Elizabeth Gardner ’18: Creating Content for the Academy of Country Music

If you tune into the 16th Annual Academy of Country Music (ACM) Honors broadcast Monday night on the FOX television network, Elizabeth Gardner ’18 hopes you’ll appreciate her work. She’s not a performer or presenter, but Gardner played a crucial role in putting the show together—writing the script that will guide host and four-time ACM Award winner Carly Pearce. This is Pearce’s third time hosting the ceremony and Gardner’s third year writing the script.

Elizabeth Gardner

“The first year I wrote it, ACM Honors wasn’t televised so it was just a live in-house event,” says Gardner, ACM’s senior manager of content and editorial. “Last year, it was televised on FOX, and this year it’s returning to FOX. So, it’s really exciting to see my work on national television.” 

Gardner started at ACM as an intern during her senior year in college, while attending Newhouse’s Syracuse University in Los Angeles (SULA) program. The television, radio and film major decided to spend her final semester away from campus so she could immerse herself in the TV/Film industry. She says she’s been inspired through connections with successful alumni and she credits her Newhouse professors, and Bob Boden in particular, with providing real world lessons and inspiring her to get out of her comfort zone.

Editor’s note: Though her role at ACM includes responsibilities for scripting shows like the ACM Honors Ceremony, Gardner is not a member of the striking Writers Guild of America. 

Fast Times at The Asylum

Given the industry’s current state, with the writer’s strike putting all major studios at a standstill, I am very fortunate to have taken up a gig at a production company like The Asylum. Although you may not recognize the company, you would recognize some of their previous works, mainly the infamous “Sharknado” franchise and their hit show “Z Nation” on SyFy. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg; the company has been in business for over 25 years now and bolsters a catalog of hundreds of films, or “mockbusters,” as they are affectionately titled. Put simply, The Asylum is in the business of taking topical blockbusters and putting its signature spin on them. Some hardcore film enthusiasts might not deem this a legitimate contribution to the art form, but I would tend to disagree. Here is my testimony:

I am one of four Syracuse interns at The Asylum this summer, and we have all been split into different departments, ensuring we can all bounce around the company and try out different roles at our leisure. My friend, fellow Syracuse student Ethan Mitchell, and I were assigned to the production team, and on the very first day of my internship, we were sent to the set of “The Exorcists.” I was exhilarated. I have been lucky enough to participate in several student film shoots at SU, but being on location in LA county and working with actual professionals in the field was such a novel experience that is the whole reason I came out here in the first place. From the first day, I have been doing my due diligence as a PA or production assistant, meaning I help out in any way, shape or form. My interpretation of being a PA is that you act as the on-set yes man; there is no request you will not accept. I have helped grips set up lights, disassemble cameras with ACs, and operate special effects; they even let me be an extra in a movie! (look for me in Alien Apocalypse, coming soon to streaming near you).

The beauty of being a PA is that you are in a position on set where you can witness all the different departments’ operations and occasionally even help and learn a thing or two from them. You can’t learn these things any other way than just doing them, and it can be very helpful for those who know they want to make movies but are unsure what role they want to take. I have learned so much about filmmaking over the past few weeks, and I continue to learn more daily. With new productions starting every week (they aim to put out 2-3 movies a month!), the madness is far from over, and I am excited to see where The Asylum will take me next. Thank you for your time!

Dylan Rode is a senior in the television, radio and film program at the Newhouse School.

Newhouse LA Student Spotlight: Camille Pitaniello

Camille Pitaniello portrait

Two years ago I wouldn’t have pictured myself doing a program like this, let alone in Los Angeles, California. Never having been to the West Coast, I was not sure what I was in for but I was presently surprised. So far, this semester has been one of the best experiences of my college career. I have learned so much not only through my internship but the Newhouse LA classes and the mentors we are provided. When I first applied, being a public relations major, I wasn’t sure if this program would be right for me or if the classes I would be taking would help me with my future career path. But that is not the case with this program, I have already learned so many valuable skills in the entertainment industry and for life in general and I am so excited to continue this journey!

