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Robert Urda

Robert Urda

The above picture you are looking at is what we like to think of as a star in the making. Robert Urda a.k.a Intern Bob (stay tuned for that one) is the true definition of a "go-getter" and at Columbia we are proud to have him here as a student.  He proves that with confidence, humor, being straightforward and a little bit (ok that may be an understatement) of persistence you can really achieve what you want.  Let's not forget aiming high, having goals and working hard were in the mix there too. In a recent interview with Urda we asked him about his life at Columbia, his goals, and most importantly his incredible story of his internship with Jane Espenson's Scriptacular Productions in Los Angeles.  

- What is your major at Columbia?

My major is Television Writing & Producing and I am currently a senior.

- What made you choose to attend Columbia?

I had heard really great things about Columbia's television program and had been looking for a different experience from a regular four-year university. 

-What internship(s) have you had?

I just completed an internship with Jane Espenson's Scriptacular Productions in Los Angeles.

-What did it take to get this internship?

Bribery. Deceit. Blackmail. Pretty much the usual.

In all seriousness, part of how I got this internship was about putting myself in the right place at the right time and apparently asking the right question. Jane was attending a Box Lunch and another student asked during the Q&A "What's the best way to break into the industry?" Jane responded by saying the best way to get started was to go to people you want to work with and tell them that you'll come work for free. So I raised my hand and said something that changed my life: "I'm going to be out in L.A. this summer and I'd love to volunteer my time to help out with Husbands."

Maureen Ryan - the other Box Lunch guest - quipped that Jane had just found her intern. The next question I posed, Jane called me simply, "You, Intern." I managed to slip in that my name was Bob and so when the third question I asked rolled around she had started calling me "Intern Bob".

It's important that I note here, that getting this internship wasn't about saying what I said in front of a group of my peers, it was a way to get the chance to be an intern. During the meet and greet portion of the Box Lunch later that day, I went to look for my business card but noticed that I didn't have any. Oops. So I explained to Jane that I didn't have one and she suggested that I get in touch with her through Twitter.

That moment was the hardest part of this whole thing. There's thousands upon thousands of people who follow Jane Espenson on Twitter. And I knew that this was a prime moment for me to embarrass myself publicly. There was definitely pressure. I must have gone through about a dozen drafts of what I should Tweet. Eventually, I settled on my 140 characters ("@JaneEspenson I know the #InternBob stuff was all in good fun, but can I still send you a resume in case you ever need an intern?"), sent the Tweet along its way...and immediately proceeded to panic. A million thoughts and worries crossed my mind, "I hope this doesn't come off as smug." "Did I make sure everything was spelled correctly?" "What if she doesn't like my Twitter handle?"

Worst minute of my life being stuck in my head like that. Then a notification popped up: "Jane Espenson is following you on Twitter". I just about died. Here's Jane freakin' Espenson, one of my all-time favorite writers, following me on Twitter. Then a second notification. "Jane Espenson sent you a Direct Message". Forget about it. I'm done. Show me where the hidden cameras are, this can't be real.

The truth is, I got the internship by never, ever assuming I had the internship. I always was under the impression that the next step would be the last one, so I just focused on making that step (standing out during the Box Lunch, Tweeting her, sending my resume) of a quality where even if nothing else happened, I could at least live with having tried.

 -You're about to do Semester in LA, what are you looking forward to most and what do you hope to take from it?

Being out in L.A. again is definitely high on the list in terms of what I'm looking forward to. I got to learn a bit about the city itself from driving place to place during my internship and I'm excited to come back to it all. I'm also excited for the journey itself - I'm driving my car cross country to get there.

As part of the Transmedia program, I think the one thing I really hope to take away from it is finding one of the IAM people in our class that I really connect with and totally "geeking" out about video games. I'm a huge gamer. Complete geek. When I was younger, I had the notion that I was going to be the next John Carmack or John Romero (the two guys who were responsible for Doom and basically revolutionized gaming in the '90s).

These days, I still am pretty active in terms of game design. In fact, I created a card game - Production! The Game - as part of a group project in Critical Studies: Television just this year. It's also why I felt drawn to the Transmedia program. This is a place where I can take all that passion I have for video games and apply it to television...and vice versa. Ideally, I'd love to - at the end of SiLA - have a working prototype of a video game in addition to having a pretty good pilot script written. It's a lot of work, but it just seems like a fun challenge.

-What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you headed in that direction now?

I really did want to make video games. I'm a sucker for having fun (and video games represent a large portion of that), but there's something about the challenge of television that's too wonderful to pass up. I like being challenged by life; I like making progress. 

-What are some of your favorite classes here at Columbia?

Culture, Race and Media with Claudette Roper was by far one of the best classes I ever took at Columbia. CRM became this place where I could really be analytical about the world and media; it was a place where I could parse and dissect everything to find out what was going on underneath. CRM was one of the best classes I took as a writer while at Columbia because in some respects it's all about analyzing characters. Come to think of it, CRM was about analyzing the best type of characters, actually: real, flawed people who knowingly do things that are not good or just alright.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't say that Learning Community was the best opportunity I had and that it was taught by a group of wonderful professors, Sara Livingston, Etta Worthington and Eric Scholl. At a time when I wasn't exactly happy with where I was in my life, the LC gave me a feeling of camaraderie; the classes helped me pull through because I felt like this could be a place where I was comfortable.

-What is some advice you can offer to current and future students here?

I think there are a few different things about college (and life in general) that I can speak to from my own personal experience. A very wise and wonderful woman once told me to “never let others define your worth.” That isn't to say that you shouldn't be open to valid, constructive criticism, but it should be only one element of how you judge yourself. If you're too focused on what others are saying about who you are or how well you're performing, you can find yourself exhausted and defeated before you even begin. Heck, people criticized the way that I acted during the Box Lunch as being "obnoxious." I knew I did a good job, though.

Ultimately though, the best advice about dealing with life's big moments is the realization that it's not about not being scared. Eventually, you will have to confront a situation that scares you to death. That much is a given element of life. What it's all about is not letting your fear stop you from acting at all. If you master being able to accept your fear as a part of the process, you can make decisions that others will find to be spectacular (or 'impossible').

-Anything else you find important and would like to share?

Watch Husbands season 1 right now (www.husbandstheseries.com) and be on the lookout for season 2 later this summer!