2015 NUEA Peer Groups!

Welcome to the info page for this year’s NUEA Peer Groups program! This year, we have 13 AMAZING peer groups, each led by a fantastic NU alum excited to share their experience and wisdom with you.

Peer Groups are small groups of NUEA members who share similar career interests in the entertainment industry. Each Peer Group meets with seasoned professionals in different disciplines – acting, producing, writing, directing, the business, etc. Each group will meet three times between April through June.

If you are not familiar with Peer Groups, here are things you need to know:

  • You must be an NUEA member to participate. Not sure if you’re a member? E-mail .
  • Each NUEA member gets to take one (1) Peer Group for FREE!
  • You are welcome to take more than one Peer Group. Each additional group costs $20. We will not consider your registration for multiple groups until you send the amount owed to us via PayPal (to [email protected]).
  • Peer Group Leaders are wonderful, awesome people who take time out of their busy lives to give back to our NU entertainment community. It is essential that you commit to attending all meeting dates for the group(s) that you sign up for. PLEASE TAKE THIS COMMITMENT SERIOUSLY. Because we certainly do.

This is what you need to do to join a group:

  1. Read the descriptions on this site and decide which group(s) you are interested in.
  2. Go to the registration form to sign up for the group(s) that you want.
  3. Wait patiently for a confirmation e-mail from Jackie, the Peer Groups Coordinator. If the group that you are interested in is full, or if you need to renew your NUEA membership, she will contact you and let you know.
  4. Once confirmed, enjoy your peer group experience! Be a good peer group member, and don’t flake out on your group, okay? We hate when people do that.

If you have any questions about Peer Groups, please contact Jackie at Thanks!

The 2015 NUEA Peer Groups:

Hollywood Smackdown 2: How to Work Smarter, Not Harder (but maybe also harder)
Women and Work: Leaning In, Playing Big, Having it All, and Everything in Between
Breaking In: Gigs for Recent Grads (Free 2nd Group for Young Alums!)
The Art of Producing
Practical Filmmaking: Shoot Your Movie Now
TV Club
Auditioning in Los Angeles
Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles: The Life of an Actor and How to Turn It Around
Writing Personal Stories for the Page and Stage
Fiction: The Road From Discovering Your Voice to Publication
Writing for Television
Writing While Female
From Personal Experience to Pitch to Production

Hollywood Smackdown 2: How to Work Smarter, Not Harder (but maybe also harder)

This is a cross-disciplinary group for actors, writers, directors and and all hyphenates. 

Welcome to Hollywood. How’s it going so far? If your answer is “Fine,” then this is the group for you. 

This peer group is about honing your focus, planning your strategy and taking action right now to get to the next level.  Whether you are starting out or making a change, this goal-oriented group is about facing down the realities of the entertainment business and empowering yourself to work towards what you want. 

We’ll adjust to the needs to the group members, but topics will include targeting achievable goals, career strategy, branding and social media, pitching, how to get and get the most from your representation, work you take and work you turn down, how to network without feeling like a douchebag and much much more.

GROUP LEADERS: April Wright & Heath Corson

April Wright is an independent writer, director, and producer with shorts, features and documentaries to her credit. Her recent documentary “GOING ATTTRACTIONS: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie” has enjoyed a theatrical run, festivals, VOD and DVD distribution; she’s partnered with Court Five (ABC’s The Quest) to do a non-scripted television show version of the doc. Fun fact: a clip from “Going Attractions” is featured in the Jennifer Aniston movie “CAKE.” April was in the final selection round for the 2009, 2011 and 2013 Sundance Screenwriting Labs and has several scripts in development.  She recently directed a short thriller based on her feature script “My BFF” that’s already getting buzz.  April is a former NUEA President with an MBA from Kellogg and works as a programmer for the Sundance Film Festival and AFI Fest.  Her day job is with Real D, the leader in 3D movie exhibition.

Heath Corson is a WGA award-winning writer working in television, film and new media. Heath executive produced, co-wrote and co-created the digital series Aim High, produced by Warner Brothers and McG’s Wonderland Sound and Vision and was awarded with the 2012 Writers Guild of America’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Writing Original New Media and the 2012 NAPTE Digital Luminary award.

