oil the NBC machine: current, development, business affairs, legal, casting, and production. 

Of course, a hot topic of discussion was NBC’s upcoming streaming platform “Peacock.” Their official launch is due in April of this year, but some updates will be coming from NBC next week. The platform took about two years in total to come to fruition. They are putting out some original content, while still posting their previous shows. One show Dawn spoke about was “Doctor Death,” a true story about a homicidal surgeon in 2015-2016. 

Ms. Olmstead then talked about her journey into the industry, which was unbelievable to me. She started as an art student and was hired by a professor to work on one of his films during her summer break going into senior year. After hard work and dedication, she was told that this was not the path for her. By luck, she came into contact with an “SNL” personnel’s phone number. After making what seemed to be 10 calls, she came in contact with the internship coordinator, who told her that they only accept students from prestigious schools. However, she was persistent and eventually got an interview, which led to an internship and ultimately her first job. After that, she worked on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart and eventually decided to move to L.A. The main takeaway was to be the most hard-working person in the room (and hope for some good luck at the right time.) 

Next, we enjoyed lunch at the Universal CityWalk. About 12 of us went to a Mexican place that had amazing guac and chips (the servers had to bring another round of chips to the table). After we finished eating, we got to take pictures in front of the famous Universal Studios globe. 

Next, we went to the Sundance Institute to meet with Ilyse McKimmie, Toby Brooks and Iz Rubinstein. Each of them spoke about the different programs and labs they offered. They have screenwriting labs that work to enhance new filmmakers’ initial fiction feature works, episodic programs to work on a television series and promote a collaborative environment, and the Ignite program which focuses on 18-25-year-old filmmakers trying to break into the industry and develop a career. One observation I made was their sheer encouragement to apply for their programs. I could tell they were so eager to help young talent like ourselves. 

To conclude the night, we had our first alumni panel at Emerson. There were eight lovely alumni who spoke to us about their respective jobs, spanning from PR to law to TV networks. I had the pleasure of getting to speak with Delece James and Olivia Stanchina, telling them of my interest in working in live television. Olivia actually worked at “SNL” and MSNBC for many years, so she gave me some input on her experience in the studio and control room. I can’t wait to speak with them again at the DGA reception on Tuesday!

California dreamin’

By: Julia Farella

When we first arrived NBCUniversal, I was extremely excited due to interning with the company twice in New York. But meeting with Dawn Olmstead has changed my perspective in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. I knew for a long time that being a creative producer was something I saw as an end goal for my career. Hearing Dawn talk about how she worked her way up through the ranks and took chances helped me realize the importance of taking risks. My biggest fear is always taking chances without having a safety net in place. But what Dawn’s story taught me is that sometimes the best opportunities come when you lead with your gut. It was also amazing to see a woman in my dream job at such a prestigious company. This let me know that the dreams that I have are truly achievable if I work hard and keep dreaming. 

Next we stopped at Sundance Institute and met with Ilyse McKimmie, Iz Rubenstein, Toby Brooks. What I really enjoyed about Sundance is their commitment to helping people in the industry continuously grow. They were all extremely passionate about the work that they do and it was inspiring to hear how the people they worked with in the workshops went on to be successful in their field. I also liked how they valued diversity not only in their storytelling but with writers and directors. While I am not someone who is a writer by nature, this meeting encouraged me to take a chance at writing on my own and really let my creativity shine. 

Later that night, we hosted a panel with Hofstra alumni who are currently working in the industry and spoke about pitching. I was so happy with their honesty about the workforce and what we should expect when entering the entertainment industry. What really stuck with me were their tips on how to prepare for an elevator pitch. We talk about it so often but it was nice to hear from people who are currently working to give us their ideas on what they do to prepare. Everyone on the panel was extremely friendly and were more than happy to help us with anything we asked. Overall, what I learned today was that I need to be prepared to take a leap of faith when pursuing my dreams. I have always been the person to worry over the minor details and be scared to take risks. After today, I will take the advice from all of the professionals I have met and apply that to my post-graduation job search. 

