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Panel explores career options in Hollywood

This Saturday, alumni who have found success in the entertainment industry, as well as other industry professionals unaffiliated with the University, will arrive on campus to participate in a conference titled “Careers in Hollywood: Script to Screen & Everything in Between.”

The event, which is jointly sponsored by Career Services and the Lewis Center for the Arts, will feature two panels: a creative panel from 1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. moderated by creative writing lecturer Christina Lazaridi and a business panel facilitated by the director of the Lewis Center Michael Cadden, according to Abigail Racelis, the assistant director of the arts, nonprofit and public sector of Career Services. The panels will be followed by a networking social. As of Monday afternoon, 125 students had registered online to participate in the conference, which has a maximum cap of 200.

Married, screenwriting duo Marianne and Cormac Wibberley spearheaded the planning of the event by contacting Racelis last October, after their daughter Emily Wibberley ’14 participated in one of Career Services’ communication nights, according to Racelis.

“We realized that Princeton Career Services offered a lot of professional mixers for finance or engineering but was lacking in providing events for students seeking advice or internships in creative arts, like publishing or filmmaking,” the Wibberleys explained in a joint interview conducted via email. “While there is no clear path into becoming a writer or a filmmaker, there are paths, and we figured aspiring writers would benefit from talking to some working writers.”

According to the couple, the event expanded from the smaller casual mixer they originally envisioned to an organized conference after their colleague David Digilio ’96 joined them in the planning process.

“I know how far away Hollywood can feel to a Princeton student with zero industry connections. I think it’s important to get people on campus who have been put through the Hollywood wringer,” Digilio explained of his motivation to organize the event. “Princeton students are so used to finding ‘a track.’ But the truth is there are a number of different paths to careers in Hollywood, and I hope we can shed some light on the variety of opportunities waiting in L.A. and New York.”

Azza Cohen ’16, an aspiring documentary filmmaker who has helped to organize and market the film panel, said that the Wibberly’s contacted her after her frustration with the lack of visibility for careers in the arts at the University caused her to write an op-ed for the Daily Princetonian with Kemy Lin ’15 in January.

Azza Cohen is a contributing columnist for The Daily Princetonian.

“The outpouring of support that we got from publishing the article has really shown me that Princetonians are in the arts, as much as it’s atypical,” Cohen noted. “Princetonians are super successful in the arts, too. As someone who’s seriously pursuing it, that is really reassuring.”

Everyone involved in the planning of the event mentioned they hope that seeing successful alumni will reassure students with aspirations to work in film and television, while simultaneously expanding their network within the industry, a crucial tool according to Racelis.

“There’s a huge importance in understanding who your contacts are, who your networks are, how to utilize them in the best way possible and also how to collaborate. That’s why you see alums and industry executives coming to Princeton to share and help start that network,” Racelis explained. “What it simulates is essentially how the industry really does work in terms of sharing their story, brainstorming, collaborating, not being afraid to pitch your ideas to people. Sometimes, that’s the scariest part of being a film writer or a TV writer: coming up with your idea and presenting it to people. The networking piece allows you to do that organically.”

In order to make the panel as accessible as possible, the participants launched a Twitter campaign on Monday afternoon that will continue through the panel. The social media component will allow students to receive advice and ask questions by using the hashtag Script2Screen, according to Racelis.

Digilio said he hopes that attending the panel will help students feel more connected to the film industry and empower them with some introductory knowledge of Hollywood, as the University’s alumni network within entertainment is not as strong as other colleges’ networks.

“The geographical distance is not as difficult to overcome as the simple networking hurdle that comes with Princeton being relatively underrepresented in the Hollywood ranks,” Digilio explained. “Our alumni network is spread thin in the large Los Angeles area, and that makes it hard to hold the type of mixer events or internship recruiting efforts that help other college graduates find their first jobs.”

On a more general scale, Cohen noted that she thought the conference will help spark more visibility of careers within the arts on campus, which demonstrates the growing support she hopes Career Services will continue pursue within more creative sectors.

“I think it’s going to set a precedent, not only for Career Services demonstrating its commitment to students who want to pursue the arts seriously, but also a precedent for students who want to pursue the arts to know that they are supported,” Cohen added. Although she noted that Career Services hasn’t offered significant attention to the arts in the past, Cohen said she believes the center “is going to show a new commitment to making more visible these opportunities, making more opportunities and furthering the publicized support for students who are interested in the creative arts.”

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