Heath holds the record for writing three DC Universe direct-to-video films, more than any other writer to date, including Batman: Assault on Arkham, Justice League: War and the Aquaman-centric sequel: Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.  He is on another top-secret superhero animated project as well as writing the BIZARRO comic book for DC Entertainment

In his spare time (HA!), he’s a co-host of the very popular podcast The Nerdist Writers Panel: Comics Edition appearing on Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist Podcast Network, an informal chat among professional comic book and genre writers about the process and business of creativity. Recently, Heath sold Fiasco, a limited series action drama to Mark Gordon with feature film director Joe Carnahan attached to direct. Heath holds a BA in Literature and a minor in Jewish Studies from Northwestern University.  He is open to suggestions on how to best use either.

MEETING DATES (Santa Monica):

  • Tuesday, April 14th: 7:30-9:30 PM
  • Tuesday, May 12th: 7:30-9:30 PM
  • Tuesday, June 9th: 7:30-9:30 PM

Top     |    Registration Form

Women and Work: Leaning In, Playing Big, Having It All, and Everything in Between
The role of women in the workplace and the issues that surround us are constantly in the news, woven into pop culture and present in every arena of media today.  What can we learn from the existing discourse and what does it mean as each of us strive to make our mark in the world while making a life for ourselves at the same time? This group is open to women of all ages and at all stages of their careers.
  • Session 1: THE HOME – The ideas and ideals surrounding work/life balance
  • Session 2: THE OFFICE – What we can do to excel individually, as mentors and as a workforce?
  • Session 3: THE WORLD –  Let’s talk big picture

GROUP LEADER: Kristen Tarnol

With over 15 years of experience in public relations, Kristen Tarnol is a highly skilled PR executive specializing in all areas of corporate communications including marketing, publicity, strategic planning, media training, account management, messaging and media relations. Currently, Kristen works for Sony Corporation of America as the Associate Director of Business Development for Sony Rewards/Sony Card. In her current position, Kristen creates customer-focused marketing opportunities for Sony’s loyalty program across all Sony Pictures Entertainment business units including Columbia Motion Picture Group, Sony Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

MEETING DATES (Culver City):

  • Wednesday, April 22nd: 7-9 PM
  • Wednesday, April 29th: 7-9 PM
  • Wednesday, May 6th: 7-9 PM

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Breaking In: Gigs for Recent Grads

This group is for recent graduates and young alumni looking to break into the entertainment industry. In our first three meetings, we will bring in guests to discuss the three early-career jobs that most recent NU grads are after: writers PA / assistant, agency assistant, and development assistant. Our guests will discuss their personal journeys and give tips about how to find and excel at these jobs. If there’s interest, we can schedule a fourth meeting where we bring in guest speakers from a different area of interest TBD by the group (ie. branded entertainment, film financing). This group is a FREE second peer group for recent grads!

GROUP LEADER: Jackie Laine

Jackie Laine is an ’08 Northwestern graduate and reality TV producer, having worked on shows for ABC, NBC, FOX, and other networks. She most recently worked on Bravo’s “Below Deck” and now has extensive experience pacifying cranky millionaires. Jackie has been Co-President of the NUEA West since 2010 and has produced over twenty events, held resume workshops for new graduates looking for entry-level work in entertainment, and organized five (now six!) rounds of Peer Groups.


  • Thursday, April 30th: 8 PM
  • Thursday, May 14th: 8 PM
  • Thursday, May 28th: 8 PM
  • Thursday, June 11th: 8 PM (possible fourth meeting)

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The Art of Producing

The Art of Producing NUEA Peer Group explores and clarifies producing in film & TV.  Oftentimes the role of the Producer can be greatly misunderstood because producers work in many functions, roles and responsibilities behind the scenes. 

This Peer Group is for individuals interested in learning the basics about producing in film/TV, understanding how to get an independent project off the ground, and creating/producing content for the first time. For those who have an existing project idea to be produced, there will be practical application of developing a strategy, plan of action and next steps to bring that project to life.

