School, Stage & Screen Season Finale: Luck be a Lady Gaga

A mix of Jimmy Fallon meets TED Talks, the series features interviews with CCM alumni

A new podcast created by UC College-Conservatory of Music alumni takes listeners inside the entertainment industry with stories and advice from Broadway performers, television actors, movie producers, make-up artists and more.

School, Stage & Screen Episode 11 features jazz musician Brian Newman (Jazz Studies, att. '99-'03), trumpet extraodinaire and Bandleader for Lady Gaga's Las Vegas Residency jazz and piano show. Tune in to the podcast's season one finale to learn about Newman's experience working in New York and Las Vegas, and hear the story about how he got a scar from Lady Gaga's disco ball! Listen online.

Learn more about the podcast in the Cincinnati Edition's interview with co-hosts Brian J. Leitten and Dylan Mulvaney.

Jordan Glickson: My first day at Interscope, 50 Cent and The Game have a legendary falling out that results [intense string music] in shots being fired.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Brian J. Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. 

[Hip-Hop beats return]

Brad Look: [Interview excerpt] We had David Bowie in our make-up trailer. He says 'uh, excuse me, dear boy, would you take some photographs of me in the jungles?' He wasn't even in the film!

Diana-Maria Riva: [Interview excerpt] My most recent production is a Netflix series called Dead to Me and I play Detective Ana Perez.

Mulvaney: This season's guests are all alums from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school!

Andrea Stilgenbauer: [Interview excerpt] I worked on High School Musical and High School Musical 2Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure — all of those.

Andrew Chappelle: [Interview excerpt] I did two episodes on Escape at Dannemora. I was in a scene with Benicio del Toro — my head was spinning!

Nicole Callender: [Interview excerpt] I am a stuntwoman. I am also an intimacy coordinator. 

Leitten: So what happens when guys get excited?

Callendar: One of the things I use, it's a strapless thong.

Mulvaney: So is that kinda like what a drag queen would use to like, tuck things away?

Callender: It's similar in design.

Look: [Interview excerpt] I approach alien make-up as if its a person, just from a different planet! [laughs]

Mulvaney: As a recent musical theatre grad, I want the inside scoop on what is happening on Broadway!

Chappelle: The beauty of Hamilton was that they were really great about leaning into our individual personalities for the roles. 

Leitten: After 20 years in the business, I love to see how the industry constantly changes. 

Stillgenbauer: [Interview excerpt] The producer role, it's just so hard to explain. It's a little bit of everything from the start of production, to breaking down scripts, to budgeting.

Leitten: I want to hear more.

Mulvaney: [Sings] More please!

Riva: [Interview excerpt] The creator of the show, Liz Feldman, told me, 'I thought you were just going to be a detective until I met you.' It's been a super fulfilling artistic journey.

[Record scratch]

Leitten: Dylan, bring us home.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen! 

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Brian J. Leitten and Dylan Mulvaney

School, Stage & Screen” is an exciting new podcast that focuses on success stories and fantastic failures from the entertainment industry. Separated by two decades of life experience, producer Brian J. Leitten (BFA E-Media, ’02) and Broadway performer Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, ’19) delve into the differences between college and the real world with other CCM alumni like Diana Maria Riva (actor from Netflix’s Dead To Me), Andrea Stilgenbauer (producer of Kidding and The Affair on Showtime) and Brian Newman (Jazz Musician and Bandleader/Arranger for Lady Gaga's Vegas Residency “Jazz & Piano Show”).

A mixture of Jimmy Fallon meets TED Talks, the podcast is an exploration of transformative moments that will enlighten current students and graduates who dream of using their creativity to jump start their careers.

I think it's important to show the next generation of filmmakers, actors and performers that the people they look up to got their start somewhere.

Brian J. Leitten, co-host

“Through this podcast we have the opportunity to inform current students and recent college grads about the highs and lows of the entertainment business and share the wisdom our guests have accumulated, so that they can be informed on typical mistakes and encouraging successes as they begin their careers.” 

The episode schedule for “School, Stage & Screen” is below, including more information on this season’s guests.

With support from CCM, “School, Stage & Screen” is developed by Hyperion XIII Productions, co-hosted by Leitten and Mulvaney, edited by Blake Hawk (BFA E-Media, ’12) and executive produced by Robin Hopkins. Learn more about the creators in their bios below. The series features music by Ryan Fine (BM Commercial Music Production, ’17).

The podcast will be available wherever you listen to podcasts, including Apple PodcastsSpotifyDeezerTuneInStitcher and the CCM website.

Follow “School, Stage & Screen” for episode details, updates and more: TwitterInstagramFacebook.

Episode 11: "Luck be a Lady (Gaga)" (June 14, 2021)

SEASON ONE FINALE: What’s it like to live the life of a jazz musician on the Vegas strip and simultaneously raise a family? Jazz trumpet extraordinaire and Lady Gaga’s band leader, Brian Newman (Jazz Studies, att. ’99-’03) shares how he rose to the top.

Brian Newman: We did the Robin Hood Gala in New York and Tony Bennett was there after we played Orange Colored Sky and Someone to Watch Over Me. Someone comes back and says Tony Bennett wants to come and meet you. You know what I mean? And we're just like, Oh, this is amazing!

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Brian J. Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. This season's guests are all alums from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school.

Leitten: Today we're talking with Brian Newman, a jazz musician and Lady Gaga’s bandleader and arranger for her Las Vegas residency, jazz and piano show.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

Leitten: It is our final episode done, Dylan.

Mulvaney: [Sings} The final countdown! It is and it's very bittersweet. I'm very grateful for this entire experience. But Brian, so you're back in LA correct? After a lot of traveling

Leitten: A lot of traveling, I want to say it's 10,000 miles 27 states, 14 different projects. It was a it was a long couple of months, but it was worth it to be working again. And to have a bunch of new clients that hopefully I'll keep for the next couple of years. And you're, you're doing some new stuff in LA, aren't you?

Mulvaney: Yeah, well, based on honestly what all of our special guests have been saying over the past weeks, it seems like the, the through line of all of their advice was to check out internships and apprenticeships and work your way from the bottom up to the top. And so I ended up finding some really awesome apprenticeships to apply to this summer, specifically non-binary and transgender apprenticeships, which is even cooler, and more tailored to who I am. But I've got one for writing with an awesome writing organization for the summer. And then I actually have an audition today for the Jim Henson apprenticeship with the puppetry, which is really cool. Something that I you know, never really saw for myself, but I think that sounds so much fun and, and, and like the guests kind of said, is just try a bunch of different stuff out, see what sticks. And that's what I'm kind of going to let myself do this summer and beyond.

Leitten: It's great to see those types of apprenticeships, internships, roles and films developing from what seems to me fairly quickly, how do you feel? Do you think like this inclusion of non-binary has happened quickly in the industry? Or do you feel like it's, it's been taking longer than it should.

Mulvaney: I'm just so excited to see these really big production companies and agencies choose to sort of be on the right side of history when it comes to a lot of these, you know, issues in our industry and wanting to find ways that they can help and be a part of things. So these are these apprenticeships are sort of just the beginning of that. And I think they're really trying to bring, you know, some some diverse talent into the mix. So I'm really grateful. And I, I can only imagine that we're gonna see a lot more diversity, you know, in our workplace and in our crews, on set, and it will be a beautiful thing.

Leitten: Yeah, I agree. I think that internship apprentice angle is very important for anyone coming into any industry to have that opportunity to get the experience and learn at the same time and hopefully get paid as well.

Mulvaney: Well, once you graduate somewhere like CCM, which is this amazing school and you put in all this hard work, I sort of felt like I was like, Oh gosh, well now I really have to go start making money because I just got this degree, but I there's still so much to learn, you know, those the BFAs that we do are so specialized. And so if there is something that you maybe didn't learn at school, you know, it's it's not a bad thing to I hope we all keep learning for the rest of our lives. Like you're, you know, now getting into writing something that you didn't get to do very often in school, I imagine with your degree,

Leitten: Not at all.

Mulvaney: You're very open to learning taking classes, joining writers groups, is that kind of correct?

Leitten: Yeah. Anytime I learn something new, especially when it's for work, I am at the point in my life where I will listen to advice I will take classes. I am not particular about how I get things done. I just want to do them and do them well. So that means taking a class, doing a writing group, even taking a class that is graded, you know, those things help.

Mulvaney: Yeah, sometimes grades are better because it keeps you more on your game.

Leitten: Exactly. I never thought I'd be taking classes once I graduated college for anything. So I've come to learn how important it is.

Mulvaney: And having even just structure within your week to have like, one hour a week where you know, you have to join this Zoom class or you have to go, you know, meet up with a writing group like that it's been such an important part of like, post college for me is to have at least something to create a little bit of structure in my life. Like school was just they had us, you know, 12 hours a day, our days were mapped out for us, and now they're not.

Leitten: School can be very regimented. But I think a lot of what the College-Conservatory of Music students do, is getting out of the classroom, and finding ways to be creative and to explore their art forms. And our guest this week, actually spent a lot of time outside of the classroom in Cincinnati, getting music education from musicians that have grown up and made an impact in Cincinnati.

Mulvaney: And he is now used what he's learned to literally take over the jazz musician scene. He is now doing incredible things in Vegas that we're about to get into. But without further ado, let's bring on our special guest, Brian Newman, who studied Jazz at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Brian Newman, thank you for giving us your time today.

Newman: Brian, Dylan, thank you guys so much for having me. You know, this is really a pleasure.

Leitten: Can you just give us a you know, a quick intro to you and what you do?

Newman: Yeah, man, I, you know, I moved to New York after Cincinnati. And, you know, I just continued to book my own gigs. And, you know, I had a lot of notable residencies in New York and we still do, but that that really led me to meet Lady Gaga, who we ended up working on the Tony Bennett record Cheek to Cheek and a lot of other stuff over the years. And you know, I just continue to play in New York I have my own variety show every Friday with burlesque and, and comedians and magicians and that's just that's really just my wheelhouse. Man, I love I love that kind of stuff. And I love being a bandleader. So, I've done a lot of fun stuff in that respect.

Mulvaney: Beautiful thing. And um, Brian, will you share your pronouns with us?

Newman: He/him, he him his Yes, yes, yes.

Mulvaney: Awesome. Thank you. And then what is this current residency you're working on when things pick back up?

Newman: We have a residency. I'm the bandleader for Lady Gaga in Las Vegas for her Jazz Orchestra. Honestly, a lot of people in the band put we're in Celine Dion's band, and we kind of she was wrapping up and we I kind of was like, Hey, boys, come on, ladies. And everybody, come on, let's, let's, let's, let's go over here. And, and so that's a 30-piece orchestra. It's a 15 piece, Big Band plus 12 strings and, and plus my quintet from New York. So, so that's, that's and, and, of course, Lady Gaga, which, which rounds it all up very nicely.

Mulvaney: I mean, she's like, 30, you know, artists in herself. So it's like having 100 people on stage, what a cool frickin’ job. I just gotta say, you are living the dream.

Newman: It's fun and being able to arrange that music and to be able to hear you know, it played by musicians of that caliber, and it's a, you know, pedal to the metal, you know, they're there. We're not, we're not playing soft, soft strings. I mean, there's some of that stuff. But, you know, it's, it's a it's a depends on the tune. You know, I arranged a version of Paparazzi, that for 30 piece orchestra. That's, that's one of my favorites. I hope we get to do a record of that someday.

Leitten: How many nights is that a week? And what do you do when you're not leading her residency?

Newman: That's one or two nights a week. Then she does two pop shows, Enigma. We have our own show in Vegas, four nights a week when we're there. Not just when Gaga is there, but when Cher’s there when Bruno Mars is there, you know, so anytime there's a there's a major artist in the in the main room, which is about 6000 seats. We play like a 250-300 seat restaurant, and we do the burlesque we do the variety. We do special guests, you know we've had Ashanti, we've had Robbie Krieger, the guitar player from The Doors. So that's Thursday through Sunday at 11 o'clock. And then we play with Gaga on Sunday.

Leitten: Who's we?

Newman: We — that's my quintet from, from New York. So it's it's me, Alex Smith and Steve Kortyka, who are also CCM grads and and then it's Daniel Foose, and who plays bass, and Nolan Byrd, who plays drums, so that's the five of us that also played with Gaga. Well we all we all we do double duty so they play and they play our show.

Mulvaney: The CCM blood runs strong!

Newman: Oh for sure and that like that's what's one thing that was so great about CCM. I met the guys that, you know, we've been playing I've been playing with to those two guys for 20 years. You know, it's a little little insane but They're amazing musicians and great friends.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Now that we're on the topic of CCM, I want to know how did you decide on attending the University of Cincinnati? How did you get there?

Newman: Brad Goode was a teacher that was that, he was the band camp, the jazz camp that I was doing in the summer, like couple summers before college. And Brad had mentioned that he was gonna start teaching at CCM. And I really dug Brad. Brad was just an amazing trumpet player. And, and, and, you know, I went to see Berkeley, I went to see Oberlin, I went to see New School, I went to a bunch of places, you know, my parents were thankfully, they were so supportive of what I was doing. And, and you know, and we got some scholarships and got some got into a lot of those places. But when I went to CCM and saw the campus, and I knew Brad and it just it just felt right. And it just, I'm so glad that I went there and not anywhere else I would have I think I would have, you know, things would have happened much differently. But I'm so glad that I went there to meet all the people that I did.

Leitten: What was your time, like there? What was your instrument of choice? How many instruments did you learn while you were there?

Newman: You know, I went in as a as a jazz trumpet major. And, you know, I took the two years, three years of piano classes and, you know, I did all the theory and I was also booking gigs, I was still doing my own gigs, like I had done in Cleveland. I always tried to have a residency somewhere, always trying to play once a week, twice a week. Right now we're back in New York three nights a week, which is which is wonderful. I learned a lot from the musicians that were in the school and also from the musicians that were just playing in the clubs. There was the Blue Wisp, I had a residency at Jacobs in Northside, my friend Steve owned that place. And it was just a we were there every Thursday. A lot of older musicians that had settled in Cincinnati came back to Cincinnati after the road bands dried up after you know, after they weren't doing road bands in the ‘70s they move back to Cincy. So I learned a ton from them and just really learn the tradition of jazz music, the tradition of the American, American tradition of this American music.

[Hip Hop question]

Leitten: We have a question from CCM professor and director of Jazz Studies, Scott Belk. And I think it's perfect for what you're talking about right now.

Belck: What did you get from being in the Cincinnati jazz scene that helped prepare you for working as an artist and performer in New York City?

Newman: That's a great question from a guy that really helped me prepare for my career in New York City. When I was in college, Scott Belck was I believe he was getting his master's or his doctorate, maybe both? Scott Belck is just like one of the most phenomenal trumpet players that I've heard, you know, I mean, and he’s just a great guy. He had a big band that he hired me for even though I was a terrible sight reader, he let me come and play and and just learn and and I think that's the most important thing that I learned in Cincinnati is just like from all those guys like that there were there, that were do that did it already, that that really just, you know, helped me help prepare me for the challenges that I would face later in my career, you know, and so that they weren't so much of a challenge as far as as much as just just doing it. I feel like a lot of times kids in school can get bogged down with just being alone and playing and then when you get out you don't know how to get gigs. You don’t know how to do anything like that in Cincinnati at that time. The older people that are there are there to help and they're positive and bring in bring in good energy for, for younger musicians.

Mulvaney: All those other schools that you looked at before you got to Cincinnati, you know, you might have ended up somewhere like the New School and it probably would have been very overwhelming to be in a city like New York City trying to find those gigs and find somebody to take a chance on you. So for you to be in Cincinnati and you know, sort of climb the ranks a little bit faster and have those people to give you those opportunities. It's such a cool thing looking back.

Newman: And it was a great thing and Cincinnati blessed me in so many ways you know, I mean it was just I I really think I'm so thankful for that city and all the people in it, you know at that time and you know, continually that just really continued to support me and you know, it was it was great. I want to I think the last, the last year I was there I wanted the City Beat Award for Best Jazz, you know, so that was really a nice thing and I got to play there a lot I got to do my own thing I got to play with a ton of other great bands. So many great bands out of Cincinnati you know so and so many great musicians that are that are still there and then that have come out of there.

Mulvaney: And you got to eat the Skyline Chili.

Newman: So much Skyline Chili, it's perfect. It was I had it yesterday I'm in Cleveland, so I finally got to go eat Skyline Chili. I actually went with another CCM alum, Mr. Steve Kortyka, who plays saxophone we've been playing together for 20 years. And I love Skyline Chili but I miss the Ludlow one — steamed up windows in the winter and you know there's nothing like going to the Ludlow Skyline Chili and just at any time. is Pomodori's is still there? It used to be next to Stop and Go I was always there.

Leitten: Nope. It's a parking lot.

Newman: Oh, that's terrible. But Adriaticos, I know there's an Adriaticos on in Clifton now, which I've been to. That's a good spot. there.

Leitten: Their breadsticks!

Newman: The big pepperoni too is amazing.

Leitten: Yes!

Newman: You know, if you're into the meat, the Bearcat Pizza is where it's at.

Leitten: Yeah, it's just one big slice of pepperoni on every piece of pizza.

Newman: It's salami sized. I love it.

Mulvaney: Everyone that I've talked to from CCM, like as much we love the school, but everyone has like a food. Like there's always, it's what brings us back is like, Oh my gosh, the food there.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Looking back, is there something in college you wish you would have studied that maybe has nothing to do with your performance career?

Newman: I wish that more more colleges and stuff like that would teach you like how to do your taxes, how to do your books, how to make sure that when you do make money from doing your music, that you're not like that you don't spend it all. That's something I think that gets glossed over a little bit that, I think a lot of musicians struggle with is the business end of things. And since I was always playing my own gigs, I always, always had a leg up on that. I mean, now I have CAA and my own management team, but before it was just me and you know, you you can you can get screwed over and things can happen.

Mulvaney: Yeah. Now, did you have a mentor or someone that really influenced you the most in college?

Mulvaney: John Von Ohlen, and God another another one that left us. But John Von Ohlen was the drummer with, you know, Stan Kenton, you know, just he played with everybody and he was the swingin-ist big band drummer drummer that I've ever heard. And just the Zen cat, you know what I mean? Like just just a genius, man, and just the coolest. And anytime you had something to talk about, you know, I go see him at the Blue Wisp and, you know, listen to his play with the Blue Wisp, big band and, and just go to see his gigs at the Celestial and Michael G's and just listen to his band, Lee Stoller, Mary Ellen Tanner, and John Von Ohlen. And Scott Ritchie, played bass with him at the time, but there was just, he was just, he was incredible, you know, in addition to Brad Goode, because Brad Goode really showed me a lot of the technique on the trumpet that I that I still continue to work on, you know, to this till today. But John Von Ohlen was one of my favorite people of all time, and he just, he's just a, he was just a genius.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: We were in college at the same time, we didn't know each other. But I interned in New York and was given a job offer, and was told I could, I could keep it and drop out of school. And I chose to go back to school and finish. And I know you didn't finish your degree. Can you talk a little bit about that? And the decision to leave school before you're finished?

Newman: Yeah, I mean, for sure. I mean, listen, I was not a model student. You know, I mean, I'll just start off by saying that. Most of it was the the eight o'clock theory and music history classes every day, because I was I was hanging out late. I was trying to, I was trying to learn the tradition of the music. And I was hanging with bands and, and, you know, hanging out with John
Von Ohlen. And cats like that. And, you know, and I was there in Cincinnati for four years, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe going on five, four and a half. And Brad, Brad Goode was leaving, he was going out to Colorado to start just started another another job. And I had went to Cincinnati for him. And I just I think I felt like it was my time to go, you know what I mean? I like I said, I think I have like 19 credits left or something like that. A lot of the guys that I came up with had graduated and were gone. I was already playing a lot of the gigs that I wanted to play and in Cincinnati, you know what I mean? I knew that I could stay there and have a wonderful career and have a wonderful life. But I had always wanted to go to New York City, much to the chagrin of some of my other teachers in school. I wanted to go to New York. I wanted to start there. I felt like that it was just the time was right.

Mulvaney: Did you already have a job lined up in New York?

Newman: Absolutely not. I moved to New York with $500 and a U-haul. And first and last security deposit on an apartment there. I worked for seven years as a waiter, a bartender, a car driver, a film car driver, I drive a porter, I work for a moving company. I just I literally did every job known demand for about six or seven years before I played music full time. That's not to say during that whole time I wasn't playing music. I played weddings. I played klezmer bands, I played in hip hop bands, I played, that was when Craigslist was really booming. So like I would go on Craigslist every morning and I would look for gigs look for people looking for a trumpet player.

Mulvaney: And now Craigslist is just like a little bit sketchy. Like you never know what you're fully getting yourself into.

Newman: It was sketchy then too. But honestly, the one of the funniest things that happened with that was one day I was looking on Craigslist and there was something for burlesque — a burlesque trumpet player wanted. So I emailed the guy back, he called me he was a real character, you know what I mean? And he said meet me at this so and so's studio on on 42nd Street and I show up and it's like a door in the middle of Times Square that doesn't look like anything, but you walk in and there's like this this old lady like smoking like brown cigarettes like ‘what do you, what do you want? What do you want kid,’ you know? And I go upstairs and that that ended up introducing me to my wife, introduced me to burlesque, introduced me to a variety introduced me to a little more of the showbiz that what is what I what I would, what more what I do now, you know, with with, you know, the music isn't dumbed down. It's technical, it's hard. It's difficult, but it's but it's fun. It's accessible. It's it's, it's what it what it's supposed to be for me.

Leitten: What I heard from all that was I met my wife on Craigslist,

Newman: Basically, basically, I was basically through Craigslist, I met my wife. And it just it kind of shaped shaped my career. The showbiz stuff, you know what I mean? All the stuff we're doing now.

Mulvaney: So back to the odd jobs was music, always the most important thing? You kind of took jobs with the intent of this is not a forever thing.

Newman: Absolutely. I would never give up ever, you know what I mean? And, you know, so it was, it was always just like, just taking a job to get to the next thing. You know, not to say that I wasn't that good at my job. Near the end of my regular civilian career working in New York, I was an assistant General Manager at a high end Steakhouse. And I'll never forget, the chef came up to me. He's a French guy. And he said, See I said, ‘I told I told you, you what, you wouldn't be a musician.’ And that made me so sad inside that I was just like, oh, man, I got to quit. You know what I mean? And until I quit and went full into the music, nothing happened. You know, as soon as I gave that up, and started bartending one day a week, and pushing music and pushing music and just eating ramen noodles, and, you know, drinking 40 ounces, I, you know, I was I was, I was I was just, I would do anything to get to get to get where I wanted to be.

Leitten: Was that scary?

Newman: It was scary. But at the same time, I knew that it was going to be okay, you know what I mean? I took a really cheap apartment with some friends of mine. And, you know, I just made it work. You know, I've always been a hustler. I've always been able to do what I do. And, and, you know, it just took some it just took some time. And I'm glad that I jumped in. Because I think sometimes if you if you have that fallback plan, and you have that other thing, sometimes it prolongs your your success. Not to say it's always different, even especially in showbiz, you know, one day you're playing the best gig of your life, the next day, you're playing a gig that you hate, it doesn't matter what, where you are in your career.

Leitten: You're always a freelancer in this world, how do you deal with that?

Newman: It's about knowing your worth. And it's about, you know, at a certain point, you know, saying no to things, you know, is good, you know, and, you know, you can't not to take everything that comes down the pike. And that will that pushes up your stock. And and and you'll be able to make more money and and, you know, and and have better treatment, you know?

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: So speaking of that better treatment, what would you consider your big break in New York or outside of New York somewhere that you were like, oh, wow, this is a really big deal.

Newman: I mean, I think the first thing was, you know, we had been doing the burlesque show with Dwayne Park in downtown. Every Friday sold out, you know, it was new, you could you couldn't get a table at this place. And I had met Lady Gaga and when I knew we're at Stefani Germanotta, I was bartending on Sunday nights at this place called St. Jerome's and we met there. And, you know, I knew that she was a singer. We used to go see her at the Bitter End when she was Stefani Germanotta and we would go I remember I hear it helped carry her disco ball. And that was like, that was like, that was like huge Dylan, and like literally like it was like four feet wide. And I remember it fell and it fell in I cut my face I have a star on my face from from that disco ball.

Mulvaney: What an honor to have any sort of scar to be the the scar from Lady Gaga’s disco ball.

Newman: You know what it was funny, Dylan. We were at, we were at Gabriel's, which was this which was this this mega mega like giant like complex like I gave, and it was just the coolest gay bar that you like, it just was amazing. That was when she had just came out with Just Dance and no one knew it yet. So this was we was like the first time she was playing this live in a club in New York City.

Mulvaney: Do you know how many queer people would like, like murder you for like for your spot in that room?

Newman: We used to go there all the time with her.

Mulvaney: Is it still open? Do you know?

Newman: No, it's not there anymore.

Leitten: It's probably a banana republic. Now, let's be honest,

Newman: There was a lot of good places like that. But Dylan, I went to a lot of clubs with her like that, because we were we were friends. You know, she knew I played music. We know she played music. And we would go in support. And it was just always a good time.

Leitten: What was the crowd reaction?

Newman: It was crazy. I've never seen anything like it at the time, especially in a setting like that with the lights and the smoke machines. And like she only had two dancers and a DJ that wasn't like now.

Mulvaney: No, oh, my God, the camp that goes on on those stages. And so then how did this relationship sort of build into something bigger?

Newman: Well, we were friends. And then one night I remember she came to see us at Dwayne Park, and she ended up singing with us that night, she's staying with us, Someone To Watch Over Me. And, you know, because I knew she loved jazz. She did all the high school musicals and everything like that, just like I did when I was a kid, you know what I mean? And we that's where we developed our love for this kind of music. She came to see us there and then she asked me to play with her on the Today Show. So three months later, I was on the Today Show with her playing Someone To Watch Over as she went into Bad Romance.

Mulvaney: She had gained some traction before that.

Newman: So there was there was a little bit of space in between that and she was coming out with our second record. And and she asked me to play on the Today Show with her that song So I did that and then as as things came on, and then We did more and more stuff like that with her. She would call me out to play in Carlisle, BBC Radio One big weekend in England. And then I would then I went, we did the Robin Hood Gala in New York and Tony Bennett was there. And then so we're backstage and after we played Orange Colored Sky and Someone To Watch Over Me, and then she did her pop show as well. She did, like I came out did the jazz songs. And then someone comes back and says Tony Bennett wants to come and meet you. You know what I mean? Then we're just like, Oh, this is amazing. So Tony comes back, then they end up recording Lady Is A Tramp. And then they end up putting that out and then we were on the Thanksgiving special with her. We played all that all that stuff with them. That was finally when it wasn't just me. It was my band that she hired. And then next thing you know, we're recording a record with Tony Bennett. And she hires me and my band to do a range and record and then we ended up doing the whole tour. So that I think that's the Today Show was probably the first of the the major things that we did and I can attest that all to, all to her what she saw in me then to where we are now doing our own orchestra together. You know, in Las Vegas, the greatest showbiz city in the world glitz and glamour at its at its finest. You know what I mean? So it's it's, it was just a great friendship and we still remain friends. She's the godmother to my daughter, if you watched the Five Foot Two documentary that yeah, that's that. That's my that's my daughter's christening.

Leitten: I mean, not many people can say Lady Gaga is my daughter's godmother.

Mulvaney: You know, what I take away from what you just shared is that like, first of all, friendship is such a powerful thing. And I you know, what I also gather is like, you weren't looking at that friendship as a networking opportunity, you were two people that were like, Oh my gosh, you're so fun. I love your energy, oh, you're really talented. Let's, you know, kind of collab. But also, it's like, Don't burn any bridges. Because you never know who you're going to be able to work with in the future. It's just a really amazing thing. Because this is now yours of a relationship that you have created.

Newman: Almost 13. The way I was raised, always be kind to everyone, always be humble, always be willing to learn. And I think that, you know, it's harder now, obviously, with everything that's going on, you know, to to be around people that we can't be around, but you know that that part of me was always there. And and you know, she's like that and and we just want everybody to be happy. And we want to be together. And we want to be you know, I want to make good music for people that can bring people together.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: So going back to the conversation from college, one of the things you said was you wish you'd had like a financial class or accounting class on how to run yourself as a business. How do you have that conversation with a friend like Lady Gaga, as you're starting to do more work for her? When it comes to how much you're being paid? How often you're working, what your times are like, because as a freelance musician, sometimes you just go with it and figure it out later.

Newman: Yeah, I mean, in the beginning, I didn't even ask for any money. It wasn't about that. You know what I mean? Like, I wasn't like that. And then all of a sudden, I'd get some money. In the beginning. I didn't have a manager. I wasn't with an agency. You know what I mean? Like now that now there's now there's lawyers and every you know what I mean? Everything. But that's not just for me and her, you know, that it's family, you know what I mean? But there Yeah, there's still there's still financial questions. You know what I mean? It's but at the same time, you can't care about the money. You really can't I know, it sounds stupid, but it's like, you, you, we can't do this. I never did this for money. I did this to be happy and to do what I love. It's great that now that the some money comes with it. I mean, you know, I'm not a millionaire, you know what I mean? But like, I have I can I raise my family? I pay my mortgage, you know, to me, like it's I you know, we have a good we have a good life. You know what I mean? I live in Brooklyn, you know, we it's it's, it's it's it's everything I've ever dreamed of. I just wanted to be in New York City.

Mulvaney: So screw that that French guy at that restaurant when you were the assistant manager. He is an energy vampire. And we're gonna go ahead and send him some of your albums after this.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Now a question though. So I'm from a theater background, I do musical theater. So for everyone in theater, you generally have to have an agent for as a freelance musician. Do you have an agent? Do you have a manager? Is that something that comes later? Once you find success? What's the process of something like that?

Newman: Yeah, I mean, when I signed with Verve Records on Universal, I was able to meet that my current manager, but I've had some management over the years. Before that, it was just me. And then I met a guy named Greg, Greg Goldstein, who was an entertainment lawyer. And he really just, he kind of set me up, you know, he set me up with a corporation, he set me up. We're going back like 10 years now. But then we have a corporation. And then when people would call me for gigs, I would put them in touch with him. And then he would do all the numbers all the negotiating. So that was my first foray into management. And then when I signed with Verve, I was able to meet up with with a guy named David Brits who as a as a company called Works Entertainment. And before that, I signed with Scott Morris at CAA. And it helps to have an agent and the manager. So now I have that and that does help out a lot. You know, we had an hour phone call today with with with my day to day manager and my manager right before this. So, you know, it's always, always something going on always pushing, whether it's social media or whether it's, you know, the shows that are coming up. And now that gigs are starting to come back, we're we have more, we have more to talk about. So so so it's good.

Mulvaney: You want to have somebody in your court, you know, or somebody at least out there, you know, to help with networking and get your foot in some doors.

Newman: Sometimes it's hard to be like, Listen, if somebody contacts you for a gig and you're like, like, it's hard to talk money, you know what I mean? Because you want to be you want to be the entertainer, you just want to show up and play your do your thing you want to do a bit, but you don't want to be like, and you also you don't want to sell yourself short. So if you want, you know, someone else can, can can vouch for you. And you know, you know, go to go a little farther inside sometimes, you know, someone will email me about a gig, I will forward it to my manager, David. And then before David reaches out, me and Dave will have a conversation. How do you know this person? How did it come through? What do you think we should ask for? You know what I mean? So it's like, what would you not do it for? What are you not going to do you know what I mean?

Mulvaney: This is some excellent Intel I will just let you know for the for young people listening, you know, thank you for sharing.

Newman: I think it's important Dylan, because that's something that you don't learn in school and I wish that they would teach that because it is you can get caught up.

Mulvaney: Yeah, knowing your worth.

Newman: And it's the difference of whether you show up to the wedding and they treat you like a wedding band or I show up to the wedding and they treat me like Brian Newman and there's champagne waiting and crudite and everything on my writer.

Mulvaney: They wanted you specifically.

Newman: They want Dylan Mulvaney, they don't want a musical theater singer. Yes, but sometimes you got to eat a lot of crap before you can get that you know. And sometimes you can get that one day and then go to another gig the next day and not get any of that. So it's it's, it's showbiz. I never think I'm too good to do anything.

Newman: You're on to the next, you've got the next gig lined up.

Newman: Exactly on to the future. But I do think it's important for that, you know, it's to have someone in your corner, even if it's someone that you trust that is better on the phone than you, you know, sometimes I would be dealing with people and I'd be like, I stutter when I'm nervous. So I'm better at not talking about money with people. I just want to show up and play. It's much nicer. It took a long time for me to just show up and play. Now I just want to show up and play, you know.

Leitten: Wow, it sounds like yeah, you're at the point in your career where you can just show up and play. But I can't imagine that was like that always. And, you know, Dylan, I think it's time to talk about some of those instances. Do you know what time it is?

Mulvaney: I know what time it is. Brian, we did just talk about a share residency in Las Vegas. [Sings] If can turn back time. Okay, this is our turn back time segment of school stage and screen. Brian Newman. When did you fail big time? And what did you learn from that experience?

Newman: Oh, when did I fail big time, man. I'm trying to think one of my first gigs in New York was at this place called Jules Bistro. Famous like French little, like underground place on St. Mark's Place. And I had these two guys playing with me. And it was brunch, one to three. But at three o'clock, I had to run and go bartend because I wasn't making what I needed to make the at the gig. So I went to the thing. And I later learned we lost the gig like months later because the other two guys in the band sat there and drank their faces off all day. And we lost the gig.

Mulvaney: Oh, well, that wasn't your fault.

Newman: Yeah, but it doesn't matter. It was my guys. So it's like so that made me a better band leader. You know what I mean? I think that if there's if I have any job I'm a vocalist, I'm a trumpet player. But if I had my main job as a band leader, I'm, I put things together to make things sound good. I think you have to fail you have to fall off the horse you have to get back on you're just part of life but yeah, just learning and always learning and always been kind and humble. And that's that's that's really my mantra.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Jumping back to being a band leader, what does it take to be a band leader and how long did it take you to find the right quintet the like the right mix of artists for your your band?

Newman: You know, the CCM guys were always with me, Alex Smith, we started playing together first we started doing duo gigs, like right after all that stuff with the Jules Bistro happened like me and Alex kind of reconnected and we started playing again at we started playing another Sunday brunch at a restaurant that I was waitering at. So on Sundays I was often I was I would play the music there for brunch. Then another guy, another CCM gradScott Richie. He started playing with us a bass player. And then Steve Kortyka, another CCM grad moved to town. Then we had a quartet and then another drummer moved to town and we had a quintet. Like I said before, I was always a bandleader. Brian, like always run in my own band, even from 12 to now, you know, I always had my own shows, in addition to doing other people's shows along the way. I do a lot less of that now, but you know, I did a lot of that. But being a bandleader it's always just so fun to me. And I always wanted to be like Quincy Jones or Tommy Dorsey or like, you know, Woody Herman or like, I just thought that was so cool to have your own band and bring those kind of musicians together because that's, that's what's important to me. It's like that it's that community is that collection of music musicians together that makes something so fire, you know, I mean, the band that we have right now is my favorite iteration of the band. And they're the toughest. They're the they're the tightest I can't wait to get everybody back together.

Mulvaney: Have you been able to put any albums together with this current band that you have going?

Newman: Yeah, we have a record out that we just put out in this this past year called Electric Lounge we recorded in January, right before all the stuff hit the fan. We put that out and that's that's that's one of my favorite records that we've done so far. So that's on Spotify. Apple Music, it's called Electric Lounge.

Mulvaney: I will absolutely be checking that out.

Newman: Thanks, man. And it says to me singing me playing trumpet and Steve sax, Alex on piano, Daniel Foose on bass Nolan Burt on drums. And that was coming off a year of us playing like six shows a week. There's some singing songs on there. There's some some some Bruce Springsteen, Springsteen, there's some Willie Nelson, there's some some all sorts of good, good stuff on that record.

Mulvaney: And so what does your year coming up look like? Is it looked like a lot of Vegas residency is trying to pick up where you left off? Or are you trying to create these new opportunities for yourself?

Newman: Well, you know, one of the one of the hotels we played at the Gramercy Park Hotel for nine years, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and that that hotel closed in New York, that's that's like, hopefully, they'll reopen again. But so in New York, we're moving on to other things, but Vegas is definitely happening. We're just waiting for the green light to go back and do the shows that we were doing before. The 6000 seaters might take a little bit longer, but I think that our show for you know, 200 people 250-300 like what are our venue, maybe we'll start a little bit sooner than that. So listen, we're just we're just just doing what we can do and you know, waiting basically. We have some road dates coming up in like Delaware and along the east coast gas as things start to open up we have that stuff coming up. We have some stuff booked up in September and some stuff like that. So we're just we're looking forward to getting back into it.

Mulvaney: I think a lot of people are looking forward to live music I know me personally like I I'm craving listening to someone sing live or play live more than I did before the pandemic just because it's it's something you don't realize how special it really is.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Something I want to know is how do you balance the music and the family you talked about having a wife and having a daughter and and going to touring along the east coast and going to Las Vegas?

Newman: Well my wife Angie is a is an international burlesque star. So she she's one of the best in the business. So we do she does the show with me in Las Vegas. And my daughter Cecilia comes comes with us sometimes if not we have we have we have a great mom mother or grannies or grannies are awesome. But a lot of times she comes with us man she she comes up on stage with us sometimes dances and she likes to saying she's only five you know, but she's she's got showbiz in her blood, just like me and her mom. And so it makes it easy. You know, it makes it easy that my wife's an entertainer, and we're both entertainers. We're both views to the business and, and it's great to have the family support support net, you know what I mean? But I think as time goes on, you know, we'll we'll be we'll be doing more shows all three of us together, you know, I think yeah, I think Cecilia is probably going to be better than both of us. But it is hard. It's a balance thing, especially this year Brian is with us she's in school at home she doesn't she hasn't gone to school at all. And I know a lot of people have it hard you know and I feel so bad for the teachers and everybody involved but it's it's 19 kids in the Zoom class every every day his five year olds in the zoom classes god bless her.

Mulvaney: Right and or even thinking about like the CCM kids trying to take voice lessons over zoom is just it's it's insane. So we're sending them some love and some hope. Coming back to CCM a final piece of advice. What would you tell someone getting ready to graduate CCM jazz and is looking at a long term performance career?

Newman: I would tell you know, new grads just to never give up and just try your best and meet people and network and, and do what you love. You know, I think if being yourself, you know, I don't know if we talked about that yet. But I think that's so important to just be yourself. You know, if you if you dig a certain thing, you like a certain kind of music, you like a certain kind of thing, what you like and keep doing it. You have to know yourself and learn about yourself to be yourself and never give up. You know, like I said, I worked seven years in New York without playing music full time, you know, so it was like, I could have went back to Cincinnati or Cleveland at any time. Probably played gigs all the time, but I wanted to make it there.

Mulvaney: Absolutely. Brian, we are so grateful for your time.

Leitten: So grateful.

Mulvaney: I mean, like I just already know, I'm going to be such a huge fan of yours when I listened to Electric Lounge, which everyone listening should go check out. And if anyone's traveling to Vegas in the next year or so look up Brian Newman's band. Yeah, where can our audience find you?

Newman: You can go to Brian Newman.com or you know my I'm very I use Instagram all the time so that's my like my number one social media thing but we repost everything on my Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff but Instagram and Brian Newman.com so my Instagram is Brian Newman NY but Brian Newman in New York, NY. Love it. Thanks so much, Dylan. Thank you, Brian. Thank you guys so much for having me. And it's been amazing.

Mulvaney: Brian, it sounds like we're gonna need to take a Vegas trip to maybe see Lady Gaga and Brian Newman.

Leitten: Yeah, I am. I am definitely down. That's got to be an amazing show. I think it's just really interesting to see our guests and where they are in their careers. I mean, Brian is onstage performing with Lady Gaga, Andrea Stilgenbauer working with Jim Carrey, Nicole Calendar is working on sets for the Starz channel. I mean, these are, these are big, big gigs.

Mulvaney: And I think that all of those people you just mentioned, they're just gonna get bigger, which is the craziest part. And now we know them. And we're so grateful to have all of them on for season one, which we are sadly wrapping up.

Leitten: It's been amazing. What was your rose for this season one that is so tough. I think our guests from beginning to end have been incredible.

Mulvaney: But you have to pick something,

Leitten: I'm going to say, the episode with Andrea Stilgenbauer. You know, we went to school together, and her career is the direction that I want to go. So I think what she had to say, really stuck and had the most impact on me when it comes to my writing, trying to get into the scripted world, she has that experience. So for me, that was one of the episodes where what I was learning will be directly applied to what I'm doing in the future.

Mulvaney: Amen. I would have to say my rose is probably just now knowing Diana Maria Riva and having her you know, it's just someone that I could reach out to if I had a question here in Hollywood, because, I mean, I now follow her on Instagram and watch her kind of live her life as an actress out here. She's just, she knows how to work really hard, and also play really hard. And she's now collaborating and working and acting with some of her best friends. And you just see them laughing and having fun and going on girls trips. And, and I eventually want to get to a place where I can work with my friends like that. It shows that there are really good people in this industry. And she is one of them. And I just I totally loved getting to chat with her and making that connection. And that's the coolest part is now we've we've met all these people. And I just am so happy. I really do hope we get to eventually do a meetup or you know, some sort of school stage and screen mixer one day of all of our wonderful guests and maybe guests to come.

Leitten: Yeah, well, we might have to do a school stage and screen tour, where we see Raven performing in Los Angeles and then Brian Newman in Vegas. So you can go to New York and go on set with Nicole Calendar.

Mulvaney: I love it. It has been so fun. And we will keep you all updated on what is to come, and the future of the pod and all those things on our social media page. So watch out for those. Me and Brian will finally be in the same city, so we can have a celebratory drink. Yes, we all hope you have amazing summer! Schools out scream and shout out!

Leitten: Amazing summer. I just want to thank all our listeners, everyone that helped put the podcast together and especially our guests for sharing their stories and helping the next generation of entertainers get a leg up in the industry.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen.

Leitten: If you want to know more about Brian Newman or see him live. We have links to his music and websites in our show notes. There you will also find information about our podcast including a link to see bonus videos from all of season one interviews. Make sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook at schoolstagescreen one word and at schoolstagepod on Twitter. Offering both bachelor and Master of music degrees. The Jazz Studies Program at CCM teaches the fundamentals of classical music stylistic elements of each historical jazz period, strategies for enhancing originality, techniques of electronic media and today's cutting-edge trends. By receiving a wide musical perspective, in the command of a broad jazz language, students are equipped to pursue a future in jazz music and related careers in commercial music. Learn more at ccm.uc.edu/jazz.

Mulvaney: Thank you, everyone!

Leitten: Thank you. We did it. Leitten: Our show is produced by Robin Hopkins and edited by Blake Hawk. Our associate producer is Shannon St. George and our assistant editor is Matt Harris. Our music is composed by Ryan Fine, check out his link in the show notes. A big thanks to Kevin Burke, Becky Butts, Stanley Romanstein, Mikki Graff, Curt Whitacre and Melissa Neeley-Nicolini. Our sponsor is the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. This has been a Hyperion XIII production.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music]

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Hyperion XIII production.

Check out bonus video content with all of our guests on YouTube.

Brian’s Album “Electric Lounge” on Spotify.

Brian’s Website for Show Dates.

Follow Brian on Instagram.

Instagram: @schoolstagescreen

Facebook: @schoolstagescreen

Twitter: @schoolstagepod

Brian on Instagram: @bleittz_delightz

Dylan on Instagram: @dylanmulvaney | TikTok: @dylanjamesmulvaney

Edited by Blake Hawk, Throughline Media

Song by Ryan Fine (BFA Commercial Music Production, '17)

Show art by Graff Designs

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/kkk6cAOft9Y?rel=0

Get a sneak peek at the next episode of the School, Stage & Screen podcast, featuring Brian Newman (Jazz Studies, att. ’99-’03), Jazz Musician and Bandleader/Arranger for Lady Gaga's Vegas Residency “Jazz & Piano Show.” In this excerpt, co-hosts Brian J Leitten (BFA E-Media, '02) and Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, '19) talk to Newman about how his friendship with Lady Gaga helped push him to progress in his career.


Episode 10: "The Road To TV Producing" (June 7, 2021)

The producing world is comparable to a ladder, and Andrea Stilgenbauer (BFA E-Media, '02) has climbed nearly every rung. A producer for Amazon Studios and Showtime, she imparts how rewarding it can be to work your way up.

Brian J. Leitten: Can you give us a little insight into working with Jim Carrey?

Andrea Stilgenbauer: First of all, a lovely man and larger than life personality. The first time I worked with him one on one, I was like, I can't believe the talent this guy has — watching him performed was really, really special. Looking back, I wish I would have slowed down and just kind of lived in that moment.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. This season's guests are all loans from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school.

Leitten: Today, we're talking with Andrea Stilgenbauer, a producer who's worked on Kidding, and The Affair for Showtime and Fargo on FX.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen.

Mulvaney: Alright, so this was kind of a trickier interview to make happen, because you were so busy, Brian, and all over the place. And weren't you working on something today?

Leitten: Yes, I've been traveling for the last three months non-stop. And this is the end of my production travels. And it's actually quite weird and interesting at the same time, because I am producing a friend's short film. And it is the first time I am producing narrative or scripted content. Usually I'm doing documentary or interview or story-based content. So this has been a whole new process for me.

Mulvaney: And do you like it?

Leitten: I think I do like it. It's a totally different beast. I'm responsible for different things than normal. Usually, I'm directing. And that means I'm in charge. In this instance, I'm there to support the director. I'm there to support the director of photography. I'm making sure things move on time contracts are done. Call sheets and directions are handed out to the entire cast. I'm printing out scripts and changing scripts and it's nonstop. We've been working 14-hour days with little to no sleep. This morning, I was up at 3:30 on the beach by 5 a.m. filming. I will say it's fun.

Mulvaney: Okay, yeah.

Leitten: Dylan, would you ever want to produce something?

Mulvaney: You know, I produce a lot of my own content for like social media like TikTok and Instagram. But I don't think I would necessarily want to have 200 people looking at me asking what to do next on set. I’m a little bit more like a follower in that way. But as an actor, I'm really excited to get the chance to talk to a producer today because I think a lot of us actors feel a little bit like producers are inaccessible and kind of scary. And I'm excited to just break that barrier down a little bit. And I have a feeling that our guest today is not going to be as scary as I think. And she is going to be lovely. So we have Andrea Stilgenbauer and a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music’s BFA E-media program, now known as Media Production.

Leitten: And the fun part is Andrea and I went to school together.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: We are excited to talk to you today.

Mulvaney: Woo-hoo! Hi, Andrea.

Stilgenbauer: Hi, I'm happy to be here.

Leitten: We are so happy to have you. So Andrea and I went through the Electronic Media Division together, now the Media Production Division. First off, give us your IMDb bio/credits.

Stilgenbauer: I am a television producer. I have been in the industry for almost 20 years, started at the bottom and still working my way up, worked on a wide variety of shows. Movie of the weeks for you know cable, Disney Channel musicals and shows, up to premium cable shows and Golden Globe-winning shows and Emmy Award-winning shows like The Affair and Fargo and Californication, Halt and Catch Fire and Lodge 49 — two of my favorite shows. When I'm not doing that, I'm hanging out with animals. Almost always.

Mulvaney: Me too! That's my shtick That is literally my shtick. I do interviewing animals with Dylan. We're gonna have to we will cover that out of this. So excited talking about that. Awesome. Andrea, will you share your pronouns with us?

Stilgenbauer: She/her.

Mulvaney: Thank you for that. And what is your most recent production that you've been working on? And what is your title there?

Stilgenbauer: So Kidding, for Showtime was the last project I did. And my title was producer. The producer role, it just is so hard to explain, right? It's a little bit of everything from the start of production, to breaking down scripts, to budgeting is such a big part of it, hiring people, managing those people, hiring vendors, schedules. So that's kind of like those were my roles as a producer. Kidding was kind of unique because we had a lot of pre-records, because there were a lot of musical numbers. And Jim's Jim Carrey, I did have a lot of one on one with him on the show, which I was lucky to have that experience. We had to do a bunch of pre-records out of his house. So yeah, I have a lot of one on one time with him.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Alright, so we're gonna take a big step back to your college career. Okay, tell me how you decided to attend the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

Stilgenbauer: I'll do my best to remember but I can tell you this. I started college, I think under a communications major for a year, not knowing what I wanted to do. I was just kind of like, trying to figure it out. Like what what I wanted to be I had no idea like, I wasn't the kind of kid in high school where I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Even as I got into college, I didn't know what I wanted to do. And then I think I got like a little bit freaked out because people around me and my friends were like, headed down like this very clear path of like, knowing what they wanted. And somehow, I stumbled across E-Media or Media Production, and it was interested me I was like, I want to do that. I want to I want to get in there. Because something about like the entertainment industry, always kind of like the business was like appealing. You know, once I figured out what the program was, I was like, this is awesome. I know, I want to be a part of this. But I can't honestly, I can't remember like how I how I came about finding it.

Leitten: I was the same way I thought I was going to be a marine biologist and go to the University of Miami, and sat in some classes didn't like it. Cincinnati was the next college that gave me scholarship money and I was undecided my freshman year.

Mulvaney: What class Do you think had the most influence on you? Or it had that clicking moment of, oh, wow, this is I'm on the right path. Now I have a little bit more clarity about where I'm going and where, who I want to be.

Stilgenbauer: I think it became clear when I took a class with Kevin Burke, it was a production class, entry level production class. And we like got to go out into the field and shoot stuff and then bring it back and edit it. And I was like, that's cool. Because, you know, I just told a story from start to finish and thought it through, shot it, brought it back, edited it, finished it and I was like, I can do this. You know, I thought that was cool. And at the time, when I was in college, I was also working at Channel 12. And I was a camera operator. And so there was a time when I was like that was what I was going to do. Obviously bigger things happened but that did that class did lead me to that job at Channel 12.

Leitten: Were you doing things at Channel 12? That was ahead of what you're doing at college?

Stilgenbauer: I would say it was it was happening on the same timeline.

Leitten: I had an internship at W e bn and had to learn how to splice tape. Before I took the audio one production class.

Stilgenbauer: I did not have to do anything like that. There was a big red button on the camera though, that they were like don't touch that button. And everybody wanted to touch the button. Anyway. I didn't have anything that's scary.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: When you look back other than that first class, were there any other classes or groups at CCM that you connected with and kind of continue to fuel your interest in in the industry?

Stilgenbauer: I feel like the really cool thing about our program was that we were it was small, right? We were all kind of like on the same classes together, well I might not be able to pinpoint like, specific classes that still stand out to me today. What stands out are my peers, you know, I still remember being in the hall and going into class and like being part of a group. And I think a lot of our classes were collaborations, which was cool, too, which definitely is good. It's relatable to how we function today in the real world.

Mulvaney: So you mentioned that first class that you would take in with Kevin Burke, would you probably consider him one of your mentors?

Stilgenbauer: Definitely. If there's one thing I remember about the program, it's Kevin. So 100% I just remember always looking up to him. And you know, he's so smart and such a big presence and big character. I wanted to do a good job. I wanted to do well in his classes, you know, and that says a lot about him, when your students really want to try to achieve over achieve.

Leitten: Well, we like to have current students or former teachers ask a question of our guests. And today we happen to have the head of media production Kevin Burke here with us live to talk with you.

Stilgenbauer: All right [laughs]

Mulvaney: Kevin, unmute your screen!

Stilgenbauer: Yay!

Kevin Burke: Hi! Television production two or two.

Stilgenbauer: I thought it was that okay.

Burke: TV two was what all the students call? Yes, the first class who you guys got to edit. And thank you for all the compliments. It's great to see you again and thank you for taking part in this. Andrea, I do have a question for you and and it going back. Were there any internships or extracurricular activities that help to pique your interest in the film and television industry?

Stilgenbauer: Yes, I was fortunate enough to go to New York for an internship to work on Guiding Light. Which what an experience. I mean, you can't get any better experience at that age, at that time in life, then that, like my mind was like a sponge. I was just taking in so many new things. I, I'm in New York City, first of all, I've never left Cincinnati before. And then I'm, you know, on the set of a soap opera, which is like nothing I've ever seen in real life before. And I think, I mean, dare I say that that experience was like, I want to work in TV. Hell, yeah. I'm part of something. It's it is a bonding experience too, that I feel like is a little bit different than working a super corporate job that said, there's many corporate aspects of what I do. That experience was crazy awesome. I am so lucky to have had that. I think having that on my resume, got me some of my first jobs. So I have that to credit where I am now. Honestly.

Leitten: That was a scholarship, an internship award that you won, or you are awarded from the university. Yeah. Kevin, do does the media production division still do those internship awards?

Burke: Yes, they were called the the Zim awards when you were a student. And that was one that Procter and Gamble sponsored with the soap operas. Now we call them the Excellence Awards, we're still able to get students into prestigious internships that we hope still have the effect that it had on you that it really gives them a leg up and gives them some insight into the possibilities that could be industry.

Mulvaney: So Andrea, if anyone listening that maybe is in school, or is, you know, trying to get into CCM, would you recommend trying to add in an internship into their four years while they're at school?

