Local students and adults received invaluable insights on the inner workings of the media industry from some of Houston’s top TV, film, and production professionals at this year’s MPAC’s TV Forum: A Look At Television Broadcast and Digital Content Conference. The event was held at the University of Houston Alumni Center.
“It’s A Wrap,” a two-day empowerment conference hosted by Jalene Mack, founder of Mack Performing Arts Collective (MPAC), is an educational initiative designed to connect Hollywood celebrities and TV industry professionals with youth and adults aspiring to pursue careers in media.
“We want our attendees to hear stories good or bad, want you to absorb the knowledge and insight gained from years of experience and being in the trenches, and have validation that you are on the right track or confirmation that you are not,” Mack shared in the event’s program booklet on the goals of the forum.
Great Day Houston’s Debra Duncan, Emmy award-winning Kim Gagne, former Steve Harvey Show producer, and Twentieth Century Fox TV producer, Kathy Sapp of Judge Faith, kicked off the day’s first panel led by moderator, KPRC NBC Local 2 producer, Tera Roberson Stidum. Each panelist shared her personal journey in the industry and topped the workshop off with advice to students interested in pursuing careers in media.
Duncan emphasized the importance of preparation and shared how her ability to be versatile and display her authentic personality opened doors for her in the industry.
Stidum advised conference participants to not share their ideas without the all important “non-disclosure” as well as insider tips for pitching a pilot to producers.
“Don’t get attached to anything,” said Stidum. “They can change it all up, so be prepared to let go [if a pilot gets picked up].
Sapp encouraged attendees to look for opportunities to learn from mentors in the industry.
“Make sure to do internships because they can turn into big opportunities,” shared Sapp who interned for Dan Rather in her early career.
Gagne emphasized the value of building relationships and never counting your chickens before they hatch. She and other panelists also pointed to the importance of developing a “Sizzle Reel” to showcase your experience.
Students also had the opportunity to gain insights from news producers and anchors from various local media outlets, including KTRK- Channel 13 news anchor, Melanie Lawson, HTV General Manager Dwight Williams, KRIV Fox 26 General Manager D’Artagnan Bebel and moderator, Darian Ward, former Fox reporter and current press secretary for Mayor Sylvester Turner.
News industry professionals shared insights on the need to stay on top of the latest news and trends and discussed their views on the future of the traditional broadcast industry and the impact of social media on news.
“In our biz, you need to know a little about everything. College teaches you how to think and meet someone you wouldn’t have met,” Lawson shared with students.
Bebel highlighted the importance of hard work and preparation and the importance of exercising initiative in carving out a career in the competitive news industry.
“Be self directed and don’t get pulled off the road. If you know what you love, keep your eye on the prize. There is no shortcut when it comes to being prepared,” said Bebel.
On his philosophy on creating your own success, Bebel added, “You can either wait to get in line for someone to give you something. I know the line is there, but I am going to go and forge my own destiny.”
The day ended with additional insights from a long list of top media industry professionals including Jolanda Jones of WEtv’s Sisters in Law, Film Producer, Jerri Moore of The Jimmy Burner Project, Creator and Showrunner Greg Carter, founder of the Young Filmmakers’ Project, Houston Film Commission Deputy Director Alfred Cervantes, writer and producer, Reshonda Tate Billingsley, producer, writer, actor, Datari Turner and FUBU TV Director, Jacquelyn Aluotto, to name a few.
Attendees walked away inspired and empowered with information and connections from the two-day forum.
For more information on MPAC Founder Jalene Mack and upcoming MPAC events, visit www.mpac-arts.org.