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AU L.A. Intensive Gives SOC Group Unparalleled Hollywood Access

Less than a week after the School of Communication 2018 commencement, 20 SOC students and alumni looking to break into the entertainment business got a huge boost to their professional pursuits via “AU L.A. Intensive,” an adventure that provided them in eight days with industry exposure that others work years to achieve.

Arriving on May 16, the group of current students and recent graduates —the majority of whom had never been to Los Angeles before—got a spectacular introduction to Hollywood life as they stepped into the 10,000-square-foot mansion that the school leased to serve as “A.U. West” for the week. Nestled in the hills of the Pacific Palisades neighborhood, with views of the ocean and purported glimpses of stars like Christian Bale, the Mediterranean-style villa served as their home, meeting place, and operational headquarters.


Adam Goodman meets with L.A. Intensive participants in the AU West mansion.
Adam Goodman, owner of the Dichotomy film production company, fields questions from the AU L.A. Intensive group during a morning session on May 22.

AU L.A. Intensive’s schedule presented a wide range of opportunities to learn about the entertainment business. Chief among those offerings were meetings with executives, writers, directors, producers, and actors working in television and film, almost all of whom are either SOC/AU alumni.

Wednesday, May 16

12—3:30 PM
Students Arrive
5:30—7 PM
Eddie Leavy @ “AU West”
7—10 PM
Young Alumni Reception and Program @ “AU West”

Thursday, May 17

11 AM—2 PM
Sony site visit
3:30—5:30 PM
Danielle Claman Gelber @ “AU West”
7 PM
Entertainment Media Alumni Alliance
Networking Reception featuring Danielle Claman Gelber, Evan Spiliotopoulos, and James Middleton @ “AU West”

Friday, May 18

9:30—11:30 AM
Barry Josephson @ “AU West”
2:45 PM
L.A. Landmark tour with Bonnie Winings @ Griffith Observatory
Taping of Bill Maher Show @ CBS

Saturday, May 19

Salvation Writers Room visit with Liz Kruger and Craig Shapiro @ CBS
Russell Williams @ “AU West”
Dinner and presentation with Andrew Greenberger @ “AU West”

Sunday, May 20

9—11 AM
James Middleton @ “AU West”
11 AM to Evening
Free Time

Monday, May 21

10 AM
Tour Universal Studios
1—4 PM
Darryl Frank @ Amblin Studios
Universal Theme Park

Tuesday, May 22

Adam Goodman @ “AU West”
Studio tour with Mitch Nedick @ Warner Brothers
Dinner and tour with Mitch Nedick @ The CW Network
9—10 PM
Charlie Wachtel @ “AU West”

Wednesday, May 23

Depart L.A.


Speakers shared their experiences in making the transition from Washington to Los Angeles, as well as candid insights about the challenges and opportunities that the AU L.A. Intensive cohort will face as they seek to do the same.


Barry Josephson talking with 3 L.A. Intensive participants.
Barry Josephson (SPA BA), president of Josephson Entertainment and the power behind film and television hits such as Men in Black and The Tick, speaks one-on-one with AU L.A. Intensive participants at the "AU West" villa on May 18.

“It was really wonderful because there was a lot of give and take, a lot of synergy,” Danielle Claman Gelber said after chatting with the group for two hours. The AU alumna and president/founder of Acoustic Productions, who has developed a host of TV hits over her career such as the Chicago Fire/P.D./Med series, Weeds, The L Word, and Beverly Hills 90210, added, “I think I was able to impart things from my experience that could help new people starting out.”

Throughout the week, the AU L.A. Intensive participants queried the speakers on numerous topics that reflected their expertise in film, television, entertainment media, public relations and more. “For me, it was the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Barry Worthington, who earned his MFA from the Film & Media Arts division the weekend before the trip. “I'm still in awe over all our guests’ and hosts’ generosity and hospitality,” he added.

Beyond the chance to engage face-to-face with key members of the industry, the trip also enabled the participants to meet with recent alumni at several social events, including a networking reception at the villa sponsored by AU’s Entertainment Media Alumni Alliance.


 Entertainment Media Alumni Alliance panel discussion at the mansion.
From left to right: Beauty and the Beast screenwriter Evan Spiliotopoulos (SOC MA); Altered Carbon executive producer James Middleton (SOC BA); Acoustic Productions Owner and Founder Danielle Claman Gelber (SOC-SIS MA); and SOC Dean Jeffrey Rutenbeck during the Entertainment Media Alumni Alliance panel discussion that some 50 guests attended at the mansion on May 17.

“I was impressed with the group members as they honed their introductions and questions over the week and developed their networks with film and entertainment professionals who are at various stages in their careers,” said Sarah Menke-Fish, SOC assistant professor and director the project. “The AU L.A. Intensive participants bonded as a group and moved from being competitive with one another to becoming supportive colleagues and formed a network of their own. As several of the speakers informed them, ‘the relationships you build to support one another early on are invaluable for the length of your career.’”

SOC Dean Jeff Rutenbeck spent the trip engaged with the group’s activities as well as meeting with numerous alumni. “AU L.A. Intensive touched many bases,” he said. “Clearly, the students and recent alumni on the tour gained valuable insights—and some even landed interviews and jobs that will get them started. But just as important, in my opinion, was the fact that the visits gave the industry a glimpse of the talent coming out of SOC. We aim to build the Intensive project up, and in doing so we intend to bring more of that talent to a rapidly evolving industry.”


Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.
Bright lights, big city on Hollywood Boulevard by the famous Grauman's Chinese Theater.


Eddie Leavy meets with AU L.A. Intensive participants in the mansion.
A.P. Bio actor and SOC alumnus Eddie Leavy (sitting in the red high-back chair) shares insights on his transition from the east coast to the west with AU L.A. Intensive participants during the first session held at the "AU West" mansion on May 16.


Amanda Ziegler hugging Bugs Bunny statue outside Warner Brothers Studio
Amanda Ziegler (SOC BA) hams it up with Bugs Bunny during the Warner Bros. Studio tour on May 22.

Industry Participants

Darryl Frank
Co-President, Amblin Television

Danielle Claman Gelber
Owner and Founder, Acoustic Productions

Adam Goodman
Founder, Dichotomy

Andrew Greenberger
Co-Founder, Journey Entertainment

Barry Josephson
President, Josephson Entertainment

Eddie Leavy
Actor, A.P. Bio

James Middleton
Executive Producer, Altered Carbon

Mitch Nedick
Executive VP/CFO, The CW Network

Liz Kruger & Craig Shapiro
SOC Parents
Owners, Still Married Productions

Evan Spiliotopoulos

Charlie Wachtel

Russell Williams
Distinguished Artist in Residence, SOC

Bonnie Winings
Director of Development and Communications, Griffith Observatory