Category: GEMA, GEMA Externship

Title:GEMA Externship: Where Are They Now? – Joe Della Rosa (C’07), Creative Artists Agency (CAA)

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.

Joe Della Rosa (C ’07) is an Agent in the Media Finance Group at leading entertainment and sports agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

Based in Los Angeles, Della Rosa specializes in sourcing financing for and selling the distribution rights to independently financed film, television, and digital content. Della Rosa represents animation studios and films from around the world including multiple Academy Award nominated, Cartoon Saloon, and Richard Linklater’s upcoming animated film, APOLLO 10.5.

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?

I moved to Los Angeles for the first time in 2008 to attend USC for the Film Production MFA program, but my first break came through a Georgetown relationship. Patrick Callahan introduced me to Peter Traugott, who was then the President of Television at Brillstein Entertainment Partners, for a 30 minute informational meeting. This is a common type of meeting for a recent college graduate, just like the meetings set up by the GEMA Externship. Peter was willing to introduce me to the Brillstein Entertainment Partners HR to discuss an internship they were hosting and that same department handled HR for Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B. From that meeting with HR, I started working as an intern at Plan B and worked there as much as I possibly could while I was finishing my MFA at USC.

Working at Plan B was incredibly inspiring and affirming. Jeremy Kleiner and Dede Gardner, who continue to produce an endless list of top tier films, were a powerhouse producing team to watch up close. From there, I saw how they worked with the Media Finance Group at CAA to help make 12 YEARS A SLAVE and I set my sights on trying to find a way into that group.

What was your first job?

My first job was working as an assistant to Dan Steinman at CAA in our Media Finance Group, which is the group I still work in today. It was a typical agency assistant job in that it consisted of rolling phone calls, managing scheduling and travel, and getting coffees but it was an incredible way to learn the business and make lifelong friends with colleagues inside and outside of the agency. Many of the friendships I built during that time are still my most cherished business relationships also now.

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

I’m an agent in the Media Finance Group, where we advise on independent financing and act as a sales agent for media projects in need of distribution. I specialize in animation for our group. I love that I’m able to help the best filmmakers find new and innovative ways to tell their stories in a media landscape that is changing every day. Working at an agency gives you incredible access to information and knowledge of what the studios and streaming services are looking for at this very minute and it’s been exciting to be at the forefront of all of this change and growth.

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

As a young student from New Jersey with a passion for film and working in the industry, the externship was an important experience for me. At the time, I knew I loved making films but I didn’t know how to make a career out of it and meeting with alumni that were so successful in the business was eye opening and helped me feel as though my goals were achievable. I still didn’t know how everything would play out but I at least had a look at what the next stage in life could look like for me, and that was incredibly valuable at that age.

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

Undoubtedly, it was the well-rounded group of people that we sat down with in Los Angeles. I remember my schedule was packed with alumni who were executives from Disney and HBO, agents, a writer, a comedian, a manager. I had a real look at what the career life was like. I could begin to focus my energy on what interested me the most coming out of those meetings.

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

Georgetown supported me through a lot of experiences where I could have otherwise felt like a round peg in a square hole. I was so passionate about filmmaking and there was no formal film or film studies program at the time but I was able to find support from many professors there. I worked very closely with Dr. John Glavin, Derek Goldman, Maya Roth, and Dr. Bernie Cook – all of whom are still professors now 15 years later (Students, go work with them!). Each of them were in different departments at the time but they were so helpful and supportive of my passion, including allowing me to make a short film for my honors English thesis in place of writing a paper.

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

If you are trying to be a filmmaker, start making films now. There is no excuse, especially today, for not practicing your craft and the world needs more talented voices to be heard. You will always benefit from being a self-starter. Especially as you get older, nothing will be handed to you, so start now! And be prolific! Also, reach out and use the Georgetown network. So many alumni are willing to spend 30 minutes with students entering the industry, myself included. As an alum now, I always enjoy spending time with the GEMA Externs every year.

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

My current bosses, Roeg Sutherland and Benjamin Kramer, have been incredible mentors to me. Having worked with them for 10 years now, they have encouraged me to push myself beyond my comfort zone, never let tomorrow be just like yesterday, and own your field of work.