Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Obiewood Panel Brings Alumni Experience in Entertainment to Current Students

Ron Knerem
Andrew Guest, OC’99, speaks at an Obiewood panel.

A panel of five Oberlin alumni working in the entertainment industry convened this past Wednesday over Zoom to talk about their experiences in the field and share advice for current students pursuing careers in film or television. The panel, hosted by Career Exploration and Development, was connected to Obiewood, the alumni network for Obies working in film and television.

“Obiewood is the name of the alumni group that is ‘Obies in Hollywood,’” Kyle Farris, assistant director for career readiness, said. “It’s a loose kind of alumni association for folks who are involved in or looking to break into the entertainment industry.”

Obiewood primarily functions in Los Angeles, where panels, mixers, and other events allow alumni of all years to create connections and foster relationships that can lead to job opportunities.

“The whole idea of it is to provide graduates with a community that could provide support and connect people to other resources,” Farris said. “It’s primarily focused on the alumni side of things, which is why I’m really happy that they were kind enough to come in and talk to the current students. But I know that folks out there will sometimes try to arrange mixers, or networking events, or just help each other out one-on-one.”

Farris, who also serves as an advisor to the arts, communications, and creative professions career community at Oberlin, is the driving force behind the panel. They said that when students looking to go into entertainment come to him, he follows a less traditional route to prepare them for the job hunt.

“I make sure that they are very well educated about the industry, because it is a very difficult industry,” they said. “It’s very rare that someone graduates college and goes straight into a job, to be honest. There’s usually a period where you’re hitting the pavement, looking for work, doing freelance, assembling some gigs.”

Farris said he tried to represent a diversity of experiences in the panel, because there are so many ways in which careers in entertainment can manifest.

“We’re lucky because we have folks coming in from a variety of different spaces,” they said. “We’ve got someone who has experiences as a writer, that’s Liam Oznowich; Kendra James has been more on the journalism/reporting side for a lot of entertainment stuff; Fiona Brennan has documentary experience and other kinds of pieces of production experience, and Sarah Goodstein has got production experience as a camera assistant. We tried to assemble folks who weren’t just from one portion of the industry but who can speak to what it’s like in a variety of different areas.”

Oznowich, a panelist who currently works as the personal assistant to Ed Helms, OC ’96, met Helms multiple times through Obiewood networking events before coming to work for him.

“It wouldn’t have happened if Obiewood didn’t exist, so I’m very thankful to that group for putting on these events and creating spaces — not only for recent graduates moving out to LA or New York for the first time, but also providing a space for people who have already been out there,” Oznowich said. “I’m so thankful to Obiewood, and there’s hopefully going to be more movement to create more resources for current students, graduates, and people who’ve lived out here for a while to create a real community. I’m really excited for what Obiewood is doing and how they will expand in the future.”

Farris notes that the most difficult obstacle in getting into film and television can be the industry’s emphasis on connections and networking, a hurdle Obiewood hopes to help bridge for Oberlin alumni.

“More than any other field that I have encountered so far, film and entertainment is a who-you-know industry,” Farris said. “You know, they’ll post internships and jobs, but to be honest, it’s a connections-based kind of thing. That’s where a lot of the workforce is moving, but it’s much more intense with film. You need a resume, but it’s all networking. That’s a big reason why I wanted to do this — so a lot of people could meet some folks.”

Sarah Goodstein, OC ’21, another panelist who works in various positions on camera departments on sets in Los Angeles, agrees with the sentiment that lack of connections and competition can make success in the industry difficult.

“The main thing about the industry is, it’s about who you know,” she said. “The other thing is the sheer number of people trying to do what I’m trying to do. There are maybe a million people right now, who are in exactly the same place, doing the exact same job, and there are not a million jobs. It’s been very difficult, and I’ve had to do quite a bit of my own research, marketing, and networking, and absolutely nothing I did at Oberlin prepared me for this.”

Oznowich noted that Obiewood can help bridge the gap in connections for Oberlin alumni struggling to find work in the industry, as established older alumni can give newer graduates a leg up.

“Because this is a business that’s so focused on relationships, who you know, and personal recommendations, just having the Oberlin label is a huge boon to knowing someone — knowing that they’re capable and smart,” Oznowich said. “The virtues of a liberal arts education are really noticeable now, especially as I get older, because I feel like Oberlin students know how to write. They know how to be creative, and they have out-of-the-box ideas and interesting things to say.”

Oznowich is hopeful about the opportunities of connection and community Obiewood and Oberlin career communities can offer.

“I didn’t really know about Obiewood when I first moved out here, and I think that’s because it was nascent,” he said. “When I graduated there, we didn’t have career communities; We didn’t have any of the resources that they have now; they were just starting an early version of Oberlink. To see those services expand and more alumni connections that can be built will be really exciting, because ultimately we want to give back and help people get jobs. Every single job I’ve had except for the agency was through word of mouth. To create those kinds of networks amongst Oberlin alumni, older Oberlin alumni, younger Oberlin alumni, students — that’s the real takeaway — cross-generational connections and networking opportunities that are so crucial to this business. I think Oberlink makes that easier, and also future Obiewood events, just a place for people to gather and meet people.”

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