After the success of last year, this three-week Peer Group is now open to both alumni and students interested in producing. If applicant has a specific project in mind to focus on during The Art of Producing NUEA Peer Group, please submit it with your application. This will help tailor content and speakers in the areas of interest to maximize the process.

The Art of Producing Peer Group will provide the following:

  1. A strong understanding of the various roles of producers in Film & TV 
  2. Clarify different types of producers (Creative, Technical and Business Producers)
  3. A practical understanding of producing in Film & TV by guest industry professional(s)
  4. The practical business tasks and functions of a producer (Deal-making, Negotiating, Networking, etc.)
  5. Developing a strategy and plan of action for upcoming projects, which participants want to produce.

The three sessions will cover

  1. General Overview of the Art of Producing Peer Group and Part I – The Business of Producing in Film & TV (Wed. April 29th)
  2. Part II – The Business of Producing in Film & TV with special guests (May 20th)
  3. Get Started with Your Proposed Project and Producing Career. – Discuss Submitted Projects, Develop Practical Plan of Action and Big Next Steps to Produce Your Project – (June 24th)

GROUP LEADER: Danita Patterson

Multimedia personality Danita Patterson is a young entrepreneur, creative visionary and producer in the Entertainment Industry.  Danita was featured on Fox News Channel’s “Beyond The Dream” segment, which aired internationally http://video.foxnews.com/v/4448232/beyond-the-dream-danita-patterson.

Danita is CEO and principal content developer of Destiny Unlimited, Inc., a family entertainment company that creates, develops and produces innovative film, TV and new media content.

As a producer and writer, her production credits and development work over 26 years include more than 120 episodes of television programming for ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, Tribune Entertainment/WGN networks and local affiliates; as well as film.  She recently worked with Sony on the grassroots marketing for mega hit, “Heaven Is For Real;” produced the Award Winning Documentary film, “Soulmate”; served as advising consultant on star-studded “Bible Experience” audio bible; consulted the #1 global family entertainment company; and is currently writer/producer on Destiny Unlimited’s new slate of TV/Film projects.  Early on, Danita worked closely with actor, Will Smith, and served as director of development on Six Degrees of Separation, Bad Boys, and administrative manager for his company and NBC’s Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Danita also founded an educational organization, Destiny Outreach, Inc., a 501c(3) with the mission of, “making learning fun so that dreams do come true,” through interactive human development programs that support self-education, vision clarification and destiny/career development.  The organization’s Dreams & Destiny® Campaign focuses on “Finding, Fighting For & Fulfilling Your Dreams www.destinyoutreach.org.

As a noted international speaker, Danita’s unique style of blending words of empowerment with songs that inspire have been influential in the lives of youth, women and adults at-large, helping people to “Dream Again.”   She serves as a spokesperson and advocate for Children & Family, Arts & Entertainment Media and Social Entrepreneurship.

Danita received her Bachelor of Science Degree from Northwestern University in Radio, TV and Film with post-graduate work at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management/Executive Education, University of Southern California and Chicago State University.


  • Wednesday, April 29th: 7-10 PM
  • Wednesday, May 20th: 7-10 PM
  • Wednesday, June 24th: 7-10 PM

Top     |    Registration Form

Practical Filmmaking: Shoot Your Movie Now

This hands-on seminar is designed for storytellers anxious to produce something – a short, a feature, a doc, a web series, etc. Our focus will not be getting money, acquiring rights, or attaching talent. You already have your idea, and maybe a script, or location in mind. We will get you ready to shoot your project now with practical, actionable advice.

We’ll discuss:

  • Target audiences and how to reach them
  • The “dos and don’ts” of indie-filmmaking, and how to ignore them
  • How your idea fits in the media landscape
  • How to tell a unique story in your voice, with universal themes
  • Finding creative ways to add production value
  • Leveraging available assets to tell your story
  • Principles of budgeting, and how to hone a script to fit a budget
  • Creating a practical shooting schedule
  • Finding and surrounding yourself with the right cast


Ben Wagner is a storyteller working in film, comics, and interactive entertainment.