Stilgenbauer: I would almost say like if it were a way to make it mandatory, I think that could only like help people so much. You know, it's like it took what you just learned, and you put it into real life.

Mulvaney: What year did you do that?

Stilgenbauer: I think that was my fourth year.

Mulvaney: Awesome. So you kind of got that energy of the internship to then take you into your real life, which we're about to get into.

Leitten: And you you still had to go back to college after the internship.

Stilgenbauer: I think I had another quarter left.

Mulvaney: And you're like, I know everything. Now I worked on the soaps.

Stilgenbauer: Exactly.

Leitten: I was the same way. I interned in my fourth year and came back and all I could talk about was New York City and the job I had and how amazing it was…

Stilgenbauer: Graduated already.

Leitten: Exactly. Kevin, thank you for joining the podcast today.

Mulvaney: Thank you, Kevin.

Stilgenbauer: Thank you, Kevin. It's so good to see you.

Burke: You too. Andrea.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: What was your plan after graduating from CCM?

Stilgenbauer: After I graduated, I think my plan was always to go back to New York. But having gone to New York and kind of had that experience. While it was an amazing experience for the internship, it was a little overwhelming for me personally, to think about going back to New York alone, broke, without a job. So I had friends, peers of ours that had moved out to Los Angeles. So I was like, I got to do something. I'm just going to take the chance and drove out to LA and I lived with three guys for a while and slept on the floor.

Leitten: No job.

Stilgenbauer: No job. $500 to my name. I'm so glad I did that. But it was so risky. I mean, I didn't have anything. I knew that I had what it took to do it. You know, I just I guess I got lucky in a way but…

Leitten: Sometimes all it takes is $500 and a couple of friends that I'll let you crash on their couch.

Stilgenbauer: 100% and like, I didn't think anything of it at the time. I didn't care. I was sleeping on the floor. I mean, didn't even like register to me. Like that was like, was normal. I was like, I don't care. As long as I have a place to live. It's fine.

Mulvaney: So you show up in LA you don't have any work lined up. Did you have to have any odd jobs along the way before you got that first, you know, kind of break for yourself?

Stilgenbauer: Yes. So back in the day, there was the temp line. So you would call the temp line every morning when you woke up and just pray that there was a temp job for you. So I did mostly like, sit at a desk and answer some studio exact phone for a day. And that's kind of how I made ends meet until I landed my first job. I did work at a burger place briefly.

Mulvaney: Everyone has to work in at least one sort of restaurant gig. Yes, as an artist. It's a rule

Stilgenbauer: Yes, between that and like, odd temp jobs. That's kind of how I stayed at least eating Del Taco 79 cent tacos. I tell the story all the time, because that's what I had to eat was 79 cent Del Taco tacos.

Leitten: That's better than ramen noodles.

Stilgenbauer: True.

Mulvaney: But were you just happy to be in Los Angeles? At least getting a little bit closer to the thing you it is that you love?

Stilgenbauer: Yes. 100%. Like I said, I am looking back. I think it was it's crazy. What I did. But back then. It was normal. I didn't think anything of it. I didn't care. I just wanted to be here. I knew that like, I couldn't stay in Cincinnati. You know what I mean? Like, it just there wasn't enough for me there.

Leitten: I mean, when we were coming out of college, you were starting to see a lot of companies buy each other up Clear Channel owned half the radio stations and half the television stations. So you had a career in radio or local news. And those were really the only options in Cincinnati.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: You know, you said you'd been temping. And that led to your first job. What what temp position were you at? And what was that first job that you got in production?

Stilgenbauer: The temp job was literally just basically a secretary and how I got my first job, I actually wasn't related to the temp job at all. I got my first job by accident. And I was at a party. And I was talking to this girl. And I was like, I need a job. You know, I guess back then you just told people you need a job. I was like, I really need a job. I don't have any money. And she was like, Oh, my dad is the head of production at Paramount. And I was like, Okay, cool. And she's like, I'll get you a job. And I just kind of didn't take her. I just kind of took it like she was being polite. Like, just trying to make conversation. And then the next day, she emailed me and we'd connected and I got a job. Like she she got me a deal. It's…which is rare, you know, because usually you're like, I'll try to help you but doesn't always work out.

Leitten: Especially in LA.

Mulvaney: It's usually what can you do for me rather than what can I do for you?

Stilgenbauer: Exactly. So it was that was by chance that was 100% by chance. And that's how it all began? That was it.

Leitten: What was that first job?

Stilgenbauer: It was a movie of the week called Homeland Security because this was right around that time.

Mulvaney: What is a movie of the week?

Stilgenbauer: Movie The week used to be what you did, like on a Friday night, right? Like, so they're like 90 minute movies, but like, they're bad.

Leitten: They're like B, C, C, C plus level? Yeah.

Mulvaney: And would you you'd watch them on television?

Stilgenbauer: Yeah, you'd watch it on like, TNT. Okay, Lifetime, or even back in way back in the day, you would watch them on network TV like ABC and NBC.

Mulvaney: And are these usually like, feel good family movies? Or are they like, the husband has slept with the housekeeper and is taking the kids, you know, ransom over to Canada.

Stilgenbauer: The funny you should mention, because I've worked on both varieties of those. It's depends, you know, there was a period of time where they, they like to scare people like there was like the earthquake movie of the week or like, you know, natural disasters…

Mulvaney: Pandemics.

Stilgenbauer: Exactly. And then there was the you know, cheating husband or whatever, there are all kinds. The first one I did was Homeland Security. It shot at Paramount. That was crazy. That was just like a wake-up call for me. I was just like, what am I doing? It was a lot to learn.

Mulvaney: Was that a time in your life when you had to embellish fib or even possibly lie during this job to just get by get through the day?

Stilgenbauer: You know what I did a lot on that job. Just because it was my first job. I observed. I observed everything. I was quiet because I was a PA, I didn't really have to lie or fib about anything because what was given me given to me to do was easy.

Mulvaney: You could make it happen.

Leitten: They are menial tasks.

Mulvaney: But you wanted to see what everyone else was up to.

Stilgenbauer: Exactly. I learned so much. Just by listening, taking in all the information, just observe literally observing, just watching people and you know. We worked crazy hours back then that hours I don't work even to this day of you know, 24-hour shifts. So it's like, you really got to know the intricacies of of how things worked. So it was a it was a shock to my system. That first job and I kind of wasn't happy I was unhappy because I worked a lot and I was like, getting people breakfast, lunch and dinner, sucks. You know, like, nobody wants to do that. I think in this in that regard, it was important for me to do those things too.

Mulvaney: Especially now you know, the value as a producer, someone hiring those PhDs to come in you, you've been there, you've been in their position. I think that's very valuable.

Stilgenbauer: Totally.

Leitten: As you kind of look at the first couple of years of your career, what show or what company was your big break that really, this is the job I love. This is where I want to be. Boom.

Stilgenbauer: So I spent a good chunk of my career at Disney Channel executive role on accident. That was by accident, too. I was working as a mid-level producer on their movie the weeks.

Mulvaney: I think those were my movie of the week. So like, I think like the High School Musical type things…

Stilgengauer: Yes! That's it.

Mulvaney: Really?

Stilgenbauer: Yes. I worked on High School Musical, High School Musical 2: Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure, all those. Yeah, I have worked on literally all of those shows. I was working on all those shows, and the head of production left the company. And they were like, well, Andrea can do it. And I was like, can I do it? On paper, I couldn't do it. But I could do it. So I literally had the job. I was still freelance, which was weird, but I did the job five years, that was probably my biggest break.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: When you finally got that producer title, was there a job where you felt like you really had established yourself?

Stilgenbauer: Halt and Catch Fire was probably that show for me. Because it was such a friendly environment, that it allowed me to do my job, which was a no brainer. But then to kind of go beyond my job, which is the first show that I was able to like do more than the job. So do the job, but then layer on top what I can bring to the show. So that was the first time I could like kind of put my own flair on it outside of like, here's your budget, here's your schedule your you know, making your days, you know, so I would say that's when I was like I felt established for the first time and wasn't just going through the motions.

Leitten: You're obviously for their life and career. How do you deal with toxic people or environments now that, you know, you might be the adult at the table?

Stilgenbauer: I don't, I won't. I just I've actually left productions that are not a good fit for me. I'm at that point in my career where I won't do it. Like, especially with all the movements we have happening right now. And like, I'm going to be around kind people, not every day is going to be perfect. I might even have a bad day where I snap at someone. I usually don't. But I might. And you know, that's okay. And like I said, not every day is perfect, but I don't want to be around people who can't collaborate. It's just not gonna happen for me.

Mulvaney: When did you feel like you were finally the adults in the room as far as like, I claim what I'm doing, I can leave this environment if it's not working for me, I feel confident in who I am as a producer. What was that moment for you?

Stilgenbauer: I think anytime I'm kind of like dominating or running a session, whether it's a session with an actor, or running a mix with with everybody there, all the show runners in studio exacts and sometimes actors, whoever's involved, I am so confident in what I'm doing now. I don't even think about it, you know, and that's when it's like, some days I go home from a successful day like that. And I'm like, wow, that was awesome. Like, just kind of like, I'm the boss.

Leitten: I mean, I know that goes really good production days. Like those are really good highs. Yeah, I'll be up till three in the morning. And I won't be able to go to sleep just because I had an amazing underwater shot of a swimmer. And it's the first time I've ever done underwater photography. Like those good days are really good.

Stilgenbauer: It's a high it's definitely a high and it's like, you know, I feel proud.

Leitten: I mean, I have to imagine sitting in a room with Jim Carrey and working with him one on one is a pretty big moment. Can you give us a little insight into working with Jim Carrey? And what that's like?

Stilgenbauer: Definitely. First of all, a lovely man and larger than life personality. The first time I I worked with him one on one, I was like, I can't believe the talent this guy has. I mean, it's insane. Like I can't even explain to you just like watching him perform is was really, really special. I also want to tell you about this experience, though, which is kind of bore about who I am is that while I was in those experiences with him, let's sitting in his house, you know, it's like all I was thinking was I can't wait for this to be over. Because I need to get back to work and produce this what we're what we're doing right now. So while in the moment it was cool. I never I never thought it was because I was just doing my job, you know. And it's like, looking back, I wish I would have slowed down and just kind of lived in that moment for a second, instead of being like, I gotta get this done, because I need it.

Mulvaney: Your producer hat was still on.

Stilgenbauer: Yeah. And so I didn't really enjoy it. You know what I mean? It was just like, crossing it off of a to do list and fitting in into a schedule.

Mulvaney: Was there ever one of your projects that you were like, you got to see it before everyone else did. And you were like, Oh, my God, this is gonna be really good. And I can't tell anyone about it yet.

Stilgenbauer: Yeah, I think Kidding. Was that show for me? Because emotionally, there were a lot of politics involved in that show, and a lot of heavy hitters involved in that show. So we, I think, like I might have cried the first time I like, saw the finished product of that, because I was like, so relieved that it all worked out. And we had navigated through the the weeds to get a finished product.

Leitten: What's it like when you have this amazing show? I know Kidding was critically acclaimed and you expected to keep going, and then you find out that your show's canceled.

Stilgenbauer: It's always a bummer, especially if you like the people we work with. So that one sucked, I was so sad. That show was canceled for so many reasons. It was challenging, which I love. Because I don't like to be bored. The showrunner creator was is an amazing person and a dream to collaborate with. That's when it sucks, when you at least want another two seasons, because building that relationship with that showrunner and keeping that going, could only better my career. So it's a bummer, because just kind of, you're starting over, not starting over. But you're starting over on a new series, most likely, most likely with new people. So you kind of have to, like rebuild that trust each time in my role, which is is part of being freelance, right, it's part of being a gig player.

Mulvaney: How do you find that next job? Do you jump into, you know, networking mode again? Or?

Stilgenbauer: That's a good question. So currently, I'm lucky enough where I don't have to network that people are seeking me. And I'm blessed to have that. I would reach out to all the line producers I had been working with, and even vendors I had worked with before because they're constantly on production. So they're constantly hearing about new production. So that's actually how I got a lot of my jobs was vendors being like, hey, they're looking for a producer and I sent your resume and…

Mulvaney: What would a vendor be?

Stilgenbauer: So like, camera equipment rental, or finishing house that does color, or VFX? House…

Mulvaney: So be friendly with all those people as well on the way

Stilgenbauer: Oh, 100%. And just to comment on that I treat my vendors as part of the team, because for this very reason they are part of the team, what they bring to the show is more valuable than people think it's grossly overlooked, frankly. So the the more relationships you build with everybody who's involved in these shows, it's hundreds of people, right? So the more you connect with these people, the more you collaborate with these people, it's only going to help you.

Leitten: Do you know what time it is?

Mulvaney: Turn back time, time?

Leitten: I think so hit it.

Mulvaney: [Sings] If I could turn back time. What is one of your biggest fails looking back that you're like, Oh, my gosh, I wish I could redo this moment? And you know, now being this amazing producer that you are, what did you learn from it?

Stilgenbauer: Some of my biggest fails, were early on. Again, not being present in the moment and just kind of being like, I got a job to do, you know, and had I slow down and like actually talk to people every once in a while. A lot of more doors probably could have opened for me. But you know, everything worked out. So that's good. But there were days in the in early in my career where I was just so hyper focused on the task given to me that I couldn't look beyond that. And that is a failure to me, just because I could have learned more I could have made more relationships that would have mattered, you know.

Mulvaney: Right. Well, hey, you get to exercise that now. Because you'll be on a set pretty soon, right?

Stilgenbauer: Yes. upcoming show with legendary TV and Plan B for Amazon.

Mulvaney: Oh my gosh, congrats.

Leitten: How did that opportunity come about?

Stilgenbauer: That came about the show runners of that show. Where are the show runners from Halt and Catch Fire. So I had worked with them before. So I had that relationship established.

Leitten: Did you reach out to them or did they reach out to you?

Stilgenbauer: They came to me.

Mulvaney and Leitten: That’s gotta feel good.

Mulvaney: Ah! Jinx.

Stilgenbauer: That was a good email. I was like finally COVID’s over.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: We want to know a little industry secret maybe to a kid that's currently at cc who maybe wants to pursue producing What's something that you've realized?

Stilgenbauer: Nothing is as it seems, if I could make a banner and fly out across the sky. You know, what we see, or what people see on TV, or what they think of like when they watch a behind the scenes is not always as it seems, you know, it's sometimes it's not fun, it's not glamorous, it's hard. And you might have been working 14 hours, you know, the talent might be cruel, the talent might not be happy, they might treat you badly. producer might treat you badly…

Mulvaney: You have to constantly be reminding yourself, do not get jaded towards this, or…

Stilgenbauer: 100%. And like I mentioned before, by walking away from the toxic jobs, that helps stay in the game helps helps keep me happy. Because there were times where I was pretty jaded. Early on, where I was like, I don't know, it's 10 o'clock, and I'm getting this guy dinner. Exactly. And I'm like, I just want to go home, you know, working with the people who are good people and people who can help you grow and also be yourself matters.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: When it comes to the actors you've worked with, what are some of the best stories you have?

Stilgenbauer: Dick Van Dyke, we're out in Malibu, we're, we're on this farm. There's horses and goats, then there's a recording studio. There he comes. And it's like, he's, he's, he's old. He's done his 90s you know, but he was like a magical man, like magical presence. And everybody was like, jaw agape. And I don't usually get starstruck, but he was very special. Like, there was very, there's something very special about seeing him perform in such an intimate setting. Just like that was one of the times where I was kind of like, it ended. And I was like, did that just happen? You know, type of thing. Like, it was really, really cool. Really, really cool.

Leitten: Tell us again, what your next job is, and what pre-production is, and how long it lasts, what production is how long that lasts, from the moment you start work when does the audience get to see what you've created?

Stilgenbauer: My next project going on is called Paper Girls, for Amazon. It's a collaboration with Legendary TV and Plan B. Pre-production started in January, and that will last through the start of production, which is may currently scheduled for mid May, in that time, where if we're lucky enough to have scripts, which in this case, we did have all the scripts, we can start breaking up breaking them down for budgeting purposes, and figuring out locations and, and whatnot. And then from there, you know, there's a lot happens with the hiring directors and DP and hiring everybody, really, department heads. And then once I come on, because this is like a big visual effects show. It's a lot of hiring. So hiring a visual effect team that I'm lucky enough to have on the show and editors and a lot of budgeting happens in this time and scheduling. And in the schedule is is always complicated at first, right? Because there's so many unknowns for first season show, you want to make sure you're giving yourself enough time and giving the creative people enough time to do what they need to do. Plus this there are children on this show. So hours are less plus COVID, I think is you know, you can only work a certain amount of hours a day. And now everyone's remote. So it's complicated.

Leitten: Pre-production starts January of 2021. Yeah. When does the public get to see what you're working on?

Stilgenbauer: It's it's slated for a march 2022 rollout. So a year from now.

Leitten: You know, this conversation isn't great. And I want to leave our listeners with some advice. So for those those listeners that are still students that are just really graduating, and looking to find their voice and find their way in this industry, what's the best thing that they can do right out of college?

Stilgenbauer: I would say just, just jump in, right? Like, just try you just have to try to try to get in any way you can. And also just observe like, like I was saying earlier, if you get on a show or get a gig or a dig even like a day gig or anything, just take in as much information as you can look at how other people react look at how other people speak to people. And look back at that and like I learned a lot in those PA jobs.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Well, we adore you. I mean, I seriously I've learned so much even it's crazy as an actor. I think it's so important to know all the parts of things and so now you know just this conversation with you learning what a producer does, it will help me in what I do or what whoever's listening and what they do in the field, so I can't thank you enough. And I think this will really help a lot of young people listening.

Stilgenbauer: Awesome.

Leitten: It's really exciting to see people that I went to school with and to see what they're doing in the industry. So congratulations.

Stilgenbauer: Thank you so much.

Leitten: Big fan of your work, and I can't wait to see your next show on Amazon.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: I am always thoroughly impressed to see the people I went to school with in the industry succeeding and just crushing it. I mean, FX, Showtime, Amazon Prime, she is amazing. And I've learned a lot from this conversation today. I'm excited to take the knowledge from our conversation and apply it to the future productions I work on. And hopefully someday I will get to work with her.

Mulvaney: Amen. I mean, now I just think about when I watched like the producer credits, you know, rolling on a TV show or a film I like actually have like an image now of somebody as nice and kind and generous as Andrea. It's like, Oh my gosh, if I was on a set with that kind of energy, that kind of calm, supportive professional. Yes. I mean, that's the kind of people that I want to work with. So yeah, I adore her. I hope you know we can all get together in LA. It's really cool to have so many CCMers out here in LA doing awesome things like you said.

Leitten: Yeah, I think we need to be on a production with Andrea with Diana with Andrew with Raven a CCM production through and through.

Mulvaney: Yes, I love it. And we'll we'll we'll have to start that off with like a picnic or something in a park somewhere we can. We can spitball our ideas.

Leitten: A picnic that leads to a feature film.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

Leitten: On next week's episode.Oh, hit pause next week's episode. Do you know what next week's episode is? Dylan?

Mulvaney: It is our season one finale!!

Leitten: Oh my Lord. It is the end of season one.

Mulvaney: I know but we have saved someone so frickin’ cool for our last interview.

Leitten: So amazing. He is a trumpeter, he's a vocalist he arranges music,

Mulvaney: and I think the coolest part is that he is Lady Gaga his right-hand man, constantly collabing with her on things like producing the track “La Vie En Rose,” which was in A Star Is Born. He is the bandleader and trumpeter for her album Cheek to Cheek with Tony Bennett and he's currently the bandleader and arranger for Lady Gaga has jazz and piano show running during her Las Vegas residency

Leitten: And the nights he's not working with Lady Gaga. He has his own residency at the NoMad in Las Vegas and Brian Newman After Dark.

Brian Newman: I had met Lady Gaga when I knew we're at Stefani Germanotta. I was bartending on Sunday nights at this place called St. Jerome's that we met there. I remember I helped carry her disco ball. We were friends. You know, she knew I played music. We know she played music and we would go in support. And then she asked me to play with her on the Today Show. Three months later, I was on the Today Show with her playing Someone to Watch Over Me as she went into Bad Romance.

Mulvaney: If you want to know all about the shows Andrea has worked on check out her IMDb bio in the show notes. There. You will also find more info about our podcast including a link to see bonus video content from all of our interviews.

Leitten: And don't forget to jump on the social media follow our podcasts school stage screen one word on Facebook and Instagram and school stage pod on Twitter. Now known as media production, the BFA program prepares digital content creators for careers in filmmaking and television production, broadcast news, audio production, sports media production and more. As the largest undergraduate program at CCM Media Production students are uniquely positioned within a creative culture that fosters collaborations with actors, musicians, dancers, set designers and other performing artists as they develop their digital storytelling skills. Learn more at ccm.uc.edu. Thanks for listening. See ya!

Leitten: Our show is produced by Robin Hopkins and edited by Blake Hawk. Our associate producer is Shannon St. George and our assistant editor is Matt Harris. Our music is composed by Ryan Fine, check out his link in the show notes. A big thanks to Kevin Burke, Becky Butts, Stanley Romanstein, Mikki Graff, Curt Whitacre and Melissa Neeley-Nicolini. Our sponsor is the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. This has been a Hyperion XIII production.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music]

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Hyperion XIII production.

Check out bonus video content with all of our guests on YouTube.

Andrea Stilgenbauer’s credits on IMBD.

Instagram: @schoolstagescreen

Facebook: @schoolstagescreen

Twitter: @schoolstagepod

Brian on Instagram: @bleittz_delightz

Dylan on Instagram: @dylanmulvaney | TikTok: @dylanjamesmulvaney

Edited by Blake Hawk, Throughline Media

Song by Ryan Fine (BFA Commercial Music Production, '17)

Show art by Graff Designs

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/-kYrPMnBU74?rel=0

Get a sneak peak at the next episode of the School, Stage & Screen podcast, featuring Andrea Stilgenbauer (BFA E-Media, 02), Producer of Californication, Kidding and The Affair on Showtime. In this excerpt, co-hosts Brian J Leitten (BFA E-Media, '02) and Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, '19) talk to Andrea about work-life balance.


Episode 9: "Music Makers" (May 31, 2021)

A double feature!  First, we chat with Ryan Fine (BM Commercial Music Production, '17), creator of our intro music and songwriter living in Nashville. Later, we hear from conductor Rebecca Tong (MM Orchestral Conducting, ‘14), winner of first prize in the inaugural La Maestra Competition. She gives insight on what it's like to be a woman in a male dominated industry and working internationally. 

Rebecca Tong: I was in my Nashville Symphony audition for the assistant conductor position. And I botched so badly.

Brian J. Leitten: When you say you botched it. What does that mean for a conductor?

Tong: The orchestra was all over the place. And I know it's because of me. I thought I was doing my job, but apparently not because the orchestra doesn't sound good. And you know, you know, it's your fault at that time, because they're really good orchestra.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. This season's guests are all loans from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school.

Leitten: Today we're talking with orchestral conductor Rebecca Tong, and writer, musician and producer Ryan Fine.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

Leitten: Dylan, I think it's time we, we address the elephant in the podcast.

Mulvaney: Okay, I have a feeling I know what this elephant is but can you share a little bit more with me?

Leitten: I think so. We both went to the College-Conservatory of Music. What is the first question you hear from someone when you tell them that you went to the College-Conservatory of Music?

Mulvaney: Basically, every one of my mom's friends going, Oh, what instrument do you play?

Leitten: That is the elephant in the podcast. Just the other day. I was telling someone where I went to school. Oh, really? You're a musician? What instrument do you play? And I actually can say, I used to play the alto saxophone.

Mulvaney: Okay, that's better than me because I can hardly sight read music and I went to CCM. So basically, the school is not all musicians. What was your degree remind everyone Brian?

Leitten: Electronic media now Media Production, but everything film, television and radio was what, what I went to school for. And you?

Mulvaney: I was in musical theater, which sounds like we would you know be playing piano and things like that. And that was just not the case. I did take two piano classes while I was at CCM, and I very much enjoyed them. But I don't think that I am the next Beethoven. Unfortunately. Beethoven played the piano, right?

Leitten: Yes. Okay. Hmm. Most assuredly, I took two semesters of classical guitar and I cannot play the guitar. But I did play the alto saxophone in middle school and high school and my freshman year of college at the university. I was in the marching band.

Mulvaney: It feels correct that you went to CCM. Yeah, you have a you have a place there. Me, I'm still wondering how I got the degree. But you know, who I have no doubt has the abilities of music and musicianship at CCM is our two guests today.

Leitten: Yes, we have a double episode!

Mulvaney: Double feature. Now, our two guests are very different. They live very different careers, but they are both wildly talented and in different stages of their careers and in different locations around the world.

Leitten: Yep.

Mulvaney: Our first guest that we would like to invite on is writer, musician and producer Ryan Fine. And a fun fact about Ryan is he actually wrote the title music to the School, Stage & Screen podcast that you listen to every single week.

Leitten: Yep. And stick around because right after Ryan's interview, we're talking to Rebecca Tung, who is an orchestral conductor and has a master's in music from the College-Conservatory of Music.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Ryan fine. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today.

Ryan Fine: Hello, thank you for having me. It's such an honor. I've been a fan of the show. So this is really awesome. The people you've been interviewing have been incredible.

Leitten: Our audience should know right off the bat, you created and performed our theme song.

Fine: Yes, that's right. Thanks for asking me to do that.

Leitten: Of course. Why don't you give us a quick 30-second introduction into who you are and what your life is like as a performer and a producer?

Fine: I am a songwriter. I'm an artist, and a producer. I also play keys like piano for other artists as well. I got started in songwriting and playing covers. And now I'm actually playing my own originals with a band I'm actually having a hard time describing what I do. It's, it's just because every day is so different, I think is what was why. So I'm writing with other people, and I've had songs placed on TV. And I'm really excited about one placement coming up. But basically always writing, always recording, putting out stuff…

Mulvaney: Staying creative.

Fine: Staying creative, whether it's for me or someone else. Yeah, I just love making music.

Mulvaney: Oh, I love that. And Ryan, will you share your pronouns with us?

Fine: Yes, he him.

Mulvaney: Thank you. And what are you currently working on right now?

Fine: I'm currently working on custom songs, which is how you guys found me. And that's what I did for you guys. A custom songs from birthday messages, to anniversaries to song ideas. I started this when I lost all my performance work with COVID. I can write a custom song about whatever you want. And whether it's just a piano vocal or fully produced. It kind of got some traction and some some press and almost 450 songs later. I'm still doing it today. And it's how I'm making money and a lot of cool things have happened from it.

Mulvaney: Well, what it like a great gift to give. Also, I think it's just so much better than a gift card. Like when you could have your own song. I mean, that's, that's amazing.

Leitten: You've had 450 songs in a year?

Fine: A little over a year. I started right at the beginning of COVID. I'm doing about four a day now.

Leitten: Wow. So how do people find you?

Fine: They have been finding me through TikTok, which I'm sure Dylan can relate to with your success. And I had a really good reaction video, and which are always really fun. But this one was over the top. Her name is Elena Davies, she was on Big Brother. And I made a best friend song between her and her friend Blair. And her reaction was like falling on the ground crying that reaction video got a lot of views. And that's how people found me. And they were like, Can we have a song about this? Or for my anniversary? We want a song just like that. And it really just opened the floodgates and kept me booked.

Mulvaney: Brilliant. It's like that seems to be the future is like, especially making content that is shareable I think is what I found to be the the most lucrative thing is like you want somebody to love it. And then to send it to people that they know. Oh my God, that's amazing. Oh my gosh. Okay, I'm already proud of you.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Now, we are going to bring it back to your time at CCM, right? And I would love to know how did you decide on attending UC?

Fine: I knew that I had to go to CCM I born and raised in Cincinnati. And as I became more and more interested in music, I was like I need to be there. There's so much talent. The professors are incredible, so many opportunities. And I just went to admissions and I was like, I don't know what I need to do. But even if it's drums or something like something like that, I just need to do something here to meet people like minded people. And I heard one of the earlier episodes, Dylan, you said that it was like just meeting a bunch of like, almost like superheroes. And everyone just has the same superpowers as you. And that's how that's how it felt. So when I went to admissions and I was just like, I need to do something here. They they said there's actually a new program that sounds like exactly what you've been doing, like recording, Beatles covers and writing your own songs and producing them in GarageBand. That's a lot like our Commercial Music Production program that just started a year ago. So I was the second class of that. And it's in the Jazz Studies Department. And it comes with a minor in entrepreneurship. Wow. I'm literally using everything that I've learned from the program today from songwriting, music theory, jazz improv, I had piano lessons for the first time, film scoring live and studio, audio engineering, music, business, basic business courses, and I had an entrepreneurship capstone project that was almost focused on what I'm doing today. But at the time, I called it send a song.

Leitten: That's amazing. What did you have to have a specific instrument to get into CCM? Or was the commercial music production program different?

Fine: You have to have a discipline. So my discipline was in piano, even though I saw myself more as a songwriter, or even a singer.

Leitten: I think it's really cool Ryan that you were able to get a minor through the UC’s Lindner College of Business. I actually had a couple of friends that got minors in French and Sociology while they were at school, and even some of the students that I've been working with over the past couple years, I've really seen an uptick in the amount of students that are opting to get a minor.

Mulvaney: Oh my gosh, we all leaving that school should have that minor.

Fine: I totally agree.

Mulvaney: Even if you're a classical violinist or your musical theater performer, an actor, director like You always are like basically selling yourself and you have to be in charge of, you know, your own contracts and all those things.

Fine: I had the best time and each student in the course, they had their own focus. So I was making friends that are scoring films right now. It's incredible. And some of them are recording artists. But I think I'm one of the few who wanted to be an artist and songwriter. Others seem to gravitate more toward arranging audio engineering, but it's great, because we're all collaborating with each other.

Leitten: Was there a favorite part of the production program there? Whether it be a class or a teacher? Or a project that you that you created?

Fine: That's a that's a great question. I, I love them all, and just in different ways. And some of I can just list a couple, some of my favorites were writing and recording an album, which was really fun. And it's still out right now, I don't plan on ever taking it down because it's part of my journey. And it's called Alone with Dreamers. And that was really a huge challenge. I would push anyone to do that. If you want to be an artist or songwriter, try to self-produce, try to make a body of work.

Mulvaney: And it sounds like you're with your classmates in the program. It probably wasn't that competitive, right? Because you were all trying to do different things?

Fine: Yeah. Well said, it's more collaborative than competitive, which is, I guess that's a good segue to Nashville. I really love Nashville, because it's the same. It's the same vibe here where we're all trying, there's enough room for all of us to succeed. So why try to act like someone's only gonna listen to one artist, when they can listen to a lot of artists. I listen to a lot of artists and doesn't mean there's a limit on that. And I'm sure that's different for you, Dylan, because of the limited slots in a musical theater production.

Mulvaney: Yeah, yeah. Or, I mean, I even noticed at CCM, like you've got 20 kids in a class and everyone's so talented and very different, but you're going up for the same roles. So there is that that level of competitiveness that exists because you are trying to do the exact same thing. Whereas you know, you, you all had different stylings, and, and all of that.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Where did Cincinnati stop and Nashville begin? What did that look like as you transition into the real world?

Fine: Within a week of graduating, and I wanted to get better at songwriting and Nashville seemed, at the time, like the place to do that. And if if it doesn't work out, I can move back. And I'm so glad I did it because I fell in love with it right away. It is not only country music here. There's a budding pop scene for those who are listening in CCM right now, who don't necessarily like to write country music or don't have an interest, but you don't want to leave too far from Cincinnati. Nashville, I would recommend at least trying out.

Leitten: I agree, I think from my time at MTV, and then most recently at VEVO, everyone talks about Nashville. It really is so much more than just country music, the vibe there, the collaboration there. It's very much on par with LA when it comes to writing and what's being written there. I think you also find a lot of writers don't want to be pigeonholed into one genre of music. So the same artist who has a hit with Sia might have a hit with a country artist, or a jazz artist,

Fine: A song as a song is a song. And a great song can be a country song if you give it a little twang. I think you're finding that on the radio. A lot of these country songs I mean, especially artists like Russell Dickerson, Thomas Rhet, and Florida Georgia Line, they're really teetering on the edge of pop. And one of my favorites is Dan and Shay. They don't even really have that much twang, either. I mean, they're just writing songs. They're writing stories…

Mulvaney: You know, Kacey Musgraves?

Fine: Yeah, a huge fan.

Mulvaney: So she's my… it's so funny. I feel like she especially kind of for like the queer community. She's kind of like that, like safe country space.

Fine: Definitely.

Mulvaney: I like is I always felt like I don't know, just not well represented in the country scene. So I was like, Oh, I don't know if that's really music for me. But then you listen to someone like her, who's singing about you know, gay people and marijuana and all these things. And you're like, Oh, wow. Like she's, it's, it's really cool music. So there's a lot of hybrids happening.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: How was your transition from Cincinnati to Nashville? Did you have a job lined up? Did you move down there with 500 bucks in your pocket?

Fine: I hadn't saved as much as you recommend. But I did have enough for rent for my for the duration of my internship, and I had an internship at a Music Row studio called Omni Sound Studios, where they do a lot of country recording. I was interning there and I was setting up microphones, which is a really good time and being in the studio, but I was also stocking the fridge, cleaning the toilets, picking up cigarette butts in the parking lot. It ran the gamut of paying your dues and putting your time in. And occasionally there would be a producer in the room who would… there was five minutes of downtime, like, Hey, what do you all about? That's why we do it for those little moments of, wow, this could really turn into something if I, if I speak well represent myself well or learn the studio etiquette. So being in the studio as soon as I got here, even as an intern, it showed me the tone of the music industry in Nashville.

Leitten: Are you doing other things besides the custom songs? Are you playing gigs? Are you waiting tables? Or is the your current custom songs enough to pay all the bills and make life good?

Fine: I have been fortunate, fingers crossed, knocking on wood, I'm able to continue making a living just from the custom songs alone and the occasional performance. Obviously, performances are limited right now. But I generally play private events from rehearsal dinners to wedding ceremonies. I'm managing short term and long term right now. So for my long term, I'm working on my upcoming EP that I'm releasing this year. And it's definitely taking a lot of work. I'm stepping this up up since the last one, Square One. And this one is much higher caliber production and songwriting.

Mulvaney: So you see you have the internship in Nashville. Did you ever have any weird, odd jobs during that time?

Fine: Yes. So I love that you guys talk about odd jobs, and I've had Deaf I definitely have had my fair share of them. I have no shame when it comes to needing to pay rent, and I have nannied for kids. And I've worked at Graeters ice cream, which is a Cincinnati staple. Right after the internship. I was out of money. I needed a job quick. So I worked for a catering company. So setting up tables, tablecloths, folding, napkins and silverware. And I was at these weddings where there were musicians playing. And only about three, it took me three months to realize I should just talk to my bosses and tell them I play music at events. I've had, I've had experience doing that. While in college, I played a lot of weddings, and I offered my services to them. And they were like, okay, just send us your one sheet. So I made a one sheet and I sent them that. And next thing you know, I've got a couple of gigs to try it out. And it went great. And they kept booking. And I ended up just quitting that job. He just slid over from doing the catering side to doing the performance. I just slid over from catering to yeah, performance with them. Nashville is a huge event town. People come here. It's in the middle of the country for weddings, corporate events, bachelorette parties, bachelorette parties. Of course, there aren't many pianists here. It's a lot of guitars. So a lot of guitarists so is great because I'm in an event town where I can play events. And there's not much competition because of the ratio of pianists to guitarists. And I would say more often than not people would like to have a pianist at their event than guitar. I mean, obviously, there's there are exceptions, but I thought that the least thing that would be helpful from my education, jazz piano playing, that's actually that actually became my income as at right after that internship. So it's so funny how it works like that. So I would encourage anyone learning about songwriting or music to try to pick up new skills, you never know what's gonna save, save you down the road.

Leitten: That's awesome.

Mulvaney: Yeah, I think the through line of like, everyone that we've interviewed is like, get the internship. Find the mentor. Yeah, it's true. It's like you need to surround yourself with people that you know, know a little bit more than you and also can see something in you than to say, Oh, hey, I think this would be awesome. Like, even just Brian I think about like Robin, our producer who we worked with at MTV.

Leitten: She was my mentor.

Mulvaney: Yeah, it's I love that so much. Okay, now it's it's the time Ryan.

Leitten: What time is it?

Mulvaney: [Sings] If I could turn back time! When did you fail? Big time? What did you learn from it?

Fine: I failed at my first wedding gig ever. Oh, it was the first dance. And I played “Don't stop Believin’” Let's see if I can if I still got it. It sounded more like this [plays music out of tune].

Mulvaney: Oh, no.

Fine: Very cringe. And it was because I have little hands and I was trying to do the octaves when I didn't need to. I looked over at the bass player. And I was like, You have to do it. I'm gonna play the chords. They didn't stop. It wasn't like are you kidding me? You're fired. But it was super, super embarrassing.

Mulvaney: When you hold yourself up to like a certain level you're like, just like then beat yourself up over those things. But I bet that you never messed that up again.

Fine: Because of that moment. I will never mess up that song again.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: I know you're still earlier in your career. But have you had a big break yet?

Fine: Relative to who you've been interviewing? Not yet. But for me, I did hit huge checkpoint recently, I landed a pretty major network TV placement for my upcoming single. This is like a real show. With me as the artist.

Leitten: Can you talk about what show it is?

Fine: American Ninja Warrior, American Ninja Warrior is what it is. And they may end up using it multiple times. So that There you go. I spilled the beans.

Leitten: That's huge!

Fine: Yeah. Thank you.

Mulvaney: Congratulations.

Leitten: Amazing. How did you even get your music in front of someone who works on that show?

Fine: All strategy, my man. I finished a song with my friend Justin. And the song is called You make me believe I thought it was going to be potentially in Clifford Clifford movie.

Mulvaney: Big Red Dog?

Fine: Yeah, that gave me the confidence to really go the extra mile with paying Sterling sound Joe Laporta to master it. No shortcuts, paid the right people because I really believed in the song I think because of that it opened doors because I didn't skimp on the quality at all. I send anything that I'm really excited about Alan Solomon. And this is the mentor type of thing we always, you know, talk about. Alan has been an amazing mentor for me. And when he always keeps it real, which is super important. Because it's not even about me, it's not it shouldn't be taken personally, it's just the song. It's always about serving the song. And he's really good at songwriting and producing. So I showed it to him, what I wrote with Justin, and he was like, I want to get on this, I think I can make this better if you're willing to give up some percentages, it was co-written and co-produced three ways. So which is actually pretty uncommon. For this situation. We are each songwriter, and songwriters and producers. So we kind of just collaborated in each and every way. It also was just great to have a professional really clean it up and make it as good as it really could be because I don't know if it would have been placed without his expertise and hands on it.

Leitten: That's the great part about collaboration I think people miss out on sometimes, if you find the right people, your product, whether it's film or TV or music, it goes up a level.

Mulvaney: Will you just give us like, like maybe dislike the way you play us like three little lines from it?

Fine: Okay. [Plays excerpt of his new song]

Mulvaney: Oh, my God.

Fine: That's a good morning voice version.

Mulvaney: Ah, well, I know and I apologize for putting on the spot like that. Because I know that can be really annoying. But I love I love our everything I've already heard. I also think it's one of those songs that you can't really be sad when you listen to it. Like you write in a bad mood. And you turn it on and it's like, oh, okay, well, I have to like, I can't not smile right now because this is such a sweet song.

Fine: I'm so glad you like it.

Leitten: Now I have two reasons to watch American Ninja Warrior, which I believe comes out today, the same day as our podcast.

Fine: That's awesome. Check it out tonight. Maybe you'll hear me Don't you just love the serendipity of it.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Before we go for students that are graduating right now, are going to graduate in a year. What's the most important thing they can do? As a first step out of college?

Fine: You need to know that you don't know everything yet. You don't know everything yet. And it's going to be tempting if you have early successes, but learn from people who have been doing it for years. What you'll learn is what you would weren't expecting to learn because I wanted to go into this path as a producer and the best producers and engineers I've worked with I've said be a songwriter, you're a songwriter. Sometimes you need to work with pros who can actually see your light for what it's worth and and that might be weird advice to give but If you're hanging out with your friends All the time and only working with your friends, which I encourage you to do, because it's it's really special, but if you want to go to the next level, work with people who have been doing it, and try to get to that point, because you're going to learn things about yourself, while being in those environments, by always pushing your boundaries as a learner, of the world of music.

Leitten: What you learn in college, there's a whole nother layer to that in the professional world, whether it's new equipment, new techniques, how to interact with an office full of people or a studio full of people. Those are things that you just don't experience in the college setting. And you really can't.

Fine: I just want I want people to just try it be that be yourself. I think that's actually my that that's more important advice. For me. There's only you know, it's as cliché as it sounds, there really is only one you I've kind of come to terms with, I'm not a big country writer. I'm not a country songwriter. And that's what I did for almost two years. And I haven't lived that life. I don't know how to turn those stories into believable stories. I found that I want to write pop songs, and I really want to write really funny songs. That's something I really love to do.

Mulvaney: Giving yourself permission to, to explore the things that you think you might be good at. Yes, I think that is a beautiful, what a great way to end too it's like, oh my God, thank you for that. And for the people listening who have now enjoyed your singing and our intro song. And maybe they want a song for like a gift or a family member for themselves. Where can they find you?

Fine: Everything is on RyanFine.com. And I think that's the easiest way to say it. But if you want to go to custom songs specifically, and you have a good memory or a pen handy, it's RyanFine.com/custom-songs, but just go to RyanFine.com and I'd love to write you a song and I can't wait to work on it.

Leitten: Amazing. Thank you so much for your time today. Thank you.

[Hip Hop music]

I am really excited to see what the rest of the year brings. For Ryan, I think he's gonna get a lot more play on television.

Mulvaney: I think so too. And I do like one thing a week that's productive. And Ryan's out here like writing original songs every single day, sometimes multiple songs a day.

Leitten: Like four songs a day. That's insane. I feel like he's about to overlap us all creatively, financially. I just wish nothing but the best for him because he seems like a really sweet guy. I'd love to go to Nashville one day and make him show me around.

Leitten: Yeah. And we'll talk more about him after we talked to our next guest, Rebecca Tong.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Rebecca, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. We really appreciate it.

Rebecca Tong: Thank you for having me.

Leitten: Starting off, give us a 30-second performance bio.

Tong: So after I finished college, I became the assistant conductor in Jakarta for the Jakarta Symphony Orchestra. And then I realized I really want to pursue conducting more. That's when I attended the masters in Cincinnati and my first professional conducting debut was actually with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in Liverpool and then afterwards, the Orchestre de Paris is one of the biggest that I've ever conducted history in Montpellier in France and then Paris Mozart Orchestra.

Mulvaney: I love it. Okay, so would you share your pronouns with us?

Tong: She her.

Mulvaney: Thank you. And what is your current job title? Where are you currently conducting and working?

Tong: So I'm currently the resident conductor for Jakarta Symphony Orchestra in Jakarta, Indonesia, my hometown. And I'm also the Lies Askonsas Fellow with the Askonsas Holt management agency in the UK. Also Taki Award recipient with the Taki Alsop conducting fellowship.

Mulvaney: Congratulations!

Leitten: Amazing. Can you explain what a fellow is and how that helps your career

Tong: There’s two different things with the fellows… with the Lies Askonsas Fellow, tt means it's more like a mentoring scheme inside the arts management agency. So basically, they mentor me into the management system. I do have a manager and on top of managers there’s like a director that's overseeing things.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: I would like to kind of throw it back even before CCM and I would like to know what was the first instrument you ever picked up?

Tong: The very first one when I was a child or like…

Mulvaney: Yep, from the very beginning.

Tong: So I grew up in in Indonesia. My whole family loves music and my parents always tried to push us into, you know, studying instruments and pursuing music. My mom is a pianist. So she would start everybody to play the piano. And we always have somebody playing the piano in the house. Not until high school, I wasn't even thinking about pursuing a career in music. And my dad actually tried to pursue me into music more. When I was in my undergrad, I realized I can't be in the practice room four or five, four or five hours today, without interaction.

Mulvaney: You wanted that you wanted something less isolating.

Tong: Exactly. That's why I realized I really like working with people. It's very enjoyable for me to be in orchestra at that time I was in the string players, and I just love the environment. And then that's what makes me think about doing conducting.

Leitten: And what was your your undergrad degree in? What instrument was that?

Tong: I think everybody in the us know that there's no undergraduate and conducting in the US.

Mulvaney: I didn't. So that's good to know.

Tong: Yeah, it's, it's interesting. But so I kind of modify it. I graduated in Music History.

Mulvaney: And when you graduated from undergrad, correct me if I'm wrong, but you went back to Jakarta to help with the symphony there is that correct? As an associate?

Tong: Yes, as an assistant conductor. So I would, sometimes if the music director wasn't able to do the first rehearsal, I would rehearse the orchestra. I would hear the balance during the rehearsal. And then at that time, since we're, there's not much of us working, you know, as a staff, I'm also working as a video director, because I'm the only person who can read the score, like a lot of the camera men don't know anything about music. And so it was it was interesting to learn different language, in my process.

Leitten: How did you make the decision to go back to school for your master's degree? And how did you end up at the University of Cincinnati?

Tong: Cincinnati is one of the school that I was applying for, but I've always known CCM has a good program in the orchestra conducting, orchestra program. And then I just one of the school I applied and I audition, and I got in.

Mulvaney: It's sort of funny, I, I always thought for with conductors, because you're, you're looking at so many different people, I thought that you had to learn to play every single instrument in the orchestra. So I'm guessing that is not correct?

Tong: You're not the only person actually need to think that it's, a, but we do need to know the limitations of each instrument.

Mulvaney: And when you're looking at a score for like a conductor score, what is the most comparable instrument that you can compare it to? As far as sheet music is concerned? Does it look like a piano score? Or does it have everything in one?

Tong: It's like looking at a map. But instead of looking at it as the in the eye of, you know, normal people, when you look at a map, you’re, sort of a cartographer. When you look at a map, I think you look at it differently, you know, all the different details, you know, and you can sort of see it in a bigger picture. But also in details. For someone who are used to just looking at two lines or three lines, sometimes, I know it can be overwhelming,

Mulvaney: Extremely.

Tong: How many lines are on your score that you're looking at? The biggest, maybe 30 lines.

Leitten: On one page?

Tong: Yeah.

Mulvaney: And just for reference for any non-musicians out there, I have trouble reading one line. And I still have trouble knowing if the note goes up or down. I mean, you have two eyeballs and you're reading 30 lines, that is so incredible. And I love the cartography analogy.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: During that time when you showed up to Cincinnati, did you immediately start conducting or was it sort of a slower trickle process of you know, watching from your peers and your teachers who had been there longer? Or did they kind of just throw you in and see what you could do?

Tong: At CCM the experience was there is conducting classes with pianos and quartet string quartets, but also you get you get assignments for different projects. My first year I actually only conducted two pieces for an entire year. So I was various… not much podium time with orchestra I must say.

Mulvaney: Did you have somebody at CCM? That was a big influence on you and your time there?

Tong: I think my biggest influence during my time at CCM was Mark Gibson. I would say some of my colleagues, probably at that time…we’re really good friends. And you know, there's always good to have somebody in your peers to stimulate, or to challenge you in different ways.

Leitten: When it comes to conducting while you were there for your two years for your masters, how many groups did you conduct? And do you go through the process of you get a month or two months with five or six different groups? Or do you get assigned to a group for an entire year?

Tong: It's always different groups for different semesters. For example, my first year, I still remember I'm doing it back then it was called Café Momus, which was the contemporary ensemble of the orchestra department. And then in the spring semester, I got assigned CCM Concert Orchestra.

[Hip Hop Music]

Leitten: We actually have a question from the director of orchestral studies at CCM, Mark Gibson, who you mentioned.

Mark Gibson: What values or methods acquired and learned at CCM continue to serve you, Rebecca, as you make your way in this profession?

Tong: The things that I've done, actually, I learned a lot from Gibson. So I learned a lot that discipline from him. He actually teaches students the discipline of learning music, and one quote that I'm probably going to quote him is ‘the score is your sword and shield.’ He really drills the student to, you know, knowing the score and study the score, really understand the music. So that's something that I always kept. You know, even when I was auditioning for the position in the UK, or when I went to La Maestra competition, really knowing the score and have your own insight. But knowing that you are not contradicting with the composer, you're actually making it more life.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: What was the transition to the real world? And what was that first job that is kind of kept you in the real world as opposed to going back to school and finishing your doctorate?

Tong: After CCM. And while I was trying to finish my DMA, the position opened up at the RNCM Junior fellow in conducting.

Leitten: And what is the RNCM?

Tong: It’s the Royal Northern College of Music. I'm the assistant to the opera department at RNCM. But I'm also assistant to different orchestras around Manchester. So there's BBC Philharmonic and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the audition process is almost like a competition, actually, because there's 125 people applying and they only pick 12 people, and then at the end, all in one position. So it was a very meticulous process.

Mulvaney: It sounds like there's more of a path here for as far as conducting is concerned than the normal artist, you know, say a musical theatre performer. There's a lot of different paths you can go. But specifically for conducting it seems like there is a sort of like a ladder to climb. And you from CCM, you almost got a skip a little bit of a ring up the ladder. And you're now are in these fellowships and when did you feel like you got your big break and conducting? What would you consider that to be?

Tong: I think the biggest break was the La Maestra Competition. The La Maestra Competition was postponed because of COVID. But they decided to still go ahead in September.

Mulvaney: Oh, this was very recently,

Tong: Yes, September last year. And I was thinking maybe I shouldn't go because at that time, there's a huge spike in Paris, specifically for COVID. I still remember at that time, I was feeling depressed because for six months, I haven't done any conducting, the only thing I was thinking about is I just want to make music, experience French orchestras, because I've never conducted French orchestra before. And just to be there, and I wasn't expecting to win at all.

Mulvaney: Oh, my God, you won! Oh this is the best big break. And this was so recently, you're still riding the high?

Tong: Yeah, it was very unexpected. So the LA Maestra was the first international competition for women.

Mulvaney: Oh, it was it was all women?

Tong: Yes.

Mulvaney: Oh, that's even cooler. It was the first time they did it.

Tong: Or it was the inaugural competition, yes.

Mulvaney: Okay. How cool that this competition could go on for the next 100 years. And you were the first woman to ever win it — first human to ever win that prize.

Tong: Thank you. So there was I think that that was my biggest break because again, I wasn't expecting it. I was there just for the experience and, and that's something I think it's important to discuss, because that's not my first, like audition or comfort slash competition. And I'm sure all of us, you know, in the music world, we always audition a lot. And every audition, I always expect myself too much. Like it's almost a self-destruct for me.

Mulvaney: Yeah, you're your own worst enemy.

Tong: Yes.

Mulvaney: I am, too. Don't worry, you can't really be free to give yourself to the music into the conducting, because you're so focused on being perfect. But clearly, something worked. And you gave yourself you know, freedom and permission to to just enjoy that experience, especially the fact that you hadn't been in a room full of musicians, and then that that first experience back, you won, that competition is such a testament to the kind of worker you are. And I was wondering if you feel comfortable talking about being a woman in this industry, that is so male dominated? And what was it like to be around those other, you know, ladies that were up for the competition? And, and how have you kind of navigated this industry?

Tong: When I was in the competition, we actually, although women conductor's all the candidates, you know, even when we don't, some of us didn't pass the first round or pass the second round. But we always talk to each other. Like, it's always there's always a group social dynamic. I don't feel it more as a competition, per se, again, because, you know, I wasn't like trying to compete. We were just there to experience I was meeting old friends and I was meeting some new friends, like people that I've never met before. So we were just happy to see each other or to meet new people. Of course, when competition happens, you need to focus you know, when it's your time on the podium, you focus on your work. But right after we go back and like, Hey, you guys want to have dinner?

Mulvaney: Right? Yeah, you do not seem like a very cutthroat kind of person. I mean, you have this the kindness demeanor. So would you consider the female conducting community to be a pretty small one?

Tong: I think compared to you know, the numbers right now, even if you see an article on Askonas Holt website, my agency, there's always the majority of the conductors is more men than women. But that's why I think the La Maestra is important, because they're trying to break through like, there are a lot of women conductors, we just need more opportunities.

Leitten: How has the La Maestra Compeition changed your career? Are you getting noticed by more people? Are you getting the recognition? Are you getting job offers?

Tong: It attracts, I think a lot more people. And during the competition, the ECHO, which is the European concert hall organization, was part of the competition was there, the Chanel Foundation was there. And then the French concert hall organization was there. And especially when the competition is hosted by the Philharmonie de Paris, which is the biggest concert hall organization in France, and it was streamed internationally all over the world, like people, you can still see the competition up until now, I think, and definitely attracts a lot of attention. And as a winner, I you know, my manager got like, you know, like people contact them.

Mulvaney: Oh, that's a good feeling.

Tong: It is it is. It's that's why I'm saying I think it's one of my biggest break, actually, a month after the competition the Orchestra de Paris set up like a concert that they will, they will want the LA Maestro winner to conduct the Orchestra de Paris. if you don't know, Orchestra de Paris is like one of the biggest professional orchestra in the world.

Mulvaney: And did you get that opportunity to conduct them?

Tong: Yes, it was November 2 last year.

Leitten: So what was that? Like?

Tong: It was surreal. It's like you're you're studying your whole life to like, just give me that that break. And then when actually comes you're like, Huh, am I ready? You know?

Mulvaney: Yes.

Tong: Yeah. You know, I mean, like, that's what I was feeling that week. But once I was in the podium, from my first rehearsal, I knew I was ready. So I have so many things to rehearse, you know, I guess what it comes down is like, you just have to trust yourself.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: You've now talked about conducting in Indonesia, and Paris in the UK and America. What is it like communicating with musicians all around the world? In Paris? Were those French musicians?

Tong: Yes, yes.

Mulvaney: Okay. And so Do you know how to speak French?

Tong: No, but they're so International. They have guest conductors all over the world.

Mulvaney: If you got a call to go conduct an orchestra in Germany, is it pretty standard that you would give direction in English? Even though you're in Germany?

Tong: Yeah.

Mulvaney: Okay, and how beautiful that those notes on the same page are the same anywhere you travel. Oh my God, that's like so beautiful to think about. Brian, you know what time it is?

Leitten: Oh, I think I know what time it is. But you should tell me what time it is.

Mulvaney: Rebecca. [Sings] If I could turn back time. If you could turn back time. What is your biggest fail? And what did you learn from it?

Tong: I was in my Nashville Symphony audition for the assistant conductor position. And I botched so badly in one of the the…there’s like five orchestral piece that we have to do. And I did really badly on one of them.

Leitten: When you say you botched it. What does that mean for a conductor? Did you miss cues Did you miss read the music?

Tong: The orchestra was all over the place. And I know it's because of me. There's like different meters going on. I thought I was doing my job. But apparently not because the orchestra doesn't sound good. And you know, you know it's your fault at that time. Because they're really good orchestra. And under a good, really good conductor. It should be much simpler. And they know after I finish, they know I am not going to get chosen. And I know it you know? So I was just like, okay.

Mulvaney: You know, go buy yourself some ice cream and pat yourself on the back.

Tong: I think every journey is a learning experience. That's the thing. Like I can't even tell you how many rejection letters. I don't even count because there's so many of them. And for everyone that thinks that everybody has their life easy. It's not.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: What's your favorite music to listen to other than orchestral? Like if you're going to like cook at home?

Tong: I love this question. You really want to know?

Mulvaney: I do, you can be honest.

Tong: I have always a favorite band that always listened to Coldplay. Oh, love Coldplay. Also I love muse.

Leitten: Oh my god Muse Muse is so orchestral. They're one of the most orchestral bands in the world.

Tong: You right they're very rich in writing. I used to love Ratata I haven't listened to them a long time.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Looking back on your time at school and the career you've had so far, what's one final piece of advice that you would give to a student who is coming out of college to have a successful career as a conductor?

Tong: My piece of advice is, don't be fulfilled with where you are right now. Don't get too comfortable, really put yourself out of the box. Like for example, if I didn't, I would never go to the UK. Now I will never meet new people or new experiences.

Mulvaney: Awesome. Well, Rebecca, we have had so much fun talking with you today, I've learned a lot about the conducting world, which is a world that I very honestly didn't know much about. And I'm glad that I had you as my teacher to kind of take me along the way. I'm going to go watch you now in the competition. The coolest part is now when I watch it, I already know that you're going to win. Like I don't even have to wait to find out the results.

Tong: Thank you so much for having me. It's been a pleasure.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: You know, I gotta say, I don't think I've ever seen an orchestra conducted by a female in person. And I think that's on my next to do list.

Leitten: I don't think I have either. But as soon as we're done with this, I'm jumping on our show notes. And I'm going to click on the highlights and watch her work with the Paris Orchestra.

Mulvaney: Heck, yes, gosh, she is so driven. And it's just so crazy to think about our CCM grads like now on different continents working both her and Ryan went to that school and me and you, Brian, and how we're all doing such different things. And they're both very talented musicians doing very different jobs and career paths. But it's just such a testament to that, you know, the school really develops driven, hard-working artists that make it happen, make dreams happen. So I'd love to see it.

Leitten: I think with this pandemic winding down, Rebecca is going to get an opportunity to be in front of a lot more audiences and Ryan's opportunities I think grow every day. And you know, I think pretty much all our guests are going to have a great year.

Mulvaney: I'm like not worried about any of our guests careers. They are all so amazing and I hope that we get to work with them in their setting one day I actually don't know if I would be working with Rebecca as I cannot be playing any of the instruments and maybe the triangle. Hey, Rebecca, if you're listening to this, I would like to play the triangle in one of your 100 piece orchestra is one day.

Leitten: I think you could easily play the triangle in original song that Ryan does as well so you could cover your bases with the triangle,

Mulvaney: Maybe the same song! [Sings] School, Stage & Screen! On the next episode, we are talking with Andrea Stilgenbauer a producer who's worked on Kidding and The Affair for Showtime and Fargo for FX.

Andrea Stilgenbauer: I had friends peers of ours that had moved out to Los Angeles. So I was like, you know what, I gotta do something. I'm just going to take the chance and drove out to LA and I lived with three guys for a while and slept on the floor. No job $500 to my name.

Leitten: We have so many links for you today. In our show notes. You can watch highlights from Rebecca's love Maestro competition win, and you can check out Ryan's new single or put in request for an original song.

Mulvaney: And a friendly reminder to follow us on school stage screen one word on Instagram and Facebook and school stage pod on Twitter and make sure to share it with all your friends.

Leitten: Our show is produced by Robin Hopkins and edited by Blake Hawk. Our associate producer is Shannon St. George and our assistant editor is Matt Harris. Our music is composed by Ryan Fine, check out his link in the show notes. A big thanks to Kevin Burke, Becky Butts, Stanley Romanstein, Mikki Graff, Curt Whitacre and Melissa Neeley-Nicolini. Our sponsor is the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. This has been a Hyperion XIII production.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music]

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Hyperion XIII production.

Check out bonus video content with all of our guests on YouTube.

Instagram: @schoolstagescreen

Facebook: @schoolstagescreen

Twitter: @schoolstagepod

Brian on Instagram: @bleittz_delightz

Dylan on Instagram: @dylanmulvaney | TikTok: @dylanjamesmulvaney

Edited by Blake Hawk, Throughline Media

Song by Ryan Fine (BFA Commercial Music Production, '17)

Show art by Graff Designs

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/zLpDryxKR5Q?rel=0

Get to know Episode 9 with Ryan Fine (BM Commercial Music Production, '17), Nashville-based singer-songwriter — and creator of the podcast's theme music!


Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/MYSw5oiqrD0?rel=0

Brian  and Dylan Mulvaney give you a sneak peek at Episode 9 with Rebecca Tong (MM Orchestral Conducting, ‘14), winner of the 2020 International La Maestra Competition for women conductors.


Episode 8: "Can Robots Watch TV?" (May 24, 2021)

Dylan and Brian have their minds blown! President and Co-Founder of Resonance A.I., Randa Minkarah (BFA Broadcasting, '82) shares how her company uses technology to study long-form content. She's changing the future of media.

Randa Minkarah: I loved being an account executive, but being a sales manager was way harder than I thought it was gonna be. I tried to quit four times in the first year, to be honest, I really hated it. And so my boss, the general sales manager, was wonderful and said, ‘You're not quitting. Stop saying that you're gonna figure this out. You're really good at this. You just have to keep trying and and it'll, it'll be easier in the future.’ And he was right.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Brian J. Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. This season's guests are all alums from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school. Today, we're talking with Randa Minkarah, the President, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder of Resonance AI. [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

Mulvaney: Alright, Brian, I am feeling a little down today. I'm not gonna lie. I'm not my usually cheery, cheery self.

Leitten: That's not good. Why are you not your cheery, cheery self today?

Mulvaney: Well, I got an email from a casting director that had basically, you know, last week had made me feel like I had gotten this big job.

Leitten: Yeah, you told me you booked a job.

Mulvaney: Yes. And I was all the wording to like, was like, I want you to I want to book you on this shoot. These are the dates. We're going to fly you here. And, and I just, it was something I didn't expect. But it was was so welcomed. And then today, two days before I'm supposed to fly out, they said, ope, just kidding, so sorry. And I'm just a little like, down on myself right now as far as like, feeling rejected. And then it was interesting, because I'm not even that sad about it. It's that I'm just not sure if I can deal with this 1000 more times. Do you know what I mean?

Leitten: I think I understand. But we are in the entertainment industry.

Mulvaney: I know. And it's no big I keep coming back for more. But I also had a moment today where I was like, Is there anything else that I would possibly want to do? You know, and I just, I couldn't come up with anything else. So here, here I am.

Leitten: I've asked myself that question time and time again, if I wasn't producing, directing, writing, what can I see myself doing nothing outside of the entertainment industry, maybe marketing, because it's creative. But it would be very similar to what I'm doing now. It's just this business is exciting. And creative.

Mulvaney: Well, it's also I feel like we're on two different sides of the table. But we still experience rejection very regularly. But like, I feel like I would be rejected based on like my looks, and maybe like you would be rejected because of your price point for like, you know, how, however much you charge for you know, your production company…

Leitten: Yeah, it's a combination. Actually. Sometimes it 100% is you’re too expensive. And sometimes, when I have to pitch a project based on creative, I could be turned down because my creative isn't what they were looking for. That hurts way more than being turned down because I'm too expensive. Because they didn't like my creativity,

Mulvaney: Right? And that's when it's like it feels like it's a judgment on on yourself. And sometimes you don't even get the answer why you didn't get it, which is even harder, because it's you live in the unknown.

Leitten: The unknown is what you have to come to grips with because 99 out of 100 times, you're not going to find out why you didn't get that job. The only time you ever figure those things out, is when you've developed a relationship with that person that's casting, that's directing or producing that you can go to them and say Why? What did I do wrong?

Mulvaney: Right. There is some balances universe because the highs are really high. And when you do get that job, it feels so good. But like a mini win of the day is I did get an email from an agent that wants to meet with me. So there there is good still happening in the world.

Leitten: There is good. I will recommend that even when you do get those rejections, keeping those relationships going, because you don't know why. That casting director had to come back to you and say, Sorry, I'm taking this opportunity away from you. It probably has nothing to do with them probably has everything to do with the client. Something shifted. Some executive decided we want this instead of that, and there's nothing you can do, but you don't know when things will come back or when the next thing will come along.

Mulvaney: And you don't want to burn that bridge.

Leitten: Yeah, you don't want to burn that bridge, I bid on a project last November, and it happened to be with a friend. And I thought, Oh, I got this one, it's mine. And I lost the bid. And I followed up and I said, What did I do wrong? Are certain price points too high. And the group that won the bid had just presented another option of production that I hadn't even thought of that I didn't even know they were interested in. And I said, I totally get it. I can add that to my wheelhouse. If things change, or you need something different in the future, let me know. A month and a half goes by, I get a call from the producer. Are you still available? I am what's going on? The other production company underbid and had to keep adding costs on top of costs. And it got out of hand and they said, nevermind. And they came back to me and said, Can you execute at this number? And I said, Of course I can.

Mulvaney: Okay, and and also, if you had like stomped off, they wouldn't have hired you after, you know, after they initially…

Leitten: Yeah. And this job is easily a job that I could be doing for the next four or five years.

Mulvaney: I love it.

Leitten: It's all about keeping those contacts, making new friends. And just understanding that this business things can be given to you and taken away every day. And you just gotta roll with the punches.

Mulvaney: Totally. And well, our guest today is someone that I would like to be a new friend of mine, because she's brilliant. And I'm really fascinated to find out what she has to say about media, what the future of it is…

Leitten: Very cutting edge. She is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati college Conservatory of Music BFA Broadcasting program, now known as Media Production.

Mulvaney: I'm so excited. So without further ado, let's bring in Randa Minkarah.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today.

Minkarah: Thank you. I'm delighted to be here.

Leitten: Give us your LinkedIn bio.

Minkarah: So I've spent my whole career in media very, very intentionally. And I was most recently at Fisher Communications where I was Senior Vice President of revenue and business development. And what the heck does that mean? Fair question, even though you didn't ask it. So Fisher Communications was a multi-level media company. We had television stations, about 20 of them. We had radio stations really only in one market. And then we had 125 different websites. And so I ran that group and took it to profitability. And I was I obviously responsible for revenue, but my whole career was in the media side of the business in sales before I got to corporate. And I was in Indianapolis at a television station where I got my start in TV, actually and in radio, and then I was in Salt Lake City. I was in Minneapolis before moving to Seattle.

Mulvaney: Amazing. And Randa, would you share your pronouns with us?

Minkarah: She her hers.

Mulvaney: Thank you for that. And what is your current job title? Where are you at?

Minkarah: So it's a little bit different in that I am president and co-founder of a startup for media here in Seattle. And what we have done is created a solution, a tool, if you will, for broadcasters studios, anybody who's making original video, we have a tool that helps them know what works. And what I mean by that is we use AI machine learning in order to analyze video itself through our platform, and then really come back and say, Hey, this is what works. So we tie it to audience, because audiences performance and performance is what leads to revenue. And if you have more viewers, then you can generally monetize that. And that's what we help our customers do.

Mulvaney: And to be honest, when I was reading about this, when I Googled you and checked out the company, it just sounds so futuristic. I was like, Oh my God, we got to talk to this gal. I mean, it's amazing. And what is that company called?

Minkarah: It's called Resonance AI.

Leitten: What are some of the programs and TV shows that you've worked with their movies that you've worked with to help them dial in their audience?

Minkarah: So we've done some work with HBO. And we looked at several of their series, we didn't look at any of their movies, but we looked at their series. And what we were doing is looking at some of the performance between one season and the next, what within that resonated or what didn't. There are so many opportunities inside of that. We've also worked with big national network where we were looking at a new show for them. And they were just about to open up the writers room and they wanted to know what should we keep and or what should we get rid of what is working and what isn't. We did some deep analysis on why a couple of the episodes in the middle of the season just didn't perform very well and we help them tell the story differently the next time. So it's, it's the tool in their tool belt, it's certainly not there to take away the job. I've had some people worry about that. And I would liken it to this. You've got AI out there that will help medical, you know, very quickly spot people who could potentially have a heart attack, for instance. And you don't question the fact that the doctor is still necessary, right? You've got the output from the AI that says these 12 people are more likely than others to have this happen. Well, the doctor still looks at it does the analysis speaks to the patient and makes the actual treatment decision. I liken our platform, to the very same thing, what we're doing is helping understand why the audience reacted to an element in the video that they did. And it's very, very useful and practical on a on a daily basis for let's say, a broadcaster for news, for instance, where you can see how your, your newscast resonated the day before, and how it worked against your competitors, what subjects were covered? who read it, where was it, what location and when you think about it for newscast located sending people out on location is pretty expensive. And if you knew that being in front of City Hall resonated more than being in front of the courthouse. Well then make the decision if the story is there to do that.

Leitten: That's incredible.

Mulvaney: Okay, this company is so 2021 and beyond.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: I want to take us back and jump in to Cincinnati, UC CCM. How did you get there? Why did you decide on attending CCM?

Minkarah: Oh, that I love talking about this. I went to Auburn Hills High School. And we were allowed to do an internship program. And I deeply wanted to do an internship at WEBN. And I got that chance. And when I was in high school, and oh my gosh, it changed my life. It was so much fun. I worked for directly for Julie Edinger, and she was the assistant to the general manager. And it was such a wonderful experience. I saw those sales folks that looked so glamorous, and so together and so really excited about what they were doing. And I wanted to do the same thing. And it was a wonderful time in WEBN’s history when it was owned by you know Frank Wood and Frank Wood Jr. And I got to know both of them. And that was when they did the first fireworks contest. And I remember Julie Edinger coming in and I had all the mail and it was scattered all over the floor. And I'm trying to put them in piles of this is good or this is not good, or these are great. And they were so amazing. I mean, the talent in Cincinnati for photography blew my mind. And I was sitting there looking at this stuff thinking, Oh my gosh, I literally can't be the one to judge this. Fortunately, Julie came in and saved me.

Mulvaney: Well, it's so funny thing. Somebody's job in the world is to judge photos of fireworks. Like I kind of want that job. That sounds like a great job.

Leitten: WEBN had, has like one of the best fireworks displays in the world. Every Labor Day. I actually in my junior year of college in turned on the morning show at WEBN

Minkarah: Oh, awesome.

Leitten: And I got to be a part of the firework show. It was one of the two two internships I did in college, it was incredibly educating to see how they ran a show. I didn't know there's actually not someone in a helicopter flying around giving you the information on the the what the roads are like. It's just a helicopter sound with someone in the speaker or microphone.

Minkarah: I love production. I'm not very good at production. I'm way better on the sales side. But yes, I love production. And it was a it was an experience that literally changed my life. And when I went to University of Cincinnati, I my father, who actually recently passed away was a professor..

Mulvaney: I’m so sorry

Minkarah: Thank you, of engineering there. And so I went to the University of Cincinnati, and they enrolled me in pre-med. To be fair, I'm completely squeamish. Seriously, I don't like the sight of blood. This is not my thing. And I really, really wanted to be in broadcasting. So I went to the Dean of CCM. And I had to ask permission to transfer at that time, it was really hard to get in and I got permission to transfer and I was on cloud nine. Ever since I loved the program at the University of Cincinnati. I love CCM. I got to do so many things that prepared me for the workforce. We did a show I believe it was for the PBS station and I got to run camera and I loved running camera. So I got to do practical things. But everyone else wanted to be in production and I didn't, I knew I didn't. And one of the things that made me very nervous and I realized that pretty early on, I mean, I got a good grade in the class. But I will tell you that sitting there calling the shots ready camera two, take camera two, like going through this, my technical script made me really super nervous, like, you know, my hands are shaking, I'm going to cut through it. But I realize I don't really like that that's not natural for me.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: You just spoke on all these different things you learned while you're at CCM? Is there anything that you wish you would have studied while you were there?

Minkarah: I really liked the marketing and business side of that I have to say that that prepared me, I would have liked to have spent more time with French even though I got to level three, that language stuff. CCM was pretty complete. And also what I liked about it, you needed more credits and CCM to graduate than a regular A&S degree because you had to take the A&S classes as well. And all of the technical classes, it was really complete. I mean, honestly, we did film we did sound editing, we did script writing. And we did the actual production where we did different roles, whether it was you know, producing and editing and all of that. We learned how to do absolutely all of that. So to me… I walked out really understanding the business even though I as I've already said to you, I didn't really want to be in production, that all of that background helped me understand how to move through a television station and actually, you know, meet really reach my goal of getting to corporate because I knew I wanted to eventually be in management. And so there were there were introductories to that. Also there was broadcasting law. I mean, talk about a complete curriculum.

Leitten: Yeah, they had that when we were there. When I was there, as well. We had to take law and ethics. And beyond the A&S liberal arts classes, we had to take CCM credits that had nothing to do with the Media Production division. So I took monitor dance, classical guitar, and hair and make-up.

Minkarah: Oh, that's cool. Yeah. You know what, I didn't get that opportunity to do that. I would have liked that opportunity. Actually, I think I still have a photo of my final hair and make-up project.

Mulvaney: We're gonna need that. If you could just please send it on over to Google Drive. It's much appreciated. I'll be posting it on the Instagram as soon as possible. What class had the most impact on you?

Minkarah: I loved film so much. I still have my movies. I got an A in the class. And I, I loved how it made me think differently. I loved how it like tapped my head. And it set the table for my other side of my you know world, which is that that creative side. I love wildlife photography. I love traveling. I love cooking. I love horses, I ride horses.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Randa, you talked about your first job in Indianapolis, we actually have a question from a graduating senior named Rebecca.

Rebecca: Hi, Rhonda. I just graduated a couple of weeks ago. And I wanted to know if you have any tips for landing my first job out of college.

Minkarah: Persistence, it is very simply deciding that that's what you're going to do and and looking for every avenue. Take whatever you can get that moves, that moves you towards your goal. I can't tell you the number of people that said no to me. No, you can't sell for our radio station. You have no experience. No, no, no, no, no. And I didn't let that deter me. I just kept going until somebody said yes. And the station that said yes, was a little tiny station in Franklin, Indiana, which was pretty darn far from my house. But I was going there anyway. And then I got there. And I realized, I didn't know the first thing to do. It was actually pretty terrifying. And there were two other salespeople. And one of them said to me, oh, here was my entire training kit and moment. Here's a yellow pad and a pencil, go sell something like um, what do I do? There wasn't any, any training of any, any kind, I mean, any kind. There's the door. And the other two salespeople, of course are like well, I you know, I've already got all this stuff covered. So it was hard. So my point is just do it. Just keep pushing. Ask people. A network is critical. You know, now there are tools like LinkedIn, see who's connected, find a way to get a conversation and then find a way to make sure that when you go speak to that person, that you are crystal clear on how you can help that person reach their goals if they hire you. So have that you know, know the station inside out know what the pros and cons are in your mind but, but really be perfect. Because you've got one chance to wow them, or you're going to get the no.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: You were in the broadcasting division, which has was renamed electronic media, which is now renamed the media production division. But it sounds like your story is a little different. I think most people that are in media production are looking for those editor, director, DP type jobs not always knowing that there are, you can be an agent, you can be a marketing exec., you can do sales, and it can still be related to the production world.

Minkarah: Yes, but you need all of that. I mean, for me, if I had gone into a television station in sales without understanding what it takes to actually produce a commercial, that's a problem. But I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I didn't think of sales as a career. And it really wasn't until I graduated. And I had moved to Indianapolis, that I took a volunteer job at a TV station called WRTV, and it was an ABC affiliate, and they had a show, or as part of their news, they had something that was called “Call for help.” And they had people calling in with all sorts of potential stories or complaints or what have you. And I got one. And I knew as soon as I heard it, that it was going to be one that I should pass on. And so the reporter came down and talked to me and said, great for figuring this out. And because of that, then I got to talk to a couple of other executives at the station. And one person said to me, I think her name was Sharon Shelton, and she was I believe the general sales manager at the time, but she said to me, you belong in sales, you need to figure out how to do that, because you're going to be the best at this. This is really naturally what you, you will enjoy. And she was right.

Mulvaney: It's so nice when you have somebody kind of give you a little nudge where you're like, oh, okay, you know, it's sometimes it just takes that one person. We love the concept of mentorship here on this podcast. And part of why we started it, was to break down those barriers between mentor-mentee…

Leitten: The execs and the new the new people coming in...

Mulvaney: Yeah. And as a young person, I think it is scary sometimes to talk to those, you know, the older generation. So to have somebody you know, higher up, say, this is what you should do. I mean, it's just very, you know, it's confirmation, you already have that within yourself at CCM.

Minkarah: Exactly. My first television station job was was a sign on station in Indianapolis, Indiana. So I finally got into sales. And I got into I went into radio first. And then I got into television with this this brand new station. I had to create ads, we didn't have a gigantic production department. So I was writing scripts, which I learned how to do at CCM. And I learned also further how to do it radio, my first radio job, if I hadn't had the class on how to write a script, then I'm going to struggle doing that. But I didn't have that problem. And then because I was already a photographer, I was able to do still shots, which I know sounds horrible. But we put the two together and you've got a pretty rudimentary commercial, which customers could start using like, you know, pretty quickly. So I was able to do those things. But I was able to do them because I understood what it took to do that. You know, why did I love film? Because I understood. I realized that the editing process makes or breaks a movie. And you need to understand that. You need to understand the elements that go into it. How important is the sound? It's critical. How important is the script? It's critical. How important is the acting? Guess what if you want to produce a really good movie, it's all critical. Every single detail is critical. Every moment matters. And once I got into radio, I understood that. When when a program starts that program starts period. So I learned how to produce a show at CCM.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: With your first job in sales. What was your big break? How did you know that the sales job was going to be the right job for you.

Minkarah: I was able to call on a company called Carpenter Realty in Franklin, Indiana. And the gentleman that was running it bought my first package ever. I'll never forget it. He gave me the confidence to believe that I could do this Finally, because it was really hard everyone again, I got the job. But everyone said no. They didn't want to buy radio schedules on an unheard of unknown radio station.

Leitten: How long did it take to get that first sale?

Minkarah: You know, it took a while I want to say it took about five, six weeks. I was getting discouraged. And I think he knew that. So long story short, he never ran the schedule. So he bought it. He signed the contract. And every week I would go back and say so are you going to run this schedule. And here's a sample commercial that I wrote, why don't we get going with this? And he never ran it. So finally, one day, I don't know, six months later, I said, Okay, why did you do this? Why are you never going to run it? He said, Look, I did it because I knew you needed a leg up, I knew that you had the potential to do this job. But you needed to believe in yourself. And I wanted to do that for you. And wow, I was so touched, I couldn't believe it, how everybody needs a break. And I think that if you remember that, as you go through your life, and you bring somebody up, that's my greatest joy is when I see the people that I have worked with, or worked for, or have worked for me make their dreams come true.

Leitten: That's amazing. You got to love people like that.

Minkarah: Yes. And I know everybody's got one. I'm sure everybody's got a similar story. But I've never forgotten it and never stopped appreciating what it did for me.

Leitten: Where did your career go from that first job selling radio ads?

Minkarah: I went to what was originally called WPDS, it was a TV station job. And I was one of that group that, you know, got the job. And then eventually, I became a sales manager. I tried to quit four times in the first year, to be honest, I really hated it. I loved being an account executive. But being a sales manager was way harder than I thought it was gonna be. I mean, really hard. And so my boss, the general sales manager, was wonderful and said, You're not quitting, stop saying that you're gonna figure this out, you're really good at this. You just have to keep trying, and and it'll, it'll be easier in the future. And he was right.

Leitten: What's the difference between an account executive sales manager?

Minkarah: An account executive setting, you know, in our case, you're setting your own schedule, you're responsible for yourself 100%. So back in the days, that was 100% commission, so there was a draw against commission, and it was very small. And so once you exceeded that draw in a month, you were you were given the balancing commission, you know, that meant I was 100% reliant on myself, as I mentioned, I could write spots. So I didn't, if they didn't have creative, I knew how to take care of that I, you know, then eventually, we added production folks, and they would go out and shoot the video and edit, but I also knew how to edit. So I'd sit in the room and make sure it was exactly where I wanted it to be. Thank you, CCM for that. It was wonderful. But when I became a sales manager, suddenly I was responsible for other people's quotas, other people's behavior, other people's relationships. And, quite frankly, I'm very self-reliant. And I found them to be initially a big struggle. I mean, clearly, I got over that. But it was initially a struggle.

Leitten: In your intro, you kind of bounced around a couple of different places before landing in Seattle, you know, as you move from job to job, were you just climbing that corporate ladder?

Minkarah: Yeah, I was climbing markets, and I was climbing the ladder. So Indianapolis was at that point, bouncing around between mark at 23 and 25. And I became National Sales Manager at the station as well. And then at the very end of that, we had a new General Manager come to the station, I was there quite a long time. And he said to me, I could give you the job of general sales manager. But I think that would be a disservice to you. And I believe that you should go to a different market and have that job of running the whole sales department, not here. So I'd been there like something like 13/14 years. So I did that I got the job as general sales manager in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the FOX station there.

Leitten: And what was that jump, like a numbers perspective?

Minkarah: Market 15.

Leitten: So you went from 25th largest size market in the US to the 15th. That's a pretty big jump.

Minkarah: It was a big jump. And it was a big jump because it was also a position up. So now I was running the department, not just the sales manager of one aspect of it, but running all of it. And it was it was wonderful. I had a wonderful experience. There was just really, really incredible. And it was I was there for five years.

Mulvaney: So for as far as general sales manager is concerned, is that kind of the ceiling for where you can go in the industry in your line of work? Or where would you then kind of pivot to after that?

Minkarah: You will pivot to generals, to General Manager, there are only a few routes to full leadership of a TV station, it was going to be through sales, potentially through news, sometimes through programming, but less so. So usually it was news or sales that was your path forward to running a station. I actually didn't do that. I actually skipped that entirely. And I was a director of sales in Seattle at the ABC affiliate. And I had done that for five years. And I decided that I didn't want to be a general manager. I want to go directly to corporate and so I took on a corporate role for Fisher and I did that for I think seven years, sixth years, 2007 to 2013. So six years and loved it loved it absolutely loved it

Mulvaney: During that 2013 period is that we're in your current company was born?

Minkarah: It was born in 2014. But yes, and and its current iteration really in 2016.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Can you talk a little bit about the pivot of going from a communications company to something which I imagine is brand new probably didn't exist and might have been a leap of faith in artificial intelligence world?

Minkarah: Oh, my gosh, it was all leap of faith. So one of the things that happened at Fisher, in my senior vice president role was that I recognized that there was a lot of data out there. And I had a very unusual job because the company was small enough, and we're only really seven people in corporate, it was small enough that I did what would be considered five jobs at most big broadcast companies. If you think about, you know, Nexstar, Sinclair, that sort of thing, I would have one job because they're big companies. Well, we were top 25, but we were 25. And we were smaller, so pretty regionally focused and smaller. And I was able to do a lot of different things. And one of them was running the internet division, Fischer interactive network directly. So that was full P&L, all personnel, all output, all of the above. I also bought programming for the group. I also did our enterprise contracts for the group. And what that meant is, I know the folks at Nielsen and ComScore. And I was responsible for the general revenues, I didn't actually create them, that would be the general sales managers in their team. So it was a dotted line. But I was responsible for all of that. And I also had research and traffic reporting to me corporately,

Mulvaney: And a little parts of those all contributed to the company you currently run.

Minkarah: Exactly. So and and I called research and said, Look, if I'm buying programming, and I'm spending millions of dollars a year to buy this programming, and I'm responsible for the revenue generated from said programming, and we need to promote that programming, which uses spots from traffic and you know, there's a there's an expense to it, if you will, what is the best price to pay for that? How should I really do this, because I'm thinking that if I can bring together the data from the performance of a show the expectation and predicted performance of that show, understand the best way to market it on, on our own, and then be able to predict my revenue, I could change the way we buy programming. You know, I want my data to tell me what I should pay for it, where I should place it on the schedule, not just at the syndicator says, I've got between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to actually run this. But what if I moved another show? What if I coupled it with another show? What if all of these possibilities I could answer from the data? And he said to me, great, I'll get that to you. And a month went by and he called me and he said I've got it. I'm like, Oh my god, I cannot wait for this. We're going to change the industry, we're going to change the way we do things. And I opened it and I said, Oh my god, what is this? And he said, Well, it's what you asked for? And I said, No, this is an Excel spreadsheet with 25 tabs. I don't know what to do with this. I asked for information and you know, insight, and you gave me data. And he said, well, to be fair, your answers in there somewhere. And that's why I have this company.

Mulvaney: Now can you give just some advice to anyone looking to start their own sort of company or maybe a young person with a really good idea that just doesn't know exactly how to execute? What were those initial steps of creating your AI company that you currently, that baby first steps?

Minkarah: The most important thing was an introduction, I thought that we needed a different way to do things. But I only knew the media side. And I was introduced to my co-founder who is on the computer science side. And I really needed that I needed that that experience to help me actualize it. I mean, I can think about it and say this is what we need to do. But I needed somebody who had done this before and knew how to do it. And so what I would say is, co-founders are critical. It may seem like a good idea to do something on your own. It rarely is because it's really, really hard to do. You have to raise money, you've got to come up with a concept. You've got to convince people to work for you. You've got to convince people to very talented people to work for you for some equity instead of all just cash and you know, there's all of this that has to happen. And then there's that drinking from a firehose I mean, I thought I knew how to run a business. I had no idea when you're starting from the ground up all about business licenses and doing business in other states and I mean so many things that I've learned, and let's not forget all of the you know, medical and HR and all of the rules around all of that sort of stuff. It's really, really complicated and you need help, and you need people that you can completely trust. And the last thing I'd say is, it's very lonely. So do make sure you have a co-founder, because otherwise you've known and talked to.

Mulvaney: And it sounds like all those years that you did spend at those stations and, and doing those different titles all contributed to what you're doing right now. And that is, so those were years well spent.

Minkarah: Oh, absolutely. And years of great love and joy. You know, I've never questioned that decision that I made to transfer out of premed into broadcasting into CCM. It was it was the right thing to do then, and it has always been, I loved working at TV stations so very, very much. And I have so many good friendships and so many wonderful relationships that I've had the privilege of building and and people that I've worked with, and I'm still in touch with because there's such marvelous people. It's just it's just, it's all a joy. It really is.

[Hip hop music]

Leitten: When you look at how this Resonance AI companies started, you said 2014, it's seven years later, how is it working out for you? What goals Did you set? Have you reached them? What's the process look like for success?

Minkarah: Have we reached the goals, some of them. The platform is incredible. The team is amazing. I feel very privileged to work with these folks. They are brilliant. We have brilliant architects and data scientists and front-end engineers and, and really, really a very good team. Some of the goals have been achieved. When the company first started was actually a consulting company. And we decided to pivot that into actually building out this platform, which I will tell you took more years than we expected, was harder to accomplish than we expected. And the other thing I will say is we were way ahead of the market. We know that that this is a very big industry that's largely still run an intuition and I don't question that intuition is great. But having that tool in your tool belt that can help you quickly analyze and objectively analyze, right, your time actual performance, which is you know, a download, let's say, if it's a broadcast, then we use TiVo data on a second by second basis that allows us to look at the performance and think of it as on off if enough people inside your newscast click off at the exact same moment. What caused that? So we're looking at the behaviors of the devices over time. And that's a tool that no human can possibly manage. Right? The computer looks at it the platform, it says, Okay, these are the 1000s of devices that are in play. And here's what they did. And here's why. And so you're able to derive from that using data science, of course, you know, the platform will, will spit back out this is what was successful and this is this wasn't so I do think of it sort of as A-B testing or off-on steroids. And and you know, that we've accomplished.

Leitten: You talked about being ahead of the industry. What's that? Like when you're having conversations? And how do you get an HBO to sign on and become a client for you?

Minkarah: What I would say is, it was really my network and, and speaking with someone who knew someone who, who connected me, it largely that and then we do go to a lot of conferences and do a lot of public speaking. And that brings a lot of attention.

Leitten: Was there a client that kind of tipped the scales for you at some point, like when you had them signed on, other people started listening and taking notice?

Minkarah: I think that's just about to happen. So we're just about to go public with something. And then also this year, we have done a partnership with a big media consulting company sort of and we are working with them to bring the platform to market. And I think that's a very important element. And the reason that's important is because any new technology is hard to use and hard to operationalize. And Smith Geiger, they're, they're expert consultants, and so they will be inside of customers delivering the platform. And I think that's really going to be the most important thing. I mean, we were lucky to work with companies like HBO, you know, we're doing the build, if you will, and understanding the output that was meaningful to them.

Mulvaney: Can we talk a little bit about your analyzing a TV show something like that? What are some of the changes that are made along the way? You get the information and then what are some of those things that those people, those writers, showrunners directors take that information and what can they do with it?

Minkarah: So there's a lot they can do with it. I like to think of it as reducing cost, mitigating risk and increasing audience those are the three things that we do primarily increasing audience. So some examples every market is different. Well, now with our tool, you know what's different, you know that in three of your cities that you own or three of your markets that overcoming adversity is the type of thing that resonates with your audience, you know, and six others that really stories about boating and dogs are, are your human interest stories that you should focus on. So it helps you not only you know, you're going to do the headlines of the day no matter what, right but you also then will know what else resonates with your audience and how to stack that and what, what is meaningful. And we look at the the locations, we look at talents, we look at combinations, we look at that, as I said, language level, and pacing and shots per minute, and lighting, all of those things matter. But they're also inside the purview of the station, or the network or the producer to change. And that's what we pay attention to. The platform itself, we'll be clear about how many cliffhangers or too many inside of a show, whether or not you need all of the locations. If you're looking to trim your budget, for instance, and you're shooting in 13 locations, we can help you understand which ones are meaningful and which ones are not. We look at the moods, we look at shots per minute, we look at pacing, we look at the statue color saturation. When you look at all of that, you understand when it changes, what does it mean? And we did this ourselves. We didn't do this for a customer. But we were looking at the Good Place. And we noticed that in one of the seasons, they had a very different language structure. And did it resonate positively or negatively? If it's negative, then you need to go back and look at your other three seasons or two seasons and say, Okay, this season was not as effective because we changed the way we wrote it. Sometimes that's effective. And sometimes it might not be. We're looking at how a show flows. What happens inside that show. If you if you change the complexity, you can lose the audience.

Mulvaney: I was just thinking about how complicated Game of Thrones would be to do this with because, you know, there's just so many storylines. The ability that you are giving these shows, I mean, it really helps so many different you're you know, you're helping out the the marketing budgets, you're helping out the writers room, you're helping out showrunners.. it's I think it's so also powerful for the writer, because I think a lot of the times you create art and then you put it out there and you hope for the best. Right? And and now you are actually giving them the tools to make something even better

Leitten: or to connect better with an audience.

Mulvaney: Yeah, yeah, that's a gift, you are giving them a really positive gift. So I'm so excited for the future of this.

Minkarah: We are too!

Mulvaney: Do you think as the years go on that the material and that will all sort of take a shift depending on what's happening in society?

Minkarah: Definitely. We saw it with COVID. We saw it when we were doing analysis of the news. And we could see when COVID began in certain markets, and it was different it happened differently on the West Coast than it did in the Midwest, for instance, the the interest in it, and then the sudden spiking in the paying attention where we knew that households were paying attention to those stories. You could see that coming.

Leitten: Dylan. Do you know what time it is?

Mulvaney: Oh, yeah.

Leitten: What time is it?

Mulvaney: Randa. [Sings] If you could turn back time. All right. When did you, Randa, fail big time? And what did you learn from that fail?

Minkarah: I'm not sure I can tie it back to work and CCM as much as I can tie it back to life. So I do ride horses. I ride dressage, I got a really bad accident in July. And that is a failure to communicate. And it was pretty bad. And what happened is the horse got very frustrated with me. And he took off. And I thought he, I thought, he jerked the reins, and in my hands, I had no control. And he was galloping. And I got one rain, and I thought I could stop him by turning him and getting him toward the wall. And it didn't work. I thought for sure he was going to stop. But what he did instead was shift his body so hard. He threw me completely off into the wall. And I don't know how this happened. But he trampled me.

Mulvaney: No!

Minkarah: Four places.

Mulvaney: Have you written since? No.

Minkarah: I mean, I got back on him. I mean, I had to get back on it. Yeah. And then I drove myself home..

Leitten: The home not the hospital?

Minkarah: Right? That's exactly right. I'm like, I'm fine. It was the adrenaline it was and I put him away. And yeah, he told me I had to go to the ER and I passed out and I woke up and I'm looking at a fireman. So that was a fail.

Mulvaney: Moral of the story. If you get kicked off and stepped on by a horse, you go to the hospital.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Can we expect more watchable TV in the future based on the technology you're you know, developing and that others are developing? Do you think that it's actually going to make for like, a lot more binge-worthy content?

Minkarah: I hope so. I mean, that's that's certainly what I'm looking for. I mean, when you think about it, why wouldn't you adopt a tool that helps you very quickly understand what works and what doesn't? I mean, we saw with one particular show that we did several seasons of analysis on, we could see and there was one season that was a total fail, and to come back and say, well, you change the writing completely. And all of these elements that matter to an audience, here it is, don't do that again, like, I don't know why you especially because it's not even that expensive. Afraid, right? We're trying to make sure that it's something accessible by many, why wouldn't you have that tool in your tool belt is just going to help you just that little bit.

Leitten: As a female in the tech industry, I would love to get your final piece of advice to someone that's coming out of college and looking to do what you're doing.

Minkarah: Be persistent. I think it's again, what I said earlier, you have to be willing to do the work, the learning. So let's when I said it was like drinking from a firehose really was it was. I had a lot to learn and to understand. So I put in the work, and you just have to ignore it and persevere and just push on, and know that you are making a difference. Eventually, you know, it's important to girls to see that. You don't succeed if you don't see yourself, we've heard this over and over again. It is so true. It is so true. And I work with the Girl Scouts, I'm on the Girl Scout board, I'm actually the chair at this point, I really enjoy that work. Because I know that if girls can see a path to success, then they will take that path. It's always true. You need to be able to see yourself in the role. So supporting each other through that and persevering and doing the learning so that they can't come back and tell you you're not good enough. Because you are.

Mulvaney: Wow, we are so lucky to have had you on thank you so much for I mean, this information is your artist. It's so interesting. And if you ever need an influencer to check some stuff out on as far as shorter content, I will totally be your guinea pig.

Minkarah: I will take you up on that.

Mulvaney: Thank you for being here. And I hope you have an amazing rest of your week. And woo hoo!

Minkarah: It was it was a delight. It was a true delight. Thank you so much for having me.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: I think for the future of our industry, this has been one of the most intriguing conversations we've had on this podcast so far.

Mulvaney: Yeah, considering there's probably robots watching TV right now and deciding if humans are going to like it or not, I would say so.

Leitten: Yeah, I, I would have never imagined the detail of research and AI learning that can be applied not only to local news, but national news, narrative television, narrative film, I'm sure at some point, documentaries are gonna have some sort of AI consultant to help them determine what the story is.

Mulvaney: I think that it will lead us to just better TV and better film, like, if they can predict what we're going to like, then we won't have to sit and watch a total like 30% on Rotten Tomatoes movie, because they'll just know that it's not going to be any good.

Leitten: Here's my prediction for the future of our industry.

Mulvaney: Okay.

Leitten: I think you'll still get those D level movies that come out no matter what I think you'll start to see some of those sea level movies and TV shows get moved up to like a solid B plus. Because there's no reason for a show not to have some sort of AI consulting company, telling them what their audience likes, especially if it can save you money. Why should we go shoot at 11 locations for one episode of television when our audience doesn't care about four of those locations, that's a way to save money to be more creative in a minimal amount of locations. And I think that not only helps the production team and the writers but helps the audience as well to continue engaging in a story as opposed to just tuning out after a couple episodes.

Mulvaney: My prediction is that TV is going to become like the forefront of media like it's gonna start trumping movies. Like I think that people love watching these long HBO series now that like feel like you're watching a movie but it's like nine hours long and you can like really bingeable content. And then I also think we are going to move into like a lot of short form media where I mean, a lot of the stuff we're watching on Instagram and TikTok is like a minute or two minutes, but I actually think that there will always Be a place for like really long, you know, sit in front of a movie screen for two hours because there's something about a story that you can't fit in two minutes. And I also think we're gonna see so much diversity pretty soon, which is awesome of all shapes and sizes and colors. And I think that will be the most exciting thing coming out of this year is that a lot more voices will be amplified. And I'm just very excited for that.

Leitten: I think you'll start to see the big screen shrink a little bit. Like you said, People do like those nine hour short mini-series, or a limited series, when instead of having six seasons of a show, you only have one season like Queens Gambit on Netflix, right? I'm actually really intrigued in those. But I still think eventually the movie theaters will come back. I know that there are certain movies I only want to see in a theater. Later this year Dune is coming out and Avatar, both those he got to see him on the big screen.

Mulvaney: Meryl Streep is now doing TV. Reese Witherspoon is doing TV like you've seen all these movie stars. Now gravitate towards these episodic shows where you're like, Oh my gosh, okay, so it's now not frowned upon in the acting community. It's very celebrated, which is pretty exciting.

Leitten: 100%. Kevin Bacon has a show on Showtime. I didn't know that.

Mulvaney: And he can because he's Kevin Bacon. [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

Leitten: On next week's episode, we are talking with orchestral conductor Rebecca Tong and writer, musician and producer Ryan Fine.

Ryan Fine: I failed at my first wedding gig ever. It was the first dance and I played Don't Stop Believin’ it sounded more like this [plays song and messes up]. Very cringe. And it was because I have little hands. I was trying to do the octaves when I didn't need to. I looked over at the bass player. And I was like, You have to do it. I'm gonna play the chords. They didn't stop. It wasn't like are you kidding me? You're fired, but it was super, super embarrassing.

Leitten: If you want to know more about Randa and the work her team does at Resonance AI, check out our show notes. There you'll also find more info about the podcast, including a link to see bonus video content from all of our interviews. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at school stage screen one word and on Twitter at school stage pod. Now known as media production. The BFA program prepares digital content creators for careers in filmmaking and television production, broadcast news, audio production, sports media production and more. As the largest undergraduate program at CCM Media Production students are uniquely positioned within a creative culture that fosters collaborations with actors, musicians, dancers, set designers and other performing artists as they develop their digital storytelling skills. Learn more at ccm.uc.edu. Thank you for listening. See you next week.

Leitten: Thanks for listening. Our show is produced by Robin Hopkins and edited by Blake Hawk. Our associate producer is Shannon St. George and our assistant editor is Matt Harris. Our music is composed by Ryan Fine, check out his link in the show notes. A big thanks to Kevin Burke, Becky Butts, Stanley Romanstein, Mikki Graff, Curt Whitacre and Melissa Neeley-Nicolini. This has been a Hyperion XIII production.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music]

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Hyperion XIII production.

Check out bonus video content with all of our guests on YouTube.

Check out Resonance AI to learn more about Randa’s company.

Instagram: @schoolstagescreen

Facebook: @schoolstagescreen

Twitter: @schoolstagepod

Brian on Instagram: @bleittz_delightz

Dylan on Instagram: @dylanmulvaney | TikTok: @dylanjamesmulvaney

Edited by Blake Hawk, Throughline Media

Song by Ryan Fine (BFA Commercial Music Production, '17)

Show art by Graff Designs

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/N1GQ8OYUVGY?rel=0

Brian J Leitten (BFA E-Media, '02) and Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, '19) give you a sneak peek at Episode 8 with Randa Minkarah (BFA Broadcasting, ’82), Co-Founder of Resonance AI. Minkarah shares how her company uses technology to study long-form content. She's changing the future of media. Listen to the full episode on Monday, May 24!


Episode 7: "The Ring Leader" (May 17, 2021)

What’s it like to juggle donors, students, faculty, state-of-the-art performance facilities, raising a family, and a pandemic all in the same year? UC College-Conservatory of Music Dean Stanley E. Romanstein shares how he navigates the pressures of day to day life in such an important job title.

Stanley Romanstein: We had no box office this year at all. We sold not one ticket. I think our faculty and our students have been incredibly ingenious and creative in finding ways to continue to make art and to communicate and to share. And to find a way to say, here's the way that the year has impacted us and we're going to find a way to continue to create art no matter what.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Brian J. Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. This season's guests are all loans from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school.

Leitten: Today We're talking with Stanley Rosenstein the Dean of the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

Mulvaney: Broadway is re-opening!

Leitten: Okay, it's about time.

Mulvaney: It's interesting. I think a lot of people are excited and very much we need this as a country. But I think there's also some like kind of like mixed, you know, mixed feelings that go into that with Broadway reopening.

Leitten: I know that's New York City, but I'm sure it'll start to happen across the country. What happens with Book of Mormon? Do they turn the key back on? And do you get right back to work?

Mulvaney: I do not have a contract. No, I'm not. I don't think I'm going back to that show. I haven't seen it being planned for any tours or anything. So as of now that chapter I'm putting a little bow on it. And you know, bows can be untied. But I'm you know, I'm now in LA. I'm ready to pound the TV-film pavement. But I'm just so excited to be in a theater eventually watching a musical. What was the last show that you saw? Like, what, what was the last musical you saw?

Leitten: There was a point when I was at MTV. This was a while back, but we broadcast Legally Blonde, the musical live. So I got to work on that.

Mulvaney: Oh, okay. That is like, it's unfair, because that's like one of my favorite musicals of all time. But it's also sounding like you just basically admitted that you don't go see a lot of musicals, and I think that's going to need to change after the pandemic.

Leitten: I think you're right. I think being LA and being in one place will allow me to do that. In New York, I saw The Lion King, I saw 42nd Street, I saw The Little Mermaid, I saw Wicked. I saw Wicked one of the final performances with Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, dead center, 20 rows back. It was one of the most amazing shows I've ever seen. And I am a massive fan of the book. So it's not my most recent, but it is definitely one of my most favorite.

Mulvaney: I hope it's not your most recent because they left the show in like 2005.

Leitten: Yeah,

Mulvaney: But I'm really jealous. I am very I'm very jealous of you. But I think it's interesting too, because a lot of my friends who are actors and very much planning to go back to the theatre industry, they have some qualms and they want change on Broadway. They want equality, they want persons of color more well represented, they want trans, you know, actors, they want non-binary actors, they want equal pay they want, there's so many things that have to happen within this… It sounds like there's a lot of time if you know we've got a few months to pull this off. But I think that everyone's a little hesitant because we really do want this, this industry in this community to be able to grow and to evolve. And I think that people are just, you know, kind of patiently waiting to see what those changes are going to be. But I have hope I'm always a very positive person. You know, I want to focus on the good.

Leitten: And this is the perfect time. This is the perfect time to hit the reset button.

Mulvaney: Yes, I couldn't agree more. And CCM was such an amazing place to you know, start a career off and especially musical theatre. And we sort of have a very important CCM person here today, maybe the one of the most important you know, as far as the university is concerned.

Leitten: We do. Today we have Stanley Romanstein, the dean and a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Stanley holds two degrees from CCM, a Master's in Music in Choral Conducting and a PhD in Musicology. And I think we just we get him in here and see what kind of changes are happening at the university

Mulvaney: Y'all. We got you the head honchos. So bring him on in.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Thank you for giving us your time today.

Romanstein: Absolutely delighted to be here.

Leitten: We're excited to have you here. I think you'll give us some really great insights into the education world and the performance world as well. Why don't you start off and give us your your LinkedIn bio?

Romanstein: Well, I've been fortunate to have a number of leadership positions throughout my career. I started my career as a as a faculty member at St. Lawrence University, wonderful liberal arts school in northern New York. I was after that the, the director of one of the greatest Performing Arts High schools in the United States, the Baltimore School for the Arts. Jada Pinkett Smith is a graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts, the late Tupac Shakur was a graduate of the School for the Arts, you know, wonderful, wonderful place. I was President and CEO of the Minnesota Humanities Center, which is connected with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Library of Congress at the Smithsonian. I was president and CEO of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in Atlanta, Georgia, and moved from there to the College-Conservatory music at the University of Cincinnati.

Mulvaney: Awesome, Stanley, would you share your pronouns with us?

Romanstein: Yes, he and him. Thank you for asking, Dylan.

Mulvaney: Thank you. What is your current title your current job at the College-Conservatory of Music?

Romanstein: I'm just finishing my third year as dean of CCM, the College-Conservatory of Music.

Mulvaney: We are with the man the myth, the legend, then we are very lucky to have you.

Romanstein: I don't know about that Dylan. But, but it's a great job to have and I feel so honored to be CCM’s Dean.

Mulvaney: Will you please enlighten me? I'm going to be kind of honest here. I don't fully know what a dean is. I just know you're very important. And we you know, and we are so happy to have one. Now, can you just share what is what is the dean? What is the day to day of Dean? What's the job entail?

Romanstein: So Dylan, I’m going to be specific to CCM. CCM is in many ways, and this will help you understand, you know, how my background prepared me for CCM. CCM is, is in many ways three organizations all pushed together. CCM is a college. We're part of a university, we have academic classes. We grant degrees, you know, we do all of the things that a college does. CCM is also a performing arts center. You know, we have as you know, we have five performance facilities within CCM Village. In many ways, we're the largest Performing Arts Center in the entire state of Ohio. We do almost 1000 recitals, performances, concerts and events every year. So we're a we're a large Performing Arts Center, you have to deal with parking and audiences and ticket sales and promotions and advertising, all of those sorts of things. You also have to connect as a performing arts organization with the other arts organizations in town. Every other week, I meet with the leaders of the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Ballet and Cincinnati Opera and Playhouse in the Park and Ensemble Theater, we all meet together as arts leaders of Cincinnati. And the third thing is, we are a sort of small to medium size, nonprofit, CCM’s budget is about $37 million a year. A lot of that money comes from the state of Ohio and from the university. But a fair portion is raised. We do development work, we have a volunteer board that connects us to the community. And that's what you have in a small nonprofit organization. So the life of a Dean at CCM is managing these three different organizations altogether. And you need to have experience in all three of those areas, in my opinion, in order to be as successful as you want to be as CCM’s Dean.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Can you talk to us a little bit about your your first days finding yourself at CCM? How did you end up there? What was your path from your hometown to CCM?

