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Hollywood Sign

Peer Groups

Group Topic Descriptions

Don't you hate it when people tell you it's all about "Who you know" in Hollywood? Do you despise the thought of going to a party just to "schmooze" and "network?"  Then this Peer Group is for you! For three sessions we'll examine breaking into the business no matter who you are. In an open forum format some of the issues we'll discuss are: The Myths and Realities of Networking. How do you make a Wish List of Who you should be meeting and How to go about it and why. Hollywood Timeline: How Long Will It Really Take? The differences between being Famous and Having a Career. How do I make Fans? Leveraging your relationships...Even the ones you didn't know you had. Knowing your Brand in the Marketplace and How Do You Sell it? Pitching Projects in Meetings, Coffee Shops, and Parties. How do I get an Agent/Manager/Lawyer and what do I do with them once I do?  This Peer Group is designed for Actors/Writers/Directors and everyone in between.

Designed especially for the working artist and entrepreneur, Get It Done! is a three-session workshop in accomplishment. So, go ahead – give yourself the gift of SUCCESS. Due to all the individualized attention, Peer Group size is limited.  Action Planning – Here's how it works: You choose a goal: Need a new agent? Want to clear out clutter? Need to lose those few extra pounds? Ready to finish that script? Whatever project you choose, this Peer Group will give you the motivation and tools to Get It Done! We'll remove internal barriers to success and create a compelling goal and action plan that will help you succeed. Not sure what your project goal should be? That’s OK – we’ll figure it out together!

FEATURE WRITERS AND THE DEVELOPMENT/PRODUCTION PROCESSThis Peer Group focuses on feature screenwriters who are just getting their feet planted on the ground in LA and are looking for some guidance on the marketplace. People interested in development or producing are also welcomed to the mix.

This is a peer group designed to illuminate "the business of The Business" for working and aspiring actors. Led by a network casting executive, the group will be focused on practical exercises and information which will lead actors to greater success at any phase of their career. Whether at the level of just getting a foot in the door or figuring out how to go from the auditioning to booking consistently, this will be an open forum to discuss your frustrations and come up with active solutions to move yourself forward.

This peer group will discuss the conflicts and realities of survival, initiating/maintaining a professional career, and continuing to develop as an actor. Some time might be spent discussing and speculating on the actor/artist place in the entertainment mega-industry.

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? Then this Peer Group – focused on beginning-level TV Writers – is for you. We’ll talk about writing for television, starting with the very basics of how to break in and what to do once you get there, and ending with a sample “Writers’ Salon” where you can get feedback from your peers on your latest script. We’ll also talk to “guest writers” if possible to get some different perspectives on the business.  Are you interested in learning from a successful TV writer in how to break into the industry? How the TV industry works? What’s hot today? What’s hot tomorrow? Then this Peer Group – focused on TV Writers – is for you.

Interested in learning how to write scripts that Hollywood wants to buy? During the first meeting, participants will learn 3-act structure and cause/effect storytelling. Subsequent meetings will focus on helping each group member complete his or her own new spec script.

This Peer Group works with new talent entrants to LA and actors who want to learn how best to hone your acting skills and craft.

Writing a novel is a long, lonely process. You have to go into that little room all alone, day after day, month after month, with only the hum of your computer. Your phone stops ringing. At a time like this, you need friends, peers who are also facing the monumental task of turning thoughts and ideas into a book. This group will evolve depending on the needs of the members. At the first meeting we will decide what you want from the peer group. It could be a discussion of the process of writing or how to market a completed manuscript, publishing and its pitfalls or it may evolve into a workshop where members bring in pages to discuss. Hopefully this group of peers will last long after the workshop leader has gone.

This group will explore the ins and outs of on-air and digital programming, the ever-changing landscape of television, and the emerging obstacles and possibilities that are a result of this current period of massive change in the television industry. 

The Peer Group on the business of acting will cover all the tools of the trade from pictures, resumes, demo tapes, getting representation, auditioning, and what happens once you get the job. Yale alumni may be joining this Peer Group.

