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The Communicator


Students appreciate opportunities provided by Penn State Hollywood Program

Semester-long program offers internships and real-life growth in Los Angeles

Portraits of three students
Three of the 16 students who will participate in the Penn State Hollywood Program during the spring semester are (from left) Isabella Granada, Jake Haplea and Jaina Lousie Winston.

For the latest group of students selected to participate in the Penn State Hollywood Program — a semester-long internship and working experience in Los Angeles during the spring semester — the possibilities seem endless, if at first hard to believe.

Sixteen students from various majors in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications were selected for the program. Nearly 75 students applied for the highly competitive program.

“I was in complete disbelief when I was accepted to the Hollywood Program,” said Jaina Lousie Winston, a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. She previously completed an internship with the Hallmark Channel focused on development and digital media. That experience allowed her to demonstrate her knowledge and passion for creativity in the media and entertainment industry. It also helped open the door to the Hollywood Program.

“The end goal for me is to see if I really like Los Angeles and Hollywood and to see if I want to live out there,” Winston said.

The annual spring semester program gives students the opportunity to discover if Los Angeles is a good fit. It also allows them to gain professional experience and network with classmates, Penn State alumni and industry professionals.

“I am really excited to be somewhere new, to be able to experience all these things. And I won't be by myself. I’ll be with fellow Penn Staters,” said Isabella Granada, an advertising/public relations and Spanish major, who has an interest in entertainment that includes the intersection of the sports industry, event planning and talent management.

The spring semester timing of the program offers many opportunities for program participants. For example, television shows are in production, it’s the start of pilot season, and Hollywood’s award season is in full swing.

“I’m looking forward to gaining valuable experience at the forefront of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and I’m eager to learn from leaders and peers in the business,” Granada said. She hopes to pair her communications, language (she’s bilingual) and organizational skills while developing some foundational relationships — and, of course, experience — for career success.

“The program is a low-risk opportunity for students to see if the Hollywood entertainment business is a good fit for them.”

Robert D. Richards, John and Ann Curley Professor of First Amendment Studies, creator of the Penn State Hollywood Program

Robert D. Richards, the John and Ann Curley Professor of First Amendment Studies, created the Hollywood Program in 2016 and has served since as its director.

“The program is a low-risk opportunity for students to see if the Hollywood entertainment business is a good fit for them,” Richards said. “Since 2016, more than two dozen graduates from the program now live in Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry.”

Richards said those program alumni are a great resource for current students and are often a part of activities and events during the semester. The program has provided a strong complement to the accomplished and sizable pool of Penn State alumni already working in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.

Richards helps pair students with internship opportunities.

“It’s been great to work with Penn State and Professor Richards because he is helping us secure internships,” said Jake Haplea, a senior majoring in film production. He previously completed an internship at Mandalay Pictures and Ramo Law PC, which exposed him to other writers’ work via script coverage. He has a passion for writing and movies that can unite people in celebration of the human experience.

“It will be a great test to see if I like it in Los Angeles and to immerse myself in the city,” Haplea added. “My mom is happy for me because she is proud I got accepted into the program and it is the perfect next step to talk about what you learn and put in the real world.”

Along with his classes, Haplea works in the equipment room in the Bellisario College. He also shoots and edits video for the College of Arts and Architecture.

Senior Tracy Kerr, a film production major and another member of the spring class, believes the Penn State Hollywood Program is vital to eventual career success. He’s interested in television development (either drama or comedy), talent agency work and film/television production.

“If you are going to love it, it will help you get out the door.” said Kerr. “Plus, with 16 of us out there, we’ll be learning from each other and leaning on each other. That’s great because we can get closer to everyone in the program and have a support program to succeed.”