Call it musical chairs meets media panelists. Last Friday, Nov. 3, in the Rackham Assembly Hall, nearly 30 students enjoyed a steaming smorgasbord of gourmet food, as well as discussions with alumni working in the entertainment and media industries. What’s more, it was a free event, all courtesy of the Alumni Association.
Titled “Ann Arbor to Entertainment,” the evening featured a panel of five alumni, followed by a dinner in which each hosted a table. The students could table-hop twice, giving them a chance to make a personal connection with three of the five alumni over coffee and dessert.
Here are some of the secrets of success and snippets of advice the participants shared during the pre-dinner panel:
Robyn VanTol Buecker, ’94, consultant for the music subscription service VNYL.
“The first key thing I did for my career, was deciding to move to Los Angeles. There are entertainment jobs in other cities, obviously, but there tends to be more of them in L.A.”
“When I think of my model employees, whom I love the most, they are the ones that are tenacious, show up on time, answer emails, and are polite. Really the basic things. If you can really nail the basics, then you’re already ahead of most people.”
Maggie Plattner, ’97, Showtime Networks/CBS Consumer Products, vice president of licensing and e-commerce.
“The entertainment industry is changing every day. A lot of people resist being adaptable. They think they have gone into a specific job and that’s the one they’re going to stay in. You need to have flexibility and be ready to change as your industry or job changes.”
“Students shouldn’t be shy about reaching out to Michigan grads via platforms like LinkedIn. I get contacted on LinkedIn, and if it is ever a Michigan student, I answer.”
Robert Gelick, ’94, CBS Interactive, senior vice president and general manager, digital platforms.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to go in deep on something you’re passionate about. If it doesn’t work out, I assure you, it will be fine. You back out and relearn something new. That whole cliché, ‘Don’t be afraid to fail,” I think it’s unlikely you will if you’re really pouring your heart into something.”
Madeline Frost, ’17, director’s assistant to Bradley Bueckner, executive producer, “American Horror Story,” “Glee,” and “9-1-1.”
“Networking is huge. The fact that you came here on a Friday night is awesome. You never know who you’re going to run into that can help you. So just talk to people, and always be nice.”
Tara Edwards, ’01, former news reporter WXYZ-TV, multimedia journalist.
“I knew I wanted to be a journalist, but I also loved production, film, and video. There wasn’t anything like that when I was a student at Michigan, so I started my own TV show with another student. We explored things, and I interned at different TV stations. I met someone who became a mentor and helped me get a job at the station in Flint.
“In 2017, there are more opportunities than ever before. You need to take all the skills you have, and apply them. People now film their own TV shows on their iPhone and many are just as good in quality as some of the stuff used in Hollywood.”
Jenn McKee, ’93, worked for more than a decade as a staff arts reporter for The Ann Arbor News. She is now a freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications.