Villanovans explore and network in Los Angeles



Caroline Foley

During spring break, a select group of students had the opportunity to fully immerse themselves into the entertainment industry in Los Angeles through the program, Villanova on Set. VoS is a joint program of ICE and the Department of Communication. Students travelled from film studio to film studio and networked with numerous professionals in the field while being exposed to the multi-faceted entertainment industry.

“The ICE Institute works to expose our students to innovators, creators and entrepreneurs, and the film, television and entertainment industry is the perfect intersection of those three disciplines,” II Luscri, Executive Director of ICE, said. “We heard producers and directors discuss the creative ways they worked around obstacles and challenges, met with executives who explained the business side of funding and financing films and toured technology companies who are creating new and innovative ways to tell stories.”

On the first day of the program, students visited Technicolor, a leading company in multimedia and motion picture services. Technicolor has color corrected films, lead marketing campaigns for films and managed distribution and printing. VoS was introduced to Darin Wooldridge, a DI colorist, who worked on “The Revenant.” Additionally, the students met with Eli Jarra, the Senior VFX Artist and Supervisor who explained the complex technology Technicolor utilized in order to virtually and graphically manipulate the reality of a film.

During the students’ tour of LA, the cohorts met with the founder and producer of Thunder Roads Pictures, Basil Iswanyk, and his assistant, Barney Slobodin. Thunder Roads Pictures is known for creating films, such as “The Town” and more recently “Sicario.” The two professionals discussed their beginnings and road to their present-day occupation and success. This visit was senior Jonathan Mantovani’s favorite visit of the trip. “Having the chance to speak with [Iswanyk] on a personal and genuine level gave me insight and inspiration to move to LA and start my career in the industry,” Montovani said.

When VoS met with NBCUniversal’s Executive VP of Production Operations, Jerry DiCanio, the students learned about DiCanio’s journey from the University to LA. The speaker detailed the cutthroat industry and the determination required to advance in the ranks and to succeed. After the conference, the students toured the grounds of NBCUniversal, the sound mixing room, sets, props and costume.

The students also dined with Joe Trapanese, independent composer of films such as “Divergent Series” and “Straight Outta Compton,” listened to Nick Morton, a producer at Whitewater Films, spoke with John Shaffner, production designer for shows such as “The Big Bang Theory” and “Friends,” visited YouTube Space LA, a video production facility, engaged with producers from Ground Seven Entertainment, met a Villanova Law School graduate working as an agent for Motion Picture department of Paradigm Talent Agency and discussed Doug DeLuca’s path from the University to working in the “Jimmy Kimmel Live” studio.

A number of seniors were amongst the group of students. Myra Villas, a senior communication major, was one of the many that applied to the program with the hopes of making professional connections in LA. “[Villanova On Set”] creates valuable connections between its participants and Villanova alumni who are influential in the entertainment industry through exclusive company site visits and open conversations with individuals of various levels of experience who each have their own, unique story about how they found their way to LA,” Villas said. As a senior, Villas will incorporate the new information she obtained from VoS into the future. “I left the trip with new career aspirations for positions I never knew existed,” Villas said. “Many people we met talked about how they came to LA to do something completely different but ended up in a job and company that they couldn’t be happier with. With that information, I learned about a new path I want to take to work in TV development but that there will be unexpected opportunities on the way that I should be willing to embrace.”

Daniel Mengel, a senior communication major from Phoenixville, PA, expressed his vow to maintain his connections and to work hard for himself and other students. “If I’m ever blessed enough to find my place in the industry, I will feel obligated to help out anyone who is currently in my shoes, especially future VoS members,” Mengel said. “Having faculty members like II Luscri and [Hezekiah Lewis] organize this trip and be in your corner throughout this experience is something that I will never forget.”