Romanstein: So Dylan, like like most of our CCM students, I came to CCM because of a personal connection with a faculty member. I grew up as a singer and as somebody who loved choral music more than kind of anything else on the face of the Earth. I remember as a as a kid sitting on the floor at my grandparents house, you know, and be able to see them three, four years old, surrounded by all these people walking around above me. And I just remember that at some point in the middle of the afternoon, people were gathered for a holiday or something. At some point in the afternoon, somebody would start to sing. And my family the adults in my family would all break out into three and four-part harmony. They would sing patriotic songs, they would sing Bach, they would sing all kinds of things. And I just remember being mesmerized by this by the sound of voices singing together. I knew from the earliest days of my life that I wanted to do that, and that I wanted to be a leader as part of that. So in the spring of ‘79, I was living in Israel and working as the assistant conductor for a choir based in Tel Aviv that was performing Mendelssohn's oratory, Oh, Elijah, Andrew White, who at that time, was a renowned member of CCM’s voice faculty was one of the great singers of the role of Elijah. Not only was Mr. White, an amazing singer, a wonderful baritone, but even as an older man, Mr. White had a full head of wavy, flowing white hair. When he took the stage, you believed that he was the biblical prophet incarnate, you know, that he was standing in front of you. So the choir engaged Mr. White to come to Israel and sing several weeks and performances with us. I had the chance to get to know him. And he got to see me work with the choir. And at the end of our first week, together, Mr. White pulled me aside and said, You need to come to CCM and study conducting. And he handed me an application form and said, fill this out, give it back to me and I will personally take it back to CCM. So he returned to Cincinnati after our performances were over. And he represented me to the choral faculty and to the admissions office. And a few months later, I found myself a first-year graduate student at CCM, and it was absolutely a life changing experience for me, I'll always be grateful to Andrew White, for for seeing something in the and say you need to be at CCM in order to develop that thing that you have.

Leitten: Did you ever ask him why he carried around applications for grad school when he was traveling and singing?

Romanstein: You know that that actually was something that they ask all faculty to do, and that we still ask faculty to do. My sort of line with our faculty is every trip is a recruiting trip, you know, always carry something about CCM with you that you can hand to somebody, you know, even if it's a card that says here's where you'll find us on the web. But we want faculty to be recruiting all the time, because they're the ones who were in touch with students who would benefit most from the CCM experience.

Leitten: That's brilliant.

Mulvaney: I also think it's sort of crazy that the universe like you were all the way in Tel Aviv and then ended up in Cincinnati, you know, like that connection is just crazy. Yeah. He knew that the Masters of Music and Choral Conducting would be for you, and is that that's the degree that you received, correct?

Romanstein: Yes, yes, I started to work on a Master's degree in Choral Conducting at CCM. It was just you know, the most amazing experience. And before I had finished the master's degree in Choral Conducting, I absolutely knew that I wanted to earn a PhD in Musicology. My reasoning was, I think that the best conductors are the ones who have the greatest historical grounding and understanding of how music came to be. And actually, I think the best Musicologists are the ones who are performing who, who know what it's like to make music and to communicate music and to share music with other people.

Leitten: How long did it take you to get your masters? And at what point did you realize you wanted to come back and start the PhD because I know there's a there's about a decade gap in there for you.

Romanstein: Well, there's only a decade gap in the in the awarding of the degrees. But I started my master's degree in ‘79, and earned it in ‘79 and ‘80, so two years to earn the master's degree. And then I went right into the PhD program. So I never left Cincinnati. I started right into the PhD program, and did all my coursework and I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Fulbright grant for study back in Israel at Hebrew University. I was there ’85-‘86 and then came back to CCM to finish my dissertation and take final exams and wrap things up before I moved out into into my first job.

Leitten: Did you have to teach were you conducting different choirs while you were at the school as part of your doctoral program?

Romanstein: Like many people do, I conducted some choirs in town in Cincinnati. And and it's it's wonderful Brian there there are people who sang with me when I was a graduate assistant, graduate student at CCM who are still my friends, we have remained in touch with each other throughout my life and their life and careers and all kinds of wonderful things. So I was conducting, I was singing a lot and I was teaching music history first as a graduate assistant, you know, and then as a freelancer at CCM. It was a it was a really amazing time. And and when I was a graduate student at CCM, this is when we were on the quarter system. We weren't in two semesters we were on the quarter system, and the academic year ran well into May. So for the last two weeks in class, all of the singers and choral conductors went Downtown and joined the Cincinnati Symphony and the May Festival chorus and became part of the Cincinnati May Festival for two weeks. People like James Conlon and Robert Shaw and you know, just, you know, the big conductors of the of the era, the great soloists of the era, doing just, you know, Night after night after night of different repertoire, it was an amazing experience.

Leitten: It's funny that you mentioned the May Festival because it actually starts this weekend, and runs through the end of the month. If any of our listeners are interested, you can check out mayfestival.com. for tickets. And the cool thing this year is that for fans of the festival who aren't ready for in person performances, the festival has digital premieres available free on their website.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Now, looking back, what is something that you wish you had studied in college during your time that you didn't get to take?

Romanstein: Hmm. You know Dylan, I'll give you I'll give you sort of an oblique answer. It's not so much something that I, that I, that I wish I'd taken that I didn't get to take a course, as I look back on college years, and even my graduate years at CCM, the thing I wish I had learned to do at that earlier age was to enjoy the moment that I was living in absolutely, and fully. My wife and I have four children, when each of them was young, four years old, five years old. They ran everywhere, like little kids do. They never walk, they ran everywhere. And then at some undefined point, they stopped running everywhere. And they began just walking, where they went. And what you understand later in life is once you cross that threshold, once you stop running everywhere and start just walking, you never go back to running again. And I think that there's a lesson in that for all of us. I mean, when I was a student at CCM as a singer, I could sing anything. I could sing the high notes, the long notes, the soft passages, the forte sections, I could sing all of it with incredibly little effort. And it wasn't just me, we all could, you know, we were all living 24 hours a day, seven days a week and trying to drink it all in. We were like, if you will like those four and five year olds, we were running everywhere. But the lesson is to enjoy the moment completely. Because once it passes, it's probably gone. So if you're running, enjoy that, and when you choose to walk, enjoy that. That's what I wish I had learned when I was in college and maybe even graduate school.

Mulvaney: That's really good advice is especially since I just graduated, you know, just two years ago, I feel like I'm still running. Definitely. And this is kind of like okay, maybe I'll just start a light jog. And then you know, maybe I'm not in the walking stage yet.

Leitten: I'm definitely, definitely in the walking stage. I'm there.

Mulvaney: I mean, CCM. The thing about CCM is there's so much creativity going on everywhere. And you're looking around, you're like oh my gosh, that person's in a practice room. And that person's putting up a play and that person's dancing. And so there is that kind of feeling like you're, you're running next to a moving train. But I will say that it is such a great place to just enjoy life as well and make friends I think looking back, you know, some of my favorite moments are the ones where I was hanging out on the weekend with a friend at an apartment. So there is that balance there. But it is such a creatively stimulating school.

Romanstein: It is still in it. And I've said to two people, one of the things that that can be a little a little shocking about CCM is you know, when you get to CCM, it's likely that you've been the best. And in your high school in your undergraduate school, wherever you were before you arrived at CCM, you were probably the best that there was. And you get to CCM and you still think hey, I can bring this. And then you realize when you look around that whatever you can do, there's somebody else who can do that. And they could do something else that you that you can't do. And there's a there's a process of becoming okay with that and understanding what unique things you bring to the table as an artist that nobody else can bring. And I think that's that's one of the things that I still enjoy watching our students identify as they go through the two years or three years or four years, however long their program is, to understand what unique abilities they have, that they need to bring that they need to perfect and to bring to the world.

Leitten: Is there a class at CCM or, or a teacher that really helped you realize what your strengths were and what you could bring to the world?

Romanstein: Philip Crabtree was my primary teacher in the Musicology program. So when I was in the PhD program, Phil was, was my PhD advisor. So he shepherded me through the entire process. And Phil has become a friend and mentor to me throughout my entire career. And and I think I was drawn to Phil first because he did double duty at CCM. He worked both in the Choral Conducting program where I started as a master student and he was also a professor in the Musicology program. So I saw in him that that, that for him choral music and music history were co-equal passions. And that's where where I live and breathe to Phil who was, he was CCM’s first PhD graduate in Musicology. So he literally charted the path that I wanted to follow as a graduate student and as a professional. And I'm really grateful that he's been such a generous and and gifted guide to me. Long before it was popular to talk about the connections and intersections of mind and body and spirit. Phil was urging us as students to pay attention to to spiritual and psychological matters as well as academic matters to be to be attentive to the things that we now kind of refer to as health and wellness. I don't think it's a stretch to say that CCM’s current focus on an integrative approach to health and wellness for our students, our faculty, and our staff has its roots in what Phil was teaching us when I was a graduate student decades ago, he was in that way, truly a man ahead of his time, and urging us to see the interconnections between things that might be on their surface, not that well connected.

Leitten: What are some of the things that you've implemented over the past couple of years to really focus on your students health and wellness?

Romanstein: So we've done a couple of things, Brian, and we are, we're just at the beginning of the real emphasis on health and wellness. We've implemented a mind-body course, it's an eight-week course that students can take, I'm pleased with the idea that the mind-body course attracts students from different disciplines. It's one of the only places at CCM, where you'll find dancers and actors and musical theater majors and violinists and composers, taking one class together, and doing something that that has nothing to do with any of their particular art forms. The Mind Body course teaches you to pay attention to what's going on with you as a person, it talks about the importance of, of meditation as a way to focus and as a way to get in touch with what's going on inside your mind and inside your body. So we're just at the beginning of this process of an integrative approach to health and wellness, that we'll look at, you know, how you manage sleep, how you manage stress, how you manage food, how you manage exercise, how you tend to your own emotional health, as well as your physical health. And, and again, our, our emphasis is on keeping people healthy and well, and helping them to have long, healthy, enjoyable careers, as opposed to waiting for somebody to get sick, and then trying to fix them, trying to help them get better so that they can go back in the game.

Mulvaney: Right, Stanley? You know how I just asked you looking back, what's something you wish you had studied in college? Yeah, I wish I had taken that health and wellness class. I mean, just the idea of of spending time also with with different majors is really exciting. You know, of course, you know, the musical theater students are it's you're in class with musical theater students. That CCM is it's a tough place. There's a you know, it's a lot of hours. And you know, you're there for a reason, but has this past year specifically with the coronavirus has that also shed some light on on taking care of our bodies, and especially the students and putting their health first?

Romanstein: Oh, Dylan, the COVID year has ramped up the importance of our delivering on an integrative program of health and wellness for our students. All of the choices that we made this year about social distancing, about use of HEPA filters about you know, plexiglass shields, everything was based upon the science. And if you look at the results, CCM’s positivity test rate, the students at CCM who've been tested for COVID and tested positive are positive the test rate is 1.2%. 1.2%, after an entire year of living with the pandemic, and it's a credit to our students. It's a credit to our faculty, and to the seriousness with which people have taken this. And I think that you know, at basis, what our students have said was is I want to be here creating art. I don't want to be at home living in isolation with my family. I want to be here with my fellow artists, and they've done what's necessary in order to make that possible.

Mulvaney: Awesome. Yeah. And I think also as an artist now in the real world and having worked on a national tour, I think we as performers often put ourselves in our bodies through things we probably shouldn't, but we just push through. And I think that this time will actually shed some light on put yourself first, put your body first. Take care of yourself and and I hope that that's happening at school too.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Can you take us back to the summer where you're having these meetings and talk to us about the decisions you had to make with how often school can be open”

Romanstein: When you get to CCM, you know, I've liked in the academic year, I'm a recreational runner, so I enjoyed going doing 10ks and half marathons and whatnot. And if you've ever done one of those, you know, at the beginning, everybody standing, this shoot, you know, your oldest sort of milling around waiting. And at some point, a gun goes off or a siren sounds or something, and you just take off. And particularly if it's a short course, you run as hard and fast as you can to the finish line. And in many ways, the academic year at CCM is like that. Sometime in late August or early September, somebody shoots a gun off, and people just run like crazy, until you get to late April or mid-May. And then you cross the finish line. And people are, you know, breathing hard and in need of rest and a need of a chance to step aside. And just as we were at that point last year of saying, we need some rest, we need to step aside, it was time to prepare for the COVID year. So we were asking ourselves a lot of questions. First was what's going to serve our students best. We know that students come to CCM, because they want to perform and they want to be part of performances, whether you're behind the camera or doing the sound design or the lighting design. It's all about performance and communication at some level. So we knew that in order to serve our students well, we had to find a way to continue to perform. But we also knew, based upon what we were hearing from Governor DeWine in Ohio, that we were not going to be able to invite audiences back in for performances. We had no box office this year at all. We sold not one ticket our think our faculty and our students have been incredibly ingenious and creative in finding ways to continue to make art and to communicate and to share and to find a way to say here's the way that the year has impacted us. And we're going to find a way to continue to create art no matter what, Brian probably the most important thing we did when we when we understood that we were not going to be able to invite audiences into CCM was to ask ourselves, okay, so how do we stay in touch with audiences, and that led to the creation of CCM Digital, and CCM Digital is a partnership between media production, and our communications and marketing team and all of our performance divisions and performance faculty. We did professional recordings of some performances that are complete with student interviews and and everything that you would expect out of a really professional recording. We disseminated those, you know, some were picked up by the Violin Channel, some were picked up by other arts organizations. A lot of them were broadcast on YouTube premium, but it was a way for us to stay in front of audiences to stay in front of prospective students to connect with alumni, and really to use the power of technology to connect with the CCM community worldwide.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Taking us back a second to your, your former professor Phil Crabtree, we actually got in touch with them and send us a question for you. He says, “As a former faculty member at CCM, I first observed your eagerness in developing your innate conducting skills during your initial studies here that resulted in the master's degree in conducting. Subsequently, you trained as a historian, researcher and writer during your doctoral studies for the PhD, generally considered to be a distinctive different area of activity from performance, your present and previous positions have been in administration, yet a third area of professional activity. Can you share with us how you came to tie all your skills and interests together to achieve your ultimate expression as a professional in the field of music?

Romanstein: That's a really wonderful question. And I have to say it's very Phil Crabtree-like to ask me to ask all of us to consider the ways in which things are related and interconnected. I'd say that I see all three disciplines, conducting, research, musicology and administration as having similar fundamentals. Conducting, for instance, begins with deep studies. Do you understand what the composer is trying to say? What structures and languages and techniques is the composer using? Where does this piece fit in within that broad continuum of choral music? Is this piece part of an existing tradition? Or is it in some way unique? Is it a one of a kind creation? For conductor, that kind of deep, stunning leads to understanding and that sense of understanding then prepares you for communication? How is it that you can share this piece with singers and instrumentalists so that they can benefit from what you've learned from what you understand? And then ultimately, how will you all together, the conductor, the singers, the instrumentalist, how will you all together share this piece with an audience through a live performance recording or some other means, so that they too will understand what you have learned? And from what you've experienced? Both musicologist and administrators like conductors use those same fundamental processes. You start with deep study and thought, do you understand the most important issues? And do you understand the importance of those issues? And then from understanding you move to communication, and if there's one thing that, that an administrators charged with doing, it's communicating with people, with faculty, with students, with donors with other people at the university, but there's probably one additional element, you know, beyond the study and understanding and communication. And this is something that I learned from Phil Crabtree. Ultimately, your goal as a conductor or a music historian or an administrator is the same. You want to communicate with others in ways that move them to action, based upon understanding — that's the key. You're always trying to move people to action.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: So Stanley, you weren't always a dean. You weren't born a dean. So that ’89-‘90 you had that PhD and music history? And what did you do post CCM life you're out in the real world? You know, what did that first job out of college look like?

Romanstein: Right out of CCM. I was very fortunate. I was invited to join the faculty of St. Lawrence University, amazing liberal arts institution, located in northern New York. I was there for nine wonderful and transformative years. And literally, I had the time of my life. I conducted choral ensembles, I taught music history classes, those things that CCM had prepared me to do. And I learned how to talk about music in ways that would resonate with students and faculty from other disciplines — English majors, historians, people in physics, faculty from political science. That's the beauty of teaching within a liberal arts environment that you learn how to talk about what you do, in ways that will resonate with people who don't do what you do.

Mulvaney: You wear all these different hats at CCM, and one of those before you accepted the dean position was teaching. You've taught you know, for years before that, is that still a hat you get to wear at school?

Romanstein: It is Dylan. I've not not yet gotten to do it. But I will be teaching this fall. We have two professors in the Musicology division who are going to be on sabbatical next year, one in the fall and one in the spring. So as we look at the course offerings, Jonathan Kregor, who is the division head for Musicology asked me if I would be interested in teaching, so I'm teaching a graduate seminar on Music in Venice, we're going to look at at five centuries of music either created for or first performed in Venice, Italy. And I would like nothing better than for COVID restrictions to come to an end so that we can all get on a plane at the end of the semester, and go and visit the Venice that we've studied about for the entire term.

Mulvaney: You know, one of my favorite things about college courses is that it's not just like, oh, you're going to learn about music, it's like, you're gonna learn about this thing that is wildly specific. And that, you know, it's, it's, it's so cool. I mean, they actually had a Hamilton course, when I was there. It was like the first year that it was learned the music of Hamilton or something like that. And yeah, I just think it's so awesome. I love that.

Romanstein: Hamilton is still running for us. There's still a lot of interest in the Hamilton course. It enrolls very, very well. And one of the things that we're looking for at CCM, is what's the next Hamilton? You know, what's that next thing that is really going to capture the imagination of the American public because we want to be there before it happens.

Leitten: I actually took inside the Cincinnati Opera class, my senior year, and that's when I fell in love with opera. We had to basically go to four performances over the summer, and then watch a bunch of operas in class if that was the class and I think the whole reason I got into opera and even went to the the New York Met a couple of times was because of that class I took in college.

Romanstein: It was amazing to me, when I first became Dean going around to introduce myself to arts partners in Cincinnati to the opera and the ballet and, and people in all those organizations. And I heard tale after tale you know, oh, we wanted you to meet this person. She was an intern when she was a CCM student, and then left to go do work in this, you know, this place and that place. And we hired her two years ago to come back to Cincinnati. And to join our staff. And you, you begin to understand what an amazing reach CCM has throughout Cincinnati, you can't find any major performing arts organization in Cincinnati that does not benefit from the work of CCM graduates.

Leitten: It's something we're realizing through this podcast is that reach reaches beyond Cincinnati to LA to New York to Chicago, across the world, which is quite interesting. At what point did you transition from that the conducting phase of your life to the administrative phase? Were you still conducting when you join the Atlanta Symphony? Or was that in a more of an administrative position?

Romanstein: I really stopped conducting actively after I left St. Lawrence and went to the Baltimore School for the Arts in Baltimore, Maryland. I still did a little bit of freelance conducting at that point, I did some you know, guest, guest stints but I really I really stopped conducting actively after I left St. Lawrence.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: So I'm just curious as a millennial, Gen Z cusp. You know, there's so many movements happening right now, a lot is happening in society changes shifts? Do you have students coming to you? Do you get to speak to students on about certain issues that have come up? Or is that kind of usually facilitated through conversation with faculty members? Are you open to having conversations with current students about things that are important to them?

Romanstein: So Dylan, I host an open office hour every other week, for CCM students. Students can sign up for 10 minutes, we're almost always filled with a waiting list. Students can they can sign up online for 10 minutes with the Dean. And it's, it's a really important time for me because it lets me hear directly from students. Some students simply want to introduce themselves, they want to say hi, you know, I'm a CCM student, and I want you to know who I am, I want you to know my name, and I want you to know what I do. Some of them want help with a problem. You know, they're encountering something, you know, that they're not exactly sure how to resolve and they come to me to see if I can help. Some of them come with ideas. You know, we've gotten we've gotten some really good, you know, sort of, Hey, you know, would you consider doing X would you try Y? Sometimes it's a, it's a, it's a way to benefit students and to meet them more equitably where they are. But I really enjoy those times with students. In fact, we've actually talked about moving to once a week instead of once every other week, because the demand seems to be pretty high.

Mulvaney: I was kind of giggling right when you started because I pictured somebody coming in and being like, we need Nutter butters in the vending machine instead of Oreos. You know, like, this is something that needs to be taken very seriously. And honestly, I probably would have been that person. Um, but it's so what this podcast really is about breaking down the barrier between, you know, mentor-mentee. I know during my time sometimes in school, I felt scared to talk to someone older, just because I I put them kind of on a pedestal. And so it's it's so awesome to hear you say that and and if you're a student listening, definitely take advantage of that time. If you if you would like to have that with the Dean here.

Leitten: Speaking of speaking of time, time with the dean Dylan, what time is it? What time is it?

Mulvaney: [Sings] If I could turn back time. Stanley, if we could find a way [singing stops]. Okay. We want to know, what is your big epic fail of all time? It doesn't. It could be at CCM. It could be you know, sometime in that between period. And what did you learn from that fail?

Romanstein: So here's what comes to mind. Again, I've talked about my love of choral singing, and that I've done this all my life. And when, when my family and I were living in Minnesota, I sang with with a number of really wonderful organizations for the Dale Warland singers, everybody auditions every year. And I remember going to, to my audition, and the day after the audition, I got a I got a call from the assistant conductor, who said, you know, sorry, but there's no place for you. And I thought, wait a minute what? I've been doing this all my life, how can there be no place for me? And the reality for me at that moment was I was relying on skills and abilities that I had mastered when I was younger, and I simply had not kept up the level of study and the level of preparation that I needed to in order to sing at that level. And I talked to the assistant conductor and, and he said, you know, if you if you want to come and try again, this was early in the summer, he said we are we are doing auditions again in October, if, you know if you're interested in trying, trying again, but you know, no guarantees. And I was, I was really wounded I was you know, so like, you know, but that's who I am. That's, you know, how could they… I immediately went to a voice teacher whom I knew and for whom I had immense respect. And she, you know, she and I worked together for four months, and she basically turned me inside out as an artist, you know, and rebuilt my technique, and worked on fundamental things like, you know, breath and phrasing, and, and everything. And I walked proudly back into the audition cycle again, you know, four months later, I now I'm auditioning with the newbies. I'm auditioning with people who've never sung with Dale. But I swallowed my pride. And I walked back into that audition. And I sang with real confidence. And the assistant conductor, one of the accompanists and even Dale said, Don't know what you've been doing over the past four months. But oh, my goodness, what a difference there is in your voice, in your presence. Whatever you're doing, you should have done it a long time ago. And I'll go back to something that I said earlier, for me, it was an epic fail, because I had not kept up with my own skills with my own technique, with my own ability. And it was a moments, it was a moment for me of realizing that when you get older, as a singer, there's going to come a time when you can't do it at that level anymore. It's just physical reality. You better enjoy the moment that you have to stand on that stage and deliver. Because there will come a time when you're going to have to stop running and just start walking. And you don't want to look back with regret and say, I wish I'd done it differently.

Mulvaney: Well, I'm glad you took those four months, then because it sounds like you then carried that into the rest of your life.

Romanstein: Oh, I did. I did, Dylan. Thank you.

Leitten: I think it's great that you took the initiative. I also think it's great that they allowed you a second chance. Yes. And I think we need to know did you get in after that second?

Romanstein: Yes, I did. I did and continued for several years after that.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: What's the future of CCM like, and how do you pitch the school to prospective students?

Romanstein: There are a couple of things about CCM that have been true for as long as I've known about CCL, it was true when I walked in the door for the first time. It was true when I walked back in the door as Dean. And that is that there is a commitment to excellence and innovation at CCM that you find in very, very few places. And I'll tell you, with all due respect toward my predecessors in the dean's office, it doesn't have much to do with who sits in the dean's office. It's really the students and the faculty who drive that agenda for excellence in innovation. That's a very, very special thing about CCM. And I think frankly, that's the thing that sells CCM. We attract students who want to perform, who want to create at that very, very high level. And they're willing to invest the time and the energy and the sweat in order to make it happen. And I think that that's the thing that we have to continue to communicate to students about CCM and about the CCM experience. I think that those are going to be the pillars of our future. And I think as you look out over the next five to six years for CCM, you're going to see an organization that is not only deeply rooted in the Cincinnati community that we're addressing questions and and, and meeting needs in the Cincinnati community but we're also stretching our wings nationally and internationally. We say quite often CCM is nationally ranked and internationally renowned. And I want that to continue to be true in every aspect of what we do.

Mulvaney: Go bearcats. Thank you, Stanley. This has been so awesome. We are so lucky to have how you on like I said we got the man the myth, the legend today. So we were very lucky.

Romanstein: Well, I hope I've given you something that you can use!

Mulvaney: More than enough.

Leitten: Definitely. Thank you so much for your time.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Who knew how much work went into being a dean?

Mulvaney: Not me and I don't think I would be very good at it. What do you think you could do it?

Leitten: I do think I can do it. I definitely can multitask. I work like crazy, but I would need the background information.

Mulvaney: But what do you do when you've got like 10 different donors wanting something? And then 500 different students wanting another thing, and everyone's in a, you know, lining up at your office? Do you actually think like, that is probably one of the toughest jobs on campus, if not the hardest. I think just trying to consolidate and to keep everyone as happy as possible. That's it's, it must be exhausting.

Leitten: I can't even imagine how many meetings Stanley has, how many people he has to say yes and no to, and just managing a performing arts center. Until someone says it even though we went to school there. I never looked at it as the largest Performing Arts Center in Ohio. But looking at it now you're like, Oh, yeah, that totally makes sense 1000 events per year, wrapping my head around that is difficult.

Mulvaney: Yeah. I also will say like, it is kind of crazy that you can go see like a CCM show. And it's like, I mean, it's over the top beautiful sets and costumes and, and you're only paying like 20 bucks? But that show if you saw in New York would be like $200 or $300. So I almost want to just go to Cincinnati just to see like an amazing show when everything opens back up because I can afford it.

Leitten: Well, looking back at your time at CCM. Is there anything that you would change?

Mulvaney: I think I would explore some other types of classes other than just musical theater. Actually, that's something that I would probably want to talk to someone like Stanley about, or you know, some of my advisors saying, hey, how can we lighten the load of my degree so that I can explore some other stuff, but I actually think since it's only been two years since I've been out, I think that is be something that's actively happening. And that, you know, is obviously being seen in the industry. But how about you?

Leitten: You know what, I've been out of school for a little bit now. And just a little, just a little. A lot of the things that I would have wanted done differently are already being done differently.

Mulvaney: Amen. Yep.

Leitten: I would have liked to work with the acting and the musical theater students more, I would have liked to record performances and edit them together. Those things are happening now. I think they were just kind of ramping up when I graduated. But the partnership between the different departments I think is something that I would have liked to explore more. I did take a make-up class, I did take a dance class and a guitar class. And I would have loved the opportunity I think to take those a little further.

Mulvaney: Well, in our next lives, you know, maybe we'll be at CCM at the same time and, and we'll be an intermediate guitar together.

Leitten: That could be fun.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: On next week's episode, we are talking with Randa Minkarah, president COO and co-founder of Resonance AI.

Randa Minkarah: I thought I knew how to run a business. I had no idea when you're starting from the ground up, it may seem like a good idea to do something on your own. It rarely is because it's really, really hard to do. You have to raise money, you've got to come up with a concept you got to convince very talented people to work for you for some equity instead of all just cash. It's really, really complicated and you need help and you need people that you can completely trust.

Mulvaney: In our show notes. You can check out bonus video content from all of our interviews.

Leitten: I think we should keep the conversation going. So make sure to join us on social media, school stage screen one word on Instagram and Facebook and school stage pod on twitter. CCM’s mm and DMA choral conducting programs are internationally recognized for more than 50 years of excellence in training conductors for successful lifelong careers. CCM is also the official home of the Dale Warland singers archive, which contains one of the largest collections of contemporary choral works in the country. CCM’s MM and PhD programs and Musicology offers a unique opportunity to pursue an academic discipline and a performance oriented school. The program features biennial graduate student conferences, an in-house and student-run journal, residencies by leading composers and a robust lecture series featuring distinguished guest speakers. It's also closely tied to UC’s Albino Gorno Memorial Music Library, which boasts more than 200,000 volumes of books and journals, scores, audio and video recordings, and microforms. Learn more@ccm.uc.edu. Until next time!

Mulvaney: See ya!

Leitten: Thanks for listening. Our show is produced by Robin Hopkins and edited by Blake Hawk. Our associate producer is Shannon St. George and our assistant editor is Matt Harris. Our music is composed by Ryan Fine, check out his link in the show notes. A big thanks to Kevin Burke, Becky Butts, Stanley Romanstein, Mikki Graff, Curt Whitacre and Melissa Neeley-Nicolini. This has been a Hyperion XIII production.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music]

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Hyperion XIII production.

Check out bonus video content with all of our guests on YouTube.

Get tickets to May Festival 2021

Instagram: @schoolstagescreen

Facebook: @schoolstagescreen

Twitter: @schoolstagepod

Brian on Instagram: @bleittz_delightz

Dylan on Instagram: @dylanmulvaney | TikTok: @dylanjamesmulvaney

Edited by Blake Hawk, Throughline Media

Song by Ryan Fine (BFA Commercial Music Production, '17)

Show art by Graff Designs

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/HGiTPSi317o?rel=0

Brian J Leitten (BFA E-Media, '02) and Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, '19) give you a sneak peek at Episode 6 of the "School, Stage & Screen" podcast, featuring CCM Dean Stanley Romanstein. What’s it like to juggle donors, students, faculty, state-of-the-art performance facilities, raising a family, and a pandemic all in the same year? Romanstein shares how he navigates the pressures of day to day life in such an important job title.


Episode 6: "College DJ to Big Time Music VP" (May 10, 2021)

How does one rise through the ranks of the music industry? Jordan Glickson (BFA E-Media, ‘02) shares how working at a Guitar Center and not being afraid to network helped him land his current role as the VP of Music and Talent at VEVO.

Jordan Glickson: The job interview I flew to New York for when I was living in Cincinnati, I tanked that interview. I had allowed someone to get in my head before the interview about how difficult it would be to live and work in New York at an entry level position to the point where I asked about money multiple times in an introductory interview.

Brian Leitten: Did you get this job?

Glickson: No.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Brian J. Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. This season's guests are all loans from the University of Cincinnati's college Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school.

Leitten: Today we're talking with the Vice President of music and talent at VEVO, Jordan Glickson.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

Leitten: Dylan, I know you've been in Los Angeles for about a month now, have you had anyone approached you about working for free? About acting in a film or digital short, and not wanting to pay you for your time?

Mulvaney: I think any performers listening will know that a huge part of what we do is working for free, at least to begin with in the younger years. And I would love to act for free, I'm super down to do that. There's some awesome student films that happen here in LA, you know, you've got USC, UCLA, and I'm super down for that. My issue is with some of these larger brands actually like through using my social media, and them trying to get me to promote for them for free, which I think is kind of lame when you've got these really large, you know, organizations that have a lot of money. And they're kind of trying to swindle the little guy. But I don't know, have you? Have you done any internships or worked for free, I assume that now you're, you know, in your career, you don't have to do much of that anymore?

Leitten: Every once in a while I work for free. But it has to be something that furthers my experience. I'm about to produce a short film for a friend of mine. And that's not paid. But I've always wanted to produce narrative. So I'm willing to do that, you know, three or four day shoot for free. Because in the end, I will have an example of my ability to produce narrative, which I don't have right now. So I'm very specific with what I'll work on for free. But yes, I did do internships when I was in college, and those were for free. And I think they're a great tool to learn the business. And then on the flip side, they're a great tool if you're in the business, looking for the next generation of who's going to come in and work in your office or your production.

Mulvaney: The only internship that I ever applied for there's, there's very few like acting type internships, I feel. But I applied for a casting company, their summer internship in New York. And I did not get it because I feel like they kind of saw through that I was meant to be a performer and that my heart really wasn't in casting. But in my mind, I thought taking that internship would be a great way to kind of see what was really going on. But looking back, I think that they made the right choice by not choosing me. So I, no Bad Blood there.

Leitten: Having been an intern manager at MTV, at VEVO, and even overseeing entry level positions on some of the television production as I worked on 100%, I could always root out the person that wanted to be talent over production. And having friends at the record labels, they dealt with it way more than I did, we would have so many students that were actually performers that would want to leg up by interning in a record label or at MTV. And really, they just wanted to be a rapper or on camera talent. And you can tell pretty quickly, when that was the situation. And from a manager perspective, you don't want that. You want someone who when the internship is over, if it's a good working relationship, you might be able to hire them right away. And if all you're doing is hiring people that don't really want to be there, you're never gonna really be able to grow your team.

Mulvaney: In their defense. I think it's so difficult to make connections with people in the industry that as a performer or as the talent, you're looking for any way to meet these, you know, higher ups. So I think that there needs to be a better system of connecting developing talent to some of these more important people.

Leitten: The good thing with CCM is, especially with your major as Musical Theatre, you had the opportunity to meet some of those people, when you did your showcase in New York, how has the rest of your class fared when it comes to post graduation?

Mulvaney: I think everyone is doing pretty well, we still have a group chat from you know, we graduated two years ago, there is still a Facebook group chat. But everyone sort of found their little niche. So of course, there's still some friend groups from within the class living in New York, but you know, other people have gone on to, especially post-pandemic, are now living in different cities around America, trying new jobs, getting salaried positions outside of theatre, which is so cool, and they are very happy doing that. But it is fun that we will always have that shared connection of going through those four years together. And do you do you speak with anyone still in your class? Like I think, you know, our, our guest today, right? Is that correct?

Leitten: Yes. Our guest today is my best friend.

Mulvaney: Okay.

Leitten: We actually weren't friends in college. We had classes together and we knew each other, but we didn't hang out. There are a couple of grads from my timeframe that I still talked to. One of the great things about this podcast is I've reconnected with a couple others, and hopefully we'll be able to work together in the future. But the good thing about school is it's your first opportunity to really network and build a solid foundation of people that you like to work with, and that hopefully you can work with in the future.

Mulvaney: Amen.

Leitten: Today's guest Jordan Glickson is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music’s Electronic Media program, now known as Media Production. And I think he'll have some really amazing insights into the record label industry. We are very excited to have you here today.

[Hip Hop music]

Glickson: I'm excited to be here. Always excited to see Brian.

Mulvaney: You guys are kind of besties right?

Glickson: Kind of as an understatement. Yeah, yes.

Mulvaney: Okay, so you’re actual BFFs.

Glickson: Brian was the best man in my wedding.

Mulvaney: Oh, okay. We're definitely gonna need to get to that.

Glickson: He was also the last person I lived with before my wife.

Mulvaney: Oh, that's beautiful.

Leitten: Jordan, I have known each other for at least 20 years, we went to college together. We came up in the business together. We were roommates.

Glickson: My son calls him Uncle Brian.

Mulvaney: So for those of us who don't know, Jordan, as well, as Brian might know him. What are your pronouns and give us a little rundown of you as a person.

Glickson: My pronouns are he him. I grew up just outside of Chicago before going to school in Cincinnati, then moved to New York to work in the music business. I currently am the VP of music and talent at vivo, where I've been for about nine and a half years, I live in a suburb of New Jersey, a suburb about 45 minutes outside Manhattan, with my wife, two kids, and a dog, and sometimes Brian, and I spend most of my time in this garage, either working out or working, because this has become my home office as well.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: So we're gonna take a little trip down memory lane, you're a CCM graduate, as both of us are. And we want to know, why did you choose to attend the University of Cincinnati?

Glickson: I like to think the University of Cincinnati chose me. I knew I wanted to go into or thought I wanted to go into audio production working in a music studio producing records all day every day. But I don't play any instruments I'm not musically inclined. And what I found during my college hunt was most music production majors throughout the country require you to audition with an instrument, which really limited my options. And there was a college fair near O'Hare Airport when I was a junior in high school and my parents and I went, as we walked by, I saw the University of Cincinnati table and I was always a basketball fan of UC.

Leitten: They had a great basketball team when we were in college.

Glickson: Yes, we were a basketball school before we were a football school. We were the exact opposite of what we are what we are now. But I literally stopped at this table just because I have always been a fan on the basketball team.

Mulvaney: Okay, there's the real answer. That's why you went to UC.

Glickson: I loved the shorts. The school was sponsored by Jordan Brand, which is a big deal to me, not because of the name Jordan, but because of my obsession with Michael Jordan.

Mulvaney: I have a confession. I have no idea what team he's on. Is he on a team?

Glickson: I'm walking away. No.

Mulvaney: There's that's the balance of of have me and Brian is as I'll take care of the, I don't know this, we're sort of more whimsical things and take care of maybe the more masculine things.

Glickson: Michael Jordan hasn't played professionally in 20 years, but he is the greatest of all time.

Mulvaney: Oh, Okay.

Glickson: But Cincinnati is about five hours from Chicago. So not a bad drive. My parents and I took a drive there for the weekend looked around, and it ended up being the right fit.

Leitten: When you finally got to Cincinnati. What was that that first week that first month of school like for you?

Glickson: I was so excited to start classes, because where as a lot of people go to school, they're like, Oh, I gotta take my accounting class, and this and that. And, you know, they're sort of just trying to get through the end of college. I was in college for a specific reason, I knew what I wanted to do. I knew I, you know, I couldn't wait. And I knew it wasn't gonna happen on day one. But I couldn't wait to get my hands-on equipment and learn how to use the stuff and create things. You know, I thought one of the things that was in hindsight, great about the program was these introductory classes that taught you about all the different parts of the program, to see what it is you really want to do. Because you may come in thinking you want to do one thing, and realize maybe your passion lies somewhere else. And also realizing how interconnected all the different parts of production are from the journalism side to video production to audio production. You know, as we were joking, as we set up for this call, understanding what the shapes on a microphone mean, you know, the pickup patterns and what they're called, and things like that, you know, those are weird little weird things that don't play into my day to day job now, but I still remember

Leitten: I came into the Media Production major in my sophomore year, I was undecided my freshman year. So you and I basically had all our classes together, right? We started in like a temporary building that's actually still there. And then I must have been your sophomore year, my junior year is when classes really like migrated down to this insanely beautiful, amazing building to learn in, and Dylan you can speak to it as well about the classrooms, the theaters,

Mulvaney: Gh, they're they're lit now. We got it all. I was just curious, like, how big of a class did you have an E-Media. I know, it's so cool to be surrounded with, you know, people that are passionate about what you're doing, especially pursuing it professionally.

Glickson: People ended up on different paths, right. So like Brian and I were in a lot of classes together. And we were on, you know, essentially sort of the same schedule. But he was a lot more video production focused, I was a lot more audio production focused. So there were elective classes, the more advanced classes that he would have taken more on the video side, I would have taken more on the audio side because we, we viewed our careers going different ways.

Leitten: I think I was involved with Bearcast the college radio station that was started while we were in school, you really like hit that pretty hard and became a large part of that inaugural year with with Bearcast, right,

Glickson: As great as the entire program was Bearcast is really what, what defined my time there and is what was most integral and in my career path. You know, as I said, I went in thinking I wanted to do audio production working in a music studio. You know, growing up, I had a lot of posters on my wall, but I had one of Dr. Dre, but not like in a studio. Like he had all his Platinum records behind him. And I was like, that's what I want to be, I want to produce all these Platinum records, right. But once I got to college, and then Bearcast started, which at the time was Bearcast radio now I now I know it's Bearcast media because it's expanded on what it's doing. But I think it was my freshman year, maybe beginning of my sophomore year, there was this open house that was like we're gonna launch us college radio station, you see hasn't had one in years since we gave our signal to the classical station in town. It didn't have a name yet. We didn't know when it was going to launch. We knew it was going to be on campus cable which I don't know if that's still a thing. But basically you would listen to the radio either on your computer which was very advanced at the time, or through your cable in your dorm room.

Mulvaney: What was your title for the the radio station that you guys were creating? What, What was your job?

Glickson: I think unofficially, I started as the music director being responsible for getting music to the station, which we were brand new station. No one had any idea how to do that, like I didn't have anyone had showing me how I was going on websites and finding any email I could you know, info at DEF jam.com or whatever and shooting off an email and hoping someone to respond. And I remember I emailed one guy. His name's Moose, actually Reverend Moose, and I'm not sure if he's still in the game or not. But he worked for an independent promotion company, labels and artists would hire him to reach out to college labels. And he was the first one that really engaged me and was like, let me help you get on the mailing list. Then the music started coming in. And so I became the music director and sort of just continued that, you know, I had a show on Thursday nights I when I wasn't in class. work I was in the Bearcast office, I you know, I spent just a ton of time there. I was rarely ever in my apartment. That was how I ended up getting my first internship in New York was because a relationship I made with a, you know, promotion person at a record label,

Mulvaney: I just want to know, did you have a DJ name?

Glickson: I did, I went by DJ Lucky, which sort of morphed at one point into Lucky One, just sort and sort of dropped the DJ part. But I have friends from college that if I talk to them, still call me Lucky. And don't call me Jordan.

[Hip Hop Music]

Leitten: Jordan, we have a question from Associate Professor John Owens, who's also the faculty advisor for Bearcast.

John Owens: You've worked with companies connected to the music industry ever since you left us see what are the biggest changes you've witnessed in the field over the years?

Glickson: One that jumps to mind that I think is important to this audience is or to the CCM students is internships don't really exist in our field anymore, which is heartbreaking to me because as you can tell from my story, and Brian story, no internship, no job. There's been this move in the in the entertainment industry as a whole over the last, I don't know, 10 years or so, to sort of move away from internships because there's reasons why you can't do unpaid internships and stuff anymore. And we should have at least two interns per semester, I've been at VEVO nine years, that's 20 spots. That's how you can meet aspiring employees, and it's a chance for them to prove themselves an interview in a resume only tell you so much. An internship was a great three to six month period to show someone how well you work, how hard you work, how well you learn. There are a couple people that work at VEVO. Now that started as interns and it kills me, especially when we talk about a very popular topic. Now how do you get more diverse in the workplace? Having people come in as interns, to me was always the best way to say like, is that someone I want, want to work for me or not?

Leitten: How did your work with Bearcast lead you to your first internship?

Glickson: We sort of have to focus as a bear cast one was we want to really shine a spotlight on local music. Cincinnati is an amazing music community. But also as a new station, when these labels were sending us music, they were expecting us to play it. And we were new and trying to build these relationships. So we wanted to support that as well. And there happened to be a band signed to a major label Virgin Records, which is now part of Capitol music group that was from Cincinnati, they were called Moth. And so it was sort of best of both worlds. There's this major label act, but there were a local band. And so we just played the hell out of it. It was like college radio was their focus. Every time I turned in our charts to college music journal to see MJ it was number one for like weeks in a row. And so the promotions person at the label, you know, reaching out to me saying thanks, hey, well, you know, anything I could ever do, let me know. And he's probably thinking, like, Oh, this guy's gonna ask for a sweatshirt, or someone has something like that. My response was like, you know, actually, I'm looking for an internship in New York this summer. And he said, Well, I'm looking for interns, you want to fly out here and meet about it, that led to my internship in New York. You know, the funny thing is, I still keep in touch with him. And it's not even necessarily because he was my intern boss that sort of adds on to it. But yeah, I mean, that networking at Bearcast, you know, built that relationship. And, and luckily, you know, again, it was one random phone call. And luckily, I sort of, if I'm allowed to say this on here had the balls to say like, Yeah, what I'm looking for is an internship.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Walk us through graduation, and then what your first job was out of college, because I think it's really interesting how you how you came back to New York after your initial internship.

Mulvaney: So at the end of my internship, someone that I worked for, not my main boss, but one of the other guys, you know, saying goodbye, thanks, whatever. Where are you off to? I'm like, back to University of Cincinnati. And he says, oh, Cincinnati, one of our biggest clients, one of our independent promotion companies we work with is in Cincinnati, let me connect you. Amazing, right. This, you know how serendipitous. So I go back, finished my last, you know, three months. Meanwhile, working at Guitar Center, which was my, you know, part time job through college. And actually remember the day I got offered a promotion at Guitar Center that I didn't want because I didn't want that as my career. I walk out of work to a voicemail from someone from this promotion company saying, Hey, I got your name from so and so we have an opening do you want to interview for it, which also became the second time that I showed up to a job interview in a suit and got mocked for it by the people that work there. So I get the job. ecstatic. I had never been so nervous in my life. Because I was like, if I don't get this job, this is literally the only place I can see myself working in Cincinnati. The day before my job starts. The owner of the company again, small seven-person company calls me he says I gotta tell you something, our contract is not getting renewed. I understand. If you don't want to come work here. You know, we're probably going to only be open a few more months and I was like, What else am I going to do three months, four months here is better than four months at Guitar Center. So I went to work for there went there as his assistant. Most of the time, while the work continued, everyone there was also trying to figure out what they were going to do after. I'm here like trying to learn and all these people are just sort of getting ready to move on. And so three, four months down the road, the company sort of shuts down, I'm there kind of part time back at Guitar Center, part time, I tried to use my networking to get a job in New York, I actually flew out there once for, for an interview. But what I realized was, it is really hard to get hired in New York, if you don't live in New York, you could sit there in the interview and say, I will move here tomorrow if you give me this job. But there's 100 people interviewing for that job. So unless you are that much better, they're going to hire the person that's local, especially as as an assistant, you got to make dinner reservations and get directions and you have to know the city. And so if it's me versus Brian, and they think we're equally capable of doing the job, but Brian knows New York already, and I don't, I'm not getting that job. So after a few months, I was like, I've got to move to New York, how am I gonna do this? But they opened a Guitar Center in Manhattan. And so I went, Okay, I got to transfer out there. At least that way. I moved to New York with some kind of paycheck. It's not what I want, right? But it's something I'm not moving there and hitting the ground day one and going, you know, where am I going to work? Now, working at Guitar Center in New York is a lot different than working at Guitar Center in Cincinnati. There's famous people coming in on a regular basis. John Mayer actually came in to buy DJ equipment. Dan Marino, the NFL Hall of Famer, I sold him DJ equipment for his son. One day, a guy comes in, and he's like, hey, I need to pick this up. And he hands me like a piece of paper. And it's some DJ equipment, which was my expertise. And so I tried to sell them something else. I was like, actually, you know, those are cool, right? But you should get this instead. He was like, No, look, these are these are for DJ Quick. DJ Quick for anyone that doesn't know is a legendary West Coast hip hop producer from the late ‘80s, early ‘90s. If you know the rapper, The Game, he he worked with the game. He was the games DJ when the game was first coming up working with 50 Cent. So this guy is like, Look, it's for DJ quick. I just want to get him what he wants, I have to get to BET, you know, because he needs these right now. And so he says all this, I'm like, Oh, are you like his manager? Somebody says no, I worked for I worked for the record label. I work for Interscope Records. That's really when I was like, okay, alarms going off, right? Like, hold on. And so I start telling the guy like, Oh, I, you know, I, I just gotta tell you, I, this is not what I came here to do. I used to intern at Virgin Records. I, I just moved here from Cincinnati, where I worked for so and so and so and so. But I was like, Look, this isn't really what I want to do. Like, can I send you my resume and he gives me his business card. And so I followed up with him. And about once a month, I'd send him an email, send him an email. And a couple months later, I sort of had this epiphany. I was working too much at Guitar Center to really pursue what I want to do. I wasn't always available for an interview if someone called me and I would get home from work and just be too tired to really look for jobs like the kind of job sites that I exist now weren't as readily available. I'd saved up some money from Guitar Center and I quit with no job. On Valentine's Day my phone rings and it was this guy. His name's Herve is like Jordan, Herve Romain, how you doing? I was like, good. How you doing? It's like seven o'clock on on Valentine's Day. I mean, it's like, what's this dude calling me right now for like, sort of an awkward call out of out of nowhere. And he's like, my systems quitting. You want to meet for a drink? And I was like, okay, and I walk in and we sit down and we talk and, you know, he's like, what do you want to do with your life, career and blah, blah, all this and he was like, cool. I'm gonna set you up with an interview with my boss don't wear a suit. This is where I learned that he was the one that said before I even worse, he was the before I even asked he was the one that said, we got in the music business. So we can make money without wearing suits, without dressing up. And I was like, Okay, good to know. So he gives me some tips. I'm meeting with the other boss, David. I have that interview. And I get a call on Friday that I got the job. And they want me to start on Monday. Yeah, which is not normally, you know, normally you have to give two weeks notice. I wasn't working at the time. So that worked out. And my first job was at Interscope Records in the video promotion department. My like, first week at my new job, the person that was leaving, whose job I was taking was like, coaching me through, like transitioning me. And so he was like, taking me through and he was calling people to introduce me and he was like, yeah, and then if you need this at MTV, you call this guy, Brian Leitten. And I was like, Wait, what? I was like Brian Leittenn. I was like, I know Brian, I went to college with no idea where Brian was working, or that my new job was going to interact with them. But like here, I was on like, day three of my new job and the person that you know, I was replacing was like, yeah, if you need this thing at MTV, you call Brian.

Leitten: And they, they called me in that moment. They called me and I'm like, I'm getting teary eyed with the with memories. But I remember that call. I remember being like, yo, it's Jordan Glickson. And that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Glickson: Yeah, a lot of interesting things. My first week, one of them was that it coincided with MTV spring break, which was a big deal, especially my department. So like day four, day five, both of my bosses go to Cancun, with some of our biggest artists like 50 Cent, literally first day, not even first week, first day 50 Cent and The Game have a falling out. And not just any falling out a historic legendary falling out, that results in shots being fired from one camp to the other. In New York, it's like the biggest news in in music, all the radio stations talking about everything. That was my first day at Interscope. I mean, there were days those first couple of weeks where I was like, I'm not gonna make it, there's no chance these guys are gonna let me keep the job.

Mulvaney: Was it a moment that you sort of felt like this first week at Interscope? Do you feel like you had to fake it till you made it sort of situation?

Glickson: Oh, for sure. I had major imposter syndrome. I was like, I don't know if I belong here. But I'm here and so I just I got to figure I got I got a sink or swim.

Mulvaney: And like use the interns as flotation devices.

Glickson: Oh, yeah. I mean, you know, look, one of these interns, or both of them very easily could have had my job if they weren't still in school.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: So you're at Interscope at this point. Who were your mentors? Who were you working under during this time? Who was kind of facilitating your position?

Glickson: So we were the video promotion team. There were three of us Herve, who was the one that I met at Guitar Center, was the director, I guess you would say, and David who ran the department was vice president or head of or whatever, and they both acted as mentors to me. They could not have been more different and they worked together forever. They were like the ultimate tag team, but they could not have been more different. Herve: single guy loves to go out and party, very emotional in terms of like, very high highs. But then when he got angry, it was yelling. He would take CDs off my desk and snap them

Mulvaney: He was the drama queen.

Glickson: Yes. David was the family man. Very even-keeled wanted you know end of the workday was going home to be with his family. If I made a mistake, which happened Herve yelled a lot. And if something wasn't getting done, and I wasn't then yelling at someone else, he was mad that I wasn't yelling, because that's how he got things done. And what I found was that when he yelled at me, I wasn't mad at myself for getting something wrong. I was mad at him for being disproportionally mad at me. David, on the other hand, was like, like the disappointing father. If I made a mistake, having to walk into David's office to go in there and have to say, I made a mistake, or I forgot, or if he called me on sub come in here, but he didn't yell. And it was so much worse.

Mulvaney: That that feeling of someone saying, I'm just very disappointed with you is like, it's like, oh, stab in the heart.

Leitten: Jordan, tell me what you learned from David and Herve and how that influence to the boss or the leader that you are and how you deal with the people that work for you now?

Glickson: It definitely influenced me because from my personal feelings, I didn't find the yelling effective. I don't think I could tell you a time that I've yelled at someone that worked for me, because that sounds a little bit like I'm talking negatively about Herve, but I just didn't agree with that style. I spent a lot more time with Herve. So I learned a ton from him. In terms of the people in the business. He was the one that he would because he loved to socialize again. David is more like how I am now in terms of family man workday is over let me rush home to be with my family. I can do work at home if I have to if something urgent comes up but I want to get home to my family. Herve was interested in that. So he would spend half his workday socializing and then at like six o'clock we like oh, I gotta do work and sit down. And there would be nights I want to leave. And he'd be like, no, I need you to sit in my office because you sitting here helps me focus. And so I would be sitting there for like two hours, just while he answered emails. But it was in those moments that he would educate me about the business. I would learn things about our artists and our process. And he really taught me a lot more about the people side of it. As much as I talked about the yelling. He was like the friendliest, most fun guy in the world. He was the one that everyone wanted to hang out with.

Mulvaney: Right. So you wanted to have aspects of both Herve and David in to what you're doing now.

Glickson: Yes.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: I know you worked for Atlantic Records for a while, after Interscope and then you moved on to Epic Records as well. But I want to skip ahead to where you are now. Tell me what your first role was at VEVO.

Glickson: Manager of Music Programming. So technically, it was a step back title and career wise. But it was a company that had had a much higher upside.

Mulvaney: Well, seeing now where you're at then obviously,

Glickson: Yeah, I mean, I wasn't making any more money than I made at my previous job. But I got hired I started two weeks before my wedding.

Mulvaney: Jordan, will you tell us a little bit about VEVO and what their specific purpose is in the music industry.