This is a group for people who have already or are interested in creating a film with few monetary resources. We'll share our experiences in creating films from almost nothing - the plusses and minuses, things to beware of, and opportunities people may not be aware of. We'll discuss the differences between shorts and features in the micro-budget landscape including some aspects of the legal and business side. And we'll frame it all with the question of what's your intention of making films like this. The group will reflect the participants in it, so we may get down to brass tacks of advantages and pitfalls of shooting on the HVX-200, or we might talk about the direction ventures like "Quarterlife" are going in and how micro-budget filmmaking can go commercial. At the first session, we'll play appropriate selections from work created by participants and talk about what went into making the films as well as show some examples of other "professional" micro-fare.

Are you interested in learning from a working TV actor about how the TV industry works? What are some of the tricks to landing that part on a show, or even just how to get seen by a casting director? Then this Peer Group – focused on "new to LA" actors – is for you. We’ll talk about getting that agent, getting seen, tailoring your audition for the TV world, and what to expect once you get on that set. Starting with the very basics of how to try to get an agent if you don't have one to being prepared for that big TV audition, we'll discuss the ins and outs of being a working actor in LA. We’ll also talk to “guest industry folks" (actors, writers, casting directors) if possible to get some different perspectives on the business.

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Peer Group Leaders

JANAE BAKKEN is a TV comedy writer whose first staff writing job was on the first season of NBC’s critically-acclaimed “Scrubs.” After seven seasons as a writer on the show, she is now a Co-Executive Producer (and currently waving a picket sign). Previously, Janae was an assistant on six television shows in four years (including “Caroline in the City,” “Mad About You,” and “Malcolm in the Middle”) thanks to cancellations, series finales, and a beloved boss getting the axe – all of which proved to be excellent learning experiences about the world of television. On her final writer’s assistant job at “Malcolm,” she sold two story ideas that were produced as episodes. Janae is a Northwestern graduate of RTVF and Creative Writing for the Media.

SAMANTHA BENNETT is the founder of The Organized Artist Company ( and she will cheerfully help you set better goals, create better action plans and clear out your space. She is an actor, improviser, writer, and an amateur systems analyst who enjoys helping groups make better decisions. Samantha is also a Senior Facilitator with Sam Christensen Studios, specializing in Identity Definition and Personal Branding.

CLANCY BROWN has proved himself a versatile performer with first-class contributions to theater, feature films, TV series and animation. He was born in Urbana, Ohio – his father a US representative and his mother a concert pianist. He was in the theater program at Northwestern and plied his dramatic talents in the Chicago theater scene before moving onto feature film with a sinister debut performance bullying Sean Penn in Bad Boys. Perhaps one of his best roles to date was as the evil "Kurgan" in Highlander. Clancy has also played a corrupt US soldier in Extreme Prejudice, another deranged killer in Shoot to Kill, and a brutal prison guard in The Shawshank Redemption. Often cast as a villain, Clancy has been quoted as saying, “All the movies where I play nice guys don't seem to do very well”.

Clancy has also contributed voices to animated shows, including Mortal Kombat: The Animated Series, Street Sharks, Gargoyles, and Superman. He has also contributed voices to several top selling video games, including Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, Lands of Lore III, Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, and Crash Nitro Kart. His voice is also the character of cranky crustacean Mr. Eugene H. Krabs in the highly successful SpongeBob SquarePants animated series and films, and he contributed voices to The Batman, Jackie Chan Adventures, and Justice League animated TV series. A popular and friendly personality, Clancy Brown continues to remain busy both through his vocal and acting talents in Hollywood.

HEATH CORSON is a Los Angeles-based writer/producer on the NUEA Board, who serves as Co-Chair of the Writer's Group and the Coordinator of the Script Reading Series. Heath most recently created and pitched the 1/2 hour single-camera sitcom "Quirky Alone" with Alan Jacob's company Slate of Eight. Additionally, he and writing partner, Richie Keen, currently have a pilot deal with FOX 21, as well as projects in development with Threshold Animation and Escape Artists. He is also in pre-production to write and direct "Hollywood Femalé: Attorney at Rock", a 10-part webisodic that has seen interest from G4, AOL, and AT&T. In his "spare" time, Heath hosts a comedy podcast called Podpackers, which was recently featured on Apple iTunes' "New and Notable" section AND made it up to #61 of the most popular comedy podcasts. (It is available for free download either at the iTunes music store or at He is the writer of the animated holiday special "Scary Godmother's Halloween Spooktacular" which airs every Halloween on Cartoon Network and available on DVD. Heath sold his comedy feature "Customer of the Week" off a pitch.

