Semester in LA

Student Stories

Dana Tuinier

BA, Producing & Development

Dana Tuinier, Producing

I graduated from Columbia with a BA in Film, emphasis on Producing and Development. I came out here the beginning of the summer, about ten minutes after I walked across stage to grab my diploma.

My second day of class Sherry Lansing came to talk to us, so I really don't know how anyone can top that. She was the perfect introduction for my life in Hollywood, and I think of the things she told us often. (She told us to appreciate every job, every step on the ladder, to focus as much on where you are as where you are going.) We had some amazing speakers, including Josh Olson (who wrote the academy-award nominated A History of Violence screenplay) who taught me that you don't have to be a mindless clone to get by here. It was those two speakers especially that made me feel more comfortable with the power of being genuine in Hollywood.

I had an internship at a great indie film company lined up at the end of Semester in L.A., but then Craig Gore got me into the CBS Radford mailroom instead. Working at CBS was one of the best times of my life, and I would recommend working on a lot to anyone and everyone! From CBS I moved to working for an alum at Kaplan Stahler Gumer Braun, a TV Literary agency in Beverly Hills. I work for Ra Kumar, who was in the very first Semester in L.A.. It's a wonderful experience to work for him, and I feel so fortunate to have him as my first “Hollywood" boss. I love having the network of Columbia alums in Los Angeles, it has been crucial to my success and my social life since I moved here.

Kristin Watson

Drama/Sitcom Workshops

It is difficult to see the picture when you are inside the frame

R.S. Trapp

I was sitting in room 707 of the Columbia S. Michigan building, revising my Reba script we had just finished tabling. I had this feeling I never felt before. It was a feeling I got from watching some of the most creative young students put their time and effort into working a script I was creating. I knew at that moment I wanted a bigger piece of what I was experiencing in that classroom.

I discovered Columbia's Semester in L.A. program through a wonderful teacher who later became a mentor. The Semester in L.A. program was a chance to step out of my own frame and see my true potential without limitations. My experience with the program was through the Drama and Comedy workshops.

You can't imagine, until you do it, how crazy it really is to get yourself to LA when it's not a vacation. I needed to find housing, a car, and one hell of a map. Then there was finding the bungalow. The bungalow that would be my home for five weeks, and put ten other students across from me and give me that excitement that truly is the writers' roundtable.

Eventually I walked into bungalow five and met my instructors: Jon Katzman, Jack Gilbert, and Richard Whitley. It became obvious this was going to be the most intense five weeks of my life.Sure, you do coffee and trades every morning, but then there are beat sheets to write, outlines to trim, all leading up to the finalized script. A final script that is not only worked on by you, but also tabled by ten other students who are no longer called students. We are thought of as a writing staff. A select few even get the opportunity to pitch to managers and have their scripts tabled by show runners at the end of the program. I had the pleasure of pitching my script to a manager and I thank the heavens Columbia taught me the importance of presenting myself properly.

The program is definitely all business, but the stuff that happens in between the craziness puts it all into perspective and truly makes you see how vital the program really is. Generally the teachers let you out by 12:00 or 1:00 and if you're not working on your project, it's time to network. I saw live tapings and went to the guilds. I also attempted to get into fests where panels where being presented. I took the chance to absorb an industry I chose, close up. When speakers came in, I tried to ask the questions I couldn't get answered in a Chicago classroom.

And we had some amazing speakers. From the show-runner of Bernie Mac (Peter Aronson), to a big-shot from Malcolm in the Middle (Michael Glouberman) to Susan Dickes from Just Shoot Me, our speakers were amazing. A great piece of advice I can give is, when instructors invite you to events or give you information on an event, GO! I don't care how tired you are or how beat up you feel, get your butt in gear and go. You might not get access to certain events again for a while, so take advantage. You also never know who's paying attention to go-getters so remember it's a lot about learning to network. The best piece of advice I received was, get out there and mingle. You can't market yourself by staying in, and Semester in L.A. gives you the opportunity to attend some pretty cool functions.

By doing the Semester in L.A. program I was given the chance to experience the television industry and myself from a whole new perspective many students can only dream of. Some choose to stay; others choose to go back home. I, myself, am in the process of relocating because I found the bigger piece of that feeling I was looking for in room 707. You can't look at it as will I go or will I stay. It's what you put into it while you're there that will help you make the decision.

Mark Mallorca

Directing

I attended Semester in L.A. immediately after graduating from Columbia College. The program I went into was the directing program, which lasted four weeks and allowed us to learn and film on the CBS Studio Lot in Studio City.

After completing the program, through the people who taught the class and guest speakers, I was able to quickly be led to pick up work as a PA in independent shoots and they alsohelped me get into interviews for internships, which was great.

A month after completing the Directing program and working PA gigs I got a job in the CBS mailroom, another nice connection I received through a Columbia alum. I worked at the mailroom for three months. The job was great because no one expects you to stay in the mailroom; therefore they were always flexible when it came to leaving for an interview or taking a day off for another job. Because of the flexibility I was able to continue sending off resumes and thankfully Columbia has a bungalow on CBS with all the resources you need to get plugged in.

So through the creative directories in the office I took down several numbers and pretty much contacted and sent off resumes to any production willing to take it whether they were hiring or not. From that I started getting calls and finally landed an assistant position on the OC working for lead cast member Mischa Barton, and I now work as her personal assistant today.