Glickson: VEVO was co-founded by Universal Music and Sony Music to really bring better monetization to music videos. For people my age, Brian's age, and a little bit older, music videos, you know, when they first came out in the ‘80s, and ‘90s, on MTV, you watched a music video and it made you go buy an album. You'd go spend $15 on a CD, because of one video, you saw, it was a pretty good investment for the record labels. People stopped buying records, but didn't stop watching music videos, people started uploading them to YouTube, even you know, recording them off MTV, uploading them to YouTube, and the labels weren't making any money off them. And people weren't buying records because of a music video, they would just watch the music video over and over. The idea became, instead of making the music video the promotional tool to get someone to buy the album, why isn't the music video the monetized product? If someone's gonna watch a video 1000 times, we could sell that to an advertiser, and the advertiser will pay a premium to be in front of these big official music videos. And then that money will flow back to the artists and the labels. And so VEVO was created to maximize how much revenue music videos can create, but also how much they can be promoted. We have an entire network. We can help use our you know, the established superstars to introduce people to new and emerging artists, we can use an artist catalog to let people know about other content that they created, whether it's a new music video, or performances we've shot or things like that, like when Brian worked at VEVO he worked on the side that created original content. So labels delivered us official music videos, but we would also shoot interviews and performances. We have different series for different levels of artists and different types of artists, we have a program called Discover that has introduced artists like Billie Eilish and Sam Smith and Jeezy, we have a hip hop performance series called control. So we can also shoot content for the artists that helps promote them and also generates revenue for them.

Mulvaney: So between your work at the different record labels in VEVO, what would you consider your biggest break?

Glickson: I mean, Interscope was a big break. And then VEVO was the second break, you started in a lower level position.

Mulvaney: Now you are the Vice President,

Glickson: One of many, but yes.

Mulvaney: And so was that a pretty linear sort of did you have anything in between from that, that that shorter position to now this higher up?

Glickson: Yeah, I mean, I've had a few steps along the way. But it's been pretty linear. You know, I was manager music programming than I did music, programming and label relations at the same time, where I was also responsible for managing several accounts. There, you know, there's a few people on that team. And we each have different labels that were like the go to person. My boss, who oversaw that team got promoted. And so then I oversaw all of the labor relations team. So I had, you know, three or four people working for me. And I've been very lucky that I have a boss who has continued to move up, he got promoted to run a bigger team. So I stepped into his shoes.

Leitten: Tell us about your current role at VEVO and what you're responsible for, from an industry perspective and also as a as a manager.

Glickson: So I'm Vice President music and talent right now. And I oversee the team that handles basically all of North America, Latin America, South America, plus Australia, New Zealand, which is a relatively new partnership for us. And the teams under music and talent include labor relations, which is a group of people who are account managers for different record labels. They each have different record labels they're responsible for, as well as artist outreach for artists that maybe aren't signed to a record label, a talent team, they are the ones responsible for booking artists for our original content opportunities. And then ushering that entire process from the pitch to the artist all the way through the shoot. Our music programming team, which programs how people see all of the content that we have, which it could be on YouTube, but also we have channels and VOD apps on Samsung TV, Pluto TV, Roku, Apple, Amazon. We have an editorial and marketing team, so they write all the creative copy. They handle all of our social posts and our and our marketing campaigns on and off YouTube. And then one of the newer teams is a growth and optimization team and what this team has and this is really a forward thinking, you know, new addition to the team is a team that's focused on studying trends and algorithms across YouTube, primarily YouTube, but not but across the entire industry, giving both into us and our partners recommendations on how to best take advantage of those algorithms. What, what should your thumbnail look like on YouTube? How should you title your video on YouTube? What are your description look like? How often should you upload content? These are the kinds of things that people don't realize can have a major effect on the success of their content. It's not just about putting up the coolest video, for instance, a lot of people will put it up, a lot artists will put up a video and then not put up any other content for three, four or five months, which used to work back in the day. But isn't how the algorithm and how fans consume content now, so that team’s responsible for for educating internally and externally.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Okay, as someone who is not in the music industry, I want to know a tidbit or a secret that you have figured out from all your experience working in music.

Glickson: I think it's important to know that there isn't like one major or, or career path that gets you here, right? When you look at the people I work with, and the majors they, they had or the colleges they went to, you know, you have people that maybe went to like community college or local college, no one's heard of to, I've worked with people that went to brown and Harvard and places like that. There's not a major that gets you into the music business there. And don't get me wrong. There are universities that have music business classes, and there are things you do need to understand, you need to understand how publishing works and royalty rates work, not because you're going to, you know, fail at your job if you don't, but there's going to be conversations that come up where having that well rounded base of information, helps you have that conversation. It's about getting your foot in the door and showing you're passionate. And it's really about that first step, whatever that is, you know, Brian got an internship at MTV. For me, it was Bearcast that led to that they internship at Virgin, it could be any of those things I and it's a little bit about being almost like arrogantly naive, like, I always thought that my because the people I grew up around, were interested in the same things I was, when I got to UC, I was like, Oh, I'm so far ahead of the game like no one's you know, done this stuff I did. And then quickly, I realized that wasn't true. But because I believed it. I wasn't scared to raise my hand and say I should be the music director of Bearcast I have no frickin experience, right? But I'm too arrogantly naive to, to not raise my hand.

Leitten: What's something that you learned that you would only know, because you were working in the industry?

Glickson: Learning how important networking and knowing your audience and knowing the room is..

Leitten: That's got to be true Dylan for you, when you're going on casting calls,

Mulvaney: Yeah, and you got to sell yourself. And I do totally agree you, you have to read the room. So you know, a casting director might not want you to come in costume, because that's a lot. But you know, putting a few things on that kind of puts you in the environment. And I think it's the same thing with networking to some casting directors don't want you to be sending email after email saying thank you for, you know, bringing me in or what I got kind of Jordan from you with that that first internship is like, don't be afraid to ask. And also, don't be afraid to follow up. But also do it in a way that's respectful and mindful of a person who's higher up than you time.

Glickson: I think one of the things that's really important for people to understand is putting yourself in the shoes of the person you want something from, and thinking about how they're going to receive it. And a really good example of this, in my line of work, me and my team, we get unsolicited emails all the time, right, which is fine. If you go to LinkedIn and search, VEVO programming, a bunch of our names come up and with a little bit of work, you can figure out what our email addresses are. They're not rocket science. But if you send me an email, and I've never met you, and you don't at least give me some kind of intro, like, if you just found me from Googling, tell me that. I want to be on VEVO. I googled your name came up great. If Brian give you my email, great. Tell me Brian gave me your email. I don't care if you went on LinkedIn and just and searched me, open with that. Whether you want me to listen to your music, or you want me to look at your resume.

Mulvaney: That's really good advice.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: How quickly do you trends and technology change when it comes to the music industry?

Glickson: When I started working at Interscope, as I said, you want to get your videos on MTV. That was the biggest thing. MTV barely plays videos anymore. They have ways to integrate music and they they do a good job of it, but it's not traditional music video blocks. Artists aren't making music videos for MTV or BET, videos are on YouTube now. People can watch them anytime they want, which means they're being watched more than ever. artists have more Freedom with the content, they can say what they want, they can show what they want and look at a CardiB video, for example. You know, some like that, like, I don't even know how that would ever air, network television. And even from when I when I started VEVO, you couldn't watch a video on your iPhone yet, you could pretty soon after I started but, you know. Think about that now, like an artist sends a tweet or post something on Instagram or you get a text from a friend or whatever. And you can watch a video a second it drops artists are doing 20, 30, 40, 50 million views in a day of their music video. I remember years ago, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj, two of the biggest artists on the planet collaborated and their video to 10 million views in a day. And I remember going there's no way anyone's ever going to beat that record. It did 10.4 million views in a day. How's anyone ever going to do more views than that? And between internet speeds, yeah, yeah. handheld devices and accessibility. Kids are watching music videos as they walk between classes. Yeah, you know, BTS has done however many millions of views. You know, Taylor Swift has done however many millions of views in a day

Leitten: What’s the current record for who is it and how many million views in a day?

Glickson: The VEVO record is Taylor Swift's “Me” with Brendon Urie from Panic, Panic At The Disco, I will have to get back to you with the exact number. I don't remember it off top my head. I should.

Leitten: Are we talking 50 million, 75 million?

Glickson: It's like, yeah, like 69 or something in that area.

Leitten: Dylan, quick question. Do you have a watch on? You wearing a watch? Do you know what time it is? Oh, okay, what time is it?

Mulvaney: Oh, ok. [Sings] If I could turn back time.

Leitten: We do a little segment called turn back time. And it really focuses on a massive failure that you remember from your past and what you learn from it and how you move past it.

Glickson: I don't know if it's because of everything else we've been talking about. But the first one that comes to mind is the job interview. I flew to New York for when I was living in Cincinnati. I tanked that interview. I was so not, not only nervous, which is not surprising, but I had allowed someone to get in my head before the interview about how difficult it would be to live and work in New York in an entry level position to the point where I asked about money multiple times in an introductory interview for an internship. Uh, no, no, it was for an actual job. But, but like, first interview, I hadn't been called back I hadn't they hadn't expressed any interest. But multiple times, I was like, try, ask for clarity on what the pay was and how the pay structure worked.

Leitten: Did you get this job?

Glickson: No. Which I mean, in that way, it ended up being a good thing, because everything would have changed. You know. And I think the other other thing that was a massive failure was, you know, when I got let go from Epic, the writing was sort of on the wall for a while. The company wasn't doing well, the industry, the industry wasn't doing well. And our company was doing particularly poorly. In a poor industry. We hadn't had a hit in a while, like, I was going into work, like we have no good music, and I didn't prepare myself. And it sounds cliché, like I'm trying to make it a lesson. I don't mean to make it a lesson. When I got let go. I had months where I could have been preparing for to either get out before they let me go or for what was next. And instead, I sort of just coasted and sort of just hoped things would work out. And then you know, like I said a couple days before my 30th birthday, on the verge of trying getting ready to propose. I get like I get let go. I'm unemployed. And I was not prepared at all.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Oh, my gosh, we are so happy to have had you. Thank you, Jordan

Glickson: No. This was great. Thank you guys.

Leitten: Yes, thank you for giving us your time. I think you have a lot of valuable insight to share with our audience.

Mulvaney: I almost want you to create us like us playlist.

Leitten: If you want to create a playlist we can link to that playlist in our show notes. And we can get the Jordan Glickson like hip hop knowledge and then like maybe a current playlist of of the artists do you think we should know.

Glickson: What I will say is I think the greatest song ever created is “93 ‘til infinity” by Souls of Mischief.

Mulvaney: Never heard it. I'm going to do that after this podcast.

Glickson: The greatest artist is Common. And if you need to watch one music video right now it should be “Thank you very much” by Rhapsody it's not a current video. It's like five years old. It's a good video to watch after this interview.

Mulvaney: Did you work on it?

Glickson: Just watch it.

Leitten: Thank you very much. In the show notes along with some playlists from Jordan Glickson.

Mulvaney: Thank you so much for being on the show, Jordan.

Glickson: Thanks, guys.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Every time time we have a guest on here, I tried to like get into their brains and kind of see what it looks like. And oh, my gosh, Jordan must have like hundreds of thousands of songs stored up there. Meanwhile, I have like 12 songs that I know and that I play on Spotify and, and our playlists must look so different.

Leitten: I would say so. Yeah, he has been in the business for a while, at least 20 years, if not more, and I can tell you, no matter what's in that playlist of his Common is at the top of that playlist. Being his best friend, I obviously have a little bit more insight than you did through our podcast interview. But I think he's kind of winning at life. He's got the family, he's got the job. He's becoming a really great manager at that job.

Mulvaney: As a like creative person. I feel like it's so rare to that you get to go home to your family every single night. And in a way his, his life and his career have been pretty linear posts Guitar Center, like I will say, that is one of my favorite aspects of, of what he does, is there is that sense of a little bit of more stability than the rest of us creatives might have. So I'm jealous of Jordan. [Sings] School, Stage & Screen! [Hip Hop music] On next week's episode, we are talking with Stanley Romanstein, the Dean of the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

Romanstein: for the Dale Warland singers, everybody auditions every year. And the day after the audition, I got a call from the assistant conductor who said sorry, but there's no place for you. And I thought, wait a minute what I've been doing this all my life, how can there be no place for me, I was relying on skills and abilities that I had mastered when I was younger. And I simply had not kept up the level of study and the level of preparation that I needed to in order to sing at that level.

Mulvaney: In our show notes, you can check out bonus video content from all of our interviews plus two playlists from Jordan. The first is a collection of videos that he considers memorable from a time that influenced him to enter the music business. The second is original content created during Jordan’s time at VEVO with a bonus clip at the top.

Leitten: You could follow Jordan on Instagram in our show notes. And I think we should keep the conversation going. So make sure to join us on social media, @schoolstagescreen one word on Instagram and Facebook and @schoolstagepod on Twitter. Mow known as Media Production, the BFA program prepares digital content creators for careers in filmmaking and television production, broadcast news, audio production, sports media production and more. As the largest undergraduate program at CCM, Media Production students are uniquely positioned within a creative culture that fosters collaboration with actors, musicians, dancers, set designers and other performing artists as they develop their digital storytelling skills. Learn more at ccm.uc.edu.

Mulvaney: Bye!

Leitten: Thanks for listening. Our show is produced by Robin Hopkins and edited by Blake Hawk. Our associate producer is Shannon St. George and our assistant editor is Matt Harris. Our music is composed by Ryan Fine, check out his link in the show notes. A big thanks to Kevin Burke, Becky Butts Stanley Romanstein, Mickey Graff, Curt Whitacre and Melissa Neeley-Nicolini. This has been a Hyperion XIII production.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music]

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Hyperion XIII production.

Check out bonus video content with all of our guests on YouTube

This is a collection of music videos that Jordan considers memorable from a time in his life that influenced him to enter the music business

This is content created during Jordan’s time at Vevo. Most are considered Vevo originals, with the exception of the lead music video that Vevo didn't create, but he was involved with because of his role at Vevo.

You can follow Jordan on Instagram.

Instagram: @schoolstagescreen

Facebook: @schoolstagescreen

Twitter: @schoolstagepod

Brian on Instagram: @bleittz_delightz

Dylan on Instagram: @dylanmulvaney | TikTok: @dylanjamesmulvaney

Edited by Blake Hawk, Throughline Media

Song by Ryan Fine (BFA Commercial Music Production, '17)

Show art by Graff Designs

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/zhEIPVj38Uw?rel=0

How does one rise through the ranks of the music industry? Jordan Glickson shares how working at Guitar Center, landing internships and not being afraid to network landed him in his current role at VEVO.


Episode 5: The Borg Master (May 3, 2021)

If you have an alien creature in your movie — you call Brad. One of the busiest men in Hollywood is not in front of the camera, but rather in a nearby make-up trailer. Brad Look (MFA Make-Up & Wig Design, ’88) shares his thirty plus years of experience on set as a key make-up artist. Did we mention his impromptu jungle photoshoot with David Bowie? 

Brad Look: It's not just makeup that you're putting on. It's also a psychological thing, trying to get the actor ready and you are kind of like a confidant. You're the bartender, you're the doctor — sometimes all they want someone to listen. So you have to be as positive as you can.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Brian J. Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. This season's guests are all loans from the University of Cincinnati's college Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school.

Leitten: Today, we're talking with special effects makeup artists, Brad look.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

[applause]

Mulvaney: Brian, I'm not gonna lie. I got a little gussied up for this zoom interview today.

Leitten: I noticed!

Mulvaney: Our guest is sort of a king of appearances and I didn't want him to judge me or my my makeup. So you know, I put a little bit of effort in How about you? Did you put your face on today?

Leitten: As much as I put a face on? Yes.

Mulvaney: Okay, what does that mean? Like what's your what's your regimen?

Leitten: I'm pretty low key. I have a face wash. I have you know, shampoo and conditioner. And like a bar soap low key, but I do have face moisturizer that I'll use after the shower.

Mulvaney: Oh, okay, that that's getting a little bit better. I think I can even help you out a little bit more.

Leitten: Yeah, what else should I be doing?

Mulvaney: I think maybe a nice night serum or an eye cream. I love a tinted moisturizer. But I know that gets a little crazy for some people. I just I love putting energy into my appearance. I think it makes me feel more confident about the work that I'm doing or even just bopping around town like at the grocery store. I like to look kind of cute…

Leitten: Wait, I have to know what is your go to like What's in your bag?

Mulvaney: Okay, my go to well normally I've got my giant rainbow knitted chunky sweater on from that was knitted from little grandmas in Northern Ireland. And then I have my Aquaphor is my number one product always, always, always. I slather…

Leitten: Really?

Mulvaney: Yes, because I'm on Accutane, which is a really strong acne drugs so my whole like face gets really dry.

Leittne: Oh, my sister took that in high school.

Mulvaney: If anyone's listening is on that I am. I'm with you on this journey. It is not fun, but it's also I'm so happy that my skin's better. And I usually have like a little bit of powder. Usually barrettes to put my hair back or some bobby pins you never know when you're going to need it. How about you what do you usually wear when you're on set?

Leitten: Well lately I've been bringing a rubber band because my hair is insanely long. It's probably the longest it's ever been in my life.

Mulvaney: Retweet. I think we have about the same length right now which is really funny.

Leitten: Very similar hairstyle to it kind of goes back and then flips out on the ends.

Mulvaney: How about like do you have to wear all black when you do your film shoots?

Leitten: In certain instances, I have to wear all black. Lately, I've been doing a lot of corporate and sports-oriented videos. So those are two different looks. When I'm working with a corporate client, I am very put together. I have dress shoes, I have slacks or jeans, I have a button up, sometimes a sweater or a tie, because that's the way that they dress

Mulvaney: Match that energy.

Leitten: Yeah, I need to match it. I want them to feel like I am on their level. And there are times where I dress down. It really depends on what I'm working on. If I'm going on a shoot, and I'm responsible for lugging gear around all day, or I'm filming with a camera that weighs 25 pounds. I know I'm going to sweat.

Mulvaney: Ew!

Leitten: I'm doing a shoot in Tucson in three or four days. And it's going to be 86 degrees and we're filming a swimmer at a pool. So I'm gonna wear a T-shirt and shorts.

Mulvaney: Maybe you should wear swim shorts and get in the pool.

Leitten: I actually might have to.

Mulvaney: I've seen some like really big directors even like I, or writers, like I saw Mindy Kaling on Instagram the other day, and she was on set and like was like kind of in pajamas. And I was like I guess when you get to that level of success. It is absolutely okay to look like that.

Leitten: That's my goal. One day I want to show up on set to a production that I've wrote that I'm directing or producing, Ima roll up in sweatpants and a T-shirt and that's going to be appropriate for me.

Mulvaney: Absolutely. And as an actor like I made the mistake my first pilot that I ever shot, I got all dressed up at like 5:30 in the morning. I make upon I showed up to the set. I mean, there was nobody even there to look at me or even acknowledge that I looked cute. And it was just such a regret. So now I know better. I learned my lesson don't get dressed up.

Leitten: They want to be able to paint the picture from the very beginning. They want to pick your clothes, they want to pick your hair, they want to pick your makeup. Yeah, they want to make sure that the vision they had.

Mulvaney: Our guests today is a huge part of that process, especially right when you show up to set for the actors. He is a king of transformation and the make-up trailer. He has so many critics. I was looking on IMDB this morning. It goes forever. Oh, it's the longest page of, in like IMDb history I swear it's insane. So without further ado, I want to welcome on our special guest, Brad Look, King of Hollywood make-up scene.

Leitten: And a University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music graduate from the Make-up and Wig Department.

Mulvaney: Brad, we are so excited to have you here credibly excited. Would you please share your pronouns with us?

Look: He/he

Mulvaney: And then also give us a few of your credits.

Look: I've worked on Pirates of the Caribbean II, III,; all The Hunger Games. Let's see Star Trek for 10 years: Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, First Contact, Insurrection, Nemesis; Westworld. I've won one Emmy and I've been nominated 12 times, and I just got nominated for the one of the Artist Guild Awards. That's coming up also for two different shows I worked on

Mulvaney: And then what is the current project you're working on? If you can share that with us today.

Look: Right now I'm working on a Nickelodeon show, which is a spin off from Henry Danger, which is now Danger Force. So I was asked to come in and help out with that. Originally, it was only supposed to be for I thought it was gonna be just for a couple of weeks and then that turned into a couple years. So that just, just, just happened. That's happenstance.

Leitten: I mean, I am in complete amazement because I'm a Sci-Fi dork. So every single Star Trek, I grew up watching those…

Look: And I've even forgotten even the the Marvel things I've worked on. I mean, again, I forget these things after a while. Let's see there was Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Thor, Iron Man III. I helped out on some stuff on that. My big thing is I go back to IMDb because I forget what I worked on myself.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Okay, we're going to take it back. We are all CCM grads here, different majors, different years of graduation. How did you decide on attending the University of Cincinnati? How did you end up in Cincinnati?

Look: I was working at the time. Before I even went to CCM for the Kryolan make-up Corporation in San Francisco. I went back to visit my parents from San Francisco and my father had collected a bunch of mail that had come during the time I was gone. And as I was going through it, I happen to come across a catalog from CCM and I kind of browse through it quickly. I threw it up on the bed because I was laying on the, sitting on the floor going through all this mail. It had folded open and kind of was lying there. So I got up to pick it up to throw it in the garbage. And lo and behold it had opened up to a section of the of the booklet on, I guess on master's degrees and one of them was listed as a make-up degree. And I'm like, wow, okay, that was kind of really strange of all things to happen that that opens up to that for me.

Mulvaney: Right? That's total fate.

Look: Right, I didn't see it before so it just opened up. Prior to CCM I had already been accepted to a program a degree program at the University of Southern California in Irvine, I believe it was. I found out that was actually a master's degree in costuming not make-up was more like a minor make-up. Once I found out was actually in costuming, I said I'm not going. I said I'm not a costumer I’m a make-up artist. Looking at the catalog now from CCM. I don't know what possessed me but I called them up. So I asked the guy and asked so is this really a degree program in make-up? It's not costume? And he goes well why would you have a degree in costuming? You're not a costumer or you're a make-up artist. I said yeah. Well, they relayed the whole story about what happened with the school in Southern California. And so he says no, no, ours is actually it's a degree program in make-up. He says what's your undergrad I said I have a bachelor's in art. And so he's like okay, the well that makes a lot of sense, he says have you done a lot of theater make-up and stuff like that? Oh yeah, I've done tons of it. I've even worked on to two movies. He says what are you doing right now? And I said, well, I'm working right now developing products for the Kryolan make-up Corporation. And at that point, I don't want I don't know what possessed me. I said, so what would it be worth to you for me to come to your school?

Leitten: Brilliant.

Look: And you know, like I said, I don't, I guess I had nothing to lose. So I just, I asked, and he says, Well, if your credentials are what you say they are, and we can verify all this, he says, we'll pay you to come to our school.

Mulvaney: You got paid to go get your masters?

Look: Yeah. And it turned out, I said, I'm sorry, who am I talking to? And he introduced himself as the Dean of the school. And I'm like, really?

Leitten: This is after you've said, what's my value to the school.

Look: Right, right. Let's go forward a couple months. Now I get a call from the Dean. And he says, well, I'm coming out there to look at some potential candidates for the Opera program. And I'm coming out a day ahead of time just to meet with you. So he says, where can I meet you? I said, Well, you can show up that I gave him the address for Kryolan. So he shows up there, we go out to lunch, he says, You know what, they really want you very badly for the program, we looked at your credentials, he says, you have a lot of stuff already. And because your art background, the professor Lenna Kaleva, is really wanting you because of your art background. And so he says, we'll do whatever we need to to get you to come to the school. And that's, that's how it all happened.

Mulvaney: Wow. I feel like it's very rare these days to have a college chasing you is so much it's you chase a college, at least for my peers experiences.

Look: Well, and the the interesting thing is, I found out that the school only takes on one student every two years for the master's degree. And then the, the for the undergrad, I believe they take either six to eight students. So I would be the only person in the master's degree program.

Mulvaney: Why did you want to go back and get a Master's? What was the value of a master's degree for you?

Look: For me, you know, I've done a lot teaching over the years, you know, so I guess that was part of it. And you know, and my father always said, you know, you should always have, you should have a degree, you know, that will help you with with your work. So I guess part of that was at the back of my mind.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: We actually have a question from the current head of Wigs and Make-up program, Kelly Yurko.

Kelly Yurko: Hey, Brad, I am so excited to have the chance to ask you a question. When we were in school together, you were in grad school, and I was in undergrad in the Wig and Make-up program. You were always the type of person who is willing to share their knowledge and their information. You seem to enjoy helping us along and making sure that we understood all the different processes and the different materials. When I started to work professionally, I was very surprised that not everyone was like you willing to share knowledge. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated that. And I have always tried to follow your example. My question is, if you were to give advice to a student who is graduating from CCM, and their dream is to head out west and work in film and television. What advice would you give them? What should they expect when they get there? And what is the very first thing they should do? I am asking from the point of view of a student graduating from the Wig and Make-up program. But feel free to also address other areas if you like.

Look: One of the things I would have to say is a definite plus that you need to know is Photoshop. Because a lot of times you don't have the time if you're trying to show a director or a producer, an idea that you have Photoshop is the best way to do that. In the past, when I first got started Make-up years and years and years ago, they would have for instance, like in the Richard Corson book, he would show a photograph with transfer paper and sketching it out. So it gives the Producer Director whoever an idea of what the make-up could look like, well, now you can actually download a photograph of the actor and do all your overlays on top of it and make it look photographic. So it looks more like what it could look like in its final composition of the make-up and hair.

Mulvaney: It could almost be beneficial then as a student to maybe take a semester of Photoshop or photo editing before they kind of enter the industry is that kind of what you're saying?

Look: I'm definitely saying that. More than just probably a semester probably several semesters because they want things that look really finished. I was working on a show called Surrogates, which was a Disney show and the director was having difficulty in trying to translate the ideas that he wanted in his head to make-up and hair and some of the other departments and I was doing a lot of stuff in Photoshop, and he ended up seeking me out going, you're one of the people that really get this, he says, Can you keep doing what you're doing? I ended up generating about 70 images of what futuristic make-ups could look like, as far as you know, the for the characters and hairstyles, and it is extremely beneficial. And because that's your, that's your calling card trying to get in is showing them how you think. And being able to render out ideas in Photoshop is a much quicker way than trying to draw it out or other avenues.

Leitten: Did you always no Photoshop, or is that something that you had to learn when you got into the industry as kind of continuing education in the sense?

Look: Well, I mean, there was no Photoshop when I was going to CCM. So through our union, they give us we can take free classes, and one of them was Photoshop I took and between taking that class and doing some other work, I mean, I've just, I've also played with it a lot on my own, being able to generate art ideas. So that when I come up with an idea, I can kind of see it through and then I can actually present it. So when my boss a couple of weeks ago was saying, Hey, we have an episode coming up on Danger Force. And we have an alien on there, do you have any ideas of what the alien could look like? So I sat down in Photoshop and started generating ideas of what the alien could look like. And he says, the one thing is we want the person to have kind of a purplish complexion, I ended up doing, again, the same thing, generating some ideas in Photoshop to give him an idea of what this could look like. And that helped not only our department, but also hair, because then they can start saying, Oh, that's what's gonna look like. And what I ended up doing also in Photoshop, is we were looking at a possible appliance, which is the prosthetic that was gonna go on over the forehead for our alien to give her more of an alien forehead. And we didn't have the time to sculpt or have anything made. So I took a existing appliance that could easily be bought at any of the beauty supply stores here in LA, and photographed it, brought it into Photoshop. And then I actually was able to manipulate the appliance around her face.

Leitten: So you do just as much work not in the make-up room as you do in the make-up room.

Look: Right.

Leitten: One final look back at college. When you look at your time, whether it's undergrad or your grad degree, is there something that you wish you'd studied while you were in school that might have helped you?

Look: One of the things I found out, it was actually too late, when I did find this out that at the University of Cincinnati, they actually have a program in cosmetics and cosmetic manufacturing. And I wish I had known that ahead of time because this is something that every one of our people should be taking a class on. Because not only do we put cosmetics on, but we need to know and understand what's in cosmetic. So if the person has a reaction to it, or there's some other issues, you know, the only way you know that is, is working around the cosmetic industry and understanding the all the ingredients. I said this is a very beneficial class. I only found out about it until it was like the last part of my tenure there. So I wish I had known about earlier I would have taken the class probably an entire time.

Mulvaney: And you've now probably had to learn some of those things now outside of school. Is that correct?

Look: Yeah, I mean, I've done a lot of study and because of working for for Kryolan. I was around the manufacturing of cosmetics. And since then I'm asked a lot of times to come up with ideas for new cosmetics. So I have developed a whole line of what's called PAX paints, which was a process that Dick Smith came up with years ago. But I took it even further. Because of all the work I did on Star Trek. My boss Michael Westmore would say hey, we have this alien coming up. And he needs to have this kind of look to to him, can you come up with a PAX makeup for him? So I sat down and I would actually work out the logistics of the formula using a triple beam scale and weigh everything out and then write up the formula and then start making the product so that we would have it for that episode. So when we had, when we had characters that needed special colors, or special things that that we you couldn't readily just go out and buy. I actually would sit down and figure out the formulation and create the product for the character.

Leitten: Wow. So not only are you doing the physical work, you're doing the Photoshop work, but you're also pretty much doing the chemistry of your art.

Look: Right.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: So let's talk about you have this hair makeup degree what was the transition like from school into this incredible career that you've had?

Look: Well, one of the things that was interesting is Kelly Yurko. Kelly was very smart. She, during one of the times, I think it was during spring semester, you know where you had the break, she went to New York and she ended up meeting up with the head of make-up at NBC. There in in New York Lee Bagan. She talked to Lee and told him about the program we were in. And also ended up meeting with and talking with, at that time, Bob Kelly, who had a studio in New York and built a lot of the wigs for the Broadway shows. And he also had the Bob Kelly make-up line. So when she was talking with Lee Bagan, Lee got so interested that he actually came to CCM to see what we were doing. And Lee was there sitting very quietly watching, as our professor Lenna Kaleva was showing him examples of all the work that we'd done at the school. And Lee was just like, he was flabbergasted. He looked around the room, looked at all of us looked at Lenna and says, This is the closest thing we have now to a you know, like an apprenticeship program. He goes, there's nothing like this anywhere else in the country. And so I ended up showing him my portfolio because he was there. And he offered me a position at at NBC in New York.

Mulvaney: Wow.

Look: And I said, Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that. But I don't, I'm not interested in going to New York, I want to go to LA. He's like, well, why? I go, because that's where more of the movies that I want to do are being produced.

Mulvaney: Well, that's gutsy. You know, it's to turn down money like that, as an artist can be so difficult, but it's incredible how you, you knew exactly what you wanted, and you believed in yourself enough to know that you could get what that thing was.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: When you finally got to Los Angeles after college, what was your first job in the industry?

Look: I came out to LA I got a job at Cinema Secrets in Burbank, California. I had met with Murray Stein, who was the owner, he worked on Golden Girls.

Mulvaney: My favorite show.

Look: He was very interested in having me come there to help out in his in a shop, because he knew that I knew everything about Kryolan products. I had already known a lot about Ben Nye products and so many of the other product lines, believe it or not within that first week, my portfolio which I sent out to him so he can look at to see what I could do. Someone at a CBS show saw it. And he wanted to hire me to do a special make-up for a miniseries called Guts and Glory: The Rise and Fall of Oliver North. And so a week after I got there, they wanted to hire me to work on this miniseries doing the Ronald Reagan makeup. And he was paying $500 a day for me to do it, to come out completely like, like me, you know, totally green and landing a job. That was my first job right out of the out of the going from CCM out there.

Mulvaney: Would you consider that your big break? Or was there something later on that you were like, oh, now I've I've made it?

Look: That was a big stepping stone right off the bat. I mean, again.

Leitten: There's not a lot of jobs for anyone coming out of college that pay $500 a day even today, let alone when you started.

Look: Right. Now my biggest break I would say was there were several, that led up to this but I ended up meeting up with Michael Westmore, which was one of my big ambitions because I wanted to work on Star Trek because I enjoyed watching Star Trek Next Generation and the original Star Trek. I ended up meeting up with Michael Westmore. And he was able to kind of weed me in and get me into the whole thing at Star Trek. So he hired me for a day. And this is the way it always works in Hollywood. You get to hire for a day. If you don't screw everything up and you don't make any major blunders or anything else. They may say Hey, are you available tomorrow to and tomorrow turns into the next day and turns into the next day and 10 years later, I was on all the different Star Trek shows. After starting off with that one day working for Michael Westmore on this this, you know, game video.

Mulvaney: Well, that brings me to another question about like networking and how you actually get your work. Would you consider the make-up industry specifically in Hollywood to be kind of a small pool of people?

Look: It's not huge. It is a big town. Yes. But the people that work in it are not enormous.

Mulvaney: And there's a union there is it's a local 706 it's the make-up artist and hairstylist guild local 706, we have 2000 members. When I first got started in this business, our union book was probably no more than about 400 people or so. I mean I knew most of the the members, first names and everything. I knew them on site. Now we have so many members. I couldn't tell you who all the people are.

Leitten: So how does your work come? I know a lot of my work come from people that I've worked with in the past, recommendations from people I've worked with in the past, someone that seen a video on my website, but how do you, how do you bounce from job to job?

Look: Most of it happens, because I've been doing this now for so many years. It's just word of mouth. Some will say, hey, especially if it's an alien, they go, Oh, well, yeah, you have to get Brad, because, you know, Brad knows aliens. Everyone has their own little specialties, you know, after 10 years of Star Trek, you know, I know aliens inside and out, trying to produce them and make them look authentic enough. Other people are into age make-ups other people do character makeups. And, you know, in reality, I think of alien make-ups as characters, because they're a species. They're a race of characters, you know, that's in the script. So I mean, some make-up artists refer to aliens as monsters. And I'm like, No, they're not monsters. They're humanoid characters. They're like us, they just look a little stranger, maybe. But they still have the same wants and goals and life and desires and stuff like that, which is what comes out in the scripts. So you know, again, I approach an alien make-up as if it's a person, just from a different planet.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: What is the difference between a key make-up artists and additional assistant makeup artists?

Look: The structure to a given show is you have your makeup department head.

Mulvaney: Have you ever done that?

Look: I was in charge of all the stunt work and everything as the department head on on Captain America Winter Soldier. So that's why I actually have a separate title card in the credits. And then on Santa Claus III, I was hired to oversee all the elves in the show.

Leitten: I was gonna say you were the Santa Claus of make-up, you got to oversee all the elves.

Look: All the elves, we had 490 of them.

Leitten: Wow.

Mulvaney: Oh, my gosh, but you typically serve as a key make-up artist, is that…?

Look: As a key or as it just the checker. I like just to go in and do my work and then leave, you know, it's like, I don't really want to get into the politics of the show or anything like that. And, you know, now I've gotten older, you know, I'm older. I'm gonna be 62 this year, you know, I just don't have the energy to deal with the politics of a show. So my thing is, I enjoy just going in there, just overlooking, you know, doing the background people and then just watching them on set. And then going home, I don't have to work in the trailer with all the main actors. I've done that.

Mulvaney: You're just doing what you love. And that's a really good reason.

Leitten: Obviously, your credit list is deep, but some of the bigger ones that stand out are obviously the Marvel series Pirates of the Caribbean

Mulvaney: Hunger Games!

Leitten: Hunger Games, of course, for those larger movies. What's that experience? Like? Are you traveling to another country? are you managing a team? Or like you were talking about? Are you a day player?

Look: For instance, like with Captain America Winter Soldier, we had to go to Columbus, Ohio. We shot a majority of the film there.

Mulvaney: It's exotic.

Look: Yeah, very exotic. And then we came back to LA to shoot some of the other sequences that we had. So a lot of it was shot there in Columbus in the Ohio area, and not just there, but they also had a group that went to Washington DC just to get some shots with the normal buildings you would see in Washington DC, just to to help bridge the sequences that needed that for the exterior shots. For Hunger Games, we shot originally in in North Carolina first and then the rest of the films were all shot in Georgia. Heart of Darkness, we shot that in Belize in Central America. That was the what the was based on the original novella. It was with Tim Roth, and John Malkovich. I did John Malkovich’s makeup. We also had Iman in there. And she played a the one that principal characters in the show. And we also believe it or not, we had David Bowie in our make-up trailer every day, every time that David, when Iman was working David Bowie was sitting right next to me that is fierce. This is an interesting story. I'm sitting there, minding my business, my own business, David sitting next to me at the next station over and he's reading an art book. He loves art. And so we're getting discussions about art, being an art major, you know, it's easy to talk to him about stuff like that. And one day he saw my pith helmet that I had, and was so interested in my pith helmet, that one day he kind of cleared his throat and asked me says, excuse me, dear boy, and I looked over I said yes. And he goes, I couldn't help but admire your pith helmet. I'm like, crap, he's gonna ask me for my pith helmet. And I have to have it because I mean, the bugs down there were insane. So I had a bug net over my pith helmet to keep them from going in my eyes, my ears and stuff. So because we were in the jungles, and I'm like, Okay, I'm like, alright. He says, Would you do me a favor? And I said, Oh, what's that? He says, I noticed you had a Polaroid camera. I said, Yes. He goes, can I borrow your pith helmet? And have you go out with me in the jungles and take some photographs of me? And I'm like, sure. He was all dressed up that day, when he asked me that. He looked like, you know, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. So he had the whole outfit except the pith helmet. So he had the boots and the whole outfit. So he goes, Okay. And again, be me. I go, okay. But you have to do me a favor. He's like, what is it? I go, you have to sign one of the photographs to me to prove that you were and I were out there together in the jungles. Because I said no one will believe me. He's like, Sure. So we go out. And we we are out there. And I'm taking picture after picture after picture photos and all that. And then we go back to the trailer. He says, he starts, I hand them. I mean, I use the whole pack of film just to shoot what he wanted. He says, Here, let me see. I was okay. Do you have a black marker? I go, yeah. And he goes, Okay. And he takes it, he starts to sign it. And he's writing this story on it.

Mulvaney: Hey, it's not every day that you get a good David Bowie story.

Look: It says then suddenly cutting a swarthy of the figure through the foliage, he emerged into the glade, David Bowie, Belize 1943.

Leitten: That's not a bad day at work. I have to say.

Look: That's one of those unusual things that when you're talking about being in the industry, being able to work with someone like David Bowie, and he wasn't even in the film, but we we got along great.

Leitten: Wait he wasn't in the film?

Look: No, it was just his wife was in the film. He just tagged along. And so like I said, At lunchtime, they would be Iman, David Bowie and myself sitting there having lunch. And then John Malkovich was there, too. And John, and I got along great. And you still have the hat. But we didn't take it. No, he didn't take it. I was afraid he was going to but I'm like, I'm glad he didn't.

Mulvaney: [Sings] If I could turn back time. Okay, well, we can't all have David Bowie moments every single day at work. So we're going to turn back time. We want to hear a time that you failed big. And what did you learn from that failure?

Look: When I was doing the Rise and Fall of Oliver North doing the prosthetic work for the Ronald Reagan make-up. I didn't design the make-up I was just asked to put it on and it was originally designed by Mike McCracken senior and he had done a I guess some test makeups with it. The problem was all his, his information he gave me and the colors you gave me were all designed for video. And we were shooting on film. So when they did the video test everything. It looked great on on video, but when we shot it on film, it looked bad. So I had to go back and redesign the entire make-up from top to bottom to make sure it would work better.

Mulvaney: And did it?

Look: It did here. One day, the actor that wore the makeup as Ronald Reagan we had a prosthetic nose and neck to look just like Reagan did. And Reagan was an office at the time that we're shooting this. The actor decided he was gonna blow his nose now when you have a prosthetic nose on and you go to blow in both nostrils what it does is the air wants to go back into the prosthetic and inflate the nose. If you got to blow your nose you have to close off one nostril blow and then close off the other nostril and blow you can't blow with both nostrils like you would if it was just your normal nose. And I'm looking over and my actor blows his nose and his nose inflates like a balloon. I made my eyes looked like a cartoon where they just came out Whoa, it's like crap. You know I'm right there watching this. And I went over and checked his nose I had glued on so well that went right back into place and didn't get destroyed. So that was one of those big life “phew” type moments.

Mulvaney: So to all our listeners if you're wearing a prosthetic nose, which we all do, very regularly, don't blow both nostrils are also give your make-up artists a heart attack.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Is there a favorite project that you've worked on whether it's movie or television or a very specific look that you've had to create?

Look: I would say the probably the hardest show that we had that I had to work on along with with my fellow make-up artist was trying to figure out: What was the look of the Borgs gonna be for First Contact. Star Trek Next Generation had established the Borgs. And they were basically is a kind of a pale- ish ook, they were supposed to look very corpse-ish, with all these metal pieces put on them. And now we were doing the big feature. And one of the things was thinking bigger and out of the box, as opposed to thinking about just the TV scope of it. I kept thinking to myself, you know, these should be scariest. They mean, these are the Borgs they're going to assimilate you, and they're gonna take you over and they're gonna take over every civilization they come across. One of the things that I said is, you know, we need to make it look like there was more almost like zombies like corpses like their eyes are sinking in the sockets and stuff like that. And when we first initially did the the make-ups, we didn't have any of that. And I remember mentioning it to Michael, we ended up sculpting appliances for under the eyes to make it look like the eyes were more sunken. And some other things and we start incorporating those into the make-ups, it started making them look a lot scarier than what they had looked like on the original TV show. The other idea was to not make any of them look the same. So each day that when you were doing a Borg, it should look like a brand new Borg, we had hundreds and hundreds of Borgs taking over the Enterprise. So every time you see the Borgs, they should look totally new and different so that they should never be repeats of designs. That was another big problem is trying to come up with original designs every day, flying by the seat of your pants, doing your make-ups so that they look legitimately like a different person, not the same person. We were using the same actors and stunt people, but they had to look different. So I started doing all kinds of crazy things with the make-ups. And I remember one day I was down on the set. And our director was Jonathan Frakes, who was known as number one on the show, he came over to me, and Jonathan says okay, Brad, okay, which which Borg did you do today? I looked at him and I said, you tell me, we had a group of all standing there, like soldiers waiting to be told where to go on the set, Jonathan starts walking around, just like he's a general approach, you know, approaching every one of the Borgs and looking at him. And then he looks at me says that one right there. I said, Why is that? He says because it's unique looking. I said, Really? He says, Yes, I go. You're absolutely right. And that was the Borg. He would feature in the shot that day.

Leitten: Amazing.

Look: And he started doing that every day. And he started referring to me as the Borg master.

Leitten: Please tell me you told him at least once that resistance was futile.

Look: No, he would tell me that.

Mulvaney: Okay. So to me, you sound like the busiest man in Hollywood. It's just like, credit after credit, day of shooting after day of shooting. What is your life outside of the arts? How have you found balance in your, you know, day to day with this huge, vast career?

Look: Well, you know, the big thing is, is I try to tell this to a lot of people is you can't live your life as just your career. You have to live your life as if it's just a job. Because a lot of people use their job as their life. And I try not to do that. I like to to draw and paint and do things in Photoshop. So I'll create artwork on on the computer. I also like to write so I do a lot of writing. So I mean, I've written many articles for magazines, I wrote a book called Star Trek: Aliens and Artifacts. I was one of the co-writers of that. And that all happened because I wrote an article on the making of the Borgs for a magazine, one of the writers that did a lot of the books for the Star Trek series of books through Simon and Schuster. I didn't know it, he came over to me and we were talking and I would see this guy on set because he would be writing various books about Star Trek. And I gave him the article I wrote, and he ended up taking it to Simon and Schuster. And he comes over to me one day, he says, Hey, Brad, I said, Yeah, he goes, you know that that article you wrote, I go Yeah, he goes, I approached the head of Simon Schuster who handles all the Star Trek books, because that's Paramount and Simon Schuster. So it goes through through basically through Simon Schuster for anything Star Trek. And he says to me, they liked the article so well they want an entire book just like this article on the on all these different make-ups of Star Trek, like you got to be kidding me. Then part of me is like, holy sh*t. You know I to write a whole book on this type of thing. I mean, it took me a while to write that because it was really in depth. And he says that's what we want for this. It was me and Michael Westmore doing a lot of work. And then the we had a writer that was assigned to us from from Simon Schuster that would take everything that I would write and work on and Michael would work on it. Put it together. And that's what created this this book that we we put together. You can still find that book too. It's on Amazon.

Leitten: That book will go in our show notes for sure. And I'm pretty sure I've read part of that book before. Just from doing research, I've seen that you you've, you've taught in a lot of places, especially the Stan Winston School. For those in our audience that don't know what that is. Can you explain what the Stan Winston School is and then talk about why you've decided to teach and where you've taught?

Look: The Stan Winston School is not a physical school. It's a online school or our program that was started by Matt Winston. Matt Winston, who is an actor who I've worked with on numerous times on Star Trek as well as other shows doing make-up, and he gets all the leading make-up artists, not only just for him from here in LA, but in New York and other places. And he has them do a program on whatever they want to talk about.

Mulvaney: What's your lesson on aliens?

Look: I have two on aliens, and then I do another one that was on how to do out of the kit, make-up effects, making your own small appliances and stuff. So I actually did three different programs.

Leitten: Brad knows aliens.

Look: So I ended up working that into two particular make-ups that I did on my husband, Clayton Stang and did the make-ups on him. That's also what's interesting is Clayton is in the the Star Trek book at the very end where I show how to do some of these make-ups on different models. Clayton's in there as the data double and also as the Romulan. Anyway, so Michael Westmore, because we did the book together. When we needed some aliens some background aliens on on Enterprise, Michael says Well, hey, would Clayton, Clayton come in and be a character on the show? I got? Well, he's not really an actor. He goes, Yeah, but you know, could he just be an alien in this in the scene? I go? Sure. He goes, all right. No, we can wear the make-up because he's in the book. So that's how we ended up getting plated in the show twice as plain as a background alien and then as a Vulcan, who goes crazy.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Okay, so to wrap up, what is something that you have realized that could only come from working in the industry?

Look: Of course you come across a lot of personal information about all the actors, which you can't tell anyone about? So I can't say anything about that.

Leitten: I mean, that in itself is interesting, you know, private things come up.

Mulvaney: Do you feel like a therapist, sometimes?

Look: Oh, certainly. I mean, you, you are kind of like a confidant, you're the, you're the bartender, you're the doctor, your you know, it's not just make-up that you're putting on. It's also a psychological thing, trying to get the actor ready and kind of for the day, so you have to be as positive as you can. And you also want to be just, sometimes all they want is someone to listen. And so you they bend your ear, just to to just act as a sounding board, you know, so sometimes that helps in and of itself there too. So I mean, again, as a make-up artist, you're more than just a make-up artist, your your your 5% make-up artist with maybe, you know 90% bartender or doctor.

Mulvaney: like Kelly Yurko had mentioned, you are such a willing person to give and to listen and to share. So I can only imagine being an actor in your chair is probably a very friendly experience. And I'm going to have to email my agents after this and say, please only send me in for alien roles, so that I might have a chance at ending up in your chair one day.

Leitten: Completely. And if you're ever doing new Star Trek, and you need background actors, and you're going to do make-up, I would 100% come in for free to be in a Star Trek movie, and to have you do make-up on on my face. I think it would be amazing.

Look: Well keep that in mind. We're like gypsies we're working from show to show to show. And I mean, and you have to understand that that's what the job entails. You know, it's not always the most easy conditions. You're outside and when it's blistering hot, then when it's raining then when it's cold. Well, I worked on a show called Neon City. I'm standing up there not trying to move around because we're when we were shooting this in the dead of winter in Salt Lake City. And I mean, so if you move the snow is crunching underneath you as picking up on on the mics so you can't move at all. And yet you're freezing because it's like 10 below. So I mean, again, you know, it's it's kind of a strange job to be in, because of all these different things that come up from day to day.

Mulvaney: Well, your credits are such a testament to the fact that everyone wants you around. And that's why you keep getting hired over and over again.

Leitten: Make-up artist, jungle explorer, Photoshop expert, chemist, writer, bartender psychologist, it sounds like you Brad probably do it all. And we're really thankful for you taking the time out today to talk to us to talk to the next generation of creatives, and to impart your knowledge to all of us.

Mulvaney: Thank you, Brad for being here. We are so, so lucky.

Look: Well, my pleasure, hopefully, everyone who's watching this will enjoy it and say, hey, maybe I could try doing that. You know, that's, that's what you want them to do.

Mulvaney: Brad has just given me like, major, sweet uncle energy that you go over to his house, and you could sit there for 1000 hours and just hear all of his amazing stories. I wish he was my uncle.

Leitten: Every time he talks about a different person sitting in his chair. I'm sure there's 1000 more people that are massive stars that have been in this chair that we didn't even talk about.

Mulvaney: Exactly. So you're like very into Sci-Fi, all of that kind of stuff, which I'm not so you're you've seen all those movies that he's talking about.

Leitten: Oh, completely. I grew up watching all the Star Trek The Next Generation shows like Enterprise and Voyager. So I've seen all of his work without even knowing it his work, and even recently working on Westworld, Captain Marvel, Thor. I mean, I'm, I'm a Sci-Fi dork. So I appreciate everything he does.

Mulvaney: Brian, I've never seen any of those movies that you just listed very out of my wheelhouse. But I will say I love the Hunger Games, which he did work on. Oh, yeah. But my biggest Sci-Fi favorite is the Twilight movies. Those are my favorite.

Leitten: Dylan. No. Twilight is not Sci-Fi.

Mulvaney: I'm trying to connect to you right now. If it's not Sci-Fi, then what is it?

Leitten: It's fantasy.

Mulvaney: Oh Brian.

Leitten: Fantasy is anything that's fake. And Sci-Fi is anything that could potentially exist in the future.

Mulvaney: So you're telling me you think vampires are fake?

Leitten: Completely!

Mulvaney: They're underground Brian. And I'm so I'm planning on marrying a vampire. But this, I'm just mad at you.

Leitten: Marry a vampire and prove me wrong.

Mulvaney: If you get invited to the wedding. You're lucky. Oh, I'm going to end our fight there. And we will pick this back up next week.

Leitten: Next week. We'll see you then.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen.

Mulvaney: On next week's episode, we have Jordan Glickson who is the vice president of music and talent at Vevo.

Jordan GlicksonL So my first day at Interscope right literally first day, not even first week, first day, 50 cent and the Game have a falling out, and not just any falling out a historic legendary falling out. That results in shots being fired.

Leitten: In our show notes. You can check out Brad's IMDB page, a photo album of his work in film and television, and the book he wrote about his time on the Star Trek franchise.

Mulvaney: And in your free time you can check us out on social media @schoolstagescreen one word on Instagram and Facebook or @schoolstagepod on Twitter.

Leitten: You can see exclusive bonus clips from our interview at the College-Conservatory of Music University of Cincinnati's YouTube page. Brad graduated from the MFA of Make-Up and Wig design at the University of Cincinnati. It's one of the few graduate programs of its kind in the country. Students in the program expand their art skills in areas including painting, drawing and sculpture. Other classes include art history, theater history, and costuming just to name a few. Studies focus heavily on design, wig-making and styling and make-up and its application. Students will design makeup and wigs for CCM Acting, Musical Theater and Opera performances. Learn more at ccm.uc.edu

Mulvaney: Thanks for listening. Bye.

Leitten: Our show is produced by Robin Hopkins and edited by Blake Hawk. Our associate producer is Shannon St. George and our assistant editor is Matt Harris. Our music is composed by Ryan Fine, check out his link in the show notes. A big thanks to Kevin Burke, Becky Butts, Stanley Romanstein, Mikki Graff, Curt Whitacre and Melissa Neeley-Nicolini. Our sponsor is the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. This has been a Hyperion XIII production.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music]

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen! 

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Hyperion XIII production.

Check out Brad’s credits at IMDB

Click here to see Brad’s book about Star Trek Makeup on Amazon.

Instagram: @schoolstagescreen

Facebook: @schoolstagescreen

Twitter: @schoolstagepod

Brian on Instagram: @bleittz_delightz

Dylan on Instagram: @dylanmulvaney | TikTok: @dylanjamesmulvaney

Edited by Blake Hawk, Throughline Media

Song by Ryan Fine (BFA Commercial Music Production, '17)

Show art by Graff Designs

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/RpekLs2I5RE?rel=0

If you have an alien creature in your movie — you call Brad. One of the busiest men in Hollywood is not in front of the camera, but rather in a nearby make-up trailer. Emmy-Award winning special effects and make-up artist Brad Look (MFA Make-Up & Wig Design, ’88) joins Brian J. Leitten (BFA E-Media, '02) and Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, '19) for Episode 5 of the "School, Stage & Screen" podcast! Watch our excerpt to learn more about how Brad creates his make-up designs. Listen to the full episode on Monday, May 3.

Brad Look and David Bowie had a photo shoot in the jungles of Belize during their down time on the set of shooting "Heart of Darkness." Listen to the episode to hear the story!

Brad Look and David Bowie had a photo shoot in the jungles of Belize during their down time on the set of shooting "Heart of Darkness." Listen to the episode to hear the story!

Look's make-up design for John Malkovich during the filming for "Heart of Darkness."

Look's make-up design for John Malkovich during the filming for "Heart of Darkness."

Look's make-up for Yvette Nicole Brown in "Merry Christmas, Drake and Josh."

Look's make-up for Yvette Nicole Brown in "Merry Christmas, Drake and Josh."

Alien make-up for a Klingon Judge

Look's zombie make-up for the cast of "Two Broke Girls."

Special effects make-up of Ronald Reagan

Look's special effects make-up to transform the actor into President Ronald Reagan.

Alien make-up for a Klingon Judge

Look's make-up for a Klingon Judge in the "Star Trek" franchise.

