Every fall Jeffrey Hirschberg, associate professor and director of the television and film arts program, encourages his students to send hundreds of letters to film directors, TV producers, and others in the field requesting informational interviews for entry into the business.
“What makes it different is that the students are not asking for a job, but a meeting to learn about the business,” Hirschberg said. “They want to know how an actor or producer or director broke into the business and provide any advice they can. People find that non-threatening.”
One student who followed Hirschberg’s advice is 20-year-old Cassandra Crimmen, who sent 400 such letters across the country. An informational meeting at NBC over spring break led to a job interview and a rare paid summer internship at Peacock Productions, a reality television division of NBC Universal.
Three other TFA students—Alex Hauck, Jack Petrillo, and Jacob McAuliffe—also secured highly competitive internships this summer. Hauck is working with the New York Red Bulls soccer team’s multimedia department in New York City. Petrillo is interning with Robert De Niro’s company, Tribeca Productions, in New York City. McAuliffe is interning with PBS in Albany, New York. Additionally, Jacob Kolenberg landed a temporary position as a production assistant on The Amazing Spiderman 2, which filmed in Rochester in early June.
“It was an exciting experience,” said Kolenberg, who contacted the film production company several times before he received an e-mail asking him to arrive on the set the following day. “One of the things that Jeff really drives home is perseverance. He said you’ll get 99 no’s but then the one yes. You have to wait for that.”
The film and television industry is extremely competitive, which is why Hirschberg, who has written for Showtime Networks, Lifetime Television, and ABC and has directed short films that have played at New York film festivals, recommends the letter-writing campaign to his students.
“It’s very labor-intensive, but it’s a process that works,” Hirschberg said. “One year, nine of my students did it and all of them got summer internships.”