Meeting time

By: Jared Brown

For our first meeting we went to NBCUniversal, yes, you read that correctly, one of the biggest media companies in the world. Although it was intimidating to even think about going, it ended up being an incredibly comfortable environment, and I learned directly from one of the most notable Hofstra alumni in the industry. Dawn Olmstead, the president of universal content productions, graduated Hofstra in 1991. As president, her job is to direct a large group of employees across the company. She discussed the industry trends, her daily job duties, and her journey to where she is today. Soon, the streaming service, Peacock, will be launched by NBCUniversal. She discussed the production process and some of the nuts and bolts of the internal collaboration regarding the service. Streaming services are becoming ever more abundant in contemporary society. I was incredibly intrigued, and I asked Dawn how Peacock plans to differentiate itself from the variety of other streaming services. She answered that it would become available for free to millions of Americans through their Xfinity (owned by Comcast) services. By having this under their belt, they will be able to have a broad audience for their original content, which will, in return, lead to revenue. Olmstead’s take on how television advertisement revenue is becoming obsolete, and streaming services are becoming pertinent, depicted how the media is indeed evolving. In the end, Olmsted taught me to work vigorously while always taking into account my gut feeling. After the meeting and the very interactive tour, my biggest takeaway was that my dedication and hard work would pave my professional path. 

Following a delicious chicken fajita for lunch, we arrived at the Sundance Institute. We did not only get to speak to one, or two employees, we spoke to three! In this intriguing session, Ilyse McKimmie and two of her colleagues spoke about the role of the Sundance Institution in the media sphere. McKimmie, who is a lab director for the feature film program, discussed how important their jobs are to support independent filmmakers. The nonprofit embraces the original vision of each artist. Although I am not a film person myself, it was great to learn about their impactful work of career support and development. The organization’s programs are highly competitive, and they are funded by individual donors, corporations, festivals, and more. This meeting was reassuring to me that there is a way for independent creators voices to be heard. 

Today was only day one of the meetings, and it is a day I will carry with me eternally. In addition to meeting with Dawn, Illyse, and some of their colleagues, we also had some fun at a group lunch and took touristy pictures at Universal. At night, we hosted an alumni panel. Mainly, the panelists discussed the pitching of projects, ideas, and self. Overall, they humanized the industry, and their perspectives are admirable. 

It’s a gut feeling

By: Penelope Lopez

This morning during our meeting at NBC Universal, Dawn Olmstead, president of Universal Content Productions said, “Always remember to listen to yourself; you always have a gut instinct.” 

Today I began my day with no expectations, no pre-scripted mindset of what the day may look like or assumptions on how the course of the day should be. Instead, I attended every meeting with an open mind, allowing the speaker’s voice to communicate any valuable information that would help me in my career path. 

One of the most pivotal moments during the meeting was hearing Ms. Olmstead’s story. Not only was she transparent in expressing how she was brought up in a low-income household, she explained all the reasons why that helped her become successful. During this point of the meeting, I felt a strong parallel connection to her story as a student who doesn’t come from the wealthiest backgrounds but comes from a hardworking upbringing. Ms. Olmstead highlighted the importance of “valuing yourself, being a good person, and having the balls to leave when a position is not meant for you.” Here, I understood what her entire message of always listening to your gut truly meant. My gut allowed me to make the decision to change my major junior year to journalism, and it landed me the opportunities of acquiring three internships with ABC and being on this amazing professional networking trip. 

As the day comes to an end, I think back to the networking connections I made with the talented Hofstra alumni. I reflect and I think of all the knowledge I gained, specifically, finding a mentor, finding your tribe, finding a way of turning a challenge into an opportunity, and finding a way of staying true to yourself in this industry. With that in mind, I hope to have a plethora of successful moments here on this Hofstra in L.A. experience and that starts tomorrow with my meeting with Nicole Brajer.

College student to entertainment industry professional

By: Daniella Colletti

Let me start off by saying I couldn’t have asked for a better first full-day in L.A.  It kicked off with Dawn Olmstead, president of UCP at NBC Universal. I’m starstruck just writing that. She gave us all incredible advice about the competitive entertainment industry here in Los Angeles. I was able to ask her something I was always curious about, which is what is the thought process that goes into how a show ends up on a specific platform? Why is a specific show on Netflix and not Amazon? I learned that it’s not just about who offers the most money, but also if the people of the platform saw the potential in the show itself, or the potential of succession.  

