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Headshots of Sarah Park, Emma Fosko, Alexis Jackson, Grace Moss, Yvette Urbina, and Megan Davis

Studio Executives Share Tips on How to Advance in the Industry

Los Angeles, CA, Oct 21 – Some of the success behind the RespectAbility Entertainment Lab’s ability to help place its alumni in positions of employment is the Lab’s support from a variety of studios. As such, throughout the Lab, executives from DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Walt Disney Company, and Warner Bros Discovery shared tips with the virtual cohort Lab Fellows on how to advance within the entertainment industry.

Sarah Park, Emma Fosko, and Alexis Jackson — Recruiting Team members from DreamWorks Animation — shared insight into DreamWorks internships and programming in areas such as production, writing, and animation. While DreamWorks has many opportunities for writers and creatives, the company also has programs for other facets of the industry such as development, public relations, marketing, and talent acquisition. “These opportunities give you an overview of what it would be like to work at DreamWorks and also give you the opportunity to be mentored not only at the studio but also to network and connect,” advised Sarah Park, Recruiter of Early Career Programs and Diversity Outreach of DreamWorks Animation.

When it comes to advancing in the entertainment industry, DreamWorks executives shared that there are many ways to forge ahead. “I don’t think there’s one path. What might work for you could be totally different for someone else,” said Alexis Jackson, Manager of Talent Acquisition of DreamWorks Animation. “I encourage you all to meet as many writers or people who are doing the job you want to do as you can.”

Grace Moss, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Warner Bros Discovery, shared details about the studio’s various pipeline programming including the Early Career Bootcamp, of which RespectAbility is a partner. “Our group is really in charge of discovering emerging talent and seasoned talent that may not already be on the radars of our creative teams,” shared Moss. “We really work to help our participants get connected through our content colleagues to potential opportunities for staffing.”

Yvette Urbina, also a VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Warner Bros Discovery, said that creatives should not let age or experience limit them when applying to programs. “I think age is irrelevant if you’re a writer,” said Urbina. “One of our goals is to be industry leaders and to set a standard,” adding that Warner Bros. Discovery seeks to help connect participants with their partners and future professional prospects. “We want to make sure that as many people see you as possible.”

Megan Davis, Global Talent Acquisition Recruiter at Sony Pictures Entertainment, advised those who may be newer to the entertainment industry to share their previous experiences in their applications. “I think when you’re switching industries or jumping into a new position, that’s the place where you can showcase who you are,” said Davis. Sharing skills that may not directly seem relevant can reveal a lot about an applicant’s previous experiences and perspective. Davis also advised Lab Fellows to make connections whenever possible, and that sometimes means applying for support and administrative roles to get to know a studio and its culture. “Not only are you going to be getting experience supporting an executive in that space and shadowing and learning from them, but you also get experience in doing development tasks like script reads,” said Davis.

During the sessions, the studio executives also shared more about equity and inclusion programming at their respective studios. Many studios have ERGs, or Employee Resource Groups, which are club-like groups centered around different identities. “Something I’m always super impressed about with the DreamWorks culture is how involved DreamWorkers are in ERGs,” shared Emma Fosko at DreamWorks Animation. “It’s one of the fun parts of working at DreamWorks.”

Davis shared that Sony is mindful and inclusive in all recruitment stages; they ensure that hiring leaders are seeing and interviewing an inclusive slate of applicants.

When it comes to advancing within the industry, the executives encouraged all Lab Fellows to find their voice in their applications, be ready to network, and apply to every learning opportunity they can. While networking and applying to new opportunities can feel daunting, studios are looking for candidates who are ready to learn and can grow into roles. “Try to have conversations around where you bring something to the team,” advised Alexis Jackson. “Our goal is to tell authentic stories and those who bring experiences from outside of our bubble help us tell more authentic stores.”

RespectAbility’s fourth annual Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities brings authentic and diverse portrayals of people with disabilities to the screen by creating a pipeline of diverse professionals with disabilities behind the camera. Participants include people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health, and other disabilities. Lab alumni currently work for a variety of studio partners including DreamWorks Animation, Netflix, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and The Walt Disney Company, as well as in a variety of writers’ rooms. Others have had films featured at festivals such as Cannes Short Film Festival, SXSW, Slamdance, and Tribeca, and participated in additional career track programs including with Film Independent and Sundance Institute.

Meet the Author

Reagan Martin

Reagan Martin (she/her/hers) is an Entertainment and News Media Apprentice in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Fall 2022. She is a proud disabled and chronically ill actor, advocate, and graduate student based in North Texas. Her love for the acting and the entertainment industry previously led her to work at the Walt Disney World Resort.

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