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Women in Entertainment Alumni Share Career Advice

In a year when diversity in Hollywood has been such a hot-button topic, panelists at the Women in Entertainment forum held March 30 at Emerson College Los Angeles encouraged the next generation of storytellers to keep pounding on the door.

“It's tough when you're the only girl sitting in the room,” said Pam Abdy '95, president of production at New Regency. “We have to continue to punch our way through the room.”

Abdy was joined on the panel by fellow alumni Felicia Pride, MA '05, producer and filmmaker, and Paige Newman '14, production coordinator at DreamWorks. Moderated by ELA faculty member, screenwriter, and producer Jennifer Vandever, the panelists used their varied career experiences to talk about breaking barriers and building a career in Hollywood.

Women in Entertainment panelists Felicia Pride MA '05, Paige Newman '14, and Pam Abdy '95 answer questions from moderator and ELA faculty member Jennifer Vandever. Photo/Daryl Paranada

When discussing sexism in the industry, Abdy shared a story about being told by a studio executive earlier in her career that he didn't want a woman in a job she had been pursuing. Pride talked about the structures that enable sexism and other forms of discrimination to happen and told the audience to pick and choose their battles. She also encouraged emerging storytellers to find ways to create their own opportunities.

“Let's be more savvy about the business,” said Pride, who has worked a variety of jobs throughout the years, including marketing coordinator, blogger, columnist, and adjunct professor, among others.

Pride used her own winding journey as a way to tell students, many of whom sought advice on where to go with their careers and what to do next, that it's OK if their path differed from their peers.

“I've had a lot of wonderful, varied experiences,” said Pride. “It's OK if your path is different.”

The panelists discussed a variety of topics, including the importance of having mentors and how to cope with sexism in the industry. Photo/Daryl Paranada

Michelle Douvris '16, a Marketing Communications major, was one of the seniors who wanted advice on what path to take. With about a month left until graduation, Douvris asked Abdy about when she should start reaching out to companies about any available opportunities.

“Now. You can't wait,” said Abdy, who encouraged Douvris to start sending out emails immediately to people in the industry she already has relationships with and to look at companies like Netflix and Amazon for work.

As a recent graduate who was hired by the company she interned for while attending ELA, Newman shared a few tips with ELA seniors. Use the Emerson College name, she said, and pay attention to details.

“When you're juggling a lot of things at once, it's really important to be detailed-oriented,” said Newman, who told students to do things like check in with people, send thank you notes, and acknowledge when someone has achieved success as part of an effort to keep up with connections.

From left: Pam Abdy '95, Paige Newman '14, faculty member Jennifer Vandever, and Felicia Pride MA '05. Photo/Daryl Paranada

Damon D'Aquila '16, a Visual and Media Arts major, attended the panel because he wanted to hear new angles and perspectives on the industry. One piece of advice from the panel that stuck with him was the idea that he shouldn't get stuck on a path that wouldn't make him happy.

“You have to know what your end goal is and pursue it, as opposed to doing a job just to do a job,” said D'Aquila, an aspiring writer and director.

As a young woman entering the industry, Douvris said she appreciated the diverse panel and the various tips shared by the alumni.

“It was an awesome panel,” said Douvris. “This was so valuable.”