MICHAEL COTTER has been acting in LA for almost 8 years now, He moved out from Chicago after graduating with a BS in Theatre from Northwestern. Currently he has a recurring role on the CBS law show, "Shark", starring James Woods. Other recurring roles have included "Scrubs" and the short lived 2007 comedy "Help Me Help You" starring Ted Danson. Other TV credits include "Criminal Minds", "How I Met Your Mother", "That 70's Show", "Las Vegas", and many others. Michael also does theatre in LA whenever he can, mostly every summer with either Shakespeare Santa Barbara or the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon. Most recently he finished a very successful run of the play "Bunny Bunny", based on the life of SNL star, Gilda Radner. It was written by Alan Zweibel, an SNL writer for Gilda in the 70's, and performed at the Hudson Guild Theatre.

LORAINE DEPRES is a best-selling novelist and recovering screenwriter. She’s written pilots, movies of the week, features films, and numerous TV episodes, for such series as “The Highlander,” “Crime Story,” “Dynasty,” “The Waltons,” “Family,” “Love Boat,” and “The Equalizer.” But she’s best remembered for writing that icon of pop culture, the “Who Shot J.R.?” episode of “Dallas.” As an International Screenwriting Consultant, she taught workshops, supervised the writing staff, and helped develop new series in Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Canada and taught for seven years at UCLA’s Professional Program in Screenwriting. She was still getting assignments when she decided to stop to fulfill a life-long ambition to write a novel. “The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc” was published by William Morrow/HarperCollins 2001. It was a Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club featured selection, and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick. It became a national best-seller and is now in its 21st printing. Its companion “The Southern Belle’s Handbook: Sissy LeBlanc’s Rules to Live By” was published a year later. Her new novel, “The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell”, was published last fall and is now a trade paperback, CD, and available for download. Loraine is a former Board Member of Women in Film and long-time Trustee of the Women in Film Foundation, and is currently serving on the Board of PEN USA. She lives in Beverly Hills with her husband, writer-producer Carleton Eastlake, where she continues to enjoy bad behavior. Loraine is a Northwestern graduate and serves on NU's Council of 100. She can be reached at

CRAIG ERWICH is the Executive Vice President of Warner Horizon Television. Previously, he had worked at Fox Broadcasting for 12 years, most recently as the Executive Vice President of Programming. Craig graduated from Northwestern University in 1989.

DARLENE KAPLAN has an extensive background in the entertainment industry. She started in New York more than 25 years ago developing theatrical properties for The WPA Theatre. During her seven-year tenure as Literary Executive and Casting Director for the WPA more than 30 of the plays she developed reached full stage productions. Those include STEEL MAGNOLIAS, NUTS, KEY EXCHANGE and FRESH HORSES, all of which went on to become feature films. At the WPA Darlene had the privilege of jump starting the careers of actors such as Laura San Giacomo & Wendy Malick (JUST SHOOT ME), Eric LaSalle & Anthony Edwards (ER), Dann Florek (LAW & ORDER: SVU), James McDaniel (N.Y.P.D. BLUE), Peter Riegert and Kevin Bacon before they became household names. She worked with a talented array of writers and directors that include Israel Horovitz, Stephen Metcalfe, Kevin Wade, Robert Harling, Howard Ashman, Barnett Kelman and her husband, Steve Zuckerman. Theatre casting credits include the original New York productions of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS and NUTS. After moving to Los Angeles she spent three years on staff at Universal Television casting such diverse projects as COLUMBO and the original pilot of LAW & ORDER. After leaving Universal she spent a year as casting director for The Ed. Weinberger Company. From there she went on to cast more than 50 television pilots, series, movies of the weeks and features where she had the pleasure to work with such talented creators as David Chase, Eugene Levy, Bonnie Hunt and Ray Bradbury. Seven years ago she gave up casting and became a theatrical manager with a talented roster of clients whose work includes Broadway, television and feature films. Ms. Kaplan received her BA from Yale University.