Look's make-up design for a Kreestassan in the "Star Trek" franchise.

Look's make-up design for a Kreestassan in the "Star Trek" franchise.

Special effects make-up of a zombie

Look's special effects make-up to create zombies in "Scouts vs. Zombies."

Look's make-up design in "Captain America: Winter Soldier."

Look's make-up design in "Captain America: Winter Soldier."

Look's make-up design for "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"

Look's make-up design for "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."

Look's make-up design in "This is It."

Look's make-up design in "This is It."

Alien make-up for Suliban

Look's special effects make-up to create the Suliban humanoid species in the "Star Trek" franchise.

Andorian from "Star Trek Enterprise"

Look's make-up design for "Andorian from "Star Trek Enterprise"

Look's aging make-up design.

Look's aging make-up design.

Look's special effects make-up for an alien.

Look's special effects make-up for an alien.

Look's make-up design for an alien girl in the "Star Trek" franchise.

Look's make-up design for an alien girl in the "Star Trek" franchise.

Look's make-up design for a Vulcan in the "Star Trek" franchise.

Look's make-up design for a Vulcan in the "Star Trek" franchise.

Look's special effects make-up to for Tim Russ as Tuvok from "Star Trek."

Look's special effects make-up to for Tim Russ as Tuvok from "Star Trek."

Look's make-up design for Borg in the "Star Trek" franchise.

Look's make-up design for Borg in the "Star Trek" franchise.


Episode 4: "An Unseen Hero" (April, 26, 2021)

Ever wonder what it’s like to do stunts in action films? Or how sex scenes on TV are directed? Nicole Callender (MFA Theatre Performance, ’92) is like the Wonder Woman of the TV/film industry, as she navigates between stunt fighting and intimacy coordinating. Content disclaimer: When we talk about intimacy coordinating, the conversation gets a little PG 15.

Nicole Callender: The Deuce had to do a porn photoshoot. So some of the posters that are in the background of The Deuce — they had a photo shoot of that and they needed new posters. So it was a day of pornographic photo shooting, which was very interesting.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Brian J. Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. This season's guests are all loans from the University of Cincinnati's college Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school.

Brian J. Leitten: Today, we're talking with stunt performer and intimacy coordinator, Nicole Callender.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

Brian J. Leitten: Dylan, I just finished watching your most recent stories on Instagram, because I'm not on TikTok. It's probably a big issue. I will try and fix it at some point.

Mulvaney: #GetBrianOnTikTok.

Leitten: How much time does it really take to figure out what stories you're creating? And which what content you're creating?

Mulvaney: Oh my gosh. That question stresses me out. Because do I love putting fun videos out there and seeing the reactions they get? Yes. Do I like the concept of making them? Absolutely not. And I will tell you, it's so stressful as someone who got you know, a degree from musical theatre and now all of a sudden, I'm like an editor, and I am a director and I'm a costume designer. And I'm, you know, doing all these things that I have absolutely no idea how to do. So Brian, like, can you please like, teach a class or something on the basics of just like filmmaking, because as a young actor, now we all have to do these things for self tapes that we've never had to do before. And they have to look really good. What are your tips?

Leitten: My tip is go back to college. And then your senior year enroll in the Production Master Class that I teach in the media production division at the University of Cincinnati, and you, you could learn all of this.

Mulvaney: That is not music to my ears, let me tell you.

Leitten: I will tell you recently, because of the pandemic, because I'm trying to create more sources of income. One of the things I'm doing is putting together a weekend Zoom seminar about production, and how to execute different levels of production, from branded content to documentaries, to digital series. So that might be something that could help you. And maybe what I need is to do a class with you, where you explain the differences between social media production and television film production that I'm used to.

Mulvaney: Okay, that I could probably help you with. I will let you know right now that I'm the first person on that list the signup list for this hypothetical class that you're doing. I cannot wait. But yeah, the whole social media thing. The craziest part is it changes every single day. So one, you know, trend that's happening is gone within a day and then you have to be looking to the next trend. It's exhausting because you're constantly pivoting from like new idea to new idea. And speaking of pivoting, our guest today is kind of the queen of pivoting in her career.

Leitten: The queen of pivoting Nicole Callender. She's a graduate from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music’s Acting program, but she didn't just become an actor.

Mulvaney: No, she's not just an actor. She is a stunt performer. And now an intimacy coordinator which I didn't even fully know what that was. And I'm so excited about getting some of those juicy details.

Leitten: Speaking of juicy details, just a little bit of warning to our listeners when we do talk about intimacy coordinating. It is maybe NC 17.

Mulvaney: Oh, no, Brian, it's maybe PG 13, at most.

Leitten: PG 14. Maybe 15.

Mulvaney: Okay deal, but it's very tasteful everyone and you're going to love every second.

Leitten: And informational.

Mulvaney: Yes.

Leitten: I think we should just start talking to her and figure out what an intimacy coordinator is.

Mulvaney: Bring her on.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: We have so many questions for you.

Callender: Thank you and it is my pleasure to be here.

Leitten: Give us your bio think IMDb with a little bit of your personal life in it.

Callender: I am stunt woman. I'm also an intimacy coordinator and I also act. I've been doing all of that since the late ‘90s. I do a lot of stunt work. I do a lot of driving. I double people I do a lot of ND, ND stunt work, which is kind of what's happening in the background. When I intimacy coordinate it, I don't have to fall down ever, which is great, but it is still a lot of work and it still makes me just as nervous going to work as when I go to work as a stunt performer. Some of the films I've worked on are American Son, Harriet, Bad Education. I was in Joker, See You Yesterday, Crown Vic, The Kitchen — in which I worked and also helped assistant stunt coordinate —, The Avengers, Rough Night, Spiderman: Homecoming, Purge: Election Year, Ghostbusters, How to be Single, Annie, Nonstop, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Leitten: You are a busy woman!

Mulvaney: Like, when do you get a day off?

Callender: I have a day off today.

Mulvaney: Well, we're so happy that you're sharing it with us. Will you also share your pronouns with us?

Callender: I am she/her/hers

Mulvaney: Thank you. And would you also let us know, if you’re allowed, what is the most recent production you're working on? And what's your job title on that?

Callender: What I am working on currently is Power Book II: Ghost and I am the intimacy coordinator for that. I'm also working on Power Book III: Raising Kanan and I am also the intimacy coordinator on that.

Mulvaney: Congratulations.

Callender: Thank you.

Leitten: Can you speak to a little bit what Power Book is for anyone that might not know.

Callender: So Power is a TV series that ran for eight seasons. And so these are spin offs. Power Book II is a spin off called “Ghost” and Power Book III is also a spin off called Kanan. And it's Raising Kanan which is like the 50 cent character in that in that TV production. So both of these are spin offs of a really huge series that ran for eight seasons. The showrunner is Courtney Kemp.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Well, I want to do a little spin off with you and take us back to college and your origin story. How did you end up at the University of Cincinnati? And knowing that you're an acting alum, what was the process like to get into the school there?

Callender: That is such a long time ago, at this point. I graduated from high school in I'm going to tell my age at this point, if I tell you what year I graduated, but I graduated in the ‘80s. I went to a summer theater place called Jenny Wiley Theatre, which is no longer there was an Eastern, Eastern Kentucky. That in itself is a whole other story. This little black girl go into this little tiny town in eastern Kentucky. I swear when we pulled in, I was looking around for other black people because I thought ‘I don't know if this is going to work here this summer.’ But I found like two other black people. Anyway, so I went there for the summer we did several different musicals. And at that point, I had been thinking of graduate school. So I started to prep some monologues with some friends that were there to audition. I can't remember exactly how I found out about CCM. I don't know what the seed was that was planted about CCM. But I started working on my monologues to do the audition. And then I wound up doing the audition. I worked really hard on my monologue. And I had a friend helped me who was already an actor. He was a well-versed actor doing a lot of auditioning and he really helped me a lot. I went and did the monologue and they accepted me. I was totally floored by the fact that I was accepted. I thought there's no way I'm getting into this school. I don't have enough background. I'm not talented enough. And then they accepted me and I thought wow, I have no idea why I got accepted into this program. I think I got accepted for many reasons. I think that there was some potential there. I think that Terrell Finney saw potential in me were other people didn't and I think I helped fill some quotas for the school. My representation was not dominant at the school. And so I think I helped fill that. So there's a combination of things that in my head helped me get into the school. I thought I had potential, l also I wouldn't be doing it other than the drive that I had to do it but that somebody else saw it was big. It really influenced the rest of my career.

Leitten: Did you say that was grad school or undergrad?

Callender: That was grad school. I went to undergraduate school at Eastern Kentucky University. See, I forgot about that part of my life. I went to graduate in the ‘80s, and then I went to undergraduate school at Eastern Kentucky University, and I majored in psychology and minored in theatre.

Mulvaney: Wow. Well, psychology is such a great degree to have for what you do currently, it's kind of perfect.

Callender: 100%. The funny thing about what I'm doing now in terms of intimacy coordinating and what I have done since I left undergraduate school, is I feel like everything that I have done, has led to me being where I am right now. The whole acting, stunts, psychology, intimacy, coordinating — all of that feeds into what I do, and I couldn't have written it any better. Like if I had tried to choose that and put it together, I don't think it would have worked out the same way.

Mulvaney: Right? And so at CCM, obviously, the acting program studies so many different styles. So you've got viewpoint, Suzuki, Meisner — what really clicked for you as far as your acting style, what, what did you gravitate towards?

Callender: I think what resonated for me the most was Michael Chekhov's “To The Actor.” And it resonated because it helped you look inside, to figure out what you needed to do as an actor. Like we talked a lot about atmosphere how to create atmosphere, which when I first got there, I was like, What do you mean atmosphere, I mean, atmosphere is atmosphere. We had to do an exercise at one point where our teacher, Michael – not Chekhov.

Mulvaney: I wish. Oh, my gosh,

Leitten: That would have been amazing,

Callender: Right? He gave everybody a word. And nobody knew what the other word was. And we had to create that atmosphere without words. And we could use the whole space that we were in. And my word was something that was really I think, challenging to, to create, my word was peace. And I went around, and I was just like, trying to create calm, and joy and ease and I was touching people and I was soothing people. And literally, the atmosphere in the room had changed, because everybody like breathed with me, and they joined me. And everyone got what my atmosphere was. And for me, I was like, “ahhh.”

Mulvaney: It's kind of like a magician. It's like a psychology magician, in a way.

Callender: Yeah, it was like, look over here, but what's going on over here is making us all feel at peace and calm. And so for me, it was a combination of that, and truly my stage combat training, because with, with stage combat training, it's all about, you have to know why. What situation has brought you to this place where now you're going to fight, you know, like the tension had to build to get to where I'm going to, like cut you or punch you. And then once you had to learn choreography, you were learning it, of course, by the moves, but there were also acting beats within it. And everything was so physical. And so I would learn my lines based on the physicality of what I needed to do with my sword, and where I needed to go. And so a combination of physical beats, and learning to create things like atmosphere, really, just for me was like, this is how I'm going to learn how to act and act well.

Mulvaney: And was the stage combat course that you took at CCM, was that your first taste of fighting and fight choreography? And was that kind of a spark for you as far as wanting to pursue this?

Callender: Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was my first at CCM. When I was an undergraduate school, I did a lot of dance, and I hadn't really gotten into the stage combat thing yet. And then, in college, I met a lot of teachers who were teaching stage combat, I met Drew Fraser, I met J. Allen Suddeth — he's the one that encouraged me to audition for the Off Broadway show that brought me from Ohio to New York. And so these were teachers of mine, and then I started studying stage combat during the summer, like you would go to the stage combat, the national stage combat workshop, which used to be held in Las Vegas. And so you would take three weeks to do nothing but stage combat and I honestly I couldn't think of anything better to be doing than slinging swords and pretending to beat each other up. And let me tell you, I am not a violent person. I don't like conflict that much. I can help people deal with it and navigate through it, but I'm not violent. I don't want to hit people. But I'm really good at pretending to hit people and pretending to be hit and using everything, all of my physical body to tell the story and that, for me is what's exciting like the physical story.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: We actually have a question from a current student. It's from Ava Duvall second year CCM acting. After graduating, did you immediately move to your city of choice and start auditioning, slash performing? Or did you wait a bit to save money, etc? And then start trying to audition? What advice would you give current students about this topic? Thanks.

Callender: So I did wait a little while before I moved up here to the New York/New Jersey area. I worked at the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati for a couple of years. And I felt like that was just me. Just getting training under my belt. I don't think I saved any money, which was probably not the best idea. I would, I would say save money. I don't care how much it is, like 5/10 bucks, just put it away, put it away, start saving money. And don't worry that it's not a lot. Just save whatever you can. I got my experience with Ensemble Theatre, Cincinnati. And then I had an opportunity to audition for this Off Broadway play. So I was auditioning actually at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park for something I don't remember what it was. They asked me some questions about my future and what I plan to do. And I said, well, as a matter of fact, I have an audition in the city for Henry the Sixth parts one, two, and three playing Joan of Arc. And she laughed at me and told me that they would never hire a little girl from Cincinnati to do that role. I got the job.

Mulvaney: Hell yeah.

Callender: And then I didn't quite move 100% yet. I have an uncle who lives in New Jersey and I moved in with him so that I could do the job just to make that transition easier. I was also dating then my now husband, and he and I were living together. And he wound up getting a job in Helsinki, Finland.

Mulvaney: I thought that was Helsinki, New Jersey.

Callender: Yeah. Yeah. You know, Helsinki, New Jersey. I

Leitten: I think that's North Jersey, actually

Callender: Yes, exactly.

Leitten: Super Far North Jersey.

Callender: It's very far North Jersey. He was going to go to Helsinki, we were going to get rid of the apartment. I was going to move to New York, move in with my uncle. And do Henry the Sixth parts one, two, and three playing Joan of Arc. And then when he was done, we would get an apartment in New Jersey and see how things went from there.

[Hip Hop Music]

Leitten: I'm assuming that play was your first job out of college in the real world. Am I right? And what was that experience like going from Cincinnati to Off Broadway in New York?

Callender: You're correct. It was my first real, real big job. It was nerve racking. It was just nerve racking because I got the job because I was playing Joan of Arc. And she had to fight. The fight director Jay Allen said it knew that I could fight the job. I just had to audition to act the job. It was just terrifying. Because I This was everything about this was new to me. I was stepping into bigger shoes, and I I was ready. But I didn't really know if I was ready. And interestingly enough, I didn't get a good review in the New York Times. Somebody told me about it. I didn't read it. And because of that I don't ever look at reviews. When I work with my Theatre Company. Now they know not to let me know that the reviewer is in the audience. I'm like, I don't want to know, I don't want that influencing anything that I think of or any choices that I've made. And I still have that review from the New York Times in a sealed envelope in my drawer. I don't want to read it.

Mulvaney: What was the transition like between going from Off Broadway to this incredible slew of Hollywood TV shows and movies?

Callender: I was in the city and I was auditioning. And so I started to audition for some films. When I auditioned for the film. there happened to be a fight sequence. And so I was there doing the fight sequence. And the people who are stunt coordinators now. Were there early in their career. And they saw me fighting and we had to work in groups. And so they had said they came over and asked me to, Could I put a little bit of choreography together, you know, four to five moves with my group. And so I did. And of course, I'm sure it helped them a lot because then they didn't have to go over to all the groups and give them all four or five moves but then they saw that I could fight. And this is back in ‘96, there were not a lot of small black women in the industry doing this work. And so for me, I stood out to them. I think because of that I had the small, the black, the woman, and I could fight and I was there acting. I wasn't seeking out stunt work at the time. And then so someone asked me to come and do something on a film. And I was like, Okay, I'll do it, it's work. And so I did it. And I have that contract, I got paid, like $569. And my mind was blown. It was like, they're gonna pay me more than $500 a day to fight. I mean, I was having the best time ever. And I was like, I can do this. And then they kept calling. Nicole, can you do this? Can you do that? And I was like, Sure, I can do that.

Mulvaney: And it was probably because you were so lovely to work with on that first day.

Callender: Being someone that is easy for other stunt coordinators, producers and directors to work with is going to go so far for you and your career. Because if you've got an attitude, or if you've got a big ego, and I have to spend 12 to 15 hours a day with you, and put up with that negative behavior, I don't want to, or somebody doesn't want to, and they cannot hire you. But if you're somebody that they're going to enjoy spending time with, and you have the skill that you need to do, then they're going to call you back. I didn't know that then. So I was still just like, you know, okay, I got to do this. And I got to do this. And I need to work to you know, to build my skills and build my relationship. So I continued to do the work. That, in my opinion, is huge. Like, be nice. Just be genuinely nice. And do your job and have the skills to do it well. And then you'll keep getting hired.

Leitten: From that perspective. For most of your career. Has it been people calling you saying, Hey, we got another job, we want you on this project? Have you had to audition for stunts?

Callender: For the most part, it's been people calling me. And that's just because of the way stunts is run. The stunt coordinator is the one that hires you. So once you have these relationships with the stunt coordinators, then they'll call because they know what your skill is. And they call you and they hire you. I've auditioned for a handful of stunt jobs, but they were jobs that you had to act and stunt. So like last season on The Blacklist there was a job for someone who had to get drowned in a bathtub. But she had lines beforehand. So I know the stunt coordinator on that which is Cort Hessler, Emmy Award winning Cort Hessler. So he, I've known him a lot of my career, just because it's the stunt world. And so he said, Nicole come audition for this. And so I went to audition, I saw what the audition was. And I was like, Oh, I don't want to drown, I hate water. But I'm not going to not audition for a job. That Cort asked me to audition for it. Because he asks me to audition a lot.

Leitten: I'm sure it didn't hurt that it was The Blacklist, you know, one of the most popular shows on television.

Callender: Of I mean, I've done The Blacklist a fair number of times. And so I wanted to continue. So I read the script, I read the sides, and I was like, Okay, I'm gonna go audition. And because I was kind of like, Well, you know, I guess I just had a sense of calm and ease. And I just went and did the audition. And then I just kind of forgot about it. That night, there was a stunt in the safety SAG meeting. So I was at that and Cort was at the head of the table talking about stuff and he said, Nicole, how do you think it went? And I was like, I don’t know, you know, we'll see. Well, the next day, they were like Nicole, they want you to do the job. And I was like, I have to drown. Like I'm not the best and water. So I spent the next week in my bathtub pretending to drown myself. Because the woman had to have her like her leg pulled up. So it was going to like face up, go under the water. And I didn't want all the water going in my nose. I was working on that as I went under the water.

Mulvaney: Imagine if somebody walked in on you like doing that. And like if the cops would probably be called

Leitten: Your husband's knocking on the door, like what is going on in there?

Callender: He totally knew what was going on. I was like, I gotta go practice and I also wanted to increase my breath capacity, because I knew that in the end. After they pulled her up, they're going to flip her over over and hold her down under the water. So I wanted to have my breath capacity at its maximum.

Mulvaney: I totally want to go watch the scene

Callender: And I will say that the edit that they put together doesn't show, in my opinion, what we really did. Like I when I saw the edit, I was like, I mean, that was, we did so much more. I did so much more in the bathtub than what they showed, but that is always how it goes.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: So what would you consider your big break in the stunt world?

Callender: My big break in the stunt world was probably meeting the stunt coordinators who were doing a lot of the work. So there was a stunt coordinator. Several stunt coordinators, there's stunt coordinator named George Aguilar, Stephen Pope, Brian Smyj, all of these people just on these big, big movies I worked well with and so they continued to hire me. I don't feel like it was one particular job. I feel like it was people that offered me that big break Enchanted was a big moving, in which I didn't have any kind of big part in it. But there was a lot of background stuff reacting to dragons and the princess in Enchanted, had a big huge dress on, and it was very hard for her to maneuver. So when we would be in crowd scenes, I would be next to her holding her waist as she went along. You couldn't see me doing that, but it helped her stay upright, and keep her dress from wobbling.

Mulvaney: And that's Amy Adams right?

Leitten: Now I'm gonna have I'm gonna have to go back and watch this movie and see if I can find you.

Mulvaney” [Sings] That’s how you know he loves you. 

can find your, you know, jobs.

Leitten: Were any of the the names you just mentioned, did you consider any of the mentors?

Callender: I considered? Brian Smyj, a big mentor, Stephen Pope, a big mentor. Brian is a really, really smart man. And a lot of this technical stuff makes a lot of sense to him, the rigging, the complications of the rigging that has to get done. He's also a big, strong man, his presence is big in the stunt world, and in a personal world. And he can command a space very easily. So he was just one of these people that was he just felt like, you can do it Nicole, you can do it. You just have to learn how to do things, and I'm going to help you learn how to do things. He felt like he wanted to leave things behind in the stunt world. Because as he puts it, he is looking back on his career as opposed to looking forward to what's going to happen. He's now looking back and going I did this, and I've done that. And he wants to leave a positive imprint on that career. And he wants to leave it to people that he believes in. And he believed, believes in me, he believed in me. And so I could call him right now and be like, I gotta do ‘bla bla bla bla bla’, what do you think? How should I handle it? Can I borrow this? Can I borrow that? And he says, anything you need, call me. Don't have to worry about renting it from me. You ask me any question any time. He just he laid out everything he had at my disposal and said just take it.

Mulvaney: The most priceless friendship.I think we only get one, maybe two of those people in our lifetimes. Just kind of a fan girl stunt question. Can you talk a little bit about any of the big stars that you've doubled for? Or what's it like working with a huge celebrity that then you have to you know, put yourself in their shoes?

Callender: I loved working with Janelle Monáe in Harriet. I was only there for one day. And she, her character gets beat up pretty badly. And so we went we worked on the fight. I was really integral in helping create the fight and how she was thrown around. It was going quite well. Then they brought Janelle in to watch the fight. And then they asked her she wanted to do it. I remember seeing her and she said no, I don't want to do it. I mean, look at her. She's doing a great job. I was like, that's fantastic. Because maybe she's confident enough in her ability and who she is and what she's all about to know that I'm not trying to take her job. I was truly there to help bolster what she did, and to keep her safe. There's no need to put her in that situation if we don’t need to.

Mulvaney: And she was celebrating your talent in your abilities in that moment that she said no, I want her to do it.

Callender: She, She totally celebrated me like nobody else has ever like laid it out there before. I mean, I was floored by it.

Mulvaney: It's kind of like the lead letting the understudy go on for a night and our families in town.

Callender: Yeah

Mulvaney: :ike that's just how I, you know, it's when you have enough confidence in yourself to know Oh, I'm gonna, I'm gonna let someone else have this one.

Leitten: Who are some of the other actresses or even actors that you've doubled for?

Callender: I've doubled for Nia Long, Kerry Washington, I did some doubling for her. Liza Colón-Zayas, Raven Symone, Rori Godsey. Oh, Regina King.

Leitten: Oh, Regina King. I almost forgot about Regina King. What? What did you work on with Regina? And what was that experience like?

Callender: Well, it was great in one aspect because she was lovely. She didn't need a double. She's so athletic, and she can do so much stuff on her own. It was The Leftovers, the series The Leftovers, when it went out to Austin.

Leitten: I love that show.

Callender: And it was great to have met her and to have worked with her. But it turns out that I was anemic during that time. And I didn't realize that I was anemic until right before I left. And so I was struggling with energy. And anemia is one of those things that you can't see on a person unless it gets really bad. And you start to kind of jaundice. I hadn't gotten that bad. But my energy was just really, really low. I got two iron infusions before I left. And my doctor said that I should really have had four before I left, but I didn't have time. So I got the two. And I went to Austin, Texas to double her. And I had we had a sequence to do where it was supposed to look like she was ran out into traffic chasing somebody. And then a car came. And it was like a short stop. They wanted me to run out in front of the car. And we were just having a hard time with the timing. The woman driving fantastic driver, and me running and I just, I just was just having a hard time wasn't working out. And then they put Regina in and she did it. And she lined it up a little bit differently so that the car came and she kind of ran into the side of the car, not ran into it but stopped short and then could hit at the side of the car, which was different than what I was trying to do with the driver because I was trying to run in front of the car and then stop and the timing was just not working. It looked horrific. Never feels good when you can't do the stunt the way they want it done. That was one of those jobs where I thought maybe I shouldn't have done that job. But luckily everything went okay. In terms of my health.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Okay, drum roll drum roll drum roll for [sings] intimacy coordinating.

Leitten: So many questions. What is it? How did you get into it?

Nicole: Intimacy coordinating is helping production and the director and the actors. I help make sure that the set stays closed in the heightened simulated sexual scenes. So that you know, on a set, you have your director's monitor, you have your focus pullers, you have your sound, you've got DIT. So all of those monitors need to be flagged and or tented so that when those scenes are going on, people aren't hanging out in the background, watching this really heightened situation between these two actors. So we advocate for the actors to make sure that everything that they are being asked to do is very clear, very clearly spelled out, transparent. And we help choreograph it so that it's done in a safe manner, and that there are no slip ups, so to speak, because we've created a boundary. And if somebody works outside of that boundary, then we have a very clear, Well, look, these are the boundaries we set and you went outside of those boundaries, you don't set boundaries, and somebody crosses one and they don't know it, then you don't really have a ground to kind of say, Well, you know, we established that you couldn't touch this area. Now if there's a graze of that area, and it's just an accident, that's one thing but if there's a particular grope, then we know that we have some things have happened incorrectly, crossed boundaries. So we're there to advocate for actors. I like to tell actors that I don't speak for them because they have agency over their own bodies and their own minds, but I am there to support your voice, so that if we need to do some negotiating, I'm there to help that negotiation. I also help them as a physical coach to help make things look like it's what's actually happening, because I'm the one behind the monitor watching what it looks like. And as the actor you may feel like it looks good, but we need to shift an angle, more We need to accentuate a movement more. So I help with that. I help production because I go from the intimacy rehearsals, and then I let wardrobe know what it is we actually did in that intimacy rehearsals so that maybe some wardrobe that gets selected for them can help in that movement, I make sure they have the proper modesty garments. For the scene, if they're on a bed, for example and their sheets, those sheets are all [messed] up. I like to say it depends on the studio, what you're allowed to show. So on a on a studio that doesn't allow pubic hair or genitals to be seen, well, we have garments to cover those areas. So that if camera should swipe, that area won't be shown on film. But we choreograph it so that that area can't get seen anyway. So it might be that if a couple is in a missionary position, that all depending on where camera is, will ask them to like, put a leg up, right? So that helps to mask things.

Mulvaney: A little bit of movie magic.

Callender: Movie magic, as opposed to coming like right directly behind somebody, maybe we the camera can go on a 45. Right? Or maybe instead of it being a wide shot, then it's a 50/50. So that you're only getting, you know from the waist up.

Leitten: So when it comes to these simulations and kissing, how, how does the conversation happen? If you have two actors that are kissing, do you sit down with them and say, like, here's how you kiss, it's never, you never open your mouth. You know? Because you're talking about boundaries? How does that happen?

Callender: So first off, once I get the script and break it down and see what has to happen, I speak with the director to find out what it is, from this intimate scene, what's the story that they want to tell? And then I have a conversation with the actors to let them know what the story is that the director would like to tell. And I asked them their boundaries about the kissing. So for the most part, especially nowadays, you kind of default to there's no tongue with kissing. So that's our default, we'll start there. It's not that we can't use tongue, but we're certainly going to discuss it. And so I'll ask each actor individually, how they feel about that, if they're willing or unwilling. And I asked them by themselves, so nobody is answering any question, any personal question in front of another person. So and if one actor says that they are uncomfortable with it, then I take that note, I'll still ask the other actor. But if one person says they're uncomfortable, then I'll go into rehearsal. And I'll say, so we're going to stick to the default of no tongue I don't say who wants to or doesn't want to, it's just, this is how we're going to do it. But then I'll talk about so what we could do to make it feel a little more sexy is as opposed to just having two lips pressed together, you know, we can do open the mouth and then come together and close the mouth. Or you can you know, have, you know, one lip that you pay attention to more than the other.

Mulvaney: So is this position in the industry relatively new, the title of intimacy coordinator?

Callender: Yes, it's very new. I've only been doing it for about three years. And when I started it, it was brand spanking new. So it's still like the Wild Wild West. In terms of building the foundation for it all. There are several people who have worked really, really hard to establish these protocols for intimacy coordinating. Tonia Sina, she did her thesis I think her college thesis on this work, Claire Warden and Alicia Rodis. Alicia Rodis is a big name in the industry for helping establish these protocols for film. So she got hooked up with HBO on The Deuce and really worked a lot of stuff out for them on The Deuce. And then they took her on full time to just stay and do a lot of the HBO shows so she doesn't work for other people. Right now. She's just with HBO.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: What was your first job or one of your first jobs as an intimacy coordinator?

Callender: The Deuce had to do a porn photoshoot. So some of the posters that are in the background of The Deuce that are like porn posters. They had a photo shoot of that and they needed new posters. So it was a day of pornographic photo shooting, which was very interesting.

Leitten: Just another day at the office yesterday.

Callender: Just another day in the office, it went great. It went so well that there were people on the set who, by the end of the day, executive producers were coming downstairs saying, Hey, we heard about you, and how well this is going down here. So that, you know, it was like a little bit of an ego boost that it was going well, and I was helping direct what they wanted having the scenes done.

Mulvaney: And do you think this is the new normal, having an intimacy coordinator is now going to be a must? It's, it's something that actors need an advocate on set for? Do you believe that?

Callender: I 100% believe that every time that I am on set, especially if I'm just meeting an actor or an actress, when we leave, they say that went so well, I felt so comfortable having you there. I have not had anybody say they wish I wasn't there. I do have people who are hesitant. I do have people who say, I really want it to kind of happen more organically. I understand that. But organically isn't safe for everybody in the room.

Mulvaney: There should have been a position probably a long time ago, I feel for probably a lot of performers and actors out there that have had uncomfy experiences.

Callender: One of the things I learned was that when a simulated sex scene came up, that the director would just go well, okay, I mean, let's, let's just go. And there was no discussion about you know, the story behind the sex, the simulated sex scene, or what is it going to be tender and gentle and you know, like just the quality of touch, let's discuss that. It's going to be quick and hard, you know, or it's going to be slow. You know, we're going to scoop, we got a scoop, I need to see some scooping. And, and so everyone gets they start to learn the language of my hands. They didn't get to discuss that it was just go. And I have no idea like what was put between them to make sure that you know that they're kept physically safe. Vascular reactions are going to happen.

Leitten: What does go between two people in that instance? And how do you deal with issues that come up?

Mulvaney: This was the question I wanted to ask, but I was scared to ask it, so.

Callender: Well, I can show you, actually.

Leitten: I would have used a different term. But vascular, what did you say?

Callender: Vascular reaction?

Leitten: Yes, vascular reaction. I've learned something today, that is the technical term in the film industry, for when you can't control your bodily functions.

Callender: Right. Right. And, you know, there's liquid involved and you can't be exchanging that with somebody without their knowledge or consent.

Leitten: It's just natural.

Callender: Right? So this is one of the things I use. It's a strapless thong.

Mulvaney: Okay, it almost is I kind of like What a drag queen would use to like tuck things away?

Callender: Well, it's not that strong, I think what a drag queen would use would have to be a little bit stronger. Okay, but but similar in design.

Mulvaney: Okay. And it sticks holds everything in place.

Callender: Yes. So it tapes at the pubic line goes down and around, and then tapes right at the sacrum. So I also bring a lot of extra tape with me because these don't adhere that well. And so I use a lot of like K tape to to for extra adherence. So we have ones for males, and so they're larger in the genital area to accommodate everything. And then we also have ones for females that don't have as much fabric. And they also come in a variety of different shades to accommodate all of the many colors that we come in. And then we have what we call in in the industry of a va-joga. Which someone made that up. I'm not sure who exactly. But basically, we call it a va-joga because it's like a cut out yoga mat cut in an hourglass shape. And that can fit between the legs of one or the other. And then I'll usually put this kind of cover over that mat, so it won't pick up the green. Right, it's a natural tone. And they should if the cameras in that close, then this shouldn't be here or wouldn't be here and I make them smaller, just in case this is too big. And I also worked with a guy who was really tall and long. So I cut out a really long one to go all the way around. I bring them to rehearsals so that when we rehearse, we can put this in between people it lessens sensitivity, and then somebody doesn't have to feel somebody else's genitals on them.

Mulvaney: Wow, that is like very value, I because like as an actor, I kind of I've always been a little nervous walking into, you know, a situation like that I haven't been in that position yet. But to hear that from an actual intimacy coordinator of what happens is that is priceless information. So thank you, I think you just put a few minds at ease.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Jumping back to your work in the stock world, what I really want to know is, what's your favorite weapon when you're fighting?

Callender: When I played Joan of Arc, J. Allen Sutton had a broad sword made for my hands, for Joan’s hands. So it wasn't this humongous broad sword it was it was balanced and it was fit me well, and that is so easy to work with. I like hand to hand fighting like that just when I used to work a lot on Orange is the New Black.

Mulvaney: Love that show

Callender: One of my favorite jobs because for one, you didn't have to get up and look pretty to go to work because you're going to be a prison mate, and they don't want you don't have makeup on your nails are cut down to the quick, you know, your hair needs to look as bad as possible. So I could just get out of bed and get in the car and go to work. But then I knew that I was going to work and all I was going to do all day was fight with all of my girlfriends that I've known for 20 years. And we were going to come up with some of the craziest stuff you can imagine. Like we had a dildo fight at in Orange is the New Black one time. I mean, imagine the crazy stuff we were all doing with that, and just you know, pulling each other and bending on each other. And I like that because I feel like, like for me personally, if I were going to fight, like I said, I'm not a violent person, I'm not a fighter, but if I were going to fight, I would not be a tactical fighter, it would be raw and scrappy, and just get the hell off me and trying to find that worst area that I could hit you. It wouldn't be like a tactical move, you know where I'm going to do all this and I'm gonna jump in. I wasn't trained that way. And I'm not saying anything negative about it. But there's a difference in that kind of fighting on film, and just scrappy fighting. And I like that scrappy fighting.

Mulvaney: It's more exciting to watch, I think, yeah,

Callender: Yeah! Who didn't ,who oops, and fell or then got their hair pulled or whatever you're, I just feel like that's more real. And it's ugly, and it's raw. And there's nothing pretty about it. But it tells a great story. And I just love the telling a story. Like we can tell the simulated sex story. And I can tell a scrappy fighting story. That's what I like to do. Like I want to tell a story.

Leitten: That's amazing. Dylan, quick question. Do you have a watch on? You wearing a watch? Do you know what time it is?

Mulvaney: Oh, okay.

Leitten: What time is it?

Mulvaney: [Sings] If I could turn back time.

Callender: [Sings] If I could find a way.

Mulvaney: Yes! There you go. Cher show. When did you have a big fail? Like in your career? And what did you learn from it?

Callender: Not doing my best when I was doubling Regina King, you know, that felt like a big fail to me. I feel like honestly, what I should have done was not taken that job.

Mulvaney: It's as an artist, it's so hard to say no.

Callender: It's incredibly hard to say no. And I didn't. And I know better. And if it ever happened again? I would. I would say no.

Mulvaney: Yeah. Put your health first.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Where do you see these next 5-10 years of Nicole Callender in the industry? Are you thinking full time intimacy coordinator? Are you wanting to still do some stunt work? What is your perfect little world look like?

Callender: I think my perfect little world looks like doing both. I would like to continue with my stunt work. I love driving. I'd like to continue driving. And I'm thoroughly enjoying this work as an intimacy coordinator much more than I had anticipated. I mean, I took it on because I did feel that there's a need for it. And the more I'm in it, the more I see that there's a need for it. I like what I'm doing. I see how much I'm helping and with stunts. I like what I'm doing. But I'm not helping anyone helping tell a story and helping tell a fun, great story, hopefully. But I'm not leaving there with somebody hugging me and saying, You made this so much easier for me.

Mulvaney: Okay, well, we wish you all the best in everything coming up. And thank you so much for being here.

Callender: Thank you guys so much for asking me. It's an honor.

Leitten: It is all our honor. Thank you.

Mulvaney: The second she started talking about stunts, Brian, I had to know would you do your own stunts? If you were in a movie?

Leitten: I think I would want to see them done first and then make that decision. I am an outdoorsy person. I'm an athletic person. I think part of me would want to do my own stunts, but part of me would also not want to get hurt.

Mulvaney: That's what I thought. I think like that second part of the answer maybe comes with age.

Leitten: Probably yes. But I still think I would do everything possible to do my own stunts. Then I would let someone else take over like that last 5% of difficulty. Would you do your own stunts? Dylan?

Mulvaney: Well, Brian, now that I've been thinking about it, I haven't seen a whole lot of non-binary people doing stunts, like with like flames behind them, or you know, karate chopping action. So I would say Hell yeah, I want to do my own stunts. I also think that I could possibly die because I am pretty much the clumsiest person around. But it would be so entertaining for the crew. As long as there were, you know, probably a great medical staff around the building,

Leitten: I need you to promise me that if you book a gig with crazy stunts that you will think through that decision.

Mulvaney: I will but I also will probably call and ask if if I can have Nicole Callender on this set present somewhere. Or if I was to ever be in a movie and I was the lead and there was some steamy, steamy scene. I would probably also call…

Leitten: She’s the first call.

Mulvaney: I would be like in my contract. I don't even want more money. I just want to Nicole Callender on set with me. Yeah, cuz she just had the most like, nurturing professional energy to her.

Leitten: Yeah. And her voice. I feel like I should be taking a yoga class with her voice. It's just so like, let me ground you. Let me make you feel safe.

Mulvaney: Yeah, I would trust I would trust her with my life. And I mean, it's she's just won a goddess.

Leitten: Such an amazing interview for this series. I was incredibly happy to have her be a part of it.

Mulvaney: Speaking on the topic of fabulous actresses. I found a new podcast called “In The Envelope”, which is an actress podcast by Backstage magazine. And they've interviewed Cynthia Erivo, and Sarah Paulson. And Brian, I shared it with you and what do you think?

Leitten: I really enjoyed it, I listened to an episode of Daveed Diggs, mainly because we just had some cast members from Hamilton on our show, and I wanted to hear how his experiences stacked up with our guests. And, of course, Paul Rudd, one of my favorite actors of all time, but yeah, we reached out to them and we got a little clip to share with our listeners from Laura Lenny's episode.

Linney: Sometimes you'll have experiences that are great. Yeah. And those are magical and you have to enjoy every second of those and then sometimes you're going to be in productions that just don't work. And they're painful and it's awful, and it's an embarrassing, but you'll learn a lot.

Leitten: The good news for our listeners is we put our episodes up on Mondays and “In The Envelope” puts their episodes up on Thursdays so you can get two really great podcasts in one week!

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

Mulvaney: On next week's episode, we are talking to Emmy Award winning special effects and makeup artist Brad Look!

Look: For Hunger Games, we shot originally in North Carolina first and then the rest of the films were all shot in Georgia. For Heart of Darkness, we shot that in Belize in Central America. It was with Tim Roth and John Malkovich. I did John Malkovich, his makeup. Believe it or not, we had David Bowie in our makeup trailer. Every day every time Iman was working. David Bowie was sitting right next to me.

Leitten: You can check out Nicole's work as an intimacy coordinator on Power Book two and three on the Starz network.

Mulvaney: And in your free time. You can check us out on social media @schoolstagescreen one word on Instagram and Facebook or @schoolstagepod on Twitter.

Leitten: You can see exclusive bonus clips from our interview at the College-Conservatory of Music University of Cincinnati's YouTube page. Now known as CCM Acting the BFA program is widely recognized for its quality and its history of training successful actors. Graduates are following careers in theater, film and television. Program highlights include training and voice movement and stage combat, acting for the camera training for a full year. Opportunities to act in film, classical and contemporary shows and new works. Senior showcases for agents are held in New York and Los Angeles and in 2020 and 2021. Senior showcases were virtual due to COVID-19. Learn more@ccm.uc.edu. Thanks for listening.

Mulvaney: Bye.

Leitten: Our show is produced by Robin Hopkins and edited by Blake Hawk. Our associate producer is Shannon St. George and our assistant editor is Matt Harris. Our music is composed by Ryan Fine, check out his link in the show notes. A big thanks to Kevin Burke, Becky Butts, Stanley Romanstein, Mikki Graff, Curt Whitacre and Melissa Neeley-Nicolini. Our sponsor is the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. This has been a Hyperion XIII production.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music]

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen! 

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Hyperion XIII production.

Check out Nicole’s credits at IMDB

Click here to see Nicole “Drowning” scene on The Blacklist

Instagram: @schoolstagescreen

Facebook: @schoolstagescreen

Twitter: @schoolstagepod

Brian on Instagram: @bleittz_delightz

Dylan on Instagram: @dylanmulvaney | TikTok: @dylanjamesmulvaney

Edited by Blake Hawk, Throughline Media

Song by Ryan Fine (BFA Commercial Music Production, '17)

Show art by Graff Designs

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/-JvrDoFjpkg?rel=0

You many have seen her work in "Harriet," "Joker," "Avengers: Infinity War," "Doctor Strange," "Orange is the New Black," or "The Blacklist." Nicole Callender has worked as an actress, stunt woman and intimacy coordinator for the past 25 years. In this clip, she shares how she worked through a snowboarding injury (with a torn ACL) to perform in a play and work stunts in a film shoot!


Episode 3: "Netflix, and Sorkin, and Sitcoms, Oh My!" (April 19, 2021)

How many pilots don’t get bought for series? Brian J. Leitten and Dylan Mulvaney fangirl over their guest Diana Maria Riva (BFA Drama, ’91, MFA Theatre Performance, ’95), star of Netflix's Dead to Me. She shares key differences between theatre and film, and how she had to master those skills rather quickly.

Diana Maria Riva: Always make sure you don't have a live mic on your body, because you will leave set and go and engage in activities of all kinds, and conversations of all kinds that you do not want anyone to hear.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Brian J. Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. This season's guests are all loans from the University of Cincinnati's college Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school.

Leitten: Today, we're talking with film and television star Diana Maria Riva.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

[applause]

Leitten: Dylan!

Mulvaney: Hi, Brian.

Leitten: How are you?

Mulvaney: Oh my gosh, I'm just I'm in my canopy bed right now. It's so funny. I just moved into this new apartment. I have this giant TV. And yet I'm still watching all of my shows on my like, 12-inch laptop for hours and hours. My poor eyes.

Leitten: You need an HDMI cord. And you need to tell me what you're binge watching right now.

Mulvaney: Okay, I am currently binge watching Gilmore Girls for the third time because it's like, it just is so easy to watch. What are you watching?

Leitten: I have definitely watched Gilmore Girls before when I worked at MTV, it was one of like the competitor shows. So I've seen the whole show

Mulvaney: [Sings] Where you lead, I will follow… 

you lead will follow super

Leitten: They talk super fast. It's not real. No one talks like that.

Mulvaney: I do

Leitten: Actually, you do, you do. I just started a new show on Amazon Prime called Invincible. It's like a superhero adult cartoon. But they dropped three episodes. And the rest are weekly. And I hate that.

Mulvaney: No!

Leitten: I hate it. I hate it.

Mulvaney: I mean, it's like, are we living in the 1950s? Like what's going on with that?

Leitten: Yeah. That’s worse than a weekly show when you drop three of them and then I have to wait.

Mulvaney: Well, you're gonna forget what happens.

Leitten: I have not watched WandaVision yet. I wanted to wait until all 10 episodes came out. And then I want to binge watch them all at once. I did that with the final season of Game of Thrones. And it made the experience so much better. How do you binge watch?

Mulvaney: I binge watch, like 14 hours at a time like I will, I can get through a whole season in a day. I am very fun-employed. And I will say I can one up you on the Game of Thrones. I waited till every single season of Game of Thrones came out before I watched any of and then I think I watched it all in maybe like two weeks or so, three weeks. It was the best three weeks of my life. I will say that I wish that I would binge watch or binge books like binge read books, because that would probably be really good for us. But when I'm watching TV, I convince myself that it's actually good for me. Because I'm like watching other actors and I'm you know, kind of like picking up on storylines and how writers work. But in reality, I'm just totally vegging out.

Leitten: You know what, I think it is advantageous, if you're paying attention for those things. If you're like watching a show, because you love it, you're not gonna pick up on the subtleties in the writing or the directing or the cinematography. But I will say there have been shows where I will binge watch and I'll take notes because I wanted to create something similar. And it's the easiest way to figure out how to make something is to break it down, watch it, take notes and see what you liked and what you didn't like.

Mulvaney: I think it's very interesting too is that once you really learn story structure you realize that so many of these shows are actually very similar and have you know the type A, Type B characters and this, this and this happens, and you're like, Oh my gosh, I start to see through it. But something very exciting is that our special guest that we're interviewing today is on one of my all-time binge worthy favorite TV shows.

Leitten: Very binge worthy!

Mulvaney: Hashtag Netflix

Leitten: She's been a star many other things but most recently Dead to Me on Netflix.

Mulvaney: Her arc in season two is just incredible.

Leitten: Should we get started doing?

Mulvaney: Heck yes. Without further ado, we have the gorgeous, funny, talented, inspiring Deanna Maria Riva star of Netflix is Dead to Me.

Leitten: She's a graduate from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Acting program. Let's get it started.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Diana Maria Riva! Thank you for taking the time. I think we both have been anticipating this for the last week.

Mulvaney: I'm fangirling.

Diana Maria Riva: Yay, I am too. I love being here and I love anybody who loves to put a light on to our beloved alma mater…

Leitten: Give us your 30-second IMDb bio,

Riva: I will. And it's always funny because when somebody meets you in public and they say, Where do I know you from? And then you start telling your bio they're like, Yeah, no, that's not it. And that's embarrassing. So I never liked to tell my bio but here I will I go back with series such as the West Wing and NYPD Blue. I had a good series of beautiful series on lifetime called Side Order Of Life. What Women Want was my first big feature. Did a lot of work with a series that we're on a little bit short lived with Rob Schneider called Rob. With Matthew…

Leitten: Matthew LeBlanc

Riva: Thank you because I kept thinking Matthew Perry no. Matthew Perry and I did Studio 60, which was another Aaron Sorkin show. And then I went on to do a series called Telenovela with Eva Longoria and great films that I had the opportunity to work on, such as McFarland, USA with Kevin Costner. And I just last in the last year Noelle with Anna Kendrick. It's a good nice steady road ride.

Mulvaney: Incredible. And you're based in LA

Riva: I am based in LA I came out here from Cincinnati, Ohio in ‘95. And it's been my home now

Mulvaney: Love it. Would you share your pronouns with us?

Riva: She/her.

Mulvaney: Thank you for that. And can you also share your current or most recent production that you were working on and what your job was there?

Riva: My most recent production is a Netflix series called Dead to Me with Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini, James Marsden, and I play detective Ana Perez, or hashtag Poor Perez — like she's just having a hard time in life. And we are about to embark on season three, we're tentatively scheduled to go start filming in May. And that was a gift, that kind of came out of nowhere. And it's been a great ride. And one of those series, one of those show experiences that as the show, as the creator of the show, Liz Feldman told me last year that she thought this is one of the greatest moments, but she said to me, I thought you were just going to be a detective until I met you. And after she got to kind of see a little bit of what I could do and get to know me personally, she decided to take the story in a completely different direction for Perez. And so it's been a super fulfilling artistic journey and not knowing that this was the plan. And um now here in season three, her fate is all going to wrap up. So we're gonna see what happens.

Mulvaney: A huge Congrats, you and I have to be honest, Dead to Me was sort of like a phase of my quarantine. Like, you know, I had the Game of Thrones phase in our household. And then we went to Dead to Me. And it was so funny because it my dad, he's in his 60s, a football lover, and he started Dead to Me. And he's like, Oh, this is such a chick flick. And everyone's always crying. And then he just got wrapped up in it. And it became sort of like the nightly routine. For weeks there of just going through those shows. And so thank you for that. I mean, I think a lot of people had that Dead to Me phase of quarantine of 2020. So…

Riva: I mean, who hasn't had… this is where I feel like, you know, people can say artists are television film, what is it? Well, it was, you know, we're clearly not creating a vaccine, but we sure as hell entertained you guys while you were in quarantine. So I'm grateful to be a part of it. I'm grateful that you have that as my job as my career because I love it. And there's so many shows to discover during that downtime. So I'm glad you discovered that one. But it's that's a that's been a little gift to sit down and really dive into all those great projects that are out there.

Leitten: You're talking about Dead to Me and how the role has changed. Has that happened a lot in your career? And how does it feel when you know you come in for a role and then the creator sees something in you and like changes the whole role or adds you to the whole season just because they like you as a person and working with you?

Riva: Well, it is absolutely a compliment and it feels great and then and you feel uplifted because it's it's a sign of support. It's a sign of belief in your in your work. And it's been a part of my journey a lot because let's just be frank here. There aren't enough and there haven't been enough roles created with this in mind, this skin tone, this look this whatever, this, this background, and when we get breakdowns when we see the the roles that they're auditioning for. The descriptions are clear. white male, white women, you know, or all ethnic, all ethnicities, this is what they would put in, so if it doesn't say all ethnicities, it can be very difficult for a woman to go in for a role that's written for a white, female, you know, whatever. And it's been my team that believes in me that would go out there and say to these casting directors over the years, she can bring the soul, the spirit of this character. And they’re like, well, we're not, we're not casting ethnic is what, is that the sentence that they would use, we're not going ethnic for that role, which I don't think that that would be said today. But it wasn't that long ago, we're talking the last couple years. I think you would still hear we're not going outside for that role. And my, in the early years, my team would push and say, let her come in for this role. And I would go in and I would audition and the role would go from, you know, Michelle O'Brian to Sonia Ramirez, you know, after I got cast in it, and that's fine. That's the key to go in there and convince them to see you in this. But while bringing that that character’s spirit to life, and that's our job, that's what we go in there and do.

[Hip Hop rewind]

Leitten: I'm gonna take us back now back to Cincinnati, back to college.

Riva: Oh my God, who's got dirt?

Mulvaney: Insert like the Wizard of Oz tornado.

Riva: Yes.

Leitten: What was life like growing up in Cincinnati for you? And how did you decide on CCM and acting?

Riva: Growing up as a kid in Cincinnati, not a ton of kids were going to their parents and saying, I want to be an actor. I have faced parents who said, you know, ‘an actor?’ Like that's, that's not even, that's not even a business. You know, that only happens in Hollywood, with, you know, famous people, whatever. But I had gone to see when I was in the fifth or sixth grade, I had gone to see the Broadway tour of Annie that was in town, my grandmother took me to see it. And I was sitting there watching all these girls who were about my age, about 11/12 years old on stage singing and dancing. I fell in love with the whole thing that on the car ride home, I said to my grandmother, I'm going to be an actor when I grow up. That was my defining moment. And she looked at me and said, ‘okay,’ and that was it. That was it. It was okay. And when I told my parents, the only thing they ever said, was, okay, you have to get your education you have, we're not gonna let you just go to New York or go… and they were smart and saying that and this was before, they didn't know anything about the industry that either whether it was theater, television or film, they just thought just get your education, get your training, get armed, get ready to get prepared. And it was the best advice that that was ever given to me. So CCM came by way of in high school. So I went to St. Ursula Academy. There was a Drama department my freshman year, and then it disappeared and never came back. So there were there were really no arts there at the time. Now it's a different story now. And CCM had a Prep department on the weekends for kids. And I did it for four years. And I had a teacher from St. Ursula came up to me one day I was walking down the hall and she was like ‘you know what I was thinking about you the other day, Moeller High School is doing a production of West Side Story. You'd be great at that.’ I was like, oh, okay, I didn't know where Moeller was. I hadn't even, you know, I didn't even know where Moeller was. I'd heard of it, Of course, obviously. And I did get that role. And the next year I went I played Anita and it was just like groundbreaking for me to to break into, you know, the stage singing and dancing. And the same with the next year we did How to Succeed in Business was amazing experience. And if I hadn't gotten that little bit, I had to go in search of training and experience because when I went to audition for CCM, I was the underdog and all these kids were coming from performing arts high schools, and they had been dance training or whatever and I hadn't, I was just doing my little mini mummers at the prep department CCM and I audition for CCM in front of Michael Burnham and Diane Kvapil, who anyone might remember a long time there. And I was just, just a young girl doing you know, I just had a big heart. I didn't have all that experience. And I remember Michael Burnham saying to me what happens if we don't cast you in anything for like the first two years, just so you can do the work? And I just opened my eyes and if that's what you think I need to be able to get into this program to just work on myself and build my strengths so that I can perform by the time I'm, you know, sophomore year, junior, I'll do it. I said the words I have faith in the theater and Michael on Diane said that was the sentence that got me in to that school, and I was not expecting it. I talked about this all the time. When I came home. One day, my mother had, I literally walked into the kitchen and I see my mom over a teapot like this. And I was like, are you steaming it open? She goes no, I'm not, she was totally steaming it open. It was very thin. So we thought this is a decline because acceptance comes with a big pack and datata…. So we're already like looking at each other because it's okay. It's okay. You'll transfer. And I said okay. So I opened it up and it said Dear Diana Maria Riva, we are pleased to inform you! And we just lost it. And it was like, they took a chance on me, they rolled the dice on me. And it was that was, you know, aside from my parents, CCM and the little Drama department was that were the first entities to invest in belief and just my heart and soul and my dedication and green talent, not nothing that was, you know, bigger or noticeable yet.