Although I could go on and on about how incredible meeting with Dawn was, it’s time to talk about that delicious chicken fajita lunch with chips and guacamole… just kidding (although they were delicious). Next, we went to Sundance Institute where we learned about the non-profit programs they run for young, up and coming filmmakers. Although I am a soon-to-be PR professional, it was so interesting to hear about how they help these young filmmakers make it in the industry. It brought me back to my first semester of college when I was a film major, before switching to PR.

Lastly, and probably my favorite part of the day, was the alumni panel. I say it was my favorite because they all eased my mind about transitioning from a college student to having an entry-level job. At the end of the day, you have to start somewhere and these big-time professionals did, too. They gave great advice about how to deal with the worst of situations in the entertainment industry, including those not-so-great bosses, and taking advantage of the best of situations where you can be creative in the work that you do.

Universal, Sundance, and alumni panel

By: Emmeline Blaner

Our first stop of the day was Universal, where we met Dawn Olmstead, president of Universal Content Production and Wilshire Studios. She described her job as being like a “producer on steroids”—overseeing the journey of a show from conception to marketplace distribution. One of the most interesting discussions to me during the meeting was about differentiating streaming services in a market that it is becoming more and more saturated. She told us that streaming services don’t have to narrow their scope to fit a niche or category, but can hold a range of content from children’s programming to more mature shows across a variety of genres. It was also interesting to learn that the industry is constantly developing strategies to move content away from ad-supported platforms such as traditional broadcast television. What resonated with me most was when she told us that success in the industry isn’t always about what job you have; instead, what matters is doing a great job in the role you have and making a positive impression with your personality. Mrs. Olmstead was a fantastic way to kick off our series of meetings.

After lunch and a brief stroll around Universal CityWalk, we had our second meeting at Sundance Institute. We met with Ilyse McKimmie, labs director for the institute’s Feature Film Program; Iz Rubinstein, manager of Episodic Programs; and Toby Brooks, manager of Sundance Ignite. It was fascinating to learn about all of the programs the Institute offers to help filmmakers and storytellers home in their craft. Although writing isn’t an area I’m interested in, it was beneficial to learn about professionals in the industry lend their expertise to help out those who are just starting out. As young professionals starting out, it’s reassuring to know that accomplished people in the field want to help us succeed.

Finally, we ended day one with an alumni panel. It was amazing to see that Hofstra has a network in L.A. so that anyone wanting to make the transition from New York to California can find a support system of people to help. Some tips we received throughout the panel were to always be prepared, research your audience or someone you’re pitching to, and use anecdotes when interviewing to show someone why you are a solid candidate.

I’m really in L.A.!

By: Kathryn Harley

This morning when I woke up, it finally hit me. I’m in Los Angeles! I was so excited to get out on the town and begin learning about the industry that I couldn’t even feel the jetlag. It was sunny and pretty warm—much different than the winter we’re having in New York. 

As we pulled up to NBCUniversal, my excitement rose. We met up with Dawn Olmstead, who is the president of Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios. Dawn’s presentation was extremely informative, as it gave us insight into the logistics behind how a show comes to life. It was incredible to hear just how many minds go into making the vision for a production a reality. Having never quite ventured into the television production world myself, Dawn’s presentation hooked me in and made me even more eager to learn more throughout this trip. In addition, seeing an alumna coming out of Hofstra and establishing a successful career across the country was incredibly inspiring and encouraging.

After leaving Dawn’s office, we visited the Sundance Institute to hear from Ilyse McKimmie. We learned about all of the programs the non-profit facilitates to assist creators in Hollywood, whether that be jumpstarting careers or helping them sustain long term. It was clear from the beginning of the presentation that Ilyse and her coworkers were incredibly passionate about the work that they do. Though I’m not a script writer or director myself, the presentation at Sundance sure did make me want to start writing a script!

To round off a wonderful first day of networking, we hosted an alumni panel focused on professional communication and pitching. We were joined by a variety of alumni that gave insight into how communication comes into play across different professional environments. The advice given by our alumni was incredibly beneficial, as I know I will take it with me to future internships and professions. I had the opportunity to speak with Jennifer Talbot, who has worked as a PR professional across different fields. Hearing about her experiences and advice resonated with me as a student and professional exploring the field of public relations. I also had the opportunity to speak with Shania Morrison and Laurel Dusenberry about their experiences working at Netflix and CBS, respectively.