Camille Pitaniello is a junior in the public relations program at the Newhouse School.

Discovering Los Angeles

Reflections on Newhouse LA, Summer Internships and Syracuse’s Exceptional Alumni Network

Mirren Sassaman stands outside

Being a part of Newhouse LA this summer has fulfilled my long ambition of coming to Los Angeles and determining if living out here long-term is plausible for me. Although living here for less than six weeks, I have developed a strong preference for Los Angeles over New York City. The easygoing environment, post-June Gloom weather, delightful culinary scene and the joy of encountering cute dogs on every street have all contributed to my fondness for this city. My experience in Newhouse LA has opened my eyes to the rich and diverse network Syracuse has to offer. It has also been a much-needed reminder that I don’t need to have my career path planned out now at 21.

Coming in as a student in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), I was apprehensive about fitting in both with the other students and within the Newhouse community. However, I am pleased to say that everyone I have encountered has been incredibly welcoming, starting with Newhouse LA director Robin Howard, who took a chance on me by granting me the opportunity to attend this summer. A standout and enriching class for me has been COM 350: Topics in Media, Diversity and Inclusion, taught by Professor Oliver Jones, which I’ve looked forward to taking since hearing about it. In addition, I have had the privilege of meeting Syracuse alumni from various industries through Professor Steve Bradbury’s class, which has been invaluable. I am truly grateful for the amazing learning opportunities attributed to me through my two internships at TATA PR, a fashion showroom catering to celebrity stylists, and with the U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce on their sustainable fashion team. All in all, my ventures this summer have enhanced and further solidified my passion for sustainable fashion and ignited an interest in communications-related fields.

Mirren Sassaman is a junior in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University.

Newhouse LA Student Spotlight: Heather McClure

Heather McClure portrait

I originally found out about Newhouse LA from one of my older friends from school who had did the Newhouse LA spring semester and had nothing but amazing things to say. Going into the summer, I was worried I’d have trouble finding internships and feel out of place in LA because I thought it was mainly tailored to TRF or BDJ majors, but I was a PR major. I can confidently say, Newhouse LA and Los Angeles is a place for anyone, any dream and any career goal. I am currently interning at CLD PR and Rapparound PR. Taking on two internships and balancing six credits worth of class has defiantly made me have a busy schedule, but I don’t regret it at all. Working hands-on in fashion, showroom, celebrity and media PR with my two internships has been an amazing experience and I am so excited to move out to LA post college and begin this career journey that I started a little during this summer. I cannot stress enough how much Newhouse LA has made me grow as a person, student and future PR professional.

Heather McClure is a junior in the public relations program at the Newhouse School.

On Set! On Set!

Krystal Zhang sitting on the ground

My name is Krystal Zhang. I am participating in the Newhouse LA program and doing the internship at The Asylum. This past week, I worked on a film shoot for the company and I was very excited about it. I worked as a production assistant there, and this is my first time participating in a feature film shoot.

I was very lucky to have taken Professor Murias’ The Art of the Producing class before I went to set, which helped me a lot. Professor Murias is one of the best professors I’ve ever had. She taught us the glossary of production terms, on set conduct and how to communicate with a Walkie-Talkie. When I actually got on set, I realized how important and helpful it was to know this in advance. When hearing some words that are only used on set, I knew what they meant, and I also knew how to communicate on the Walkie- Talkie. With this knowledge as a background, I didn’t feel terrified about going on set. I helped the costume designer to steam clothes and set up the lunch table at the first day. I also helped with the art department and did the 2nd camera assistant job to do the mark.

I think PA is like a brick that moves wherever it is needed. I think it was a lot of fun to be on set, and I really enjoyed being there. But, it was really exhausting! I fall asleep right after I get home every day. Definitely a lot of fun tho!!!