Mulvaney: Was there a particular like class or production, while you were at CCM, that like, still has an impact on you or that you think super fondly about?

Riva: You know, my senior year, Mark McCabe, who was an adjunct professor, and he was also a graduate of the program to the Acting department years before, he was just there are two things that I did that one with, with Mark McCabe who taught improv and I love the art of improv, and I believe that it is fueled my ability in comedy, whatever you do, like that's at the core. And, and I had to test this situation at a chemistry test with an actor just two days ago. And it really was about those improvised moments between the two of us that I will forever love be grateful for and feel like it's at the core of a lot. And all my classes with k. Jenny Jones, who is a stage in combat…

Mulvaney: Love her. 

Riva: …master. And that that's why I said, like, I want to get on a horse with the sword. And the first person I'll be calling is, Jenny. I need help!

Leitten: Did you did you ever do a scene on a horse?

Riva: So I was cast in a pilot last year, that was a Western. And I had to go in and the creators of the show these two wonderful women wanted to cast me in their pilot, it was to play the town, madam. And the, the costumes were amazing. And everyone was so excited. And I had to when they call me to tell me, I had the part. I said, I need to make a request. I just want to ride a horse. And they're like, okay, that's fine. We'll make it work! So this what I had, we were ready to launch. I was two days from my first call time, and we shut down for COVID and the pilot.

Mulvaney: Is there any chance of seeing that in the future come back to fruition?

Riva: You know, they finally, by June, they finally had to release us, they couldn't hold us any longer. So I don't, it's it kind of and you know, what was so it, when they were talking to me about the project, I had to keep a straight face because I didn't, I couldn't give, show them my poker hand as to whether I was going to accept this offer, right? So they're like, let us show you the set and they pull out their iPad and they're showing the, the the old town up in the hills here in in in Santa Monica. That that's a Western town that's been built. I'm watching and I'm trying Oh my God. Oh my God, look at the saloon. That's the saloon. Look at the saloon doors like they’re real!

Leitten: Negotiating face. Keep your negotiating face on.

Riva: Oh, it was work. So yes, that hasn't happened yet. But hopefully in the future

Mulvaney: And being now where you are, looking back is there a class that you wish they would have had where — maybe they have it now — but or something that you're like, Oh, this should be taught.

Riva: Absolutely, and it's television and film. It's the, the, it was a little taboo to, to want and desire openly a career and television when I was there. I didn't plan for a career in television and film, it stumbled upon me. And it's been, you know, good. But it did. You know, I started off with a show on television before I knew how do I audition for television and film. So when that show was canceled, and I started to go out and you know, audition for television film, I did not know how. And I would go into that tiny little office, which was usually casting directors office with you know, producers there and I am enunciating to the back of the room the last row because that's all I know. And it was big and over the top and not, you know, not appropriate for this little screen that they're trying to imagine you on and they're four feet away from you. And I'm you know presenting to the crowd. And I remember thinking at the time like this, I am I'm not skilled and I'm not ready for this. And I doubted whether or not I was ever going to be able to stay out here and do this, because our school had nothing like that. That changed probably about two or three years later, when Richard Hess, who became the head of the department started seeing a need to train the students in this other area and this other medium so that they're prepared, whatever, whatever way they end up going, whatever journey to decide to take and that whole auditioning for the camera is a completely different beast than when you're auditioning for theater. And if you don't know how it will, it'll come to haunt you though it really takes a toll. So I'm glad I wish they had had it. I'm glad they do now.

Leitten: Well, I think also they they've combined them. And there's even more synergy at CCM between the Media Production Division students and Acting in Musical Theatre where there is that opportunity to get on screen experience, to do shorts with the CCM Film Lab and the CCM Idea Lab. So as things have progressed, I think in the business the college has done a really good job of, of making sure they're setting their students up in all majors for success.

Riva: Absolutely.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: So Deana switching gears, we have a question from a current CCM student:

Julianna Weis-Palacios: Hi, there. I'm Julianna Weis-Palacios, a BFA Acting major. Deanna, starting out in LA, how do you get representation interested in you? How do you make an agent want to sign you and send you out ambitiously? Should I be looking for an agent, manager, both? Which is best to have and when?

Riva: A lot has changed over the years from when I was in that position, and the way that you approach trying to get a manager agent. There's, there are showcase abilities, there are talent showcase abilities, are there are diversity talent showcases out here that you should look into if you fall into that category. And, you know, essentially, it's about getting a reel. If you're, if you're not doing a showcase, it's about doing student films, it's about doing, you know, non-union stuff, and putting yourself out there to get yourself a reel basically put together. Do you need a talent as a manager agent? Well you eventually need both, because the manager will handle the day to day more specific things. But if you have one before the other, the thing I always say is, whoever you end up signing with, let's say you have you do a showcase out here and an agent approaches you. What you want to hear in that meeting before you say yes, is that they have seven managers that they can think of that they wouldn't introduce you to that that could be a good fit. And the same with the manager before you sign with them in that meeting, you want to hear them say, I have six agents that I have, I want to have a scheduled meeting for you. And then wait and see if they get those meetings. And then you can sign with them if it works. So they should be working for you to help you find that other half that other piece. And if not, if they say I, you don't need an agent, you need a manager. That is not true. Maybe when films are being dropped into your lap and saying we will pay you millions of dollars to do that, then all you really need is, is maybe a lawyer to watch it. But I have a team that I've been with for so long, and I love them. And you want to make sure you get people who reflect what you want to do. If I didn't have who I have, I have fierce women on my team. And one of them has been with me since my very first agency when she was just an assistant at that agency. You need a team need a team that can see past the BS and a team that will push those help you push those doors down versus yourself and when you when you find that that's who you know is going to look out for your best interests.

Mulvaney: This information you just gave us is so valuable and it's not something that's even really discussed at school. And I think that having this info out there for kids to you know you you do the showcase and then you're out on your own and they don't know if they should get the manager if they don't know if they should get the agent and they're talking to other 21 year olds.

Riva: CCM students are always willing to say yes and that's because the discipline that comes out of that school is impeccable and I do believe that it is a tool and a shield that serves you well out here. I honestly out here, because I don't know New York I haven't I haven't lived and done my career in New York, but out here. You that discipline of going in the room being professional doing your job, doing your homework the night before, being hard working on set, knowing how to take direction, follow the lead of a director — that comes from our school.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Diana, how did you make the transition from college into the real world?

Riva: My last year of graduate school at CCM drama, we had to intern at a theater. I ended up interning at the Ensemble Theater and it just so happened that their false production that year was a play called Help written by Michael Weller. And he was coming in from New York and he chose the ensemble theater as the theater that he wanted to debut this new play. Then he was also bringing a director in from David Schweitzer from Los Angeles. We had to audition for the plague just as a part of our internship. It meant nothing. We were mostly doing crew work, but I auditioned. I ended getting the part.

Leitten: Wow.

Riva: And it was like the best internship ever. And that's what I did for my three months there. And that went beautifully. And I graduated couple months later. And then a year later, Michael Weller called me and said, I want to take the play out to Los Angeles. And I want you to continue the role. I never stepped foot in Los Angeles, there were two drama grads that lived out here. And I knew them. And I was grateful they were here because I was very scared to just come out here. And we did the play for three months. They paid me $25 because that was the rule…

Leitten: per day?

Riva: No, per week.

Leitten: Wait, per week?

Mulvaney: Per week, $25.

Riva: Yes, this was an investment. This was, I made no money. I was, it was about coming out here three months of showcasing myself maybe I'd get a commercial. Like that's literally what I thought. I didn't think, I thought when I come back, I'll go back into Chicago, New York when I come back or something. So I just took the woman who was producing the play, opened her home, she says my husband and I have a nice house. It's big. We don't have any children, you can stay with us. So I did. Luckily, I very lucky, good, ethical woman. And then in doing this play, someone that she had invited a writer named Robert Zednik had a show a pilot that he had just sold the ABC, and it started comedian named Greg Geraldo. And there was a part of a funny Latina receptionist, you know, ballsy woman. And after seeing me in this play, he went back to ABC and said, This is who I want to cast in this part. So then ABC called me because I didn't have any representation, I'd everything they said, We want to put you in a development deal. And I literally looked at the woman whose house I was, I was like, what's a development deal? She's like, oh, Give me the phone, give me phone! I was like, Okay. And she took, luckily, a beautifully ethical woman who if she didn't know any what to do, she knew who to go to, to figure out what to do. But she had been in the business a long time, her husband was a writer on Party of Five. And she was a producer. And she said, I'm going to start introducing you to managers, because you need protection. And then two big heavy hitting agencies came forward, but I had money on the table, I suppose. Like, I just got a development deal, what agency wants to come and take their 20%. And so they all kind of came out. And I didn't know who to trust. And I go in the room and I'm meeting with them. And they're like, you know, selling me things big time.

Leitten: Well, they hear the magical word development deal. That's, that's money in the bank.

Riva: It is. And, and luckily, again, this woman who was producing Help, said, started introducing me to managers, and they were big time managers, some of them. And then Beth, one day, the the producer that was producing help said to me, I just want you to know that if you ever feel comfortable enough, I'd love to represent you, I'll be a manager. And I'm like, Okay, that was it. For me, I knew she had my best interests at heart, I knew she was going to be protective of me at at minimum. So for me at the time, that was good enough. And she did go in and protect me. And we did make a good decision as far as agencies were concerned. And we were together for a long time until she actually left the business and moved. But that was a big deal to come here and do that. And when that ended, that I did, I went and did that pilot, I didn't know how to I didn't know multi-cam, three cameras, the only thing was, is that it was the closest thing to life theater, because that studio audience was there. And you were riding the waves of their reaction, their laughter, their silence, their happiness, whatever. And they were your fourth wall. I was very protected, and very well guided by good people when I first got here, because it's an overwhelming amount of stuff, if you have no experience in it, which I didn't.

Leitten: So what happened from that, that pilot? Where did it go? Did your career just with that development deal take off? Or did you have to kind of figure out life from there?

Riva: Well, it took off and it went on for only like eight or nine episodes and then was canceled.

Leitten: What was this show called?

Riva: Common Law. Very funny show some seasoned actors that that I would love to work with today again, and it was cancelled. And I didn't know what that meant. I'm like, Okay, well, so we'll just we'll get we'll do another pilot. Well, no, that's not how it works. It takes time and it takes you know, and whatever. So then I started getting I started being sent out on auditions. And that proved to be extremely challenging. I didn't know what I was doing. I think I mentioned that before. And I was too big and too broad and, and it was I for a year and a half. I booked nothing and then I worried about why did I come out here I'm a little concerned…

Mulvaney: So that first gig is almost a blessing and a curse at the same time.

Riva: Yes, I didn't assume anything, but I was just green when it came to this whole medium. I knew nothing. But I'll tell you, after one audition, I went into audition for the creators of Friends who were creating another show, and I was just, you know, putting on a show in that room thinking, Okay, I'm gonna make them laugh. And I remember when I walked out of the room, I closed the door, and I went down the hallway of Warner Brothers, and I sat there and I thought, and I had this conversation, what are you doing, you are making a fool, you are pushing and trying to entertain them instead of just living openly and naturally in that character skin, which goes back to the basics of what we know, the only difference is, is that it's got to be smaller and more intimate. And in that moment, I made that psychological adjustment. And then from there on out, I started auditioning getting other series. And, you know, the learning curve was was, you know, achieved.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: What did you do for that year and a half?

Mulvaney: Any odd jobs?

Riva: Yeah, it's, you know, you go from never stepping foot in this town. And agents are saying here, hi, hey, we'll take you and development deal or whatever, to working at a bathing suit store in Beverly Hills, which was eye opening. And I could have won, you know, written a series about the trials and tribulations that women have in a bathing suit store. And again, I got lucky that they the, the managers of the store, were wonderful at letting me go cut out and go to an audition real quick and come back. But it was it was a good year and a half, almost two years of selling suits and auditioning.

Leitten: One of my favorite Shows of all time is the West Wing. So I just I need to know how you got the part, what it was like on set, what it was like being surrounded and coming into a cast that had been solidified, had been working together for a while and being the new person and what it was like, for you like was easy coming into that.

Riva: So that was in I was in the last season with the cast. And the storyline was the presidential election, Alan Alda, going up against Jimmy Smits. So I was there with Janeane Garofalo, who was brought in that year and a few others that were just spectacular. This, the, the cast of The West Wing, as long as they had been together, I think that was year 10, maybe nine or 10. were brilliant, loving, happy people. So I was around Jimmy Smits and Bradley Whitford daily, and they were just good people who were happy to still be working and happy to have a show that had gone this long and been that loved. So there was nothing intimidating about being on that set within the company of, of those folks. And it was a place where you could be you know, you really had to follow the language. There wasn't a lot of room for improv, because we're talking about something so specific.

Mulvaney: Aaron Sorkin right?

Riva: Yeah, yeah.

Mulvaney: I heard that he sort of can, he'll change something like right before and you just you got to just do it. Right. Is that something that’s ever happened?

Riva: Right, well that happens all the time. But remind me to come back to Aaron Sorkin because at this point, he wasn't on the show, he had left the West Wing. Okay, but I did Studio 60 with him and I'll share with you a story, then I think that you'll appreciate about that. But when you're doing a multi-cam, so and you're taping in front of that live audience in that night, the team of writers for that show are off in the corner, and they have what's called a page of alternates. So if you do something in the joke doesn't land within the audience isn't laughing, they'll change it. It's like a football huddle, we'll cut at the scene. They'll come in while the, the comedian is entertaining the. the studio audience, the team of writers come in and they say, Alright, we're gonna cut this line, you're gonna add this instead of coming in on this, say this instead. And then she'll drop that line and come in and say, one on one, and we back up and we roll camera. And all those lines that just got changed in the moments in the beats have to happen right there. So you either know how to do that or you don't. When you're doing an hour long show like the West Wing, you don't have a live audience, you're shooting this one perspective at a time. So you have a minute to solidify with whatever has been changed. So that, to me is like I love doing that that like I feel like that's part of our improvisational background. You know, that's where we can really like live in that moment quickly and instantly. So that show was brilliant. In that case, we went through a lot. That was also the situation were in the middle of the campaign story that we were filming I think we were of 22 episodes we were on like Episode 16 or 17 when John Spencer died in the middle of filming, I had just seen him on Friday. He was in the makeup trailer the nicest guy in the world. And it had just been right after whatever that week's episode had aired. And every time I walked by says darling, have I told you how wonderful I thought you were in last week's episode — just so sweet and then by Monday he had died. Yes, it was just and to see the cast go through that heartbreak was just grueling. And then they wrote it into the story. If anybody remembers that final season of West Wing…

 

Leitten: Of course.

Riva: Yes, that that he that Kristen Chenoweth, her character walks in and finds him passed on his bed. And that was just you go back and watch those scenes and there, is there, we are not even a degree away of separation of what those characters were feeling. And so that was just an experience in and of itself there but 100% rewarding to the end.

Leitten: With the Studio [60] on the Sunset Strip, I always get that’s such a long name, I loved the show as well. How did you move from one to the other? And what was it like working with Aaron Sorkin?

Riva: So kind of when you get into that family, they do bring you back if they think you might be right for something. So I was asked to come audition for it. I wasn't offered the role. But I was asked to come in audition for it and I went into audition. And Aaron was the reader, which I was like, oh, Aaron Sorkin is here oh here we go. Aaron Sorkin is reading — wonderful kind man who is there to support the actor he believes in the actor. So I even remember in the middle of the one scene, he stopped and he says, You know what, we're misleading her. He said something to one of the writers like we have to change that because that line isn't giving her what she needs in that moment. I'm like, that's what Aaron says, not me. And the audition went very well got the part. And when we would do table reads, this was what so brilliant — first of all I did I learned at that time that he had studied musical theater when he was in college. So when we would sit at the table reads and table beats were ginormous. And this was again with Bradley Whitford was now the star of the show and Matthew Perry. And Aaron would say, if you could do me the favor, please don't add improvise, implement any extra language or anything. He says I write this like a symphony. I hear just the sounds and the music and the rhythm and the tempo. He was just like he was dancing to the rhythm. Yes, exactly.

Leitten: It's amazing. Just looking at your credit list on IMDB, like McFarland, USA. It's such an amazing story. I just watched it the other night. And, you know, telling that story and working with Kevin Costner…

Riva: It was really a great experience. That one in particular, because I was, this is my first time telling somebody his true story. So I felt the responsibility of you know, being accurate. And so in that, in that movie, I'm the mother of these three boys that are on this cross country team. And that whole family still live in McFarland, which I had never been to, and we shot a few days there in McFarland. And when I went up there to shoot this big scene, the big carwash scene where my character made something like 10,000 tamales for to raise money to buy the kids uniforms. That boys, the grown-up versions of these boys, these, the real boys, were background actors in that scene. So they came in, they introduced themselves to me, it was so great. And then I said, so where is your mom? And they're like, she's home. I'm like, she don't want to come down? And like, she's just not…like, that's fine. Like, let's just I want to meet. So they're like, ‘Mommy!’, you know, like, tell her to come down. And she didn't want to come, she was in the middle of making something. And they're like, well, I don't want to bother. But I'd love to meet the woman I'm playing, you know, and I, that was, I got to meet her. She finally came. She's very quiet, shy woman, very lovely. And then I felt, I don't know like, I have to do this woman, right, I have to do this woman justice. I need to sell her soul, you know, present her soul. And so I started asked the boys and like, what were things that she said, like, what were little phrases and things that she would say to you while you were growing up? And they gave me some great language of her. Like, she would always say, you know, she like make your bed and they say no, she would say “don't say to me, no.” And she would just like slap it. So I use that in the scene. I say, it's Kevin Costner. When I'm serving him food, he doesn't need it anymore. And he says no, and I just use it, “Don’t say to me no!” And it's just just trying to bring her to life.

Leitten: I think on that note, we need to go in the opposite direction. Dylan, it's that time.

Mulvaney: [Sings] If I could turn back time. [Singing stops]. So we've heard you know, we've gone through so many of your credits. Now, we would like to know when did you fail big time. We've got a lot of wins so far.

Leitten: A lot of will be honest, congratulations.

Mulvaney: What did you learn from that fail?

Riva: This industry is too big on failure. They're too big on making you feel that you failed because you didn't get it. On that note, always make sure you don't have a live mic on your body because you will leave set and go and engage in activities of all kinds and conversations of all kinds If you do not want anyone to hear, and I'll never forget one actress who shall remain nameless, came up to me. We were shooting this late-night scene. She comes up to me, she says, we were body mic-ed. Alright, so I reached back here and I think I've turned it off. And she's like, ‘Are your lips real? And if not, who did the top one?’ I’m like oh ‘top one?’

Mulvaney: Just the top one. I don't want whoever did your bottom. I just want the top lip.

Riva: Okay, they're real. I can tell you, can look at my son, my mom, my grandmother, at my sister's. It's all there. But that's the kind of stuff you don't want to be talking about a live mic. And have I done that a couple of times…

Leitten: Was that mic still live?

Riva: Yes, it was someone who was in the Sound Department said, ‘Hey, you have great lips,’ something like that, man. Thank you.

Mulvaney: Without naming anyone, have you ever had maybe sort of like, not a horror story, but can you give us a what not to do while on set or diva moment?

Riva: Well, I do say that for the most part, I've had good, lovely experiences with a lot of people. But bad behavior exists, it's out there and can come back and should come back to you know, bite you in the butt if you haven't learned from it. People do make mistakes and apologize. And they, they make amends. And they change. And I and I believe in that and in accepting that. But I will say that yes, I there was a project that I was working on that it got me to a point where I told my team, my quality of life is not worth sacrificing for the show. I, this is it's toxic. It's mean, it's hateful. And I will not always be able to stay calm and the grown up. I found this young girl who was a guest star staring. I was walking over to the craft service table and I found her and she's just staring at the food, like, doesn't know what to do with it or whatever. And the mother hen in me went up to her and I said, What's the matter? And she just turned and started crying. I said, Come on. And I pulled her in my room. And she was reiterating to me what happened and I had witnessed it. And I just said, This is not about you. Just put on your metal face and get the job done. Collect the paycheck and tell your prep, tell your reps that you don't want to work on this show anymore. And that's it. But trust me when I say it is nothing about you. We've all been treated this way by this individual. So I know that it's really about them. And I, you know, could that have caused a problem for me to say that, but all I was saying was being protective of her. I was just saying I don't want you to go home and question your career over this moment.

Mulvaney: Cuz this chould have been one of her first big, you know, breaks, she was probably so excited to be there. Big SAG paycheck…

Riva: Yes. And I'm sure she was it was because she was very young. The same thing happened to someone who was on the crew, I found this costumer that I adore. And she was very quietly standing outside the stage, it’s is a different project. And she was crying. And she told me what happened. I said, I honestly believe that this is a bad day, and not a you day. And I ran into her probably the same costumer. Two years later, I was walking on to go get a fitting for a different show. I didn't remember the situation. And she greeted me with the biggest hugs and love. And just as I will never forget that moment. And I was like, You know what, if we take care of each other, we're going to survive this far better than the industry itself.

Leitten: Have you ever had a mentor in the business or actively mentored someone that's coming up and trying to follow in your footsteps?

Riva: Well, I will say that all the the CCM grads that I come across in me whether through the showcase when they come out here or if I get introduced to them, Richard Hess knows and I've told the drama department too, that I'm available, meaning like reach out to me on Facebook or whatever. And I'll give you my email and we'll talk if you have questions, I'll do my best to guide you. I also encourage them to reach out to other alumni here, the younger ones that maybe can talk about things that are more that they're more familiar with at this time. And I also say that if you have a meeting with an agent or manager that and you want some background info, I'll tell you if I know them and if I don't, I'll see if I can get some, any background information on them just through other people, other colleagues of mine or whatever, but I try to make myself just available to, to guiding and supporting as much as I can because I just feel this town can be very cutthroat and very lonely. But if we stick together like this we’ll manage far better. Richard Hess, yes from the CCM drama department. He remains my mentor, he’s who's godfather to my son…

Leitten: Like actually your son's godfather?

Riva: He is, my firstborn. He's my son's godfather. And he, so I always call him compadré. I still reach out to him. It wasn't just months ago. It was just about a few months ago where the director on this project had given me a note that I just could not, I couldn't marry, I'm like, I'm not seeing it. I'm not seeing this note, and I'm trying, and I'm trying, I'm trying, I don't want to battle the director, I don’t want to go and do it his way. So then I do it my way. And then they'll decide later, what looks good. I literally had to email the script to Richard, I said, Richard, please read this and tell me what I'm missing. That wonderful, smart man sent me a voice message. And instead, you're missing this piece from her, you're looking at it from the aspect of what the director wants. But if you end the end as a result, but if you're not seeing that, what it what it is that she wants, in that moment, you'll never get to those two places. And that made all the difference in the world. We went and did a table read for the studio. And I did that note differently, and the director was happy. And it has I've done that many, many times with Richard, where I asked him to look at my work.

Mulvaney: Dead to Me is in LA. Is that correct? Yes. And what was that journey? Like? Did you have any idea that it was going to blow up as much as it has?

Riva: Had no idea had, no idea the character was going to go that far. And that storyline and it was just a testament to really that amazing writing and the, the performances by Linda and Christina, you know, this was a character arc that I have just relished in because this woman who wants to be like this, and she's broken inside. And then there's things about her heart that you just want to climb in, like this is, this sounds silly. But in this last season, they had this explosive scene where I discover who's with my partner, and I don't want to ruin it for anybody who hasn't watched it. And I watched that scene, and I watch it. And I'm like, Oh, girl, like, I feel sad for myself when I watch it. Because of her heart, and I, and I just feel like oh, my God, the ability to put on these character shoes and just swim in all of her emotions has been as an actor, just the most fulfilling, I, this is what I came for.

Mulvaney: And do you think we'll get to see more of you in season three and more of that heart sort of opening?

Riva: Yes. So I do know, ish, where the story is going. I think the, the creator is keeping it a bit up close to the vest. But yeah, there's more to come with this story. It’s gonna be good.

Mulvaney: I’m so excited! Well, we have just adored you. I was a fan before. Now I'm an even bigger fan of just you as a person. And just thank you for sharing yourself with us. It's just we're so lucky.

Leitten: This has been amazing.

Riva: Thank you.

Leitten: I feel like I've learned so much today.

Riva: Oh, gosh, if I can only just say one thing that makes somebody think and in a good way, then I'm happy. Thank you for allowing me to share that journey with you. Because it's, I do think it's a, it's one of those areas, those towns in the business that can really crush your spirit. But don't let it, just don't let it do what you want to do and, and share it, share it if you got it. So that's what I'm just trying to do. So thank you for letting me do that.

Mulvaney: Brian, you need to pinch me because I think I've fallen in love. I want her to be my mother. I want her to be my acting coach. She is everything.

Leitten: I mean, she would be a great mentor. She has so much experience and the ins and outs of auditioning.

Mulvaney: Also as like somebody who's so successful in Hollywood. It's so cool to see that she's very down to earth. And you know, there, there are still very kind people out there in this industry.

Leitten: She just she gives back so much, I we didn't really touch him on the interview. But I know she is extremely involved with the CCM Acting Showcase that happens in Los Angeles every year. Yes, she's like the mama bear to them. And it's great to see someone really giving back and helping out the, the next generation that's coming along. I think the thing that stuck with me the most from that entire interview is when she talked about going into the room and changing people's minds and going in and saying, I know you were looking for Mrs. Smith, but how about Mrs. Rodriguez and showing them,’ I'm going to give you what you want, that you didn't even know you wanted.’ That's so profound.

Mulvaney: And I mostly want her to finally get to ride that horse on TV like she so desperately wants to do. I believe that it's gonna happen because she's that kind of person and she deserves that. I love her.

Leitten: And season three, Netflix Dead to Me coming soon.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: On next week's episode, actor and stuff performer Nicole Callender discusses the role and intimacy coordinator plays on set.

Callender: I help make sure that the set stays closed in the heightened simulated sexual scenes. We advocate for the actors to make sure that everything that they are being asked to do is very clear and we help choreograph it so that it's done in a safe manner, and that there are no slip ups, so to speak.

Leitten: If you want to follow Diana's acting career, you can check out her Instagram handle in our show notes.

Mulvaney: She posts so much fun content and so does our podcast page! @schoolstagescreen one word on Instagram and Facebook and @schoolstagepod on Twitter.

Leitten: You can see exclusive bonus clips from our interview at the College-Conservatory of Music University of Cincinnati's YouTube page. Now known as CCM Acting BFA program is widely recognized for its quality and its history of training successful actors. Graduates are following careers in theater, film and television. Program highlights include training and voice movement and stage combat, acting for the camera training for a full year. Opportunities to act in film, classical and contemporary shows and new works. Senior Showcases for agents are held in New York and Los Angeles and in 2020 and 2021 Senior showcases were virtual due to COVID-19. Learn more@ccm.uc.edu

Mulvaney: Thanks for listening everyone. See you next week!

Leitten: Our show is produced by Robin Hopkins and edited by Blake Hawk. Our associate producer is Shannon St. George and our assistant editor is Matt Harris. Our music is composed by Ryan Fine, check out his link in the show notes. A big thanks to Kevin Burke, Becky Butts, Stanley Romanstein, Mikki Graff, Curt Whitacre and Melissa Neeley-Nicolini. Our sponsor is the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. This has been a Hyperion XIII production.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music]

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen! 

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Hyperion XIII production.

To learn more about the UC College-Conservatory of Music, visit ccm.uc.edu

Diana on Instagram @dianarivamaria

What’s next for Diana? The Gordita Chronicles

Click here to see Diana on Dead to Me

Instagram: @schoolstagescreen

Facebook: @schoolstagescreen

Twitter: @schoolstagepod

Brian on Instagram: @bleittz_delightz

Dylan on Instagram: @dylanmulvaney | TikTok: @dylanjamesmulvaney

Edited by Blake Hawk, Throughline Media

Song by Ryan Fine (BFA Commercial Music Production, '17)

Show art by Graff Designs

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/WSBd9htMhWw?rel=0

Brian J Leitten (BFA E-Media, '02) and Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, '19) give you a sneak peek at Episode 3 of the "School, Stage & Screen" podcast, featuring Diana Maria Riva (BFA Drama, ’91, MFA Theatre Performance, ’95), star of Netflix’s "Dead to Me." In this clip, the actress gives viewers an inside look at her 25+ year career in TV — including roles that got away and the "special skill" section of her resume! Listen to the full episode on Monday, April 19.


Episode 2: "Passing the 'Hamilton' Baton" (April 12, 2021)

Original and current cast members of Hamilton on Broadway; Andrew Chappelle (BFA Musical Theatre, ’09) discusses the difficulties of finding his voice as an artist, while Raven Thomas (BFA Musical Theatre, ’16) dishes about losing hers mid-show. From big breaks to national tours, Andrew and Raven share about their lives on and offstage.

Raven Thomas: I was on for the star and Goddess Emmy Raver-Lampman as Angelica in Los Angeles and the second show, I lost my voice. And I was like, ‘Not thrownin’ away my shot!’ Bam! And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, my voice is gone. Oh my gosh, my voice is gone. My voice is gone.’

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Brian J. Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. This season's guests are all loans from the University of Cincinnati's college Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school.

Leitten: On today's episode, we have two stars from Broadway's Hamilton, Raven Thomas and Andrew Chappelle.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

[applause]

Mulvaney: Brian, it is our second week.

Leitten: Second week!

Mulvaney: Oh my gosh.

Leitten: We made it!

Mulvaney: Can you believe it?

Leitten: I can't.

Mulvaney: But I have sort of a bone to pick with you. Why did you not tell me that LA is so expensive to live?

Leitten: Because I've only lived there for two years. And most of the time I'm traveling. I moved there a year before you did? Well, a year and a half.

Mulvaney: Ok and you were in New York before?

Leitten: I was in New York in New York is pretty…

 Mulvaney: Equally as expensive. And then furniture, like who knew that furniture — like a couch — costs like $1,000? I didn’t!

Leitten: Oh, cuz you're, you have the new apartment.

Mulvaney: I have to furnish an entire… Yep, I, I've got my own studio. It's my first time signing a lease. And I just wasn't, I guess I just have that like, artist mindset where I'm like, ‘Oh, the money will come…’

Leitten: No, that’s not how it works.

Mulvaney: When you go to school and the arts, they do not do a budgeting class. And I feel like they should.

Leitten: You didn’t plan for your move? You didn't, you don't have like six months rent saved up, you don't have a savings account or a 401k?

Mulavaney: What you just said goes in a Musical Theatre major’s ear and it goes out the other. Did you have like a tip that you want to share with me after the fact now?

Leitten: I have so many tips. One: You should have at least six months rent saved up. You also as a freelancer, which we are, you don't pay your taxes up front. So you have to save 20 to 25% of every paycheck you get so at the end of the year, you have money to pay your taxes.

Mulvaney: This is my worst nightmare. The funny part is, is I actually did hire someone to do my taxes this year. And I think I spent more on the person doing my taxes than I actually like made in a month. And that's just how badly I don't want to do my own taxes. But this is all just totally stressing me out.

Leitten: No, it's, it's stuff you need to know especially when you're graduating college. I always tell my students you need to prepare and you need to plan

Mulvaney: In New York. I was prepared by eating dollar slice pizza, but in LA it's $38 avocado toast.

Leitten: You have to have your rent set aside. You have to have your gasoline money. You need to be able to pay for your Wi Fi.

Mulvaney: Brian, I appreciate the sentiment, but I really just need someone to go ‘Oh, Dylan, I know, it’s gonna be ok.’

Leitten: Oh, Dylan, I know. It might be okay.

Mulvaney: Yes! Okay. And on that note, we have a very exciting episode. You don't have to just listen to the two of us.

Leitten: Two guests today: Andrew Chappelle and Raven Thomas.

Mulvaney: And they got their BFA in Musical Theatre just like me from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music just like me!

Leitten: I have a BFA from there too.

Mulvaney: You get a BFA, you get a BFA, we all get BFAs! Raven actually was a senior when I was a freshman and so I am a little still starstruck interviewing her today because I mean she was, I look at her in that, that, those like wide eyed freshmen eyes that's like, ‘Oh my gosh, you are so talented. I can't believe I'm talking to you right now.’

Leitten: Both of them were on Broadway. Both of them are in Hamilton. Andrew has starred in a couple of hit TV shows

Mulvaney: And Raven has been doing some work at CCM since this pandemic started. So without further ado…

Leitten: Let's bring him in.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Let's start out with giving our audience a short introduction to each of you, Andrew, if you want to go first.

Andrew Chappelle: Sure. I started my professional career as Devon Stamps on the UPN show “Moesha,” which you know, now you can see on Netflix and I didn't work professionally again. until I graduated CCM and I worked at Mamma Mia! on Broadway. And then I did the first national tour Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. And then I was in the original company of Hamilton. And now I'm sitting here with you, yeah.

Raven Thomas: I graduated from CCM in 2016. And from there I went to the Muny and I was in Mamma Mia! and I got my equity card there. Then yeah, then I moved to New York, did a lot of auditioning my first three months I was there. And I booked Hamilton the national tour. And then I moved out to San Francisco. I toured for about two years, then moved to the Broadway company with Andrew in New York.

Chappelle: Mm-hmm!

Thomas: Mmm-hmm! That was really fun.

Chappelle: That was really fun getting to know you.

Mulvaney: Can you both share your pronouns with us? If you would?

Chappelle: He/him.

Thomas: She/her.

Mulvaney: Okay, now, if you are allowed to tell us what are you currently working on or had just been working on before pandemic…

Chappelle: During the pandemic, I was working on watching a lot of television in the hopes of getting on television. And then I just finished shooting I was on a new show that's going to be on Starz in June called “Blindspotting.” That was a movie that was written by Daveed Diggs, who was in Hamilton and his writing partner and best friend, Rafa [Rafael Casal].

Thomas: I was in the company of Hamilton in LA. And we were about to have our first preview that night, I was supposed to be going on for Peggy Maria. So I was like, in the middle of rehearsal that morning, and we had a meeting later on that day, and they were like, ‘we're temporarily closing.’ And, as we all know, it's lasted until now, and maybe a little further. But to fill my time, I was asked by my alma mater, CCM, to do a couple of projects with them. And I've learned so much by working with the students there and revisiting working with faculty new and old. And it's been it's been great to return back there and do some work.

[Record spinning, Hip Hop music]

Leitten: How did you decide on CCM and talk to us about your first year.

Thomas: I am from Oxford, Ohio, so an hour away from Cincinnati. And I didn't know what CCM was until my mom randomly took me to a performance of Rent and I saw Alysha [Deslorieux] perform on stage and I was like, ‘yeah, this is where I should go.’

Mulvaney: And she is a fierce Broadway Queen, everyone listening she is, she's working.

Thomas: I mean, I was just like, floored when I heard her sing “Waiting for Life” and then to have to go into my audition, knowing that there's already someone at that school that's as talented as that. I was so nervous. And I remember walking out after my audition at CCM, and telling my mom I got in. They didn't say it to me, but I knew I got in.

Mulvaney: Oh my god, I wish I had that superpower. That's like the best one to have. Yeah,

Thomas: Yeah I knew. I knew. I had a feeling after…

Chappelle: Speak it into existence.

Thomas: Yes! The same thing with Hamilton. I was like, I got it.

Chappelle: Mine was totally last minute. I didn't even know the school existed. I had I had my schools I applied to: Michigan, Carnegie Mellon, NYU excetera. I only applied to maybe six schools. There weren't as many schools as there are now. I mean, I feel like every everybody has a Musical Theatre program now. And I didn't know about CCM, I filled out all my applications, and everything was all set. And I was at school and my buddy was like, ‘did you apply for CCM?’ And I was like, ‘No, I don't even know.’ And he's like, ‘well, the application deadline is tonight, and it's the best school. I don't know why you're not applying for it.’ And I went home that night. And I was like mentally prepared to have to fill out this application for hours. Because you know, Michigan, it took me I watched Sound of Music twice during the application for Michigan. But that was when the applications were on paper and you had to use a pencil. And so I go to the CCM website and the application to apply for the school was so short, I was like this is it? Apply!

Mulvaney: Would you like to go to this school? Check yes or no.

Chappelle: Exactly. And then I scheduled my audition and then you know, they ended up giving me scholarship money. So it was a very easy choice to go.

Leitten: When you look back at your time at the school, what was the experience like because, I mean, I was tangential to the Musical Theatre to the Acting program and you know, we would hear about how tough it was and I think any performance major at CCM, you're the best of the best. And it can't be easy. I can't imagine it being easy.

Thomas: It was it, was really hard. I I was cast in a show every semester so not only was I doing classes, but I was also doing rehearsals from 7 to 11 every night except for Saturday. I also was getting a minor in Sociology I was there. So I was like, in the books in the rooms in everywhere. Oh, it was, it was insane. It was just, yeah, it was insane. It was absolutely insane. And I actually I got to work with I think I never worked with the same director there. While I was at CCM.

Chappelle: You did a show every semester?

Thomas: Yes, yes I did.

Chappelle: Girl. Wow, good for you. Well, you know, my CCM experience, you know, it's, it was shaped by my freshman year, unfortunately. When I, when I went there, the cut system was still a thing. So I basically lived my entire first year at that school in fear that I wasn't going to return the next year that that possibility existed.

Leitten: And what is that? What's the cut system?

Chappelle: The cut system is essentially where you would have like a series of what they call boards. You have like your initial like performance examination where you perform and then they give you critiques. And then you have another one where you perform and they give you critiques. And then it's a pass or fail situation. So if you fail, I forget what how it was done, but essentially, if you failed a certain number of boards, or if you failed the last board, then like you were not going to be able to return to the program.

Mulvaney: Andrew, I've got some good news for you, CCM Musical Theatre is no longer a cut system. So the current and future students do not have to worry about losing their spots in the program after starting school. And the cut system actually stopped in 2008, which is a great thing. Yay, CCM!

Chappelle: That being said, you know, the beauty of going to any school, but especially a school is all the CCM is to have that amazing, you know, network when you get out of there. So, so, you know, it's like, yeah, you're paying, you're paying for your four years there, but really, you're paying for, you know, the family, the family connection, when you leave.

Mulvaney: We actually have a lot of fun too, though, I will say in the Musical Theatre program, there are so many extra, you know, little parties and get togethers and events. And I think those, they'd, they really do become like your, your family, your class does.

Chappelle: Well, you know, who threw the greatest parties was Patty, Patty James, our tap teacher, jazz teacher. But then also there were some teachers that took special interest in in me personally, that really made a big difference, like Richard Hess took me on as his responsibility freshman year, because I just kind of had a breakdown one day, during the critiques or whatever. And I just wasn't understanding, they were basically telling me you need to learn how to pick material for yourself. And I was like, ‘How do I know how to do that?’ You know, I just don't know. And at the time, and realizing, I didn't really know how to do it, cuz there's actually not a real roadmap for someone who is biracial in the musical theater world. So it kind of made sense that I didn't really know what gear to shift to. But he was like, ‘Come to my office.’ He's like, ‘I'm gonna give you a different different musicals that we've done here at CCM, and then you choose, you tell me what role you can play in these musicals.’ And I have to sometimes, like reframe the way I remember the school. Do you know what I mean?

Thomas: Yeah.

Mulvaney: When you're in the thick of it, things feel really dramatic and dark and…

Leitten: Well, it's personal, you're being critiqued on your person, right? Not, not the way you edit something, not the way you've done something, you're being critiqued on your personality, essentially so that's got to be tough.

Chappelle: Yeah, definitely. But it also, you know, it also prepared us. I mean, when I think about the sheer amount of things we had to have prepared day to day, just for his class, but then when you add just your normal class load academics, you add in whatever you had to do for your acting class… It's like, oh, now I get three auditions like you know, in my inbox, I get three auditions one's due tomorrow, two are due the next day. You're like, ‘Oh, I can do this.’ You know, it's like, you know, you're, you've already gone through that, like, anxious, crazy moment in your life. You're like, ‘Oh, I felt this before. Okay, well, I'm just gonna do the one that's due first, get this, print this out and get to the highlighting,’ you know, so like, it does prepare you. But, you know, the thing that got me through that school, which kind of gets me through life period is just that quality of indomitable spirit.

Leitten: Andrew, we actually got a question from CCM Acting Professor Richard Hess.

Chappelle: Oh my god, Richard!

Leitten:So Richard says, ‘Dear Andrew, I've always found your life energy, your lifeforce, such a positive attribute. As a young student, you radiated energy in life. As an artist you play a role you bring the person you've become so far in your lifetime to the work. Can you tell us about how you use your personal energy and your core being your lifeforce, whether it's stepping into a rehearsal or entering a room to audition, or onstage, to play a role you've played many times.

Chappelle: Oh my goodness. Wow, I didn't expect that. You know, it's so funny. He like, he has like a heart print on me. It's, so that's so that was moving to hear that. Uh, I was actually watching Billy Porter in an interview the other day and he was saying how when he was trying to be somebody else he was bankrupt, literally. And when he clicked on and decided he was just going to be himself wherever he went, was when he was when his career really popped off. And I think it was just I think I lived for a long time kind of similarly where I was just like, ‘Oh, well, I don't know, do I want to be an out gay actor?’ Like, I'm not sure… And then the minute I decided that I was just like, ‘Well, no.’  Like is the is the alternative to being an out gay actor, being an in the closet like quiet, not happy person? I don't want that version of myself. So I guess I'm going to be the other version. And the beauty of Hamilton, going to Richard's question, was that they were really great about leaning into our individual personalities for the roles. So it was not your typical Broadway show where it's like, okay, like Kristin Chenoweth, like came out of the bubble and she stepped with her right foot and put her arm up on two and that's what you're supposed to do. Hamilton is a little bit more forgiving and loosey goosey when it comes like, oh, how do you feel you should do this. And slowly they'd kind of rein you in to their vision, but the bones of it were you felt like were your own. So all the parts, all of the parts that I played in Hamilton had me in them. And the part I played in Mamma Mia! was the same. I don't really know how to do it another way. Well, you did shows every semester Raven, so you probably didn't really feel that way. Did you?

Thomas: I never had a dream of like being on Broadway. Like someone asked me that when I was being interviewed once, like, did you have a dream of being on Broadway? And I don't know exactly what my dream was, I just know that I wanted to perform and like my path was leading me down that, down that path. So I just kind of kept saying yes. And so I mean, I was cast every semester, but I kind of, it was kind of like imposter syndrome, like especially as a freshman being cast, like with an outside director in “Little Shop” with two other women that I kind of like really looked up to, you know, as a freshman, and it was it kind of, and then again, with “Spelling Bee” and Mitch Mahoney, I played Mitch Mahoney. So that was like a whole like, I kind of felt like I had to level up. So I was just always being constantly challenged, like my critique with boards was a lot of go further go out of your box, like we know you can do this one thing, but like sing soprano. And I kind of actually pushed back against that I kind of wanted to be put in a box because I knew I could do it really well. Like I knew I had gotten this far being in that box. And so I think that not having that like dream of like ‘I have to be on Broadway’ kind of allowed me to just like fail through a lot of things and try a lot of things and not put that pressure on myself. But like you were saying, Andrew, like, I have to remember my experience at CCM isn't everyone else's. And like honoring the the, the people that didn't get… like there were some people not only in my class, but you know, in other classes that were struggling to get cast, not because they were not talented, but because you know, someone else needed a role or you know, there were just so many people in the program, and they can only take so many people in the show. And so I kind of always remind myself, like have that experience too. When I speak about mine.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Raven, you are currently working with CCM Acting and Musical Theatre Professor [CCM Associate Professor and the Joseph Weinberger Chair of Acting for the Lyric Stage in Musical Theater and Opera] Vince DeGeorge again. And we have a question from him.

Vince DeGeorge: One of the things I admire most about you is the depth of thought and perspective that you bring to a very complicated and challenging subject matter and situations. You bring a clarity and a willingness to see complex issues for what they are, complex. When working with you and watching you work with our students in the Musical Theatre department, it feels like you are both pulling from past experiences and working things out in the moment. So my question is where and/or from whom did you learn this way of relating with others? What in your life has led you to bring this combination of self-confidence and open generosity to your work? You have so many diverging and yet connected interests. It's as if you're both better defining as well as redefining yourself with each new thing that you do. How do you know when it's time to shift your focus and alter your path, how do you decide to say no to some opportunities and yes to others?

Thomas: I don't really know, I would say my parents. Actually, I would actually definitely say my parents. My dad, ever, he's a lawyer, he ever since I can remember, he's told me to be a leader and not be a follower. And I really took that to heart. I also have learned it from my boyfriend, my partner, Jeffrey Duffy, who I met on tour. He's kind of just really centered me and has brought perspective to my life and has kind of encouraged me to be more mindful and be more aware. And that has led me to reading books and getting into different types of movement and listening to everybody's stories. I think we forget sometimes that everyone has a story. And it's, it might be closely related to ours. But it also might be completely different. And I know it's cliche, but to like, actually put yourself in that other person's situation. And not only the things you know about them, but also the things you may not know about them that they don't share so openly. So I just try to honor, I try to honor every soul as if it was mine. And it's, it can be really hard.

Leitten: Yeah, I want to take you back. It's kind of a final part to the school section of our, of our podcast. I got to see Dylan, and the rest of the 2019 class perform in New York at the showcase the Senior Showcase. And I know each of you had that experience. What did that allow you to do? right out of college. And from that Showcase, what was your life like? Did you move to New York? Were you auditioning, did you book a part? Where did your life go from that that Showcase?

Thomas: After Showcase… well, I sang “Satisfied” for my showcase, putting it all out there. And I sent it to Andy Blankenbuehler in an email, and I got an agent from that Showcase. I got several meetings, and I and I found my agent through that showcase. And right after that, they put me on auditions, man, like I was going out for everything.

Chappelle: It makes it easy for your agent to get you auditions from Showcase because all the casting directors are there. So you know, you'll sign with an agency but Tara Rubin, Telsey, Bender — they, they're all there. So when you get submitted for Lion King, or Wicked or whatever, they have a reference for you. So it's kind of like it really works in your favor to have a beautiful seamless transition from school to, to work life. But I think the transition from school to real life, I think was maybe the best part of the whole experience, because you've been preparing for that for four years. So you're, you're over prepared. For this moment.

Mulvaney: I actually found that those first few professional auditions that I did post Showcase were actually easier than the CCM auditions we do. As far as like, I would get so nervous at CCM because some of the class would be watching your, you audition. And felt like this sort of like talent show kind of like really intense thing. And then you and then you're in New York, and you're like walking the room and it's just some, you know, cute girl being like, ‘Okay, like, what are you gonna do for us today?’

Chappelle: Well, also in, in New York, in New York, they want you to get your job. In your class, they don't necessarily want you to do anything.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Okay, we've all got them, especially as theater folks. Be honest. What were your side hustles before you got successful in theater?

Thomas: I started working at an at an amusement park doing shows when I was 15. Outside changing my wig, changing my costumes…

Chappelle: Cedar Point?

Thomas: Kings Island. For five years… six years, six summers. And then when I got to New York, I was babysitting. And I was working at lululemon. I also was, a summer, another summer job I did I was a chambermaid and I cleaned like eight cabins every day and then did Hairspray on a lake.

Chappelle: A chambermaid!

Mulvaney: I think you're one of the few people in America that could still call themselves a chambermaid.

Thomas: It was the best summer of my life. I have great friends from there. It was, I would go back in a heartbeat and do the same thing.

Chappelle: I'm very intentional with everything that I do and… period, always. And so I was very clear with my intention about moving. I was like I'm moving to New York to be an actor. I'm not moving to New York to do anything else. And so I basically just professionally auditioned for my until I got you know, Mamma Mia!. However, my money ran out probably after I'd been there for nine months because like, you know, I've, it's New York. They don't tell you how fun New York is. They really don't! Like New York is fun.

Leitten: Yeah, you need you need the entertainment line item in your budget that you didn't know about when you move there.

Chappelle: Correct. Correct. And so I got a job at Bloomingdale's, but I, you know, but I lied because I knew that they wouldn't they wouldn't hire me if I told them I was an actor. So I was like, ‘Oh, I moved to New York to become an actor, but it didn't go my way. So now I'm just like, I'm going to work here and just like focus on you know, fashion.’ Anytime I had an audition, I just would not go to work. I'm not, didn't move to New York to work at Bloomingdale's.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: What moment in your career so far has been your big break.

Chappelle: It's funny, because I feel like throughout my life, everything seems almost like insurmountable or unachievable. Like there was a time where I was like, ‘I don't know if I'm ever going to get into the actor's union.’ And then it happened. And then I was like, ‘I don't know if I'm ever going to get on Broadway.’ And then it happened. And I guess my biggest break was Hamilton because it was kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity, once in a lifetime experience to be there at the beginning of it all, so it's not lost on me that you know, I would listen to cast recordings, cleaning my room, and now I'm on the arguably most famous cast recording in existence. It's, it's nuts to think about. You know, Raven knew four parts in that show. I knew, I think six at one point, to know six parts in in that particular musical, definitely tests your limits.

Leitten: Did you perform all six of those parts that you knew at some point or another?

Chappelle: Oh, yes, baby. I performed them all many times.

Leitten: What were the, what were the six parts?

Chappellle: Lafayette, Jefferson, Mulligan/Madison, Laurens/Philip, Burr, King George and Man Five, were like, when it was all said and done. And then I, and then I released Man Five and just did the principals after a year or two years.

Thomas: I do. Woman Five, Peggy Maria, Angelica Schuyler and Eliza Hamilton.

Leitten: And was the Hamilton national tour you're, what you consider your big break?

Thomas: Oh yeah.

Mulvaney: Did either of you know that you had swing brain? Or did you have to build your swing brain? Was that something that came easy to you or…

Leitten: What is swing brain?

Mulvaney: Being a swing in a musical you're covering multiple tracks, you're either an onstage swing, meaning that you are part of the ensemble and you do the show every night or you're an offstage swing and you go on when somebody is ill or on vacation.

Chappelle: I mean, it was one of those things where it's like you either rise to the occasion or you fall on your face and you get fired and replaced. Period.

Thomas: I feel like I could have covered any role at singing wise because I knew everybody's words. Like no matter what, like I knew your words, because I was a fan before I was in it. So I think I have a little bit of a different experience. And also like the sisters are all… Andrew’s, Andrew’s like everywhere at one time. The sisters are always like together like Schuyler Sisters, you know, it's like, oh, Eliza does this and then Angelica does this hand. So that's not too hard to forget. So they're kind of like, they're like a group. The sisters are like a group. So it's easier, I think, for my brain to learn the choreography for all of them. Also, I got to be on stage every night as Woman Five. So I would just be like, Oh, what's that part? I don't know. Okay, Mandy just did it. And she has her left hand up. And so it's like, you just kind of you're working while you're working.

Chappelle: If you're doing your job, right, you're doing that.

Leitten: I mean, you must have been doing your job, right? Because at some point you I guess you would call it graduating… you graduated from the national tour to the Broadway show. How did that happen? Did you have to audition? Did they just say one day like you're going to the big leagues, kiddo?

Thomas: No, I still had to audition on my day off. Take a train from DC to audition for Tommy Kail, like people I know already. But it was fun. It was so fun because also being on tour, they don't get to see you. So I think it's also, you know, a safety precaution to be like, what is this girl doing? Right, you know, before we bring her to Broadway, but I mean, they've always been super supportive. And I remember being asked, like, which one would you prefer? And I was like, honestly, I need to see Michael Lavoie’s Hamilton again. So that's actually the reason why, I went to Broadway. I just like I needed to see Michael Lavoie do Hamilton like as long as I could.

Chappelle: It's also good that you got your Broadway show in before the pandemic though. I'm sure that you were happy to have squeezed that in.

Leitten: Raven when you went to Broadway. Andrew, were you still there? Were you both on in the show together on Broadway in New York?

Chappelle: Yes, we were. Yes.

Leitten: Please tell me there was like this CCM grad like moment like running and meeting each other in the middle of the set.

Chappelle: Oh, yeah. Well, also, you know, Alysha Deslorieux was in the original company. So I feel like there was actually a moment where all three of us were on the stage at the same time. I mean, yeah. There's, there's honestly so few… it's just good to catch somebodies eyes, who has been where you've been. And even if you don't, you'd like, I honestly haven't really heard a lot of Raven’s experience until today, but I do know that she knows what I know. You know, it makes it, it makes the world a little bit better for you. So it's about you know, sustaining, enjoying the journey surrounding yourself with good people. Surround yourself with good friends so that you can stay in the race, because I feel like that's just the key to, to, to it is just sticking with it.

Mulvaney: Your path is now LA. Is that correct? You're settled in?