DAN KRIER worked as a newspaper sportswriter in Illinois and then Los Angeles. He earned a Master’s degree from USC’s School of Television (Graduate Scriptwriting Program) and a B.A. degree in Cellular & Molecular Biology from Northwestern University. His script, FADE TO RED, won the 2002 Hollywood Foreign Press Award. He wrote a short film, MOVING IN, produced in 2004 by the American Film Institute (AFI) and winner of 3rd Place at the Houston WorldFest Film Festival ( Dan is the published author of “The Russ Bailey Guide to Limit Texas Hold'em Poker” ( He got his first paid feature screenplay gig in 2005 and wrote BACK IN THE DAY. He recently completed a 520-page novel entitled “Want” -- a modern-day fable about the struggles we face trying to tackle the Los Angeles entertainment industry.

CHRISTOPHER KUBASIK is the author of five published novels and has written for New Line Cinema. He has designed both board games and video games. A graduate of Northwestern University, he acted in and directed plays in Chicago while getting his degree in theater and film. He was recently the head writer for, which received both a Daytime and Nighttime Emmy Nomination for New Media Platforms.

GREG LASSEN as President of Terra Firma Films, just produced BACHELOR NO. 2, starring Kate Hudson, Dane Cook, and Alec Baldwin. Prior to that, he was an executive at Marc Platt Productions on the LEGALLY BLONDE movies and the Broadway show WICKED, among others. He began his career as an assistant to Scott Rudin.

JOE PRICE graduated from NU in 1957, Theatre, primarily studying under Alvina Krause, and one summer at her Eagles Mere Playhouse. He worked in NYC, moved to LA in 1960, and worked in TV and Theatre. He took a sabbatical, got a Masters degree from Stanford University in Studio Art, and taught Art and Film at College of San Mateo from 1970 to 1994. He returned to LA to pick his acting career back up in 2001. He has gone through the ropes of coming back, and starting all over again. Joe has been active in LA small theatre, Television (Frasier, George Lopez and others), but primarily films. Features: PRINCESS DIARIES II, RAISING HELEN, EARTHSTORM, DOG LOVER'S SYMPHONY, THE GENTLEMAN DON LA MANCHA, BLOCKED, and others along with award winning short films.

DAMONA RESNICK-HOFFMAN holds the position of Director, Talent Diversity Initiatives at NBC Universal where she works alongside casting, development, and programming to bring more diversity to the network. Previously, Ms. Resnick-Hoffman served as the Casting Administrator of Paramount Network Television overseeing casting on scripted, primetime series. She has also worked for CBS Casting with a focus on TV movies and mini-series. Additionally, she teaches classes in Auditioning and Marketing Techniques for East West Players Conservatory and the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio. Ms. Resnick-Hoffman holds a B.S. in Communications from Northwestern University and a Certificate in Producing from UCLA. She also served on the Executive Board of the NUEA for many years and held the Co-President post from 2004-2006.

DAVID RODWIN (MM'95) has produced 63 short films with his non-profit company RIPFest. Each of the films was created in 16 days with a budget around $1,000 per film. Almost one-half of the films were original movie musicals created by a range of filmmakers from Emmy Award-winning writers from the Daily Show, Tony award-winning actors in NY and hundreds of up-and-coming artists in NY & LA - including many NU alums. David is also the writer/director for his first feature film "Crackwhore Pornstar Love" going into production in 2008. Before getting involved in TV & Film, David wrote and composed 9 evening-length music theatre works (from avant-gardes opera to musical parody!) which have been performed in NY& LA and around the country.

APRIL WRIGHT is an indie writer/director/producer and co-president of the NUEA. She was selected for the Women in Film mentorship program in 2005. Her action-thriller script THE MULE won first place in a screenwriting competition for Script Magazine in 2004. She directed her first narrative feature LAYOVER in 2007, and is in post-production on her documentary about drive-in movie theaters called GOING ATTRACTIONS. Her debut independent feature film as writer and producer, DEAD IN THE WATER, was an official selection of Shockerfest horror film festival in 2006. Her short film A FRIENDLY GAME (writer, producer) was an official selection of the Los Angeles International Shorts Fest in 2006. April’s thriller spec script NO EXIT is currently in development for a theatrical release to be directed by Gregory Dark (SEE NO EVIL). April co-produced several short films in 2006 and 2007 all of which played at festivals. The past five years April has been involved with the Independent Spirit Awards and programming for the Los Angeles Film Festival, the American Film Institute’s AFI Fest, and the Sundance Film Festival. She is a semi-finalist judge for the Angelus Awards, a festival that focuses on student films that embrace the human spirit.

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