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Peer Groups

Group Topic Descriptions



DESCRIPTION: This group will discuss acting and the business of acting, from getting your foot in the door, where to look for acting work, union vs. non-union work, when to get a manager and/or join the unions, and more. We will talk about which classes are the most beneficial and which ones are scams, showcases, and audition tips and etiquette. We will cover all the tools of the trade from headshots (theatrical and commercial), resumes, demo tapes, getting representation, getting work without representation, how to deal with rejection, and what happens once you get the job. There will be special guest speakers during the last meeting, and time permitting, we will do some cold reading and improv work. This Peer Group is designed primarily for actors who have moved to LA within the past year, are changing careers and just getting into the business of acting, or more experienced actors who want a shot in the arm and to network with fellow actors.


PEER GROUP LEADER BIO: A former Miss Chicago (Miss USA), CYNTHIA LEA CLARK continued school, graduating from Northwestern University (multiple degrees), attended nursing school and became a firefighter/paramedic. After working as an actress in Chicago, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked on many television shows, such as Days of Our Lives (6 years recurring) and Stat. She has guest starred on over 100 television shows. She continued her education, obtaining a Masters in Psychology and then a Doctorate of Psychology. While working on "Stat", she was the victim of a stalker. That experience led her to work in Forensic Psychopathology. She has over 70 interviews with serial killers, mass murderers, etc. Cynthia returned to school and received a second Doctorate, also in Psychology - in Body Language. She finds it extremely helpful in her acting work. Today she mixes Forensics with writing and acting. Cynthia has a wealth of experience with SAG (22 years running acting seminars) and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (3 years producing the Performer's Rep Group and 2 years on the Activities Committee). She also produced THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF HOW TO OBTAIN A PRIME TIME EMMY for 3 years.


DESCRIPTION: This group's goal is to explore & share ways to proactively approach your work & career as an actor to GET BUSY WORKING It aims to teach you to think outside the box, get your own work, increase your audition opportunities, how to meet with reps, meet with potential collaborators (producers, directors, & any other artists & industry), and do the overall actor hustle in a way that is sincere and authentic--not desperate and schmoozy. It will also explore developing the mindset to set yourself up for success, to stay inspired, and to empower yourself as an actor.


PEER GROUP LEADER BIO: A Chicago native, PUJA MOHINDRA is a graduate of the A.C.T. MFA Acting program and Northwestern University. Like many actors, she moved to LA with excellent training, a headshot and resume, but no representation. This situation was a blessing in disguise because it taught her to be empowered, proactive, and to think outside of the box to GET WORKING. Since moving here, she has worked in film, TV, voiceovers, commercials, print, and regional theater. Puja was last seen as Belle in South Coast Rep's production of "A Christmas Carol." TV Credits include: "Undercovers," "CSI: Miami," "Three Rivers," "Miami Medical," "Ghost Whisperer," "All My Children," "Valentine," and the HBO pilot, "1%." Recent film work includes the comedy, "I'm Not Like That No More," "Silhouettes," "Taco Shop," and the animated feature, "Happy Feet 2." She is currently working on the comedic play, "A Widow of No Importance," at East West Players. The show runs from Sept. 8 to Oct. 9. Follow her @pujamohindra or


DESCRIPTION: In this group, we will be looking at the way the network responds to hour-long episodic and half-hour scripts that will eventually become future TV episodes of dramas and comedies. What does a TV exec look for that makes a great hour of television? We will analyze and discuss scripts from current shows on television, looking at the writer's first draft through to the shooting draft of what shows up on screen and how the show evolved after hearing from the studio/network. Each writer in the group will construct an episode (original pilot or spec) from a logline/summary to a one-page description, then to a first draft and through revisions after getting feedback from the group. The future studio and network executives in the group will get great practice in learning how to look at material and help shape it in the best way possible while maintaining the integrity of the writer and their work.


PEER GROUP LEADER BIO: During her time at Northwestern, SABRINA EISENSTADT created the school's first serialized television drama, University Place and after graduating 2000, Sabrina continued with her love of TV and has worked in all facets of the television industry from pre-production through post-production, working in Chicago, New York and finally settling in Los Angeles. She's worked for the Oxygen Network, Flame Television, on the first season of HBO's BIG LOVE and at GSN, The Network for Games. She currently works at CBS in Current Programming, covering Criminal Minds, The Mentalist, The Big Bang Theory, and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.