Overall, this was an amazing first day of networking, and I’m ecstatic to learn even more throughout our stay here in L.A.!

Connections, City Walk, and coffee ice cream

By: Jessica Zagacki

Day two of my Hofstra in L.A. experience began with a trip to NBCUniversal where our group had a meeting with Dawn Olmstead, the president of Universal Cable Productions. This was an extremely exciting experience. Olmstead was very down-to-earth and it was inspiring to see such a powerful yet humble and kind woman in such a strong leadership position. It was also interesting to hear about her career trajectory as a Hofstra graduate and she shared several valuable words of wisdom and advice with us. After we learned more about Olmstead and the work that is done at NBCUniversal, she was kind enough to give our group a tour of the building, which included meeting many of her colleagues and getting a look at her office with an incredibly breathtaking view.

After our meeting with Olmstead we all took the tram up to the City Walk for lunch. It was really fun to walk around to get food, look in the shops, and take a picture next to the iconic revolving Universal Studios globe. Our next meeting was at the Sundance Institute with Ilyse McKimmie and some of her colleagues. I enjoyed listening to the work and opportunities availbale at Sundance. I love that they are committed to showcasing the work and narratives of diverse filmmakers and content creators.

Even though these networking meetings were highly beneficial and informative, perhaps my favorite part of the day was the alumni panel that we had in the evening. It was incredibly inspiring to hear from Hofstra alumni from different graduating classes and walks of life discuss their career trajectories post-Hofstra. They were all so genuine and kind. Each of them had valuable advice that they shared with us that I will remember and carry with me as I continue down my own career path. At the end of the panel, I approached Delece James, the SVP of development at Judge Mathis Productions. Since I am extremely interested in pursuing a career in the development field of this industry, talking with Delece provided me with more insight into what a career in television development actually entails, not to mention that she is also an extremely kind person.

Our night concluded with a group trip to Afters, an ice cream shop on Hollywood Boulevard. I got one scoop of Vietnamese coffee ice cream, one scoop of dark matter brownie batter ice cream, and topped it all off with peanuts, caramel sauce, and chocolate sauce. It was the perfect way to end a beautiful day. I cannot wait to see what day three in L.A. has in-store for me tomorrow. I am ready for another amazing day of networking, group bonding, and fun memories.

Day Two: The entertainment capital of the world

By: Paula Chirinos

Today I got to witness a snippet of why Los Angeles is nicknamed the entertainment capital of the world. 

After a quick morning debrief, my classmates and I hopped on the bus to get to NBCUniversal to meet president of Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios Dawn Olmstead. Dawn graduated from Hofstra in 1991 so part of our discussion with her focused on how her college experience and early professional career helped her get to the position she is now. Although I am a public relations major and don’t have as much knowledge about production and broadcasting, I was still able to absorb a lot of interesting insights and how digital streaming is drastically changing the entertainment industry. 

After our meeting, we took a scenic tram-ride to the “City Walk” area at Universal Studios and I got to enjoy a delicious bowl of wonton soup and garlic chicken. Then, we drove to the Sundance Institute office and learned about various film-writing labs that the organization runs throughout the year, to provide resources and guidance for promising professionals in the field. Finally, to top the day off, our group got to listen to an alumni panel focused on how to handle professional communication. As a soon-to-be-graduate, I took in a lot of great tips from each of the speakers since they were all in my position at one point. Jennifer Talbot, media relations manager at Proskauer Rose LLP, told me that I should never make any of my decisions based on fear and that advice had stuck with me for the rest of the night, considering the discussion we were having. 

What really stood out to me today were the stories I got to hear about the journeys each of these professionals took in deciding to move to Los Angeles, while most of them grew up in New York. It was interesting to see that there is a community of accomplished executives in this city who all graduated from Hofstra. A common question that I was asked as I networked with some of the alumni was if I was open to moving to Los Angeles. After thinking about the opportunities that this city would provide for my career and listening to the experiences of the speakers during today’s lectures, I can certainly say that this is an option I can consider.