Chappelle: I am settled in. I'm waiting. I'm anxiously waiting for Raven to return with Hamilton. When I was in Hamilton, I just didn't have the representation for it. It's such a specific especially in New York, New York TV and film is so pin, pin narrow, thin. And so when I switched agents, I was able to start auditioning for TV and film more. And it's a huge learning curve, figuring out how to get your tape correct, figuring out the nuance on screen and blah blah blah blah blah. But then I started booking work I did a two episodes on “Escape at Dannemora,” which would I would, I would equate to be my big break and television because I'd never done anything of that magnitude before. It was like 10 million an episode, Ben Stiller was directing it. I was in a scene with Benicio Del Toro… it was my head was spinning. I was like, oh, zero to 60, zero to 100. But again, CCM prepared before it, we were prepared to freak out inside and externally emit that like confidence. Like I you know, so yeah, I was frickin’ you know, messing myself from my trailer to the set…

Leitten: That just seems like an incredibly high moment in your career. But we, we really got to know the flip side of that. So Dylan, do you know what time it is?

Mulvaney: [Sings, clock ticking] If I could turn back time. [Singing, music stops] Andrew and Raven, we want to know, when did you fail big time. And what did you learn from that failure?

Thomas: Which one? The best and biggest is probably when I was on for the star and Goddess Emmy Raver-Lampman as Angelica in Los Angeles and it was a two-show day, and the second show, I lost my voice right before Schuyler Sisters. And I still had to perform. And [whispering] I sounded like this, it was just like a whisper [unintelligible]. And I don’t even remember, honestly. And I was like, ‘Not thrownin’ away my shot!’ Bam! And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, my voice is gone. Oh my gosh, my voice is gone. My voice is gone.’ I come down the steps. And I go I turned to Amber Iman, another goddess. And I go Amber, my voice is gone. And she was like, ‘Nah, girl, you're fine. You're just nervous.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, yeah, I'm just nervous. I'm just nervous.’ She's like, ‘you're talking right now. You're fine. You're fine.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, yeah, I'm fine [clears throat].’ Go out there. Nothing comes out. Nothing. Air, pure air. And Josh Henry is like looking at me, and Solea and Amber like looking at me like just the most supportive snaps of like sisterhood just like ‘keep going girl keep going.’

Mulvaney: Do you continue doing the show?

Thomas: Oh, no, honey, I was like I'm out. I'm out. I'm out. I'm out. It was because I had been on for… a length of time. And still rehearsing during the day and still being Woman Five on the shows I wasn't on for. And I took a…never again…I took a nap in between first and second show.

Chappelle: Never again. That is the devil do not take a nap between shows.

Thomas: Do not take a nap because your voice, she's literally like asleep.

Chappelle: She closes up shop.

Leitten: Did you have to take a week off two weeks off? How long did it take to get your voice back?

Thomas: No. I think my stage manager texted me the next day saying ‘Hey, are you up for Angelica tonight?’ And I said, I said sure.

Chappelle: Welcome to Hamilton where the phone is always ringing.

Thomas: Yeah. I remember Alex emailed me and I just didn't respond to his email. He was like, ‘Hi, honey, are you I heard what happened. Are you okay?’ And I was just like, never, I never sorry, Alex, I never responded to that email. I just couldn't find the words.

Chappelle: If Alex Lacamoire just happens to find his way to this podcast. So when I think failure I was thinking like big on bigger scale, but we could talk from the show because when it comes to Hamilton bloopers and mistakes there was one time I was on for Oke [Okieriete Onaodowan]. Oke played Mulligan/Madison for, for the first year and some change on Broadway. I was on for him I think cuz he like went to Burning Man or something. And I've been on for him for two weeks. And then he came back. But he came back like early, he came back like the night of a two show day. So I went from playing Mulligan/Madison for two weeks to playing Laurens/Philip, who's a guy who is around Mulligan/Madison they're in they kind of share a lot of the stage together and have a lot of scenes together. So we're in “My shot” and I'm standing there and I'm like, ‘Okay, I'm I, I'm just kind of like thinking ahead.’ As you do when you're a standby, you're always thinking like, three, three beats ahead, and I'm standing there and I'm looking at Oke, but I think I'm Oke. And like, ‘Hmm, well, if Oke’s there, who am I?’ And then it was like, ‘oh, oh my god, I'm Laurens/Philip.’ Now of course, up until this moment, I've done it letter perfect. You know, I've done all of it, said all the lines as Laurens/Philip. It was just this one moment where I was just like, sometimes you check out, sometimes you're like, you get to a spot on the stage. You're like, ‘Okay, I have a moment to relax’ and then you relax, you're on autopilot. By the time I realized who I was, I missed perhaps the most important cue in “My shot,” which was ‘let's get this guy in front of a crowd,’ which cues light change, turntable move, a set change, 14 dancers, a lift, the orchestra, the whole theater spins on it with a drone. Like there's like a million, there's like a million things that are all dependent on that one line. And I'm standing there thinking, ‘Oh, Oke is there’ and then I was like, and so I sent it late, but then the orchestra came in, it was definitely a thing. However, I, I pay attention to details. And they knew that at Hamilton and when you are detail oriented, and you make a mistake, you do not get in trouble for the mistake. So I literally like came backstage and they didn't even say anything to me. They were just like, they just kind of like looked at me because it's like, you know, there are people who make mistakes all the time. And then there are people who make mistakes because like we're human and you're used to doing something and, and they, it’s a human art form, they you know, they expect something like that. Now, if I made that mistake again the next night, then yeah, I probably would have gotten an email.

Mulvaney: Everybody gets one yeah.

Chappelle: If you make it, even if different, a different mistake the next night, then it's fine. But if you make a make a… that's a big mistake.

Leitten: When I go through resumes and credit sheets is I just kind of skip down to the end first and see what everyone's special skills are… including Dylan, I need to know everyone's special skills that they put on their on their resume.

Chappelle: This is actually so good to hear. Because I was under the impression nobody ever looked at those.

Leitten: First thing. I just love to see people's character because half the time I'm working with people that I connect with rather than they were the best on paper.

Thomas: I mean, I can ride a bike and rollerblade and I have sports, all types of sports on my special skills.

Chappelle: Woo-hoo. I love that ride a … that you lead with ride a bike

Thomas: and not just a stationary Peloton bike, I mean, like an actual moving bike.

Chappelle: But she does need training wheels.

Thomas: I don't really I don't really have any other special skills. I feel like, I'm getting trained in Gyrotonic maybe that could be a special skill.

Mulvaney: That is a special skill for sure.

Chappelle: What is that?

Thomas: It's kind of like, it's a form of physical therapy on a machine with assisted weights. It's kind of like Pilates. But it's its own special thing. I'm still in I'm in like phase three out of five right now. Just to become a level one. But oh, yeah, it's a whole ordeal and it makes sense.

Chappelle: You got to work on something in these in these times.

Thomas: Yeah.

Chappelle: So good for you. I always curtailed my special skills to whatever show I was going in for, so like when I was auditioning for Mamma Mia!, I knew that the big feature in Mamma Mia!, was that you had to do 10 Russian split leaps in a row. So that was my, my special skill for like a year because I was like, every time I go on for Mamma Mia!, I need them to know that I can do 10 you know, Russian split leaps in a row. And then you know, when you go into the audition, obviously, you have to be able to do it, which I could. But then after I left the show, I changed my special, I added to my special skills that I do drunk bagpipe playing, because that's what my character in Mamma Mia! did. We had, they gave me bagpipes, and they're like, ‘would you like lessons?’ Like after I've already booked the show. They're like, ‘would you like us to schedule lessons for you to learn how to play the bagpipe?’ And I'm like, ‘Yeah, I have no idea how to operate this instrument.’ And so the lesson consisted of them just generally instructing me on how to play a bagpipe. Not how to play a song because all I have to do is just, it's like a sight gag where you like, yeah, you pull the bag down with your with your arm and the little whatever, whatever those things are the tentacles deflate, and it makes a noise.

Leitten: Dylan, I know you have some really special skills.

Mulvaney: I had spelunking on there for a while because I was like really into spelunking, which is cave diving, as a gay 16 year old. Lassoing, because I was in Oklahoma, and then after a few years I was like ‘What other show?...’ and then now as a non-binary person I’m like do they need a they lassoing on stage? I don’t know, I took that off. Now I just have LOVES in all capitals animals and yoga instructor.

Chappelle: But I would say that loves animals is a severe understatement for you.

Mulvaney: It’s definitely the gimmick and that’s why I capitalize the loves.

Chappelle: I think you should change it to fixated in all caps.

Mulvaney: I actually asked, during Book of Mormon, I asked the stage manager if I could have two possums back there because the possum keeper was coming to the show that night and didn’t have someone to watch the possums. So, the stage manager said no, but I asked.

Chappelle: Surprise.

Thomas: Good on them though, good on them.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Andrew, can I ask you, when you auditioned, were you auditioning for Lin-Manuel, or if not, when you started working with him, or even Daveed Diggs, what was that experience like, having conversations with them in between performances. What are they like?

Chappelle: I did not audition for Lin. I auditioned for Tommy, Lac and Andy. But I obviously was a fan of Lin’s work for In the Heights I did it for Showcase. Again, Chris Jackson was kind of a blue print for me because he was a light-skinned African American male in Musical Theatre who worked. And so you sort of look for these guide posts. So it was actually an amazing moment to meet Chris. I booked the show and we were working in tech, mind you I’ve been working the show for four weeks, we had introduced ourselves but until we sat down… and he’s the one who actually was talking to me about his personal struggle. He was like ‘George Washington owned slaves, I’m a Black slave owner’ and hearing him kinda of unpack that really zoomed in, like the perspective that was needed to do the show. And hearing how he navigated it and it was a little bit out of body because I saw him perform in In the Heights so much. You have to realize that Daveed was unknown when Hamilton happened. I did my due diligence obviously when I booked the show, so I looked him up online and I looked at his music videos, which I thought were really cool, with his band Clipping. But Daveed shot up because of Hamilton. So Daveed, honestly, hasn’t changed, he is the coolest, chillest guy. He, uh, Leslie, I call him a prince. He’s just like a prince. Just the kindest, warmest man. And again, like I got out to LA and I told him what the situation was and he found a space for me. So he’s, he’s been amazing.

Mulvaney: What’s a little networking tip, just for kids in college?

Chappelle: The tip is don’t think of it as networking. It isn’t. It’s just, I’m not friends with everybody, I’m not close with everybody. It’s, bond with who you bond with and if those people are in a position to help you they will help you. It’s impossible, to be like ‘yes, I’m going to go to this party and I’m going to meet this person and then I’m gonna ask them if they can give me a role in this thing..’ It’s like, how on Earth would you strategize that.

Leitten: What’s one final piece of advice that you have for someone whose finishing up their college career or is just starting out to show them that, you know, it’s possible?

Chappelle: Oh my god, I don’t know! I feel so bad right now for the kids, how do they do it?

Thomas: I think, kind of like Andrew was saying, there were so few Musical Theatre programs and now there are now many. And like, I’m sure that all of them, in some way, you can get something out of them. Because being an artist, you are vulnerable and open in those auditions, in those spaces where you’re kind of like, your other side of you is like ‘shutdown, shutdown, shutdown.’ You kind of just go with the opposite of that and just open up and kind of take the leap of faith and make the best out of whatever situation you’re in: audition, program, class. And just be authentically you and not like trying to please someone else or trying to take that note even sometimes, then you will be a successful artist and I would dare to say a successful person in life.

Chappelle: The main one I think is to celebrate your successes. I think so often, we’re so fixated on the next thing, the next thing, the next thing. And we forget to, well Aubrey would call it a yes moment. But you want to be able to feel that tremendous feeling of accomplishment as you continue to progress and achieve greater heights because, you know, the beautiful thing about being an actor is that we don’t actually have a lot of control over the jobs that we book. All we can do is like keep putting out name in the hat, hoping it gets picked, do the best that we can. And so like I say, when the stars do align for something to happen for you, it should be celebrated. It’s kind of like your message to the world, your message to the universe, that’s saying ‘thank you’ and ‘yes, more of this.’

Leitten: Lots of celebrations, lots of yes moments.

Mulvaney: I can’t wait to see both of you go do amazing things, you already have. So thank you for being amazing people and being with us today!

Leitten: Thank you for sharing your stories.

Chappelle: Thank you for having us! This was really fun.

Thomas: Yes. It was awesome.

Leitten: Thank you both, so much.

[Hip Hop Music]

Mulvaney: My heart is so happy. I’m so glad we talked with them. It was so nice to connect with other Musical Theatre people, it’s been a little while for me since I’ve gotten to do that.

Leitten: Yeah cuz you’ve been off stage for over a year now?

Mulvaney: Everyone has. But what I’m so happy about them doing is that they have found other avenues during this last year to find success and make themselves happy. Andrew now on “Blindspotting” on Starz, I cannot wait to watch that. And he lives in LA, so I’m gonna make him go hiking with me.

Leitten: We can all go hiking together.

Mulvaney: Yeah! And then Raven, is gonna be opening up Hamilton at the [Hollyword] Pantages [Theatre] and me and you will be sitting front row.

Leitten: Front row!

Mulvaney: Well back to the budgeting conversation, I don’t know if we can afford those tickets!

Leitten: I think we can. I’ll find some money in our show budget.

Mulvaney: We’ll find a way.

Leitten: I’m definitely excited to see Raven in Hamilton. I will be honest, I have not seen Hamilton live, I’ve seen it on Disney+.

Mulvaney: Ok well that’s something. What was it like to watch a musical virtually for you?

Leitten: It was great. I was in my friend’s backyard. We watched it on the Fourth of July and there were fireworks going off everywhere.

Mulvaney: Ok that’s very different. I got to see it twice. Actually I saw Andrew in it with my parents on Broadway and that was so great. He made that happen for us and I cannot wait to see it again. It’s like I’ve been listening to the album just waiting to be in that theater again.

Leitten: I love his story of how he found his voice and being confident and how that changed the way his career went. Like once he was happy with who he was and confident with who he was the roles started coming. And I think that’s just a message to everyone who is listening that, you do need to be yourself and be real and be happy and other people will pick up on that.

Mulvaney: Casting directors and producers, they can tell when you walk in a room and if your being your authentic self. Sure you can put on a character, but at the end of the day you have to be ok walking out of that room and loving yourself and who you are. And I think Andrew and Raven are both total examples of that.

Leitten: And again, you, me and Andrew front row watching Raven perform in Hamilton in Los Angeles, sometime in the next year. Fingers crossed.

Mulvaney: Fingers crossed.

[Mulvaney sings “School, Stage & Screen]

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Oh my gosh. On next week’s episode we are talking with Diana Maria Riva from “Dead to Me” on Netflix!

Diana Maria Riva: [Interview excerpt] My most recent production is a Netflix series called “Dead to Me” with Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini, James Marsden and I play Detective Ana Perez. And we are about to embark on season 3, we are tentatively scheduled to start filming in May.

Leitten: If you want to know what Andrew and Raven are up to, then their Instagram handles are in our show notes.

Mulvaney: Speaking of social media. It is time for you to pull out your phone and look up SchoolStageScreen on Instagram and Facebook. That is no spaces, SchoolStageScreen. And on Twitter our handle is SchoolStagePod, no spaces.

Leitten: And you can see exclusive clips that don’t make it into the podcast on YouTube by visiting, the College-Conservatory of Music University of Cincinnati’s YouTube page. Thanks for listening! We’ll see you next week!

Mulvaney: See you next week, everyone!

Leitten: Our show is produced by Robin Hopkins and edited by Blake Hawk. Our associate producer is Shannon St. George and our assistant editor is Matt Harris. Our music is composed by Ryan Fine, check out his link in the show notes. A big thanks to Kevin Burke, Becky Butts, Stanley Romanstein, Mikki Graff, Curt Whitacre and Melissa Neeley-Nicolini. Our sponsor is the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. This has been a Hyperion XIII production.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music]

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen! 

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Hyperion XIII production.

To learn more about the UC College-Conservatory of Music, visit ccm.uc.edu

Andrew on Instagram @achapphawk

Raven on Instagram @ravenmichellethomas

Click here to see Andrew on Escape at Dannemora - Part 2 & 5

Click here to see Andrew on The Tick - Blood and Cake

Learn more about CCM Acting Professor Richard Hess

Learn more about CCM Associate Professor and the Joseph Weinberger Chair of Acting for the Lyric Stage in Musical Theater and Opera Vincent DeGeorge

Instagram: @schoolstagescreen

Facebook: @schoolstagescreen

Twitter: @schoolstagepod

Brian on Instagram: @bleittz_delightz

Dylan on Instagram: @dylanmulvaney | TikTok: @dylanjamesmulvaney

Edited by Blake Hawk, Throughline Media

Song by Ryan Fine (BFA Commercial Music Production, '17)

Show art by Graff Designs

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/krNCbsJ2K5o?rel=0

CCM alums Brian J Leitten (BFA E-Media, '02) and Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, '19) give you a sneak peek at Episode 2 of the new "School, Stage & Screen" podcast, featuring "Hamilton" alums Andrew Chappelle (BFA Musical Theatre, ’09) and Raven Thomas (BFA Musical Theatre, ’16). In this clip, the Broadway stars share lessons they learned from working in the performing arts after college! Listen to the full episode on Monday, April 12.


Episode 1: "New G., O.G." (April 5, 2021)

Co-Host Brian J. Leitten (BFA E-Media, '02) realizes there needs to be a way for the younger generation to connect to the older in the entertainment industry. After linking up with Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, '19), a fellow UC College-Conservatory of Music grad with two decades between them, they embark on a deep dive into lessons learned in college, and how they translate in the real world. 

Brian J. Leitten: Welcome to the first episode of “School, Stage & Screen.”

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Brian J. Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. This season's guests are all loans from the University of Cincinnati's college Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school.

Leitten: I think the first thing we need to do is tell everybody a little bit about ourselves.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!

[applause]

Mulvaney: Oh my gosh, okay, well, I'm a Capricorn, my pronouns are they/them/theirs, and I'm from San Diego, California. I've been dancing, singing, acting my whole entire life, which brought me to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music for Musical Theatre, where I got my BFA and I just graduated from there in 2019. And right after graduation, I joined The Book of Mormon, the musical national tour where I played Elder White up until the shutdown. And now since then, I've joined TikTok, and I've gone viral there and on Instagram making funny videos, and now I’m living in Los Angeles. How about you Brian? Give me a little bit of your like IMDb if you will.

Leitten: I am a Virgo, my pronouns are he/him/his and I also have a BFA from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, but it is an Electronic Media, which is now called the Media Production Division. I studied there for four years before moving to New York and getting my first job out of college in the music and talent department at MTV. I produced and directed MTV’s “Made” for four years documentary TV show on that channel. And I was also the director of production at VEVO for five years before going out on my own and creating my own production company. And I pretty much travel the world filming with Olympic athletes, superstar artists, just to tell their stories.

Mulvaney: I never know where Brian is. Sometimes I just don't even ask because it's just an, it's a new city every zoom that we're on.

Leitten: Three days ago, it was Daytona Beach, Florida; today it’s DC and tomorrow it’s Albany. And then who knows from there? Who knows? I live in LA, and hopefully I'll be back there soon. after some of this work goes away.

Mulvaney: Okay Brian, I think we need to let them all know like, how do we know each other?

Leitten: Well, we've known each other for two years, like this is very close to our two year anniversary.

Mulvaney: Where are my flowers? And we met at the University of Cincinnati.

Leitten: Who would have guessed?

Mulvaney: And so you were an Adjunct Professor working at the University correct? And what program do you work on there?

Leitten: For the last eight years, I've been an Adjunct Professor of Documentary Film and Production in the Media Production Division. And each year in the class, we produce a documentary. And in 2019, we decided to produce a documentary about the graduating seniors in the Musical Theatre Department.

Mulvaney: You were this man that walked in with the camera and a plan. And yeah, it was great. It was just like, ‘Oh, my God, who is this guy filming us.’ But of course, we're Musical Theatre majors. We loved the attention. So it was very welcomed. And then I went off on tour you were filming. And then about a year later, I would say you know pandemic hit, and I get an email from you saying, ‘Hey, I've got this idea.’

Leitten: Do you remember me?

Mulvaney: I did! Of course, duh. And you basically kind of pitched me “School, Stage & Screen.” And here we are a year after that. And so what was like how did “School, Stage & Screen” start in your mind? Like, what was the brainchild for this?

Leitten: I think it started from COVID not having anything to do and my brain goes a million miles a minute. And I think I was reading an article about someone that had graduated from CCM, the College-Conservatory of Music and no clue that they had gone to school there. And I started just kind of researching who else had gone to school there. There's some big time Broadway stars and big time directors, television producers, actors on Netflix. And I just thought to myself, these people's stories need to be told. And I think through the work that I do as a professor, I've really focused on educating the next generation mentoring them into their careers. And this was just another opportunity to show college students and recent grads that there is a path to success in the entertainment industry. And here's a chance to show you some of the people that were in your shoes 5, 10, 15, 25 years ago, and you can learn from them. And my first inclination was I need to have a co-host that is of a different generation than I am. There's a couple years between us…

Mulvaney: Just a few! And I will say like, there are so many paths to take. And I think that's what I'm so excited about this podcast is, you know, you get a degree in one certain major, but then you can do so many things with that degree. And I think that hopefully our listeners will also learn all these different roles in production, in TV and in theater, that you didn't even know necessarily existed. So there's a lot going on that you know, we don't even know about.

Leitten: Speaking of that, let's play a clip from our interview with CCM acting alum Nicole Callender.

[whoosh transition sound effect]

Nicole Callender: I am a stunt woman. I'm also an intimacy coordinator and I also act. I've doubled for Nia Long, I've doubled for Kerry Washington, Janelle Monáe, Raven Symone, Rori Godsey. Oh, Regina King.

[whoosh transition sound effect]

Leitten: I can't wait to hear about her doubling for Regina King on “The Leftovers.”

[hip hop music plays on record, record stops]

Mulvaney: Brian, like how did you get to CCM? What was that path?

Leitten: Initially, I wanted to go to college to be a marine biologist. And I got into the University of Miami, Florida. I took a trip down there, sat in some classes and was utterly bored. And looking at the other colleges that I'd applied to and got into and got scholarship money from, Cincinnati was next on that list. So I actually came to the University as an undeclared major. And the first girl I dated in college was in the Electronic Media Division. And she told me about classes in television and film and I'd never once thought that you could go to school for that. And I was hooked.

Mulvaney: Did you do like many home videos or anything before going to college?

Leitten: No, I was actually on the other side of the camera. I was in the musicals in high school, I was in the plays, I was in show choir, I was in regular choir…

Mulvaney: I’m still waiting to hear you sing by the way, so I know that day will come.

Leitten: Karaoke the next time I'm in LA, maybe.

Mulvaney: I'll see you there.

Leitten: And I think even at that point, I wasn't really supposed to be in front of the camera or performer at a higher level. I was the one that was kind of always directing everybody. And like, coming up with choreography that might be interesting. I was the one that learned the, well, I learned the facilities of the lighting for the musicals, and I would design the lighting and then pass that information on before I graduated. So even in high school, I was really kind of directing and producing behind the scenes without realizing that was what I was doing.

Mulvaney: And what you would end up doing for a lot more years.

Leitten: Yeah. And I love it. It's, it's… I love being behind the camera so much more than being in front of the camera. Well, how did you end up at CCM?

Mulvaney: Well, I’m from San Diego, so it's a little farther away than you were growing up. But I had a gal from my town going to CCM and she was a junior when I was going to be auditioning — and those auditions, for anyone listening, if you're auditioning for musical theatre or like acting it is like, these stage moms are vicious. I mean, they're going ‘oh, you know, what is your daughter singing and how good of a dancer is your son’ and really very intense, but I got in. And they, CCM does this basically like Welcome Weekend for the accepted students. And I thought that was so cool because there were no other schools really doing that. You got to go see their Senior Showcase. You got to sit down in rehearsals, you got to perform for the teachers and work with them one-on-one and you got to hang out with the kids. And it was just, you felt like a college kid, like you felt… You know, you're like a 17/18 year old like, ‘Oh my god, like this is so fun.’ And that got me hooked because I knew that I could be happy. There was a bunch of other, you know, kids, and especially a lot of like queer people. I you know, I wasn't used to being around that many gay people, which was so exciting. And I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is the — it felt like Disneyland.’ And so yeah, that's how I ended up at CCM and it was an easy pick for me honestly.

Leitten: I think we like again, we should throw another clip in from two other people that were in the same major as you were that graduated before you, Andrew Chapelle and Raven Thomas, and hear a little bit about their audition experience.

[whoosh sound effect]

Andrew Chappelle: I felt like the kind of the key to life was just like learning how to audition. When you are auditioning in the real world, it’s just you.

Raven Thomas: Man, like I was going out for everything, like Andrew was talking — like you just get your thing, what this is the first one so let me handle that and then let's go to the next one tomorrow.

[whoosh sound effect]

Mulvaney: Okay, I just adore those two and good news for you. That is our next episode — is with those two amazing human beings, so you do not have to wait long.

Leitten: No just a week. Raven Thomas and Andrew Chappelle talk about Hamilton, which they were both in and it's really intriguing conversation.

Mulvaney: Now, before we leave our gorgeous CCM chapters of our lives and into the real world, did you have like a specific class or production that had like, a lot of impact on you?

Leitten: I don't know, if there was one class that impacted me. I think it was just the camaraderie of the students, especially senior year. Everybody worked on everybody else's senior projects. I acted in a friend's senior project. I produced a friend senior project. I don't actually think I had a senior project because I was working on so many other senior projects.

Mulvaney: We're gonna have to be going through your like transcript now and probably seeing that big F on that senior project. But somehow you still got the degree. And you know, CCM, it's so funny going in, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, it's Disneyland.’ It's not always Disneyland. It is a very tough place. I mean, you have to want to do what you're doing, your major, so badly, because you're going to spend 12 hours a day doing it, but it's the people there that help you get through. And I think, of course, I learned so much. But I also just learned from watching other people or, or learning like those basic life lessons.

Leitten: Yeah. And it's tough CCM, almost all of the majors you have to audition to get in. And it's, it's one of those things where you hear people talk about look left, now look right, only one of the three of you is going to make it in this business.

Mulvaney: I wish I could like tell myself when I was at CCM, that to stop trying to prove myself because I already was accepted. I think that you get there and you're still trying to be like, ‘look how good I am, look how good I am.’ But you already got in. So just you know, enjoy working on material and not, you know, feeling like you have to constantly be like proving yourself, you know. It's good to want to be talented and want to find confidence, but you don't have to go into overdrive. I wish I knew that.

Leitten: Yeah. And I think I, I should have chosen a little more direction. You know, there's different tracks that you can study in the Media Production Division, and I kind of was all over the place. And I probably should have focused a little more. Halfway through my junior year, I was ready to go to the next big city. I went from little town Indiana, to Cincinnati, Ohio, and I was ready for New York or Los Angeles.

Mulvaney: Funny enough, I think the one class that I took at CCM that has to do with what I'm doing now — and I didn't realize it — was Comedy Web Series. And it was you'd write skits and perform them and edit them and it's like TikTok now! And I, looking back, you know, years have passed and since I took that class sophomore year, and it's like, oh my gosh, like I had no idea how much that would matter. So, like you said, you didn't necessarily know you were going to be a director or, you know, I didn't know I was going to be making these comedy videos. But here we are.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: So you've graduated a few years ago

Leitten: A couple years ago.

Mulvaney: What was that transition like? I know, we just said New York, was New York the answer?

Leitten: Yeah. New York was the answer. I was in the quarter system when I went to school at CCM, and my senior year, fall quarter, I interned at MTV for the full quarter. So I was living there and there were only certain classes that were offered in the fall that you had to take to graduate. So I had to come back and do an extra quarter in my fifth year of school before actually graduated. My job at MTV was mind-blowingly amazing. And six weeks into my internship, they gave me a full-time job. I remember them asking me if I wanted to be someone's assistant. And I was like, Of course I do. And then when they told me it was paid, I was like, of course I do! I think that year, I got everybody the best Christmas presents in my family ever because I was so excited to be like, ‘Look, I earned money. I did this on my own.’ And they told me I could keep the job if I dropped out of college. And I did not. My parents help pay for college, so I finished college. And luckily my internship coordinator who became a close friend and my first mentor in New York and who was the executive producer of our podcast…

Mulvaney: Hi, Robin!

Leitten: She looked out for me. And when the next job opportunity came up, she put my name in the hat. She got me an offer and within two or three months of graduating from college, I had a job offer in New York and, and I moved there.

Mulvaney: Brian, this is sounding like you didn't have any weird odd jobs or, you know, struggling artists moments, like please tell me that's not true. I guess I shouldn't wish the odd jobs on you but usually… did you not have one?

Leitten: I don't think I had odd jobs, I had like jobs. I, in college I worked at Barnes and Noble because I loved reading, I still do. I worked at Montgomery Cyclery and Fitness, which is one of the biggest bicycle shops in the country. I worked at the Gap…

Mulvaney: Okay, I will accept these. These are acceptable, but this is coming from someone, why I asked you this is because at one point right before I got Book of Mormon, I was, I had actually that morning it was I worked at starting at a 4:30 a.m. shift. I got hit by a car. And then I still went to work handing out deodorant wipes in Penn Station at 5 in the morning.

Leitten: That is quite an odd job.

Mulvaney: And I will tell you the reason I did that is because I refused to take like a job that was like regular hours. Like I only wanted to do like one offers, like I, like I wanted to just like do a day of handing this out. And I wanted to do a day of holding this sign and because I never wanted to get so invested in a side hustle that I forgot what I was in New York to do.

Leitten: I don't think I ever really had that odd job. I I worked at Max and Irma's for two or three months right before I left Cincinnati, and I was a horrible waiter. Horrible.

Mulvaney: But I think everyone should do it at some point just so they know. It is you need to treat your waiter treat everyone with respect

Leitten: Treat everyone with kindness.

Mulvaney: Yeah, and give them a nice tip.

Leitten: When I left my first job at MTV, just for some extra money, I did PA on a Fall Out Boy video. And at one point, all this colorful confetti was thrown up in the air and sprinkled around and you know, that fell through into the band performing and somehow the floor had gotten wet. And at the end of it, they're like, okay, cut. Let's do that again. And I'm a PA. So I'm doing all the grunt work. And they're like, ‘Okay, everyone, all the PA is come in, brush all the confetti into the middle and then pick it up and get back on the ladders and we're gonna throw it’ and sagging wet confetti. It was disgusting. And then at the end of the night, they needed one or two people to stay longer. And I had nothing to do and I was trying to meet more people to get more work. But then I got paid like eight hours of overtime. And it was a phenomenal paycheck for one day of crappy work. That's the oddest job I've ever had, I would say.

Mulvaney: And so would you consider MTV to be your big break?

Leitten: Definitely, definitely. I wasn't doing full on production when I started there. But over the course of a couple of jobs, I was able to like work my way into production. So I got to PA on a bunch of shows, I was an executive assistant to the producers of shows, I got to give notes on shows before they went on the air. A couple of my ideas became shows or became performances inside other shows. And towards the end of my first five years at MTV, I kind of shifted over to mtv.com. And I got to interview every single musician that came into MTV for an entire year. And it was a phenomenal experience of being around superstars and having to keep your cool. And also figuring out how to tell a story doing an interview, editing those into short bites that go on the internet. And that was kind of like my first foray into producing and from there, I jumped in and started working on “Made” and I for four years I produced that I went into the field and I shot full episodes on my own.

Mulvaney: I watched that as like an 11 year old I'm pretty sure.

Leitten: Yeah, probably.

 Mulvaney: Wasn't “Next” another show too? Like a dating show.

Leitten: Yeah, “Next” was a dating show on a bus. But I did not work on that show. But my friend did do the voiceover for that show.

Mulvaney: Okay, it all comes. Yep, it's six degrees.

Leitten: I want to throw it back to you. What was your first job out of college?

Mulvaney: My first job well, that was the passing out of deodorant. But I got very lucky. And my first audition in New York — We do a big showcase in Cincinnati and New York, but New York is for all the agents and managers and casting directors. And it went really well for me. I had my first audition was Book of Mormon, which was my dream show. And I actually think, Brian, that when we recorded that documentary in Cincinnati, the last interview you asked me ‘if you could be in any one show right now, what would it be?’ And I said Book of Mormon, because when I was 17 years old, I went into an open call for it. And I kept just getting callback over callback for callback…

Leitten: Before college, you auditioned for Book of Mormon?

Mulvaney: I was auditioning for it in Los Angeles. I wrote that I was 18 on the piece of paper. And then I got to the final, final, final and I had I put my 18th birthday It's my start date like date available. And I just messed up the tap dance so bad. And I was like totally kidding. They met they email me ‘Dylan, we love you. Can you just practice your tap a little bit?’ And that's, I ended up going to college because of that experience. Like if I had nailed that tap, I might have not gone to CCM and have that experience.

Leitten:

Well, you lied, you fibbed. You embellished, you faked it.

Mulvaney: I embellished and I did, I faked it till I made it, everyone.

[whoosh sound effect]

Mulvaney: And that is going to be a reoccurring segment on the podcast this season, when our guests faked it ‘til they made it.

Mulvaney: Anyway, I still knew the casting directors. They were excited for me to get to New York. It's my first audition. And I got the job after like a few weeks of living in New York, and I went on tour. I graduated in April, I was on the road in June. Wow. So I would consider that my big break his Book of Mormon It was so crazy to because I'm from San Diego, I got to make my debut in that San Diego Civic Center, which is the the theater that I grew up going to see all the shows that when I was young, I probably saw over 50 musicals there.

Leitten: Were your friends and family in the audience?

Mulvaney: For sure and I blacked out. I mean, I cannot remember a thing that entire weekend. But it was like so emotional because you go to school for something like musical theatre, and you're like, ‘Oh my gosh, am I actually going to be able to use this degree like, can I do this?’ And to have that confirmation was like, just the, my favorite feeling in the world was taking that first bow. So that is something that I think I missed so badly during this this past year is that I just I want to have that connection with an audience again. I want to feel that that same energy happening.

Leitten: Performing in front of your friends and family on your opening night. That sounds like a pretty good moment.

[whoosh sound effect, clock ticking]

Mulvaney: [Sings] If I could turn back time. [Speaking] Okay, everyone, welcome to the first segment of turn back time.

Leitten: I want to know if you look back in time, what was your like biggest failure, whether it was in school or right after college?

Mulvaney: My turn back time, Brian, it was during Book of Mormon and like I said, I was on such a high all this. Well, I've did about 250 shows before we closed and I would say maybe around show 151, 180 you start to go on autopilot. And it was one I think we were in maybe, gosh, Memphis or somewhere in the towards the south or who knows. And I just didn't go over my lines at all. And the Book of Mormon especially the opening number is called “Hello.” And it is so quick. I mean, it's line, after line, after line. And so you have to be on top of it. And I just felt so confident ‘Look at me, Dylan. I've been in it for so long. I'm going to hit the autopilot button.’ So the first guy goes “Bonjour.” Then I go, “Hola.” And then the third one goes “Ni-hao.” And then I say “Me llamo Elder White.” So it went something Brian, could you actually, I know you're a singer. So you will help me out? Can you do? Bonjour? Then I'll go and then you say No-hao, ready?

Leitten: Yep [snaping to keep time] Bonjuor.

Mulvaney: [Indistinguishable groan]

Leitten: Ni-hao!

Mulvaney: And I didn’t, I forgot what I was supposed to say. It came out [indistinguishable sound] People could, like I messed, nobody else could sing because it was ridic.. like you, I just totally threw everyone. People were laughing. People were so confused. Like onstage, the cast is like, because you are you're part of that rhythm. And so I had such a learning lesson in that moment. It's like, always just go over your lyrics in your mind. Don't think you're too good to like, practice.

Leitten: I think after that story, every guest that comes on this show we need to do turn back time with.

Mulvaney: I agree. Can I hear your turn back time?

Leitten: I think we definitely have to call it the fact that about 30 minutes ago, I forgot to press record on this conversation.

Mulvaney: Oh, yes. I should have known what your turn back time was. And I will say I wasn't very frustrated with you. But we we did have a blip there.

Leitten: We did. But going back in my career. There's plenty of times where I've failed. And I think you have to learn from every moment and kind of keep those lessons close to your heart. I would say pretty early into my career at MTV when I was interviewing everyone that came through. I was doing an interview with Nelly Furtado, who I absolutely loved and probably was a little like starstruck. And I forgot to press the record button and didn't realize it till about 23 minutes into a 30-minute interview. And I just hit the record button and didn't say a thing. And as we got to like the manager saying ‘we don't have any more time we got to get going.’ I just threw in there, ‘Oh, yeah, we have a couple more questions. I know she's coming back to TRL next Tuesday, maybe we could do five more minutes then?’ And they're like, ‘Of course we can.’ I was like, great. I will never tell anyone what happened. But I did have to tell my producer afterwards. I was like, ‘Oh, my God. I don't know how to tell you this. But I forgot to press record.’

Mulvaney: Everyone gets one. And you have now had two, but that’s okay.

Leitten: But it didn't happen since then. Until 30 minutes ago.

Mulvaney: Wow. Well, that's a that's a really good full circle moment, actually.

Leitten: Yeah. And what I did, once that happened, I had my desk, I had a television, and I put a post it note that said, ‘always press record,’ and I put it on the television. And for those first five years at MTV, every time I messed up, I would put a post it note on the television, and eventually I couldn't watch the television anymore, because there was all my mistakes. But it was a constant reminder to like, make sure I was working the right way.

Mulvaney: I think my post it note would be, ‘sing the right lyrics, please.’

Leitten: Don’t go on autopilot.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: So both of us, it seems like we've been on the road a lot. We've gotten a lot of places. Now, how do you feel like you keep your life balanced as someone in the arts?

Leitten: I don't think I have a balanced life, I'll be honest. My brain runs a million miles a minute. And if I'm not working on something, I'm trying to create something. In the last two years, I've tried to start writing scripted narrative content, and the ideas keep coming. And I can't keep up with myself. I do make a lot of time to go hiking, backpacking, camping, mountain biking. I moved to California to do that. And I grew up doing that. I'm an Eagle Scout and it's a part of me. I have to be out in nature, even though I'm completely allergic to it. So I do spend a lot of time in the wilderness outdoors. I absolutely love it. And that's, that's probably the best way, by spending time with friends try not to talk about work. But as a freelancer, when you're running your own business, you're on 24/7 365.

Mulvaney: Was that scary to like, decide to leave these huge companies like MTV, VEVO… and be like, ‘Oh, no, I'm going to create my own production company.’ How did you decide to do that?

Leitten: It's incredibly difficult. Because these other companies I was, I was staff, I had a salary, I had benefits, I had vacation. And when you go freelance, you're giving up that security. You don't know who your next client is, you don't know what your next project is. And it's something that if I tried to do it right out of college, it would have been extremely difficult. The fact that I did it later in my career, I've had 10-15 years of contacts, who I've worked with and who I can, you know, tell I need work or reach out to and show my reel and say, ‘do you have any work for me?’ But if I had to do that early on my career would have been a difficult decision. But it's, it's difficult. You're the CFO, you're the COO, you're the CEO, you're the creative director, I did my own website, I do my own bookkeeping. You have to wear a lot of hats.

Mulvaney: I know. And I think actually, even the younger generation, including myself is now figuring out how to do that not because we wanted to, but we kind of just have to during this time, because I mean, I I liked being told what to do. I liked being on a stage and somebody saying stand here, stand there. And now there's nobody to do that. So I have to do that for myself and I, in a way this past year I think has given artists a lot of power and ownership over what they are producing and what they're putting out there. Like it's, it's kind of fun. I'm still young, I'm like, ‘Oh yeah, I'm my own CEO. I'm my own you know bookkeeper...’ No, I'm not my own bookkeeper. I still need all the help and that's my favorite part about this podcast is because we get to learn you know people's different tips and tricks because I, neither of us probably lived the most balanced life, but a lot of these people do live very, you know, full lives with kids and dogs and you know, all the things that as an artist you, you know, hope to maybe have one day and it's obtainable. You can have it too.

Leitten: You can! Someday I will, but not anytime soon. I'm too busy.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: You know what, I want to know something. You were touring with the Book of Mormon for close to a year and there's got to be some secrets that you can spill. I want to know what the 411 is on touring nationally.

Mulvaney: Okay, you don't get a day off. You're traveling on Mondays. You, you can see everybody's faces in the audience. So you know if you're yawning or you're taking a nap like, we can see you. You know, people just running around naked backstage and it's like a, you are literally in a family. It is a group of 50 people and you're with them every second of the day because you don't have your family with you. You're, you know you aren't in one city, with your own apartment, you're going from hotel to hotel. So it's, it's exhausting in that way, but it was the most fun ever, ever, ever.

Leitten: Did you have a stage parent? Like who's in charge of you? Because I can't imagine they're letting you go on your own?

Mulvaney: Well, they [laughs] nobody should’ve let me go, I hope, at no age should I ever be left to go anywhere on my own. We have a company manager, this is kind of interesting, actually. So there's a company manager and an assistant company manager, they are like your parents, basically, they print out your flight tickets, they book your rental cars, but they also throw the parties. And so they're the ones that you know, on Thanksgiving, you've got this giant, you know, we're in Mexico City at the palm restaurant. And you know, there's they got turkey and everything. So there are those people too. And there's so that's what's interesting is, you know, you see a bunch of people on stage, but there is a probably the exact amount, if not more of those people working backstage as well.

Leitten: That's incredible.

Mulvaney: Any film secrets for us?

Leitten: Oh, be careful what you say. And watch the kind of contracts you sign if you get into reality television, because what you say can be manipulated. It can be taken out of context, it can be rearranged. Editing. IT can be editing. And a lot of that is in contracts, like make sure you got a good lawyer, make sure you read through your contracts. There are contracts that I have marked up, because as the producer, interviewing and doing the questions, they want the right to adjust when I'm saying and I don't want that to happen. So I'll go and I'll redline it and say, ‘you can use my voice but not in a negative or untrue portrayal of what was said,’ like a good editor can make the producer be the be the bad guy.

Mulvaney: You can get into a lot of gray areas.

Leitten: So have a good lawyer, because you never know the kind of craziness that goes into a contract.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: I think this podcast is born out of knowledge about growing about learning. And I want to know if you have anyone in your life that helps you that mentors you that, you know, looks to take you to the next level when you're ready.

Mulvaney: Actually mine, I'll bring it back to CCM. There's a faculty member named Katie Johannigman, she joined the faculty relatively young, she had, she was a graduate of the school a few years before I was and they brought her on as an adjunct. And because she was young and fun, and had all these new ideas, I think we really clicked and she saw something in me that I didn't know if other people saw, especially, you know, celebrating my femininity, and my quirkiness and all those things that I was scared of showing, because you just hear in theatre, you know, ‘oh, you need to be able to play straight’ or ‘you need to be the manly man.’ I think she celebrated those things that now I realize those are my powers. So when I get, you know, most of these roles that I'm auditioning for today are, you know, feminine, or they're non-binary. And that is so exciting. And I, I wish that I had more of that energy at school. But how about you any mentors that you're still in contact with right now?

Leitten: I've actually been really lucky. My parents like right off the bat, great mentors in the professional world. Robin Hopkins, executive producer of this show, was my internship coordinator turned, you know, very close friend. She was the one who'd been living in New York for 10 years before I got there, who knew how to do everything, would tell me exactly how to do it. And then I'd go do it my own way, and come back and say, ‘Oh, you were right, Robin, I should have done it your way.’ So she was a big influence on my first five years in New York City. And then from a work perspective, my first couple of bosses were really great about taking me to the next level when I was ready. And most recently, when I was at VEVO, I had a really great boss in Scott Rich, who saw something a little more than just being a producer and director and helped me be able to be a better people manager and to look at like, what is that next step in my career? And how, you know, how do I prepare for it? I've been really lucky when it comes to mentors. And in that same sense, I have turned it around and become a mentor, right? Like I've had eight years of college students, some I still talk to some I still work with, some have become incredibly close friends. And you know, it's like I have all the experience I want to share it. I want to share the mistakes I've made so that other people don't have to make them.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: I'm excited for everyone listening to tune in to these incredible interviews that we have coming your way

Leitten: We have an amazing lineup. I will say I am just as excited as you are to share these interviews with our audience.

Mulvaney: If there is a job that you would consider in the entertainment industry, we are going to cover it.

Leitten: What do we have? We have Broadway stars…

Mulvaney: We have producers of television, we have music directors, we have intimacy coordinators, stunt coordinators,…

Leitten: Hair and make-up!

Mulvaney: Hair and make-up

Leitten: Some made amazing hair and make-up stories from a legend in the industry.

Mulvaney: It has broadened my mind as far as all the possibilities there are, and a lot of pivots along the way. So you know, these people didn't always just start out as one thing and they did it you know, six years later. They went from A to B to C to D…

Leitten: There's a path.

Mulvaney: Maybe not always a forward path, but it's, it's, it's an all over the place kind of path.

Leitten: So make sure you stick around every week. Every Monday we're gonna have a new episode, and enjoy “School, Stage & Screen.”

Mulvaney: See you next time!

[Mulvaney sings “School, Stage & Screen]

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: On next week's episode, we are taking a deep dive into all things Broadway with an original cast member from Hamilton, Andrew Chapelle, and a current LA cast member of Hamilton Raven Thomas, and we're going to cover all things musical theatre.

[whoosh sound effect]

Raven Thomas: I never had a dream of like being on Broadway. Like someone asked me that when I was being interviewed once like, did you have a dream of being on Broadway? And I don't know exactly what my dream was. I just know that I wanted to perform

Andrew Chappelle: Hamilton is a little bit more forgiving and loosey-goosey when it comes to like, ‘oh, how do you feel you should do this?’ And slowly they kind of rein you in to their vision but the bones of it were you felt like we're your own.

Leitten: Thank you so much for listening. To learn more about “School, Stage & Screen,” check out all the links in our show notes. If you want to know more about the College-Conservatory of Music, visit ccm.uc.edu. Make sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook @schoolstagescreen — one word — and Twitter @schoolstagepod. Our show is produced by Robin Hopkins and edited by Blake Hawk. Our associate producer is Shannon St. George and our assistant editor is Matt Harris. Our music is composed by Ryan Fine, make sure to check out his link in the show notes. A big thanks to Kevin Burke, Becky Butts, Stanley Romanstein, Curt Whitacre and Melissa Neeley-Nicolini. Our sponsor is the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. This has been a Hyperion XIII production.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music]

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen! 

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Hyperion XIII production.

For more about UC's College-Conservatory of Music, visit ccm.uc.edu

Instagram: @schoolstagescreen

Facebook: @schoolstagescreen

Twitter: @schoolstagepod

Brian on Instagram: @bleittz_delightz

Dylan on Instagram: @dylanmulvaney | TikTok: @dylanjamesmulvaney

Edited by Blake Hawk, Throughline Media

Song by Ryan Fine (BFA Commercial Music Production, '17)

Show art by Graff Designs

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/cQPSdefhKmc?rel=0

CCM alums Brian J Leitten (BFA E-Media, '02) and Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, '19) introduce themselves and give you a sneak peek at Episode 1 of the new "School, Stage & Screen" podcast. Listen to the full episode on Monday, April 5!


"School, Stage & Screen" Upcoming Episodes

  • Ep. 8: Randa Minkarah (BFA Broadcasting, ’82), Co-Founder of Resonance AI | May 24
  • Ep. 9:  Rebecca Tong (MM Orchestral Conducting, ‘14) and Ryan Fine (BM Commercial Music Production, '17)| May 31
  • Ep. 10: Andrea Stilgenbauer (BFA E-Media, 02), Producer of CalifornicationKidding and The Affair on Showtime | June 7
  • Ep. 11: Brian Newman (Jazz Studies, att. ’99-’03), Jazz Musician and Bandleader/Arranger for Lady Gaga's Vegas Residency “Jazz & Piano Show” | June 14
A headshot of Brian J. Leitten

Brian J. Leitten is an Emmy award-winning director and producer specializing in music and documentary film. His production company, Hyperion XIII, has spent the last decade at the forefront of filming expedition races and wilderness content.  In 2012 Brian became the Director of Production at Vevo, developing new programs for artists to showcase their personalities. Prior to Vevo he produced and directed MTV’s “Made”, which gave high school students the opportunity to realize their dreams through hard work, dedication and a lot of dancing.

In 2012, Brian founded the Emmy-nominated Production Master Class at the University of Cincinnati and has been teaching documentary studies to the next generation of storytellers. In 2014 the PMC took home the top honors at the Broadcast Education Association Awards and received an Emmy nomination in June 2015. In 2017, their documentary film, Expedition Alaska, won Best Northwest Feature at the Spokane International Film Festival and the President’s Award at the DocUtah International Documentary Film Festival. For his dedication to the ever-changing classroom experience, Brian received the prestigious “Outstanding Young Alumni Award” from the University of Cincinnati in 2014 and the “Outstanding Alumni Award” from the Electronic Media Division in 2019. 


A headshot of Dylan Mulvaney

Dylan Mulvaney (they/them) is a non-binary actor and content creator living in Southern California. After graduating in 2019 from the BFA Musical Theatre program at CCM, they joined The Book of Mormon National Tour playing Elder White for nine months, until COVID-19 struck. Other theatre credits: The Old Globe, Cygnet Theatre, Joe’s Pub, Moonlight Stage and Diversionary Theatre, where they won the Stage Scene LA award for Best Actor in BARE: a Pop Opera. They have spent the past eight years leading the musical Living Over the Rainbow in various workshops including NYC, LA, and Dallas, with hopes to play the show to an audience in late 2021. In pandemic times, Dylan joined TikTok and has had multiple viral videos, soon to hit 50 million views. They are currently writing, producing, and developing their own content in Los Angeles. They hope to spread joy and some laughter in 2021 and beyond.


A headshot of Robin Hopkins

Robin Hopkins is an award-winning actor, writer, producer, and podcast host. Her acting and writing credits include Boardwalk Empire, Louie, Hindsight, Mi America, VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live and Divas, MTV’s Teen Mom Reunion Special and O Music Awards. Robin was the Executive Producer for the Amy Schumer podcast: 3 Girls, 1 Keith, and is currently the co-host of the popular People’s Choice award-winning podcast If These Ovaries Could Talk where she chats weekly with LGBTQ families, highlighting, normalizing, and lifting them up for all the world to see. She is also the co-author of the book "If These Ovaries Could Talk: The Things We've Learned About Making an LGBTQ Family." Learn more at ovariestalk.com and robinhopkins.org


A headshot of Blake Hawk

Blake Hawk is a screenwriter and editor, having worked since 2017 as a writer and script consultant for companies such as Boulderlight Pictures, Utopia and independent producers and directors. Blake first worked as the Lead Editor for SpinMedia, overseeing their collective brands including Vibe Magazine, Spin Magazine, Pure Volume, Celebuzz, and more. Going freelance in 2014, Blake has worked on projects for Nike, Pepsi, JCPenney, Beats by Dre, IvyPark/Parkwood Entertainment, Spotify, Dr. Oz, TVG Network, Fullscreen, Warner Brothers, Netflix, Interscope Records, as well as an award-winning campaign for Herbal Essences.

About Hyperion XXII Productions

Hyperion XIII is an award-winning television and film production company. Hyperion tells compelling stories focused on the outdoors, sports, music education and documentaries. The company has worked with MTV, Vevo, Facebook, Fox Sports Network, Outside Television, beIN Sports, Dr. Oz, Morgan Stanley, McDonald's and Clean & Clear. 

Learn more at https://www.hyperion13.com/


About University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music

Declared “one of this country’s leading conservatories” by the New York Times, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music is a preeminent institution for the performing and media arts. The school’s educational roots date back to 1867 and a solid, visionary instruction has been at its core since that time.

CCM offers nine degree types (BA, BM, BFA, MA, MM, MFA, AD, DMA, PhD) in nearly 120 possible majors. The synergy created by housing CCM within a comprehensive public university gives the college its unique character and defines its objective: to educate and inspire the whole artist and scholar for positions on the world’s stage.

CCM works to bring out the best in its students, faculty and staff by valuing their unique backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. CCM’s student population hails from 43 different US states and 32 different countries. The school’s roster of eminent faculty members regularly receives distinguished honors for creative and scholarly work, and its alumni have achieved notable success.

CCM is comprised of eight academic units, which span the spectrum of the performing and media arts:

  • Composition/Musicology/Theory,
  • Ensembles and Conducting (Choral Studies, Commercial Music Production, Jazz Studies, Orchestral Studies and Wind Studies),
  • General Studies,
  • Keyboard Studies (Harpsichord, Organ and Piano),
  • Media Production,
  • Music Education,
  • Performance Studies (Strings, Voice and Woodwinds/Brass/Percussion) and
  • Theatre Arts, Production and Arts Administration (Acting, Arts Administration, Dance, Musical Theatre, Opera and Theatre Design and Production).

CCM’s world-class facilities provide a highly creative and multidisciplinary artistic environment. In 2017, the college completed a $15-million renovation of its major performance spaces, ensuring that CCM’s facilities remain state-of-the-art.

CCM is an accredited institution of the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD) and the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) as well as a member of the University/ Resident Theatre Association (U/RTA). The University of Cincinnati and all regional campuses are also accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

CCM stands as the largest single source of performing arts presentations in the state of Ohio. The annual calendar boasts nearly 1,000 public events, ranging from solo recitals and master classes to fully-staged opera and musical theatre performances.

Visit us online at https://ccm.uc.edu/


Featured image at the top: "School, Stage & Screen" graphic. Design by Mikki Graff.