DESCRIPTION: TV DEVELOPMENT AND PITCHING 101 is a peer group for television writers who are preparing to develop and pitch scripted television series (no reality/non-scripted series). This peer group is designed as an interactive workshop and will cover the basic framework of how to develop a scripted series (comedy or drama), how to formulate a verbal pitch to studio and networks, and what the development process is once a project is sold to a network. We will also discuss how each concept fits into the current marketplace. Participants will be responsible for writing development pages that fully flush out their idea and verbally pitch their project. Each participant will give feedback on the pages as well as the verbal pitch in order to develop their analytical skills. Due to the workshop nature of this peer group, space is limited to a maximum of 6 participants.

If you are a producer and are interested in sitting in on this Peer Group, please e-mail .


PEER GROUP LEADER BIO: LAVERNE MCKINNON was most recently Executive Vice-President, Original Programming and Development at EPIX, the fastest growing premium cable network, video on demand and on-line service, and a joint venture between Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Lionsgate. Ms. McKinnon oversaw scripted series, mini-series, web series, music specials, comedy events, and documentaries. During her tenure she developed scripted drama, comedy and mini-series projects with Oliver Stone, David Dobkin, Todd Field, John Singleton, Larry Charles, Jenji Kohan and American Zoetrope. She also produced over 18 high profile music events, comedy specials and documentaries including Madonna, Black Eyed Peas, Bon Jovi, Usher, Eddie Izzard, Louis CK, Craig Ferguson, Kevin Smith and Lindsey Vonn.

Prior to joining EPIX, Ms. McKinnon launched her own production company Shibui Entertainment where she developed and sold drama and comedy projects to HBO, Showtime, USA, NBC, FX and the Cartoon Network. She worked with such notable artists as Alicia Keys, skateboarding icon Tony Hawk and best-selling authors David Baldacci, Mary Roach, and Karin Slaughter to name a few. She also optioned the Outstanding Musical winner of the 2008 New York Fringe Festival China - the Whole Enchilada, for which she is lead producer and anticipates will open off-Broadway in 2010.

Ms. McKinnon served as President, Television Production of 50 Cannon Entertainment, feature film director Mike Newell's (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) production company. Prior to 50 Cannon, Ms. McKinnon was Senior Vice-President of Drama Series Development at CBS where she was involved in such successful series as "Without A Trace," "Criminal Minds," "The Unit," "Cold Case," "Numbers," and the "CSI" franchise. Prior to working in Drama Development, she served in the Current Programming and Children's Departments at the network.

Ms. McKinnon holds a Masters in Business Administration from Pepperdine University. She serves on the National Advisory Council for Northwestern University's School of Communication and is on the Advisory Board for the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE).


DESCRIPTION: Novelist and screenwriter Loraine Despres is opening her home to conversations with successful writers and producers in a small, informal gathering. This will not be a panel where the pros sit on a stage and tell war stories, but casual discussions. Members will have the opportunity to ask whatever questions they might not have had the chance to ask working writers before and learn how a TV show works and what the feature writing process is.

At the first meeting NUEA members will explore the long view with Loraine and her husband, writer-producer, Carleton Eastlake. Group members will talk about their careers and hopes and dreams for the future. They will discuss not only how to break in, but how to stay viable over a long career in show business, and what to expect. For the second and third meetings, Loraine will invite a talented and successful TV writer currently working on a hit series and a successful feature film writer.


PEER GROUP LEADER BIO: LORAINE DESPRES 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 24th printing. Its companion "The Southern Belle's Handbook: Sissy LeBlanc's Rules to Live By" was published a year later. Her second novel, "The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell", is now a trade paperback, CD, and available for download. Loraine serves on NU's Council of 100 and is and former Board Member of Women in Film and PEN USA. She can be reached through her website: Her husband, Carleton Eastlake writer-producer of EARTH: FINAL CONFLICT, THE BURNING ZONE, SEAQUEST and OUTER LIMITS, to name of few. He is currently on the board of the Writers Guild of America and is writing a novel while in negotiations to sell a big action feature.


DESCRIPTION: The group name pretty much says it all! This group will cover how to make your scripts and samples sellable and is open both to represented and unrepresented writers. The group will be led by Josh Goldenberg, who has worked in development for 7 years and recently became a literary manager at Kaplan Perrone.


