Tonight Show legend Jay Leno ’73 and eight other Emerson College alumni spoke on a series of panels at the WME theatre on September 5 in celebration of this year’s Emerson Emmy nominees. An audience of nearly 70 Emersonians listened to Emmy winners and nominees speak about their work, share advice, and tell stories.
“It’s great to see so many Emersonians doing amazing things,” said Kevin McManus ’09, a writer and co-producer on Netflix’s American Vandal.
Kevin and his twin brother, Matt, are both first-time Emmy nominees for their writing on American Vandal, a true crime mockumentary. They are among the more than 15 Emersonians nominated for Emmys this year.
Matt spent time speaking with visiting Emerson Los Angeles faculty member Jim Macak, whom he took a class with as an undergraduate, and shared stories about how he influenced him as a writer. He talked about how so many of his collaborators today are people he met at Emerson, including producers Tony Yacenda ’09 and Dan Perrault ’09, who created the Peabody Award-wining series.
“It’s cool to be a part of all of this and to get a peek into what other departments and shows are like,” said Matt.
The McManus brothers were joined by Stefani Robinson ’14, an Emmy-nominated writer and producer on FX’s award-winning series Atlanta, for a panel on comedy writing. Robinson spoke about how surreal it was to be a panelists at an event with Leno, who gave the commencement address at her graduation ceremony.
For Emmy winner Leno, the chance to speak with young folks was something he relished. He told jokes and offered advice to the audience, including words of wisdom for students and young alumni about not being afraid to reach out to people they admire.
“I find that people really like to help young people,” said Leno. “People really see themselves in you.”
Leno was joined on a panel by David Swift ’09. Swift spoke about his journey from production assistant on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to current supervising producer of the Emmy-winning reality show Jay Leno’s Garage.
Joining Swift on the non-scripted panel were Brittany Martin Porter ’10, supervising producer on The Voice; Jared Wyso ’11, a producer on The Voice; and Megan Sleeper ’02, vice president of casting at Bunim-Murray Productions, where she interned as an Emerson student. Moderating each panel throughout the evening was Naketha Mattocks ’94, who heads up the live action film unit of the Kids and Family Division at Netflix.
Last year, Sleeper won the first ever casting Emmy for a reality TV series. Hearing her named called at the ceremony was an emotional moment for Sleeper, but this year she feels much more calm having already gone through the experience. She said she was looking forward to connecting with other Emersonians and swapping stories with other nominees.
“I love events like this because you get to see people who went through the same amazing experience we all went through and you get to see the paths everyone took after college,” said Sleeper.
Porter, a three-time Emmy winner, has been working at The Voice since it launched in 2011. Before she was even a nominee, she helped produce the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards. She was proud to say that she’s played a key role in helping more than 10 Emerson alumni get jobs on The Voice.
“This is exciting to meet fellow nominees and connect with other Emersonians,” said Porter. “And we went big.”
During the panel, Wyso discussed how he’s conducted more than 800 hours of on-camera interviews to cast for The Voice. What decides who makes the show?
“It all boils down to story,” he said. “There’s a story in everything.”
During his panel, David Klotz ’94 spoke about the music side of the film and TV industry. He has earned four Emmys as part of the sound editorial teams for Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, and American Horror Story.
Meeting other Emersonians in the business was one of the highlights of the event for him. Having attended many Emmy ceremonies before, Klotz said he looked forward to seeing his friends and peers the most.
“To see a lot of my friends and peers get recognized for their talents and contributions is great,” said Klotz, a double Emmy nominee this year. “It’s fun to celebrate with them.”
There was reason for celebration. At the Creative Arts Emmy Awards, Klotz collected his fifth Emmy for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series for his work on StrangerThings.