Comedic reality TV pioneer Vin Di Bona ’66 discussed his legendary career with Emerson College Los Angeles Vice President and Founding Director Kevin Bright ‘76 during a Masters Seminar presented by The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors at ELA on October 15.
A 45-year entertainment industry veteran, Emmy Award-winning producer Di Bona discussed his beginnings as a singer with the stage name Johnny Lindy, how Emerson College influenced his career path, and his work on Entertainment Tonight, MacGyver, and America's Funniest Home Videos during the hour-and-a-half-long discussion.
“[Emerson] gave me the confidence to think I was the best,” said Di Bona. “When I graduated, I felt like I was really good at what I did.”
Much of the discussion centered on the long-running ABC reality television program America’s Funniest Home Videos, which Di Bona adapted from a Japanese variety show in 1989. AFV has been on the air for 26 seasons, is distributed in more than 190 countries, and appears as 25 local versions around the world. It is the longest-running primetime television show on ABC.
When asked how AFV has managed to stay relevant for so long, Di Bona credited members of the staff.
“Great team, great writers, a sensibility that the show is more important than any joke, and dedication to the craft,” said Di Bona. “The longevity of the staff has been outstanding.”
Vin Di Bona '66 discusses his legendary career with ELA Vice President and Founding Director Kevin Bright '76.
Even in the digital era, AFV continues to thrive as a family-friendly show. Di Bona said he was initially worried about YouTube when it debuted in the mid-2000s, but now he embraces the video-sharing website and other social media channels.
“Now we promote by utilizing our videos,” said Di Bona, referring to how AFV uses Vine, Tumblr, and other digital outlets to help clips reach new audiences.
Putting together video compilations is a task that many Vin Di Bona Productions interns undertake. Six of the seven ELA interns at Vin Di Bona Productions were at the event, including Alexandra Bender ’15, Emily Blodgett ’16, So Choi ’16, Eden Fury ’16, Shannan Singletary ’16, and Tyler McAndrew ’15.
ELA Vin Di Bona Productions interns. From left: Emily Blodgett '16, Eden Fury '16, Tyler McAndrew '15, So Choi '16, Shannan Singletary '16, Alexandra Bender '15.
“I grew up watching AFV and it was a staple of my childhood,” said Fury. “When I was in Boston, I produced shows in the Vin Di Bona TV Studios. Now to be interning on set is just a great experience.”
Lee Miller, president of the Caucus Foundation, which annually awards grants to students to help them complete thesis film, TV program, video or interactive projects, was among the audience members listening to Di Bona speak about his career. Miller was glad students from various schools, including Chapman University, AFI, and USC, were present to hear Di Bona dispense advice.
“Like Vin said, you’ve got to believe in yourself,” said Miller.
At the end of the interview, Di Bona stood on stage with Bright and encouraged the students in the audience to keep pushing forward to achieve their goals.
“If you're an Emerson student, you need to carry on our tradition,” Di Bona said.
Vin Di Bona '66 told Kevin Bright '76 that he is very proud AFV is a family show.
Following the event, Fury said she felt more encouraged to pursue her career in television production after hearing Di Bona speak about his career.
“I just want to take advantage of everything Emerson has to offer,” said Fury. “I feel more inspired than ever.”