PEER GROUP LEADER BIO: JOSH GOLDENBERG grew up wanting to be an actor, but after a couple internships, he switched his major at NU to Communications and immediately started working on the business side of Hollywood. In 2004, he graduated and worked at Marc Platt Productions (WICKED, WANTED, SCOTT PILGRIM, CHARLIE ST. CLOUD, etc) for a year and a half, learning the in's and out's of development. From there, he became a Story Editor for producer Mike Karz (VALENTINE'S DAY, NEW YEARS EVE, GOOD LUCK CHUCK, etc). In August of 2008, he switched over to Red Wagon Entertainment as a Creative Executive and after a year, he was upped to being their Vice President of Development. During his last three years there, he has helped work on upcoming movies such as THE GREAT GATSBY and WETTEST COUNTY IN THE WORLD, as well as development projects with directors like Seth Gordon (HORRIBLE BOSSES) and Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego (APOLO 18) and actors like Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway.

In July 2011, after seven years in development, he was asked to join Kaplan Perrone as their newest literary manager, representing both writers and directors, working in features, television, and new media.


DESCRIPTION: E-Publishing is the latest hot thing. There's little-to-no upfront cost, and it can generate between 4-6 figures a month for people who know how to utilize it. While there's been a huge groundswell in the indy author movement, the ways e-publishing can be used by screenwriters is just starting to be explored. We're going to discuss the latest trends in e-publishing, how writers can use e-publishing to their advantage, as well as an overview of how to do it, from formatting to marketing, along with links to free formatting and marketing guides.

NOTE: You must have a finished or almost finished manuscript that you plan to e-publish, as this will be not only a discussion group, but also a hands-on how-to.


PEER GROUP LEADER BIO: CHRISTIANA MILLER recently released her first novel, Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead. Previously, she wrote for General Hospital: Night Shift and General Hospital. A 1996 graduate of Northwestern, Christiana founded the Chicago Screenwriters Network and she's worked as a development consultant for Vast Entertainment and Author Solutions. You can learn more about her at her website:


DESCRIPTION: Just moved to LA? Not sure if you're heading in the right direction for your career? Looking for ways to take advantage of all that Los Angeles has to offer? New to LA (NU2LA) is a peer group that is designed to be an educational and social program focused on easing the transition to LA and to help guide its participants as they start to lay the foundations of their careers in entertainment. From which entry level job you should take to which area of the city you should live in, NU2LA can help you get a handle on things by setting concrete goals and giving you a small group with structured meetings that will focus your work towards those goals.



MALCOLM GRAY (Comm '08) is a coordinator in the Worldwide Motion Picture Group at MGM. It wasn't that long ago that he was sleeping on someone's couch.

JACKIE LAINE is an '08 Northwestern graduate and an Associate Producer working in reality TV. During her time at NU, Jackie spent two years as the co-chair of Studio 22, as well as the producer of Boomshaka. Since graduating, Jackie worked as an Executive Assistant at 51 Minds Entertainment, where she worked on over 20 series and pilots. She has been on the NUEA board for three years and has been one of the Co-Presidents of the NUEA since the end of 2010.


DESCRIPTION: Based on the structure of the NUEA's Writers Group, this Peer Group is a multi-disciplinary accountability and feedback group. If you are working on a project and want feedback during the process, or if you want a group of people to hold you accountable in moving forward with your work then this is the group for you. You can bring multiple projects in, and they can be of any kind or in any stage of completion -- a draft of a screenplay or novel chapter, a rough cut of a film or web series, a treatment for a reality show or an original pilot, casting options for a film, etc. Each meeting, two or three group members' work will be up for discussion and all of the other group members will give updates about their work. We will bring in guest speakers depending on the type of work being presented so group members can learn about different aspects of writing, production and post-production.


PEER GROUP COORDINATOR BIO: JACKIE LAINE is an '08 Northwestern graduate and an Associate Producer working in reality TV. During her time at NU, Jackie spent two years as the co-chair of student-run film production company Studio 22, as well as the producer of Boomshaka, a student percussion and dance performance group. Since graduating, Jackie worked as an Executive Assistant at 51 Minds Entertainment, where she worked on over 20 series and pilots, and was recently promoted. She has been on the NUEA board for three years and has been one of the Co-Presidents of the NUEA since the end of 2011.


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