Wagner’s most recent feature DEAD WITHIN has been called “a sharply nuanced survivor’s tale” “with ambition, guts, technical proficiency and acting commitment… it wouldn’t be fair to call it a zombie movie… but if it was, it would very likely be the best damn zombie movie of the year.”

His graphic novel BAJA was recently re-released in the Mean Streets Anthology.

Wagner wrote and directed the cult favorite SOUTHBOUNDERS, which will be re-released this spring to commemorate its 10th Anniversary.

Wagner is a Film Independent Producers and Writers Fellow who studied film at Northwestern University and received an MBA from UCLA Anderson business school.


  • Tuesday, April 21st: 8 PM
  • Tuesday, May 12th: 8 PM
  • Tuesday, June 16th: 8 PM

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TV Club

1st Rule: You DO talk about TV CLUB. This group will watch and discuss television content and strategy across multiple platforms and business models. Each session, the group will cover 3-4 shows that members must watch beforehand. If there is interest from the group, we will spend one session discussing children’s television.

GROUP LEADER: Robin Faerber

Robin Faerber is Vice President, Programming, Disney Channels.  She is responsible for managing program planning and scheduling for basic cable ratings leader Disney Channel and the preschool plus block and 24 hour channel Disney Junior. Faerber has a degree in Radio/TV/Film from Northwestern University’s School of Speech.


  • Wednesday, April 15th: 7 PM
  • Wednesday, May 13th: 7 PM
  • Wednesday, June 10th: 7 PM

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Auditioning in Los Angeles

Patrick and Annie will lead a discussion about the business of acting, based on all of the things they wished they’d known when they first came to Los Angeles. Both sessions will specifically address relationships with your representatives and issues surrounding the audition process, including  how you present yourself as a professional, the realities of casting, and the psychology of auditioning. This is a group meant for working actors who have representation and are regularly auditioning as their primary focus here in Los Angeles.

GROUP LEADERS: Anne Dudek & Patrick Fischler

Anne Dudek is an NU alum and actress who has appeared on numerous film and television shows including Covert Affairs, House, Mad Men, and Big Love.

Patrick Fischler is an alum of NYU who also has has a long career in television and film, including roles on Lost, Silicon Valley, Mad Men and Southland.

MEETING DATES / TIMES (Santa Monica): 

  • Saturday, April 11th: 2-4 PM
  • Saturday, April 18th: 2-4 PM

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Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles: The Life of an Actor and How to Turn It Around

Are you an unrepresented actor new to LA, wondering where to begin?  Or have you been at for a while, but are having trouble getting cast?  Do you wish you could say, “To Hell with Hollywood!” and just cast yourself instead?  In this group, we’ll discuss ways to take control of your career and build your own brand by creating your own content, thereby rekindling your passion, and staying sane/in the game.  We’ll explore the ways actors self-sabotage, and stop being such dangers to themselves.  We’ll confront the lies surrounding beauty in Hollywood and women in comedy, and quit perpetuating such myths. This group is for those looking to think outside of the box, and give their acting career a jump-start.

GROUP LEADER: Naomi Grossman

Naomi Grossman was named one of IMDb’s “Top 10 Breakout Stars” of 2014, having played the fan-favorite and first crossover character, “Pepper” on FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum & Freak Show.  Naomi attributes her current, mainstream success to having paved her own, albeit unorthodox way, by writing, producing and starring in her own content.  Her latest, hit solo show, Carnival Knowledge: Love, Lust, and other Human Oddities, enjoyed a twice-extended, sold-out run and rave reviews in LA.  It was reprised at the world-famous fringe theatre festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, was transferred to London’s West End, and later, New York City.  Naomi’s first solo show, Girl in Argentine Landscape, earned her an LA Weekly Theatre Award nomination for “best solo performance.”  A former member of the esteemed Groundlings Sunday Company, as well as alumna of Improv Olympic, Naomi has written, produced, and starred in numerous comedic shorts under her own “Red Meat Entertainment” banner, which have screened at film festivals nationwide.

