Category: GEMA, GEMA Externship

Title:My Externship Story: Jack O’Brien (C’03)

What was my extern experience like in general?

There were many memorable moments which took place during my one week in LA. The meetings I had at the company Bunim-Murray Productions (the creators of Real World and Road Rules) stick out in my head. We sat down and spoke with a number of the people on the business side of creating the Real World, and then it was on to a tour of the workplace where the actual footage is edited down into the product that comes through tubes into our homes. The workplace was sort of like a play land for grownups. Many of the people went around the office without shoes, and there was a variation on the game of dodge ball taking place in the Road Rules office.

We entered one cubicle to find a slender late-twenties guy surrounded by towers of CDs. His office made my local Tower Records shop look like a garage sale, and nonetheless, here is this guy, just a few years older than us, telling us that he is sitting where he was because of nothing other than extraordinary luck. Now granted, a great deal of his luck probably has to do with extraordinary talent, as this young man had come from a college much like Georgetown. He said the environment in which he studied had treated a career in television as a nonoption, something for people with large egos and no direction to pursue and probably fail in. Nonetheless, the young man had come to LA on nothing more than a feeling in his stomach that he could succeed. And now, when this guy talks about “work,” he is talking about putting his favorite music next to whatever images he thinks the songs will go best with.

What was the most surprising revelation about the entertainment industry?

I asked one of my extern interviewers, the producer of such blockbusters as Training Day and Men in Black, when was it that he really knew what he wanted to do? The answer from this figure, whom a large portion of LA County would pay their year’s salary to sit down with, surprised me. He said that he still didn’t know what he wanted to do. He said that rather than modeling his career on some design or track learned in school, he instead used his career as a compass for telling him what it was he was interested in at that particular stage in his life. He views his career as ever evolving. Rather than a model he must follow, his career has followed him, and shown him nothing but great success.

How has the GEMA extern experience helped me shape my future goals?

I am most interested in writing. Just this past week, I heard from one of the alums whom I had met in LA, a screenwriter to whom I had sent pretty much everything I had ever written via e-mail. After about a month of not hearing back, I became discouraged and assumed that I would never hear from her. After all, she is a young working screenwriter, and I have completed only one full-length screenplay and am undeniably an amateur. Then this past week she e-mailed me and informed me that I had not heard from her because she had taken the time to read every single short story, movie review, screenplay, and stage play I had sent her. She was extremely encouraging, and offered wonderful advice and incisive criticism. The post-college summer is not always an encouraging environment with regard to following one’s creative dreams. My friends are all getting Georgetown standard jobs—paralegal, junior investment banker—with set-in-stone corporate ladders that make my parents drool. Her e-mail and my entire experience in LA with GEMA have given me the courage to pursue the career that most interests me.

What am I doing now?

I’m currently working as a butler at a hotel called the Soho House in New York City. The hotel caters to different people in the New York entertainment industry and has provided a couple of tenuous contacts, but basically it’s an odd job while I keep writing and sending my stories and scripts out to contests and publications. I will also be writing “coverage” (a write-up which critiques a script) for a Georgetown alum who works in film development, which is an unpaid thing, but still I believe a valuable way for me to learn more about my craft.

If you would like to contact Jack to learn more about his experience, he can be reached at