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On a hot Los Angeles afternoon, two entertainment industry “up-and-comers” got together for networking and lunch. One works for DreamWorks Animation SKG, helping to create animated films, and the other is interning with FOXSports Interactive, hoping to break into the cable sports news scene. Strangely enough, their connection doesn’t come through Hollywood but rather through Nampa, Idaho. They each got their start in NNU’s mass communication program where they developed their skills and started making the necessary connections to find work in an industry that is all about who you know.

As Lynelle Thompson showed senior mass communication major Zac Kinman around the DreamWorks campus, he picked her brain about her experiences while en route to Hollywood and sought her advice on how to make it in this highly competitive profession. Lynelle definitely had advice to share.

Hailing from Post Falls, Idaho, Lynelle never envisioned herself working for a well-known Hollywood studio like DreamWorks. In fact, she arrived at NNU without a declared major and ended up in the mass communication department, only after randomly being placed in an elective video/audio course.

Lynelle at DreamWorks

“I wouldn’t have had experience in many aspects of my current position without my internship,” Lynelle says. “Not to mention the connections it helped me to make.”

Lynelle tried her hand at many different aspects of media production, including producing, script writing, directing and filming, and discovered that her strengths and passions lay in organizing, scheduling and producing. Wishing to put these to use in a television/film career, she knew she would have to get closer to the action to make that happen. To this end, she took advantage of one of the BestSemester off-campus programs through the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities and studied at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center. This program allowed Lynelle to showcase the skills she had been honing at NNU and the experiences she had acquired with the department (traveling to Europe, visiting the Sundance Film Festival and working on shows like “An Idaho Family Christmas”) in an internship.

That fortunate internship was with DreamWorks Animation Studios where she assisted with effects on the animated feature “Shrek Forever After.” This opportunity proved essential to Lynelle recognizing in what direction she wanted to begin her career. “I wouldn’t have had experience in many aspects of my current position without my internship,” she says. “Not to mention the connections it helped me to make.”

After graduation, Lynelle contacted her friends and colleagues from DreamWorks and waited for an opportunity to apply for a long-term position. A few months later she was hired and has since worked on projects like “Megamind” and “Puss in Boots in The Three Diablos.” Despite these well-known credits, Lynelle insists that day-to-day activity at a major motion picture studio is not always as glamorous as it sounds. She says it’s a lot of hard and sometimes mundane work, but her studies at NNU prepared her for hard work and much more. The mass communication department recognized Lynelle with the Platinum Slate Award for putting in more than 500 hours on various film and television productions outside of her regular class work.

Professor Ytreeide shared, “Besides being one of my all-time top teacher aides, Lynelle was a great student, and it was fun to work with her. She has a great talent for producing, which is to say she knows how to make things happen and get things done — qualities I’m sure DreamWorks noticed.”

During their networking meeting, she shared a little of her experience with fellow NNUer, Zac Kinman. Certainly not without credentials of his own, Zac spent his summer in L.A. taking advantage of every opportunity — one of those being to make connections with people, like Lynelle, who are already successful in the media field. He went to L.A. as a recipient of a prestigious internship through the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation.

This academy selects only 39 outstanding students per year from universities across the country and matches them with television, film and media companies looking for interns. This well-respected organization seeks to connect students to positions in their area of interest. For Zac, that meant an internship with FOXSports Interactive Media, where he worked as a camera operator and video editor. He logged, edited, organized and published content toward a collective effort of covering all the sports action in the day. He also worked with sports analysts and interacted with professional athletes. On his days off, he spent time observing on the sets of a number of FOXSports original content shows in the “Lunch with Benefits” series.

“The one piece of advice I would give someone trying to get into this industry is to do an internship,” Lynelle shares.

Zac was recruited to play basketball at both NNU and Eastern Washington University. He chose NNU because of the reputation of the mass communication department. Now in his senior year, he has tried to make himself as well-rounded as possible, in pursuit of his goal to work in production for a major sports news network. During the school year, he works as the sports editor for the campus newspaper. He has also done freelance jobs with ABC News/ESPN Sports, NBC Sports’ VERSUS and Path 1 Productions. Being in L.A. this summer has given him easy access to pursue these side ventures.

Needless to say, Zac has been busy. But this is no different than when class is in session at NNU, and he spends countless hours on school shoots and other classroom projects. Professor Ytreeide shares that one of Zac’s major contributions to the department has been his work on building a production truck for shooting sport events: “Zac epitomizes what it takes to make it in the film and television industries. He has a great attitude, a great work ethic, a passion to learn and a willingness to do whatever it takes to make the show a success.”

“The NNU mass communication department is like a family. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it,” Zac says. He credits the mentorship of department aides (like alumnus Troy Watters) and outstanding faculty (like Professor Ytreeide) for encouraging him and helping him to grasp opportunities like the one he had this summer. Zac understands that hard work and talent alone are not enough to be successful in the film and television industries, but that having the right connections is essential. NNU’s mass communication department, along with many individuals investing in Zac, have helped him along the way and will continue to help him as he launches his career after graduating in May 2012.

“I understand more now than ever that the opportunities I’ve been blessed with are not because of me. These opportunities are the reflection of others investing their time, energy and belief in me as a person, enabling me to succeed through hard work, perseverance and humility,” says Zac of his summer internship position and his time spent at NNU.

While Lynelle and Zac are currently working on different ends of the entertainment industry spectrum, they share a common background that has been proven invaluable for both. They each distinguished themselves in NNU’s mass communication department and took advantage of an available internship opportunity. “The one piece of advice I would give someone trying to get into this industry is to do an internship,” Lynelle shares. “It’s the best way to find your niche and get noticed.” Zac is already busy taking this advice and is definitely getting noticed in the process.

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