MEETING DATES / TIMES (Hollywood or West Side): 

  • Monday, April 13th: 7:30 PM
  • Monday, June 1st: 7:30 PM

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Writing Personal Stories for the Page and Stage

From the mundane to the monumental, the ridiculous to the relatable, learn how to take your own experiences and craft them into an entertaining yet heartfelt personal story that will capture an audience’s undivided attention. In the first meeting, we’ll do exercises to find your unique voice and figure out what gets people rooting for you. We’ll then mine your life for material to help you create a stockpile of story ideas. And finally, you’ll get feedback on the structure, style and presence of YOU in a short personal story piece, which you can then perform at storytelling shows, submit to publications, or develop into a larger solo show or memoir. Along the way we’ll also discuss the annoying issues surrounding the genre like changing names, creative license, and what your friends/ex/mother will think of you. Welcome to writers, performers, or writer/performers!


Rati Gupta is a rare breed of professional hip hop dancer turned comedy actor, writer and storyteller. She has acted in various indie films, lent her voice to Sasha of The Bratz, and co-starred in the MTV movie “Worst.Prom.Ever.” directed and produced by the internet comedy conglomerate Derrick Comedy. Rati is a Moth StorySlam champion and performs at comedy and storytelling events around the country. Her debut one chick show, “Not Another Teen Solo Show,” was nominated for Best Solo/Duo at the LA Comedy Festival and named one of the Top 3 Performances of the New York International Fringe Festival. Recently her TV pilot “Smart Asses,” based on her personal experiences as a science nerd, made the Emerging Screenwriters Top 100 list.

MEETING DATES / TIMES (West Hollywood):

  • Sunday, April 12th: 12-3 PM
  • Sunday, April 19th: 12-3 PM
  • Sunday, April 26th: 12-3 PM
  • Sunday, May 3rd: 12-3 PM (possible fourth meeting)

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Fiction: The Road From Discovering Your Voice to Publication

In this peer group, we will discuss how to develop your voice, publish independently, and market yourself as an author. In our first meeting we will discuss your book ideas, give and get feedback, and prepare you to go off and write. In the second meeting, we will discuss how to create a book proposal and publish independently (but not through self-publishing). We’ll also discuss the relationship between author, book agent, and publisher. Our third meeting with focus on marketing your work and yourself as an author, including book tours, readings, and other events. 

GROUP LEADER: David Kukoff

David Kukoff is a film and television writer with a dozen produced credits to his name, and dozens more sold to development.  After publishing two books on film and television writing and teaching those subjects at Northwestern for four years, he successfully made the jump to fiction.  His first novel, CHILDREN OF THE CANYON, which was called “Saroyan-esque” by Dan Fante, was published by Rare Bird Lit in 2014 and is in bookstores nationwide.


  • Sunday, April 19th: 6 PM
  • Sunday, May 17th: 10 AM
  • Sunday, June 14th: 10 AM

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Writing For Television

Are you interested in learning from a working TV writer about how the TV industry works? What’s a staff writing job really like, and how do you get one in the first place? And are you interested in pitching and developing your own show? This group will meet for three or four times. The first meeting will focus on how to break into the business and the evolving television landscape. In the second meeting, we’ll talk about the television staff writer’s room (primarily on TV dramas, but I’ll try to get a comedy writer to join us). In the third meeting, we’ll spend time on pitching and developing for television and, perhaps, working on your pitches and ideas. If this week proves successful and if we feel we need it, we’ll have a fourth meeting to continue working on your pitches.

GROUP LEADER: Hank Chilton

After spending his first five years in Los Angeles working in film production, Hank Chilton made the transition to writing for television and has worked on FX’s Nip/Tuck, CW’s Ringer, and, for the last two years, as co-executive producer for the USA Network CIA drama Covert Affairs.  Additionally, he’s sold television pitches to Sony and NBC – and not sold many other pitches that would’ve been Emmy Award-winning shows if they only saw the light of day.

