Category: GEMA, GEMA Externship

Title:GEMA Externship: Where Are They Now? – Marcel Arsenault (C’07), Sharp Entertainment

GEMA launched its annual Externship Program in 2003, a unique experience where Georgetown seniors and graduate students spend one week in Los Angeles or New York during spring break meeting with a number of alumni from a variety of fields in entertainment and media. Over 200 students and more than 500 alumni have participated in the program over its first 18 years and many of the externs have gone on to roles across the media landscape. In our series The GEMA Externship: Where Are They Now?, we reconnect with past Externs to find out how their careers have progressed since graduation.

Marcel Arsenault (C ’07), Vice President/Head Development of Sharp Entertainment

Sharp Entertainment is an NYC based unscripted production company that is consistently on the Realscreen Global Top 100. Arsenault oversees all facets of development and sales for Sharp working with his team to shepherd projects from ideation through the sale of the series. He has developed some of the biggest unscripted hits currently on TV such as TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé Franchise, WeTV’s Love After Lockup, Nat Geo’s Doomsday Preppers, among many others.

What was your first “big break” into your industry? Or, what is the most significant experience you have had that has made your success possible?

The winter after I graduated from Georgetown I was living in my parent’s home in RI, plotting a career in film, TV or music in NYC. I applied to dozens of production companies, film studios, TV networks and pretty much any job with the word “entertainment” in the job description. I had had no applicable internships or real world experience and it felt like I was sending my resume into a void. After weeks of applying to dozens of entry-level jobs I still hadn’t received a single interview. Then, I came across a posting asking for a creative cover letter. I had spent the summer honing my songwriting, so I wrote a cover-letter song and sent off my application. The song found its way to the president of the company, who loved it. A week later I was in NYC for my first (and only) job interview. A month later I had gotten the job!

What was your first job?

My first job in the industry was the executive assistant to the president of Sharp Entertainment. At the time Sharp was a small but busy unscripted production company known for pop culture fare like The Fabulous Life. My job entailed the usual assistant work like answering phones, coordinating meetings and travel, getting coffee and lunch. The hours were long, and the majority of the work had nothing to do with entertainment, but I learned a ton through osmosis that would help me with what was to come.

What do you do in your job now? What is your favorite part of your current position?

Today I am the Vice President/Head of Development for Sharp Entertainment, the same company that I started at 13 years ago. What was then a company of 20-30 employees has grown to 250-300 employees. My job is to lead a talented team of casting directors and producers to develop new (mostly) unscripted TV shows that we package and pitch to networks and streamers. I’ve been lucky to help develop some of the biggest current hits on cable TV like the 90 Day Fiancé franchise for TLC and the Love After Lockup franchise for WeTV.

My favorite part of the job is working with my team through tons of bad ideas to get to that one good one that has the ability to resonate with, and entertain millions of viewers. Learning that friends or family—or even strangers frankly—are fans of our shows is also endlessly rewarding.

What was the externship experience like for you? Did it have an influence on your career/help kickstart your career?

I was excited to be accepted to the NYC externship. Armed with a packed schedule full of sessions with heavy hitters and printouts of MapQuest directions I managed to make all my meetings. All the people I met with, from top-level execs at major broadcasters and magazines (remember those?), to independent documentarians and record producers were incredibly generous with their time. I was struck by how strong the Hoya connection is in the entertainment industry. Hoyas really do want to help those who come after thrive in their fields.

I remember walking along the impressive Avenue of the Americas, whose towers are home to some of the biggest brands in entertainment that we were just given access to, and being inspired, saying “one day I’m going to work here.” 3 years later, my last job as executive assistant would be to oversee the move of our company from a small office in Chelsea to our new offices on the Avenue of the Americas.

What part(s) of the Externship did you find most valuable?

Overall the externship affirmed for me that I absolutely wanted to work in a creative capacity in the entertainment industry. It was a one-week crash course where I learned the type of places and jobs that I could see myself in, and those that I couldn’t. I went to the internship specifically hoping to meet with songwriters and documentary filmmakers, and I did that, but I also was introduced to folks in television. That opened my eyes to what it meant to work in production at the highest level. It was that rich tapestry of voices of professionals from all different parts of the industry that gave me confidence that I could make it in this field, despite not going to a traditional entertainment focused school.

What was your experience like attending Georgetown? Were there any particularly formative experiences that were special to you?

Georgetown was a creative haven for me. There were so many smart, multifaceted folks to collaborate with, whether it was putting on a rock concert with Cabaret, recording a parody campaign video for friends running for GUSA, or working on the soundtrack for a roommate’s film. It was in pursuing my American Studies major that I got taste of documentary making and film editing which would lead me to shoot a documentary for my senior thesis. As with most GEMA Externs, I found in Georgetown a place that would challenge me academically but offer countless opportunities to pursue creative endeavors with passionate, talented students, hungry to create wonderful things.

What’s your advice for an undergraduate trying to break into your industry? Is there anything you would tell your younger self now?

As someone who now loves connecting with Hoyas looking to break into the industry, I would tell my younger self to use the GEMA network. Hoyas are giving, and genuinely want to help you if they can.

Prepare for every meeting by learning whatever you can about the person you’re meeting with and what they do. Once you get a job, do whatever you can to make yourself invaluable. It’s hard to find stellar, smart, driven, creative candidates. If you prove you are all of those things, they’ll never be able to let you go!

Name someone in your career who has been a valuable mentor or role model to you and why?

Through the GEMA Externship I had the good fortune to meet Teddy Zambetti, the In House Composer and Sr. Director of Music Production at Sirius XM Radio. Teddy is a rock star, a composer, a sound engineer, and founder of the annual Cabaret at Georgetown as well as the bi-annual GEMA Rocks. From that first meeting I started to learn how he has been able to find harmony in his work that by its nature fuses creating art with business. In the years since, we’ve become good friends and I’ve gotten to know his lovely wife and incredible daughters and see how he has been able to pull off being a supportive partner and a devoted dad with being a successful executive. He’s been a role model who proves that it’s possible to have a thriving, rewarding career where art, work, love and family exist in balance. Now that I’m married with a daughter of my own, that is the balance that I aim for.