You Don’t Schmooze, You Lose: the Current Rise of a an Oberlin Film Industry Network

From Cinema Studies majors to Creative Writing majors to anyone in between, Oberlin is filled with students interested in pursuing an entertainment industry career. Whether it’s because of a student outcry or a sellability factor, Oberlin has spent the past few years working on improving its internship and post-grad opportunities. This was largely done through the creation of a program entitled “Career Communities”. Over the past two or so years, upperclassmen have applied to join one of the eight career communities of which align with various industries (arts, law, business, nonprofit, etc.). Within this program, students can either the fall semester learning about resume building, and finding their own internship, or spend the spring semester in a career readiness class which ends with the students being placed into an internship for the summer. Both semester’s courses provide a stipend of up to 4,000 dollars, which seeks to replace what the internships should be paying, but won’t. In addition to the newly established Arts and Creative Professions Career Community, the Career Center created a spinoff networking group for entertainment professionals, fittingly called Obiewood. As the Arts and Creative Professions Career Community website addresses, a creative career “takes skills in communication, collaboration, entrepreneurship, and networking—that is, the skills you’re developing as an Oberlin student.”I reached out to the career center for a statement on what their goal was with this program: “Our goal with Obiewood is to connect students who are interested in a career in the arts and entertainment industry with alumni and parents in that industry to help identify meaningful internship opportunities for our students.”

I was first introduced to Obiewood through my 2020 winter term class: Obiewood Intensive. Here, we were able to pursue personal creative projects as well as virtually meet and learn from entertainment professionals about development, coverage, screenwriting, and more. This winter term got me extremely excited about Obiewood. As someone looking to break into the film industry, but has absolutely no connections, I was extremely eager to learn more about this program. This could be my way in! But in reality, is it? Is Obiewood just another performative piece of programming established by the college to make it look like it is doing something, or is it a budding community of people willing to help each other grow and establish themselves within a tough industry.

I decided to post in the Obiewood Wisr group to the 193 members to gain an understanding of how Obies and parents of Obies of varying industry experiences contribute to the community and find an answer to this question of mine. After rewatching All The President’s Men (written by William Goldman, class of 1952), I had all the journalistic skills I needed to investigate Obiewood. I received two responses of people willing to talk with me, and one comment asking why he should care about our beloved publication, The Grape. I also decided to personally reach out to a recent grad who had posted in Obiewood a couple weeks earlier to follow up on how that experience went. 

I reached out to Jill Jaczkowski, who graduated this past December, on if she had any success from that post. She told me that one alum reached out to her in January about interning with his public news station. She also mentioned attending a networking panel last week which she stated was “mostly older grads who are pretty established in the industry and they gave some really great advice for the current students/recent grads.” On a similar note, Emily Cohn ‘17, a freelance filmmaker with PAing, personal assisting, and editing under her belt, had a lot to say about her experiences with Obiewood. She touched on the two virtual pitch sessions (one of which I attended) and said “The panelists obviously have so much experience within the industry, so hearing their tips and feedback was helpful, since that’s a part of the writing / filmmaking process that we rarely get a window into until you’re actually doing it.” 

I lastly spoke to Nick Hoskins ‘08, a production coordinator for an animation company in LA. I was curious about his perspective and use of Obiewood, as a more established alum. Through attending an in person event pre-pandemic and a couple virtual panels, despite already having had some experience within development and pitching, he was still able to pick up some skills. As he puts it, “I learned a lot of new bits and pieces in that seminar, but this is a great example of the value of a network like Obiewood. More perspective, more anecdotes, more willingness to take the time to share and explain.” Additionally, while not having found any new work through it, Nick emphasized the importance of the Obiewood networking experience. Networking can be a scary ordeal, as it requires dropping any concept of humility one may have, yet through attending multiple sessions, the stigma of networking was dropped for Nick and he “ started seeing [the events] as a place to talk to people with some common interests, it got a lot easier to have fun, drop any pretense and be myself on these calls.” Obiewood is a controlled environment: it is a safe place to hone in on these industry skills, but still with the real world capability of the chance to meet the right people, especially as the community grows.  

My personal experiences with Obiewood so far include attending one of the pitch session panels as well as taking the winter term. Attending these complimented my Oberlin cinema studies major by adding in the careerist attitude towards studying film. From talking to Jill, Emily, and Nick, as well as pulling from my own personal experiences within the group, it seems as if its strength is educational panels and industry insights rather than a group to network and job hunt, despite the latter being the career centers intent for the group. Nick pointed out that, “There are a lot of different parts to this industry beyond writing, directing and showrunning, and the more different perspectives we include, the easier it will be to help current students and recent graduates find the career path that matches their interests, and the easier it will be for us to support each other in growing our careers once we are working.”

 Do I wish I could post in the group and have 5 people running to offer me internships? Yes, but is that realistic? No, nothing comes that easy! But in reality, I do wish that more people were interested in talking to me for this article, because to some degree, that represents the enthusiasm for the community itself. Of course, there were those who wanted to talk, and if we just bring in more people that attitude, an attitude of wanting to help each other, Obiewood can live up to its potential. It still needs to grow. We have to view it with patience. There hasn’t been a large amount of events yet, but as we shift into the post-pandemic world (hopefully in the near future) and as time goes on, I think Obiewood has the capability of flourishing. Its key is having more people join the group and actively engage with it, which is both on the career center to do and through word of mouth and if that is achieved, Oberlin could have a successful community of entertainment industry professionals.