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Women in Entertainment Panel at Emerson LA Draws Large Crowd

More than 100 students, alumni, and friends attended a Women in Entertainment panel at Emerson College Los Angeles on September 6. Moderated by Emerson LA faculty member, screenwriter, and author Jennifer Vandever, the Women in Entertainment panel featured alumnae Dawn Steinberg ’82, executive vice president of U.S. Talent and Casting at Sony Pictures Television; Naketha Mattocks ’94, vice president of Original Movies at Disney Channels Worldwide; Alicyn Packard ’03, voice actress, comedian, musician, and writer; and Kristen Murtha ’09, producer.

“Something that Dawn said that struck me is, ‘Let your path take you where you’re meant to go,’” said alumna Kryzz Gautier ’12, a producer and director. “It’s not always a straight path.”

Steinberg and other panelists discussed their journeys to how they got to where they are now, shared career tips with audience members, and touched upon changes they’ve seen in the industry over the past few years. Steinberg encouraged women in the audience interested in directing and writing to continue pursuing their passions.

“I sit in a lot of meetings,” said Steinberg. “We need female directors and writers. If you have an interest in doing that, now is a great time to do it.”

“We need female everything,” Mattocks added. “We need women able to do everything and men open enough to fight that fight [in the executive suite].” 

Vandever has participated in a handful of similar panels in the past, and while she pointed out that the central concerns are the same because social change is slow, it remains an important topic for everyone.  

“Obviously it’s near and dear to my heart as a storyteller,” said Vandever. “It’s something students need to know about and it’s important for everyone to recognize the value of showcasing different stories and storytellers.”

When asked what advice they might give their younger selves, the panelists shared a variety of tips with the audience.

  • Mattocks: “You can take a deep breath. It won’t be the end of the world if you do.”
  • Murtha: “Stay hungry and have confidence in yourself.”
  • Packard: “Find that good survival career that will support you financially.”
  • Steinberg: “Trust your gut. It got you here.”

For Emerson LA student Karis Bedey ’18, a Theatre and Performance major, the panel was an opportunity to hear from women in different fields and gain career advice.

“This is my first time living in LA and it was great to hear different perspectives of women in the industry,” said Bedey.

Packard shared advice that Bedey and other soon-to-be graduates could use. She discussed how challenging the first year after graduating can be, but that “you have to support each other.”

Murtha encouraged students in the audience to continue exercising their creativity and to get their hands dirty. “All of your time and experience has prepared you,” she said.

Haley Thompson ’18, a Visual and Media Arts major, made the most of the panel, which she called “a really cool opportunity.”

“I’ve been contemplating joining [the nonprofit organization] Women in Film,” said Thompson. “Anything women can do to help each other get a leg up in the industry is something I want to be a part of.”