MEETING DATES / TIMES (Hollywood / East Side):

  • Tuesday, April 14th: 7 PM
  • Tuesday, April 21st: 7 PM
  • Tuesday, April 28th: 7 PM
  • Tuesday, May 5th: 7 PM (possible fourth meeting)

Top     |    Registration Form

Writing While Female
This peer group is for women who want to break into the competitive world of TV writing, with a focus on comedy. We will discuss the unique challenges women face in the creative side of the industry, as well as covering the basics of how to get an agent, find PA and writers assistant jobs, and most importantly how not to be so good at those jobs that you get stuck in them! This group will also focus on the long term benefits of collaborating with other women, including building your professional network and helping each other succeed. 

In the first two meetings, we will cover these topics in informal roundtable discussions with special guests. And the last session will be a mock sitcom writers room where the group will work together to break an episode outline for a current TV show. All applicants must have written a TV spec or original pilot. After registering for this group, please submit your pilot or spec to .

GROUP LEADERS: Sarah Peters & Zoe Jarman

Sarah Peters and Zoe Jarman have written together on Workaholics, a new Netflix show, and have developed a TV pilot and feature. Before teaming up, Sarah wrote on other TV shows including Nathan For You, and Zoe worked as an actress most notably on The Mindy Project.


  • Saturday, April 18th: 11 AM
  • Saturday, May 9th: 11 AM
  • Saturday, May 30th: 11 AM

Top     |    Registration Form

From Personal Experience to Pitch to Production

This peer group will explain the process of using one’s personal experiences as a launchpad for a pitch for a television show, and then explore what happens after the sale! The greatest asset to a new or aspiring TV writer – especially one interested in development of their own TV series – is authenticity and credibility. Anyone can come up with a TV show idea; the key is to making sure buyers only look at YOU as the person that can execute it. In the first class, we will talk generally about what that show is: your experiences that could lend itself to a real TV show. Then we will work up a pitch based on that. You will present your pitch to the group and get real time feedback. Finally, in the “production phase,” we will talk about the look and tone of the show.

GROUP LEADER: Dan Lubetkin

Dan Lubetkin is the Senior Vice President of Production & Development at Avalon Television. He has been in the film and television business since 1997, working in all facets of the industry, including: feature development, feature production, TV drama development, TV alternative development and TV production.

He began his work in the industry as an assistant to film producer Jon Peters on the film, Wild Wild West. He worked in drama development at Regency Television, eventually joining the writing staff of one of the shows he helped develop, John Doe at Fox Broadcasting. He joined David Martin at Fox Television Studios in 2004.

Dan joined Avalon Television, Inc. starting out as Manager of Development in 2005. In Dan’s first year, he was instrumental in conceptualizing, developing and selling multiple projects to broadcast and cable networks.

In 2006, Dan was promoted to Head of Television Development, solely responsible for seeking out and developing multiple comedy, drama and alternative projects. In 2008, he rendered services as Producer on Special Delivery, creating and maintaining the production budget, hiring the crew, acting as liaison to the network, etc. In 2008, Dan was promoted to Vice President of Series Development at Avalon, overseeing a slate of over 15 projects at various networks, studios and web entities.

In 2009, Dan produced the original pilot presentation of Workaholics for Comedy Central. It turned into one of the most well-received and successful scripted series in the history of Comedy Central, and just recently wrapped its 5th season.

In 2010, Dan was promoted to Senior Vice President of Production & Development and oversees a slate of 30 projects in development, 3 current series, and multiple pilots and presentations. He has sold projects to almost every broadcast, cable and digital networks, and is regular contact with the development teams at each. Unlike a lot of development executives, Dan also has a keen eye for production, and develops projects with the eventual goal of the execution of an idea, concept or script.

He graduated from Northwestern’s School of Speech (now School of Communication) in 1997, with a major in Radio-TV-Film and a minor in Political Science.

MEETING DATES / TIMES (Beverly Hills):

  • Monday, April 20th: 6 PM
  • Monday, May 4th: 6 PM
  • Monday, May 18th: 6 PM

Top     |    Registration Form