Students embrace opportunities in inaugural Penn State Hollywood Program

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — While most Penn State students braved the cold central Pennsylvania weather during the first week of classes, 12 undergrads in the College of Communications enjoyed warmth and sunshine as they began the inaugural semester-long Hollywood Program.

“The best part by far has to be the weather,” said senior Benjamin Bobick, a Pittsburgh native who drove cross-country to Hollywood. “Right when we got out here, the snow started falling pretty hard back home and, as I can see via my friends’ Snapchats, in Happy Valley as well. It has been mid-60s and sunny here all week.”

Already, the dozen students, who represent every major in the College of Communications, are getting settled. Each has started work at their respective internship. There are a variety of locations, including CBS Television (two students), Disney Interactive, Echo Lake Entertainment, HBO, KABC-TV (two students), Nickelodeon and Paramount, Open Road Films, Silver Films, The Cartel Group and On top of the internships, students are also taking classes.

Penn State, which has conducted the Washington Program for 20 years, is one of just a handful of U.S. universities that facilitates intensive, on-site internship opportunities in both Hollywood and Washington, D.C.

Professor Robert Richards, who created and leads the Washington Program, is on site in Hollywood for the spring semester. The 12 students were selected from among 116 applicants last year.

The trip hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, though. Senior Anders Hershberger’s phone broke shortly after arriving on the West Coast at a time when he was expecting calls and texts from a lot of people, including his new boss.

But, after managing to work through the minor blip, Hershberger has enjoyed his first week at his dream location. He anticipates meeting successful professionals in the industry and making connections.

“Throughout my years of internships, I have learned the importance of talking to people who are successful in their respective industries,” said Hershberger. “These people almost always have a great deal of information and advice, so I am excited to learn from those people.”

The spring marks an important time in Tinseltown. Television production is in full swing with dramas, game shows, late-night talk shows and sitcoms up and running. When the shows are in production, the allied fields (entertainment news, programming, publicity) are in full operation as well.

Additionally, the spring is “pilot season” in Hollywood, when networks order initial episodes of shows that may go on the fall schedule. While some cable networks launch shows at various times, there remains an abundance of new production in the first four months of the year.

Of course, the spring semester begins with “awards season” in Hollywood. The Golden Globes, the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, the Directors’ Guild Awards and the Oscars all take place during this time. Nominations for the Oscars were announced Thursday.

Along with Bobick and Hershberger, students spending their spring semester in Hollywood are Hannah Brown, Jeff Capanelli, Hunter Hulbert, Lindsey Hutterer, Carlmichael Laguerre, Jesse Pepperman, Jared Rayment, Dorisa Rodney, Allen Rounsley and Morgan Shaw. 

Last Updated January 15, 2016