From East Lansing to Late Night television

From East Lansing to Late Night television

Every weeknight at 12:35 a.m. EST, millions of late-night television fans flip on their local NBC stations to be entertained for an hour by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Of those millions, only a select few have been granted a glimpse behind the Late Night stage, a club of which Noah Gebstadt can now count himself a member. Gebstadt, a Michigan State University student majoring in English with a specialization in Creative Writing, recently interned at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in New York City.

“There were times it would hit me,” said Gebstadt. “I’d be standing there and The Roots would start playing and I’d be like, I’m really here- I’m in New York City.”

Gebstadt working as a Studio Assistant in the Communications Art & Sciences Building. Photo credit: Jordyn Timpson

Fellow Spartan Lindsay Benson, a sophomore Media and Information major, can relate. She is a comedy intern in Burbank, Calif. at TBS’s Conan, a late-night talk show which, like Fallon, attracts millions of viewers.

“The coolest thing for me is being able to sit in on rehearsal every day,” said Benson, “and watch the writers, producers, Andy Richter and Conan [O’Brien] work through each joke.”

Any student hoping to land a similar high-profile internship, or any internship for that matter, should begin closer to home.

“Start with the things around you,” said Karin Hanson, a career consultant in the College of Communication Arts & Sciences. “Get involved. Find out what interests you and go from there.”

Both Benson and Gebstadt stressed how crucial their extracurricular activities at MSU were in preparing them to intern.

“Get out of your comfort zone and try something new,” said Gebstadt. “Find something you love to do on campus and delve into it. Do it as much as you can, learn as much as you can. That will translate into other things like jobs and internships.”

Now a senior, Gebstadt began his trek to late-night television over three years ago as a freshman with MSU Telecasters.

“That’s where I really honed my skills, especially with writing,” said Gebstadt. “I started going to the Telecaster alumni panels, meeting a ton of people, making lots of connections. I’ve done most of my learning within Telecasters.”

Benson, also a member of MSU Telecasters, echoed Gebstadt’s sentiments.

“What made me feel most comfortable about beginning [at Conan] were the things I worked on outside of class,” said Benson. “Working on MSU Telecaster shows, being involved in all the different aspects of producing content was great preparation.”

More so, however, than an extracurricular-heavy resume said Hanson, passion is the key to internship success.

“You have to follow your passion,” said Hanson. “If students have a huge passion for something, that’s what employers want.”

Gebstadt knows a thing or two about having a passion. He first applied for a Late Night internship as a freshman with help from his Telecaster contacts.

“Then it was two years of constantly sending emails to whoever I could. It was a lot of discouragement. I got a lot of, ‘oh, we’re not looking for anyone right now’.”

Gebstadt’s persistence paid off, as he ventured to New York City last May for a summer of Late Night interning.

“I started as a control room intern, which wasn’t exactly where I thought I wanted to be,” he said. “I was more into the writing aspect, but the control room ended up being this treasure trove.”

“I was the only intern in there so I got to spend so much time with the producers, picking their brains. I was able to see how the show really comes together from all angles.”

Being thrust into such a fast-paced working environment can be intimidating, but Gebstadt kept his head down and let his work ethic do all the talking.

“You just have to show that you want more responsibility,” Gebstadt said. “You do what you need to do, you stay late.”

His strategy paid off. When Gebstadt’s internship ended in August, he was asked to stay with the show through December.

Benson’s passion is also evidenced through hard work. She recalled working on a recent Conan bit about New York City’s restrictions on the size of soda containers.

“They had a fire hydrant bursting out “Coke”, which was just brown colored water,” said Benson. “The water was running down the street and me and two other interns had to stand there with squeegee sticks, stopping it from going down the drain. It started to accumulate in big puddles and it resulted in my shoes getting totally soaked.”

Benson and Gebstadt’s internship efforts put them a step ahead in terms of finding jobs post-graduation.

“I don’t want to say you can’t get a job without an internship,” said Hanson. “But you’d probably need to take a post-grad internship or go through some more steps to land a job.”

“I’m keeping all my contacts from the show,” said Gebstadt. “I’m trying to stay relevant, keep my face fresh in their minds.”

