Category: GEMA, GEMA Externship

Title:GEMA Externship: Where Are They Now? – Casey Meurer (C’15), HBO Max

The new series, The GEMA Externship: Where Are They Now?, reconnects with past Externs to find out how their careers have progressed since graduation.

Casey Meurer (C’15), Director of Non-Fiction at HBO Max

In our first installment, we catch up with Casey Meurer. Casey’s work focuses on the development and production of documentary films and docuseries for the company. Previously, she worked at William Morris Endeavor just after graduation and later in content development at VICE Media before moving over to HBO Max last November.

What was your first job like after graduation?

After graduating from Georgetown, I started at WME, followed the mailroom path, and then worked for a non-scripted agent there. This is something that a lot of people do. I’d gotten advice from former bosses at internships and from some people I met with at the externship to consider the agency path if I was someone who was not sure which particular direction I wanted to go into, but really knew that I wanted to be in entertainment. The role was kind of like a graduate school: I started in the mailroom and had an absolute blast. I met some of my closest friends that I’m still very close with today. I was in the mailroom for a couple months, and then I got a desk working for an agent in the non-scripted department. He did a lot of talent non-scripted crossover, and he repped some production companies as well.

Then after working for the co-CEO there for a short period, I wanted to get closer to the creative side. I’d never really gone into WME wanting to be an agent, which is the case for a lot of assistants there. I was just looking to get more experience and get the lay of the land of the industry. WME was certainly grueling at times but definitely a very good way to meet a lot of people really quickly and jump right in.

Was there a particular moment that served as your big break into your industry, or a big career move for you?

After working at WME, I took a role over at VICELAND, which is VICE’s cable network. I think that my time at VICE really laid the groundwork for what I’m doing now at HBO Max. Learning from a risk-taking, startup environment like VICE allowed me to develop my abilities to pivot very quickly when needed, to implement systems, and to feel comfortable in a growing environment. It’s much more structured at HBO Max than it was at VICE — we’re a part of the massive corporation that is Warner Media — but it’s an emerging platform within that, where I’ve really been able to utilize my experiences from a less structured company like VICE Media. So I would say the most exciting career move for me so far was the move from VICE to what I’m doing now.

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

I’m a director on the non-fiction team at HBO Max. My job is to take pitches, to evaluate content that’s coming in, and to help make decisions on which ideas we want to invest in, produce and ultimately, put onto the platform. Our non-fiction team produces both reality and doc content. A couple of my colleagues focus more on traditional reality and formats. I focus more on premium documentaries and docuseries. A lot of what I do is evaluate pitches that are coming through our doors, and then once we actually buy a project, I help manage that series or documentary to get it to the finish line and make sure that our expectations are reflected in the result. There’s a lot that goes into that day-to-day. It’s evaluating creative materials, it’s giving notes on cuts, it’s working hand-in-hand with the marketing team to make sure that they have everything they need. Ultimately, it’s just about making good content that’s in line with HBO Max’s creative mandate.

One of my favorite parts of the job is making someone’s vision a reality. First and foremost, that is just so much fun. But I also love the process of making something better: working with a filmmaking team to mold and craft a film, to put the puzzle pieces together to make it the best version of what it can be – it’s such a rewarding aspect of the job.

What was the externship experience like for you, and did it have a specific influence on your career or help kickstart it?

I think the externship was really valuable in giving a broad sense of a bunch of different kinds of jobs in the industry. Going into different offices, you get a feel of that place and what it would be like to work there – for example a larger studio has a very distinct feel from working as an indie producer at a bungalow on a much smaller, intimate team. In turn, you get a sense of what you want out of a job, and where you might thrive. I think it’s really valuable to be able to learn about so many different jobs, and then narrow in on what you’re most excited about.

Were there any particular pieces of advice that you gleaned from the externship that have stuck with you?

I think just have an open mind. A lot of people – including myself – might think they know exactly what they want to do, and then surprisingly be drawn to something else. I saw this even at the agency: people would go in and think, I want to be in scripted, it’s the scripted department or I die. They were often very surprised when they were all of a sudden drawn to another focus, like non-scripted or maybe music for example. That’s good advice that I gleaned from the externships especially – the idea that what you’re drawn to might change over the years and there’s so many different jobs within the industry, but as long as you’re passionate about being a part of good storytelling, this is the industry for you.

Are there any pieces of advice that you would give to an undergraduate who’s interested in your industry?

Do a lot of internships. That’s what I did in my summers and I think that was really helpful because I was able to figure out what I didn’t want to do and figure out what I was drawn to, and I think both are just as important. Get as much experience as you can, whether it’s working on set for a TV show in the summer or working in the marketing department at a network, whatever you can. I would also say, if I’m speaking to an undergrad who is a film minor, take the hands-on classes where you can actually make films because the resources that Georgetown has to make those short films is incredible, and you’re not going to have that when you graduate. If you are interested in entertainment, the opportunities to really get hands-on with filmmaking are few and far between if you go down an executive path or the agent path.

Is there anything specific that you would tell your younger self?

I would tell myself to stop thinking about the future so much and appreciate the present more. Honestly I should still take this advice today. It’s easy to get stuck in the trap of always focusing on what’s next, and thinking about the present as just a stepping stone: college as a step toward my first job, then once I was in the mailroom we were all laser-focused on what desk we would get and then once you’re an assistant it’s like “when am I going to get promoted?” and “when will I be an exec already?” But I think slowing down for a second and thinking, wow, I’m having a lot of fun right now and learning a ton, is a good reminder to have. I am very guilty of these thought spirals. Ultimately, this is just a long-winded way of saying live in the present.