Hollywood Sun Devils event takes 'let’s do lunch' culture to the next level

Thursday, October 11, 2018

“It goes without saying that networking is important in Hollywood,” said Adam Collis. And he would know.

As a producer and director, Collis has worked with Oscar winners. As a professor and ASU Film Spark’s center director, he’s determined to accelerate Sun Devils’ careers in the entertainment industry and make ASU’s impact in Hollywood get top billing.

“But I think it’s important to remember that networking, when done right, is just getting to know people and making friends, learning about their interests and building relationships, over time,” he said.

A September event at ASU’s California Center offered the opportunity to do just that. A career fair and networking mixer introduced ASU students from Tempe, ASU Online students in California and alumni to Hollywood’s famous “let’s do lunch” culture — but took it a step further. The event was hosted by ASU FilmsparkCareer and Professional Development Services and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts' School of Film, Design and Theatre.

For Sun Devils who want to enter or advance in the entertainment industry, it was a unique opportunity to connect specifically as an ASU community in Hollywood. Many of the employers present were ASU alumni who are enthusiastic about guiding current Sun Devils into Hollywood, and the atmosphere was perfect for those connections.

“Like any student, I was nervous or unsure (about networking) because it wasn’t something that I do regularly, but I just went out and introduced myself,” said Chloe Burbank, a senior majoring in film who drove from Tempe to attend. She’s working on her senior film and made sure to meet fellow students as well as potential employers.

“It’s important to meet employers and stuff like that … but you should also be meeting the people around you so we can all help each other out as we enter Hollywood.”

Collis said that kind of relationship building is exactly what the event was trying to foster, because networking for its own sake isn’t all that useful.

“It’s not about quote, doing lunch, unquote. It’s about sharing your favorite movie moments with somebody. It’s about listening to someone tell you about their favorite television show. It’s about spending time with people over time. Sometimes over several years. Sometimes a decade. Sometimes two decades before you even talk about doing business together,” Collis said.

Burbank hopes to move back to the Los Angeles area, where she’s from, to ultimately end up in production and development for NBC or ABC. She has identified that her career track should start out at a talent agency or as an executive assistant to a producer.

The event featured nearly 20 film, media and entertainment companies from the Los Angeles area, including Lionsgate, NBCUniversal, CBS and Univision offering internships as well as jobs in post production, assistants to producers or executives, production assistants, development assistants and more. Tempe-based advisers offered virtual career advising sessions, and attendees heard a keynote speech from former Marvel president and COO Michael Helfant, who graduated from ASU and who is a founder and CEO of Amasia Entertainment.

For students driving the 14 hours round trip from Tempe to the events, ASU Career and Professional Services staff offered resources ahead of time to make sure students could make the most of their time at the fair and networking mixer. Junior Rashaud Williams, a theater and acting major in Tempe, attended a preparatory session, where he worked on his elevator speech, his resume and how to communicate his skills.

“(We went over) how to present yourself, how to basically give that elevator speech in a more comfortable way. How to present yourself. How to build up your resume to look good enough for the company you’re giving your resume to,” he said.

Williams hopes to work as an actor after graduation; he has been acting since he was 15, when he was inspired by the film "The Pursuit of Happyness."

Alison Scott Dean, associate director for corporate engagement and partnerships for the western region with Career and Professional Development Services, helped organize the event. She loved seeing the event come together and the effect it had on students, alumni and the employers who were there.

“I met one young lady who had just moved to LA a few weeks before and heard about the networking mixer. LA can be overwhelming, but she felt like she had her Sun Devil family there.”

Those close connections were established in LA and beyond. Williams said he realized after going to the event that production companies weren’t faceless corporations — they were made up of people. And in this instance, Sun Devils. He met ASU Online students, as well as people from Tempe he didn’t know before. Williams realized he had a community in Tempe and in Los Angeles.

“I felt that we could build each other up,” he said.

The next Hollywood Sun Devils networking mixer and LA Entertainment Career Fair is scheduled for Feb. 21-22, 2019. For more information about future career and networking events as well as contacting an ASU career adviser, log in to Handshake or get in touch with Career and Professional Development Services at careerservices@asu.edu.