Brooklyn College film students network with WNET.ORG and HBO

December 9th, 2009

By Daniel T. Allen, Community Engagement Coordinator, Friends of Thirteen, Inc.

The Friends of THIRTEEN is a nonprofit organization of volunteers who act as liaisons between THIRTEEN and the community to: INCREASE engagement with the station’s quality programming; PROMOTE use of its innovative educational resources; and EXPAND support for public media as one of our nation’s great cultural resources. For more information about Friends please contact Executive Director Dorothy Pacella at 212.560.2800 or Pacella@thirteen.org.

On December 7th, WNET.ORG’s Director of Business Development Rich Siegmeister joined Greg Rhem, Director of Documentary Acquisitions at HBO, in speaking to a group of 40 Brooklyn College film students about how to build a career in today’s film and media industry.

WNET.ORG's Rich Siegmeister and HBO's Greg Rhem chat with CUNY film students.
Photo Credit: Daniel Cowen

“Perspectives on Film Careers,” a panel discussion, was co-hosted by the CUNY Film Festival (CUFF), the Brooklyn College Film Society and Friends of Thirteen.

CUFF founder Daniel Cowen began the evening by introducing his vision for a citywide community of student filmmakers collaborating on various projects. “There are 440,000 students in the CUNY system, we should all be working together,” he said.

Cowen said he would eventually like to see the CUNY Film Festival mushroom into a CUNY Film Fund that would help student filmmakers finance their projects.

During the discussion, Siegmeister and Rhem stressed that while the task of breaking into the business may seem daunting, their own career paths show that there are many alternatives.

Siegmeister’s experience at NYU film school led him to a career managing residuals and royalties for Sesame Workshop.

Design credit: Tyler Alterman

Rhem said that the storytelling skills he learned from producing films prepared him for his current position curating documentaries for HBO where he has worked on acclaimed shows like Reel Life and the Oscar-nominated Spellbound.

“While there’s nothing better than landing a steady job with benefits,” said Rhem, “less than 10% of people in the industry have that.” He encouraged students to maintain part-time employment to support their creative endeavors or remain flexible to filling different positions on a film set.

“Be nice to everybody and keep in touch – you never know who’s going to give you a job,” said Siegmeister, stressing the importance of networking in successful media careers.

Siegmeister introduced Reel13 as a perfect place to showcase student work. He screened an on-air promo for Reel13 and Cubes, one of the winning independent shorts. Each Saturday evening, between 30,000 and 100,000 viewers tune in to Reel13.

“For every film that gets into Sundance, there are hundreds and thousands that are just as good that don’t make it,” he said, “Reel13 gives those films a place to go.”

The students stayed after the event to ask the panelists questions and take photos.

About the CUNY Film Festival

The CUFF team is made up of a twelve-member student board, all students of the Macaulay Honors College. The team is spread throughout CUNY, with at least one member representing each of the seven senior CUNY campuses. On the CUNY Film Festival website, students can create a profile in order to connect with other student filmmakers. For footage from last year’s festival click here.