Ben Travers of Indiewire moderates the keynote conversation with writer-director-producer-actor Jay Duplass.
Schmigadoon! co-creator and executive producer Cinco Paul (clockwise from top middle), executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld, and the show's stars Kristin Chenoweth and Jane Krakowski have a lively conversation with entertainment journalist Mara Reinstein during "Script to Screen: Schmigadoon!"
For the second consecutive year, the College Television Summit — the traditional lead-up to the College Television Awards — offered its advice-packed panels and networking opportunities with industry pros to all students in U.S. two- and four-year colleges, at no charge.
The annual conference, launched ten years ago to help students navigate their early careers, was previously open only to CTA nominees. This year's event — held virtually March 23–25 — offered its expanded audience a behind-the-scenes look at the making of five series: Doomlands (Roku), Euphoria (HBO), Heels (Starz), Schmigadoon! (Apple TV+) and Single Drunk Female (Freeform). Also on the agenda: discussions on below-the-line careers and building a social media brand; a conversation with writer -producer-director-actor Jay Duplass; a networking panel with Creative Artists Agency executives; and virtual networking sessions with industry pros.
"When I was starting in this business, being Latino, it was easy to think your story didn't matter," says Foundation chair Cris Abrego. "This is a platform that does just the opposite: it celebrates your story. And it gives students access to industry experts; they're getting the ability, from their own homes, to have a meeting, to ask questions and chat and engage."
The Schmigadoon! panel united members of the cast and creative team of the musical fantasy. "I was excited to participate in the Summit because I was once where these college students were — on the outside looking in, with big dreams and plans," said creator–executive producer Cinco Paul. "I'm happy to give a little back, however I can.
"My hope is there will be some gems of wisdom that may help them as they pursue this crazy but fun career," he adds. "I love what both Kristin [Chenoweth] and Jane [Krakowski] told them: what makes you unique is your greatest strength. I also hope the aspiring writers who watched will realize that it's never about any one script. The script isn't your ticket — you are the ticket. And the more you write, the better you'll get."
Duplass also recalled his early days in the business, which he experienced with his brother Mark. "We struggled a lot trying to find our voices and navigate our way," he said. "If there's anything we can offer from our experience to help alleviate that struggle, it's the least we can do."
His advice? "It's a hard road. And it's not for everyone. But the good news is, you can enjoy yourself along the way, make some great friends and some great art, and it doesn't have to destroy you. It doesn't have to be 'make it or bust.'"
The networking aspects of the Summit — with pros and peers alike — were particularly valuable to Saiya (Sai) Lin, a CTA nominee in animation. A 2021 graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, he now works for Floyd County Productions (FX's Archer) in Atlanta. "I learned that as technology advances, an important thing to keep in mind is to try to learn these new programs that come out, in order to better prepare yourself for when things change," he recounts. He was surprised at the variety in the panels: "Learning about the business side — on top of the design aspect — definitely helped me get a better understanding of everything."
The Euphoria panel was a favorite for Rebekah Baker, a CTA winner in the commercial, PSA or promo category. A 2021 graduate of Brigham Young University, she now works for advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi in New York. She particularly liked the panel that broke down a sequence of scenes from Euphoria. And, she says, "I'm looking to grow my skills and my knowledge about television, film and production in general. So I was really excited to hear from so many industry professionals. I really enjoyed it."
Foundation executive director Jodi Delaney lauds the virtual networking advances provided by the Summit's new platform, Ohyay. She hopes to return to an in-person format next year, but will likely keep the Summit online as well, for greater reach to students. As for this year, "It hits me every single time," she says. "It's an honor for us to support and recognize these students, because there are huge things ahead for every single one of those nominees. It's very humbling."
For more on the College Television Summit, go to TelevisionAcademy.com/CTS.