Thinking about a career in the arts/entertainment industry? Read on for an inside look at how your Holy Cross liberal arts education can lead to working in TV and Film.
Meet Alum Mike Dussault ’99, Creative Executive at The Tannenbaum Co.(CBS)
In one sentence, what does your job entail?
We are based out of CBS Studios and develop scripted TV shows for broadcast, cable and streaming outlets.
What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?
I got my MFA in TV Production at Loyola Marymount University after graduating from Holy Cross. I interned for director Jay Roach while at LMU and that led me to my first job as an assistant at a talent agency. The entire TV and Film industries all run through the agencies and it was those connections that led to me ending up at The Tannenbaum Company where I’ve been for over 10 years. Agency jobs are long hours and low pay, but the exposure was invaluable for not only seeing what kind of company I wanted to move to, but also hearing about jobs when they opened up before anyone else. Really that year at the agency might’ve been more impactful on my career than getting my MFA.
What were you involved in when you were on campus?
Academics (obviously), Eucharistic Minister and ice hockey.
What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?
Psychology. I think this major was far more helpful overall than my MFA in TV Production was because it gave me a different perspective than most regular film school grads. It was especially useful as I got into developing scripts and working with writers on character and story development. I come at story problems from a different place than many colleagues.
What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?
Reading is maybe the most important thing I do at my job and being able to read critically, to break down stories and characters, is essential. All day, every day there are scripts and pitches to read and discuss with my co-workers. You must be able to quickly take something in and give constructive notes to writers to get projects in the best place possible before we pass material up the flagpole to our studio and networks. This is my favorite part of my job and I’d never be able to do it without the critical reading skills that were honed at Holy Cross.
Also being able to work hard and being unflinching in the face of inevitable setbacks were critical things I learned in my experiences on the hill.
What advice do you have for students on campus today?
There isn’t one way to do anything. Everyone has their own path. Find your passion and then find a way to immerse yourself in the companies and people who do it everyday. The more people you meet, the more people who know what your passion is, the more people who might be able to help you. Get as many new and different experiences as you can to help you stand out. Don’t get discouraged by those who find their passion or are more successful earlier than you. Stay the course and never be afraid to take big swings at big opportunities. And never ever let your failures deter you. If you’re not failing you’re not truly trying!