Day four of networking proved to be my favorite yet, starting with brunch at the iconic Bobby’s Big Boy (the oldest standing one of the chain) followed by our first meeting at CBS. I was at CBS on Friday with the vice president of daytime programming, but today’s meeting was right up my alley: we were there for a taping of Entertainment Tonight, the type of entertainment show I dream of hosting one day. However, we realized we were in for much more than that.
After getting a small tour of the area surrounding the ET stage (I had seen this and then some on Friday via golf cart), we headed to the ET set where we quickly took photos at the news desk.
Then, we were told we were wanted at the set of a new sitcom The Neighborhood. We thought we were there just to view the set, but alas, there was more in store. We were welcomed with an applause and smiling faces, and got to watch a rehearsal, which was ridiculously awesome. I had never seen a sitcom set before, and it was interesting to see how the set is organized, so they can move from scene to scene without much effort. The assistant director, who was very charming, explained some behind-the-scenes information to us such as what every person on set did, the differences between a set with multiple cameras and a single camera (our guide at Warner Brothers talked about this, too) and about his job in general.
Once they were done rehearsing the scene, two of the actors, Sheaun McKinney and Marcel Spears, came over to shake our hands and answer our questions about becoming actors and the TV industry. They were kind, smiling and genuine with us—it almost felt like they were more Hofstra alumni hoping to help us.
Then, the biggest shock of the day came, causing an emotional bomb to hit me: the person directing that day, Phill Lewis, came to talk to us. This is not just Phill Lewis, actor, director and comedian, though. This is the Mr. Moseby from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, only one of the most important television shows to any Disney watcher between 2005 and 2008. I don’t know what happened, but as he approached, I felt a storm of thrill, disbelief and nostalgia wash over me.
I kept it together just until he left and we were escorted out of the building to let the tears come, washing my winged black liquid eyeliner off my lash lines and into blurs on my eyelids. The whole walk back to the ET stage consisted of me patting my eyes and trying to contain my high pitched cries of emotion escaping my throat. Alas, I was able to regain my composure in time for the most important part of the day.
We walked back to the stage, where the talent was getting ready to start the show. I could not believe my eyes. Nancy O’Dell, who I have watched since I was a child, was standing just feet from me, welcoming the other half of my group. Someone who I aspire to be was right there. And she was so friendly!
As I mentioned, we were split up into groups. I watched the fist 15 minutes of Entertainment Tonight from the control room, which again was full of friendly people and high energy. I felt so lucky getting my daily dose of celebrity from the control room of ET. Then, we switched halfway through and my group watched the hosts do their thing three feet from us on stage. I could not believe how close we were. And for the millionth time, the talent was beyond friendly! I almost attempted to strike up a short conversation with one of the talent, but I don’t like to be overbearing or out of line.
However, one thing I did take advantage of was the fact that we got to ask the executive producer of the show a few questions in her office afterwards. I debated going up to her after the meeting because she was not a Hofstra alumna willingly open to getting bombarded by thirsty students, but after giving us advice to show our skill and interest, I decided to make a move. I went right up to her after the meeting, shook her hand, thanked her for her time, expressed my interest in the entertainment industry—even saying that I hope to be back there one day—and gave her my card. My classmates were rooting for me because they know I want to get into entertainment reporting, and a bunch of them shouted, “We love Sara,” on the way out to give me some credibility, I guess. It was really sweet.
After my dreamlike first half of the day, we continued from CBS to NBC to meet with Polly Powell, the NBC Los Angeles bureau chief. However, she did not do any of the talking. After giving us a quick tour of one of the studios, she introduced us to Gadi Schwartz, a very knowledgeable, handsome and talented correspondent and the “dude from Stay Tuned” according to his Twitter biography. Meeting with him was refreshing because he is a news reporter in a huge, historical company, but he is very connected with what viewers want and how to reach them, and he seems to bring a new dynamic to the table when it comes to traditional news reporting. He honestly seemed more excited to talk to us and use us as a focus group to understand our views on social media. Three things were clear at the end of this meeting: I would gladly take part in a focus group for this any day; he is going to go so far in his career; and I am so lucky to have had this experience.
I am so lucky to be on this trip, but today I felt even more grateful because it seemed as if this day was planned with me in mind. I can confidently say I went to heaven and back today. Tomorrow is another big day for us, but I think I’ll stay on Earth this time around.