I arrived in LA knowing that I was about to meet some very important people, but I had no idea that the week would also be a lot of fun and it would change my life in many ways. In general, as a GEMA extern, you spend your days meeting with 1 to 5 alums and hearing about their lives and their careers. You meet with people who are extremely giving with their time in that they were willing to meet with students and open up their pasts in hopes of inspiring a few of them in pursing careers in entertainment. Sometimes you go to the meetings alone and sometimes you are with other GEMA externs. You develop a bond with the externs, because you realize as a group that this is a very special experience. At the end of the week, collectively, we visited every major studio, talent agency, television network, entertainment law firm, entertainment public relations firm, management company, record company, and film school in LA. I would not have traded this experience for anything.
What was the most surprising revelation about the entertainment industry?
Even though I suspected this before I came to LA, I realized after talking to most of the GEMA hosts that you have to be willing to start from the bottom if you want to get into the entertainment business on the creative side. You might get lucky and not spend much time there, but you will get nowhere if you aren’t willing to be someone’s assistant or work in a mailroom for some period of time. This is especially difficult for graduate and law students to hear, because we see many of our classmates taking high-paying jobs in firms and businesses. That’s fine for those who want to be investment bankers or corporate lawyers, but if you want to a producer or a creative executive, be ready to fetch coffee… Cream or sugar? Bring both.
How has the GEMA extern experience helped me shape my future goals?
Along the same lines as above, I now know that it’s not only possible to have a career in television or movies, but it is a very real possibility… if you are willing to do what is necessary to obtain the goal. Hearing the stories of the people who have “made it” in a tough business inspired me to make the leap and move to California to enter the shark pit and see if I have what it takes. Georgetown is a great place to learn, but the mailroom is where I will mature.
What would I most want applicants to know about the GEMA extern program?
First, the GEMA program is an incredible, potentially life-changing opportunity for those students with a real interest in a career in entertainment. You will be meeting with individuals whom other people in Hollywood would “kill” to meet. Second, and more important, being selected as a GEMA participant is a privilege and you should treat it as such. Third, have fun…it’s a great way to meet likeminded individuals who might end up being long-term friends.
What am I doing now?
After my week with GEMA I spent 5 weeks at the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills, CA. I started in the mailroom and then rotated to different agent desks and met some new friends. After this, I spent 5 weeks in the MTV Development Department in Santa Monica, CA. I helped develop new reality TV shows for MTV. Currently, I am in my last semester at the Georgetown University Law Center, where I am serving as the Law Center GEMA representative for the year. I’m also getting ready to graduate in December and take the California Bar in February. I don’t have a job yet, but I’m confident about the future.
If you would like to contact Diego to learn more about his experience, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org