Krystal Zhang is a sophomore in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

The Art of Producing

Brett Wilk headshot

Hey y’all! I’m Brett Wilk, a rising senior studying television, radio and film. This summer in LA has been absolutely amazing so far, but one thing that has stood out is the Art of Producing class with Professor Cecile Murias. I’ve never thought too much about the producing side of TV/Film, or figured I’d be interested in pursuing it for a career. However, this class has shown me how essential producing truly is. Without it, you could have the best director and best actors, and still have a bad movie. The class not only goes into detail on what it takes to be a good producer, but how to be a fully functioning member of the entertainment industry. This is combined with weekly in-class interviews with industry professionals where we have a chance to get the inside scoop on the day-to-day of their jobs. It’s been a blast so far and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Brett Wilk is a senior in the television, radio and film program at the Newhouse School.

Newhouse LA Student Spotlight – Amanda O’Donnell

Amanda O'Donnell posing with a smoothie while out to lunch

As a rising senior and someone planning to move to Los Angeles post-grad, being in LA with Newhouse this summer has given me the opportunity to solidify my confidence in my plans to move out west and “soft-launch” my life as an LA resident, all while still being guided by Syracuse and Newhouse. It’s been amazing to experience LA with the people in the program and see all the sights LA has to offer, all while having the opportunity to work professionally in the entertainment business. My internships with Escape Artists Entertainment and Artists Road have been amazing, incredibly fulfilling and have provided me with an invaluable experience I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere but LA. Having classes taught by working Hollywood professionals has given me insight and provided connections into the industry that have been incredibly enlightening and helpful for not only my education, but my future career. So excited for the rest of the summer!!!

Amanda O’Donnell is a senior in the television, radio and film program at the Newhouse School.

LA Life!

photo of Emily Farrell standing against a wall
Emily Farrell

Being in LA has been one of the best experiences in my life and I have learned so much. It makes moving out to LA seem less daunting for my future career. My internship with Don’t Tell Comedy has been so fun to be a part of. Every week I travel to new places around LA and help out at their comedy shows. The culture here is definitely different than the East Coast. Everyone feels very locked into their career and passion; very focused and driven, but relaxed. The pace out here feels slower than the aggressive speed walking in New York. Every mentor I’ve met with has told me that they all just want everyone to succeed. There is a lot of support from superiors in the industry and the Syracuse University ties have been very prominent since being out here. I never feel alone in LA.

The traffic here is pretty bad, though. If you need to get somewhere on time, you have to add at LEAST an hour to the travel time. It’s very congested during rush hours.

The food is good and I enjoy finding new places to eat. My favorite place is Jinky’s, which is a great café down the street from us. I’ve been there a bunch, we are on first name basis with the staff. Being in LA has made me learn to be more independent and I’m not relying on a college campus for social life anymore. We really have to immerse ourselves in the towns and city life around us. It’s been a great and eye-opening experience and I could see myself living out here after graduation.

Emily Farrell is a sophomore in the television, radio and film program at the Newhouse School.


Dodgers Stadium

My favorite experience in Los Angeles thus far was when I went to the Angel City FC opening home game at the BMO Stadium. My sister and I were able to take advantage of the Metro to get to the game, so we thankfully avoided parking (notoriously the most difficult part of LA life). The energy in the stadium was electric and it was a gorgeous day with typical sunny Southern California weather. Even better, the roof of the stadium was open so we got to witness a beautiful sunset as the game went on. 

I’m a big fan of women’s soccer and the game was so much fun and very fast-paced. To make the whole thing even more special, one of the team’s founders, actress Natalie Portman, was there and it was super cool to see her. The fan section was completely packed and you could really feel that the fans as a community were pouring out their hearts in support of their team. Even though Angel City lost, the whole game was such a great time and one of my favorite sports games I’ve ever been to.

Olivia Duet is a senior in the television, radio and film program at the Newhouse School.