March 28, 2005
High profile alumni guests introduce students
to real life in Hollywood
By Scott Rappaport
Ever wondered what its really like to work in the entertainment
industry? For the past eight years, UCSC students have flocked
to a popular class taught by television consultant and UCSC
alumnus Loren Steck for an inside look at the realities of an
actual career in Hollywood.
Alumnus Dan Wolf from the Walt Disney Company talks with
students after giving a guest lecture in their class titled
Working in TV and Film.
Titled Working in TV and Film, the course brings in
highly successful producers, directors, writers, and agents
to give a candid, behind-the-scenes look at what their jobs
are really like, how they got them, and the types of pressures
and constraints they face on a day-to-day-basis. All of the
guest lecturers are UCSC alumni.
At a recent class session, Dan Wolf, vice president of corporate
communications at the Walt Disney Company, took 50 students
through a whirlwind tour of his last 16 years at the company
where he writes speeches, crafts press releases, and strategizes
for top executives such as celebrated CEO Michael Eisner.
Mixing autobiographical information with backstage details
of the quirks and power struggles of the major players at Disney,
Wolf shared insights about working at the company from an insiders
point of view. At one point, he explained to the students how,
while working as press secretary for Los Angeles Supervisor
Kenneth Hahn in the early 1980s, he was offered a freelance
job to write a speech for the president of Walt Disney Studiosdespite
the fact that he had never written a speech before in his entire
My advice is never to say no if theres a possibility
offered to you in the industry, Wolf told the class. Dont
be intimidated. Because to a certain degree, everybodys
faking it at every level. Theres a lot of people at high
levels of the film industry who are paid hundreds of thousands
of dollars to pick successful movies and they fail miserably
most of the time. So dont be fooled and think that people
with titles, money, and cars are any smarter than youthey
may be just as anxious and insecure.
Things tend to be a little more exaggerated in the entertainment
business, Wolf added. There are less defined skill
requirements in this world than for say an engineer. Im
actually one of the few people I know with a liberal arts education
who actually uses the job skills I learned in college in my
work. When I write a speech, what is it? Its a research
paper that involves writing and critical-thinking skills.
Wolf was just one of the eight prominent visitors that Steck
brought into the class this year. Other guests included David
Tenzer, an agent at Creative Artists Agency; Karina Buck, president
of Genuine Buck Film; and Jim Fredrick, senior vice president
of creative advertising for Warner Brothers. Recent UCSC graduate
Graham Rich also made an appearance, describing how some of
the contacts he made in the class helped him to complete his
first commercial feature film as producer and director.
Steck himself works in the industry as a consultant, fixing
television pilots and improving programs. He also works
directly for the major television networks, advising them on
what shows to buy and how to market them. A trustee of the UCSC
Foundation for the past eight years, Steck said the idea for
the class arose out of a conversation he had with former Porter
College Provost Kathy Foley during his term as president of
the UCSC Alumni Association in 1996.
I knew so many alumni in the entertainment industry who
so dearly love this campus, Steck recalled. So I
thought, how can I get them involved? Its really a way
for them to give back, as well as an attempt to help young students
and ease their transition into the real world.
The students seem to appreciate the effort. After the last
class session in March, dozens of students gathered around Steck
to thank him for offering the course.
This class gives you the real deal, observed Alex
Laleh, a senior film and digital media student. Most students
who come are hoping to get a job related to Hollywood, so theyre
thrilled to hear personal and realistic appraisals of how hard
it is to get in the door. The class was as blunt and frank as
possible. It showed the deeper layers of how the industry really
Working in TV and Film is offered every winter quarter
by Porter College. For more information, contact Porter College
provost assistant Susan Beach at: email@example.com
or (831) 459-2564.
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