Career Panel Focuses on Drama & Film Industries

By Wesley Yiin, PC '16

On April 3, three professionals in the drama and film industries participated in a UCS sponsored career panel, which was the seventh installment of an ongoing series that also included panels on the legal, consulting, investment banking, and medical professions. The series aims to provide students and alumni with a “candid view” of each profession, offering honest advice for those hoping to pursue the featured career paths.

The panelists included Amy Herzog, a playwright and graduate of the Yale Drama School; Ira Sachs, director of the recently acclaimed independent film Keep the Lights On and Yale College alum; and Victoria Nolan, Managing Director of the Yale Repertory Theater and Deputy Dean of the Yale School of Drama.

The event took place in two separate locations, New York City and Yale, and was broadcast over the Internet as well for those who could not attend either location. Although the audience at Yale was intimate (fewer than ten attendees), the New York audience was larger, and, with approximately 145 total registrants, the event was hugely popular online.

Each panelist briefly discussed his or her individual background and career at the beginning of the session. New York panelists Herzog and Sachs spoke on the long road to success in their industries. Both initially failed, Herzog bored by acting in a touring children’s show and Sachs rejected by film school; both took approximately nine years to achieve “success,” Herzog with her lauded play After the Revolution and Sachs for directing two feature films.

Nolan, who was based in New Haven, told viewers that she chose a career in theater management because she was admittedly very self-confident and obsessed with taking control. “I always wanted to be in charge,” she said, “and I was completely and totally committed to making that happen.”

From that point onward, the discussion became brutally honest. Peter Young, YC ’74, who moderated the panel, prompted the speakers with questions, and they often responded grimly.

Herzog urged potential playwrights or artists to be aware that they were not always going to be in the limelight. She gave personal examples, such as her nine long years to success and preference for Off-Broadway theater despite not being noticed as much by the public. She also advised playwrights against planning to have large families, as work was not always stable.

Sachs also warned viewers about financial instability, admitting that he knew very few self-sustaining independent filmmakers. “Independent film wouldn’t exist if people thought they had to be paid,” he said. The entire panel agreed that for creative workers who didn’t want to ask for outside assistance, a good day job, e.g. teaching, may be necessary.

Still, the panel ultimately encouraged anyone who was willing to persevere through hardships to pursue their dreams. Herzog stressed that being able to do what you love should make up for all the other stresses. “Everything you are doing is part of something that you will eventually be recognized for,” she added optimistically.