After he graduates in May, Gebstadt will return to New York City, specifically Brooklyn, and continue following his dream of working as a late-night comedy writer.

Benson isn’t 100 percent sure what she plans to do post-graduation. Although only a sophomore, she said she’s “already freaking out about securing a job after MSU.”

Hanson doesn’t think Benson has much to worry about.

“I think it makes all the difference,” said Hanson. “Internships are what set you apart, differentiate you.”


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Passion and persistence of MSU film student is inspiring and admirable

Passion and persistence of MSU film student is inspiring and admirable

Photo credit: Kim Berens

Ariel Vida is many things. She is a filmmaker. She is an artist. She is the founder of independent film production company Wondria Films. She is the director, screenwriter and producer of Sleep, Wake, Forget, a feature-length film, which recently wrapped filming in Muskegon.

One thing she may not be is entirely human. The challenges faced by any filmmaker are grueling, but Vida has handily and eagerly maneuvered them while simultaneously attending classes at Michigan State University.

“My sophomore year here I took film directing and I did a short film,” said Vida, now a senior. “As soon as I did that short I was kind of bitten by the bug. I said, I know I have to keep going with this.”

Vida subsequently started saving money from her four jobs and discussing screenplay ideas with professors and fellow students. Determination and a love of film have led to Sleep, Wake, Forget, her inaugural feature film. It’s a film that borrows from many genres to tell a story about universal humanity which most viewers, said Vida, are likely find some identification with.

Sleep, Wake, Forget stars Andrew Way, left, as Liam and Velizar Ionikov as Max. Photo credit: Kim Berens

When defining the “universal humanity” of the movie, family, love and loyalty are vital concepts.

“It’s about two brothers,” said Vida. “I wanted to do something to just explore the bond between these two people.”

The brothers Vida refers to are Max and Liam who, armed with unique telepathic gifts, endure a dangerous world born of modern civilization’s collapse. As the film’s only principal characters, Vida had the freedom to delve deeply into the development and complexity of the two brothers. Vida’s powerful words, however, seem to have taken a backseat to a slice of the film that has been well-publicized.

Vida and her crew shot a scene in October that garnered significant attention for its use of extras as zombies. Local Muskegon reporters bestowed the film with media coverage and in doing so labeled Sleep, Wake, Forget a zombie film. While enthusing fans of classic horror movies is great, Vida would like to be clear: this is not your average zombie movie.

“It doesn’t really fit into any sort of traditional horror category,” she said. “I have a bit of science fiction. It has the dreamlike qualities of films such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Pan’s Labyrinth… intermingled with the darker nature of films like The Road.”

This unique convergence of genre works well for Vida as she explores the connections and memories between her characters through a surreal, “dreamlike” lens. In this mindset, the characteristics of the zombie are of greater importance than the mere presence of the zombie.

“Normally in zombie movies, there is no cure nor any reason to believe an individual can be saved.” But in Sleep, Wake, Forget, Vida explains, “Liam can still communicate with Max due to their gifts and that is what gives him the small hope that somehow he might be able to get his brother back.”

The pieces of Vida’s genre puzzle form a clearer picture when, after Max is “bitten”, the brothers fight desperately to preserve their relationship. Toxic bites giving rise to zombies has been done, but not from this angle. As Liam endeavors to save Max, their brotherly relationship is used as a vehicle to examine both the physical and emotional pain of a zombie transformation.

“The audience sees not only see the point of view of an infected human, but in this case, the crumbling of all of Max’s idealized memories over the years,” said Vida. “It’s just one of the ways I feel the film differs from what has been done in the genre before.”

Photo credit: Kim Berens

It is a testament to Vida’s talent that she has constructed a narrative so moving and emotional amongst zombie-like inhabitants of a futuristic dystopia. When asked, however, about the staggering feat of making a movie while attending school and working side jobs, Vida deferred most of the credit.

Sleep, Wake, Forget was blessed to have a cast and crew with positive attitudes who believed in it fully,” she said.

“I have an amazing crew,” said Vida. “I wouldn’t trade them for 50 people from Hollywood.”

Beth Berens, one of the film’s assistant directors, returns the warm feelings.

“I learned the true meaning of dedication when I met Ariel,” said Berens. “This story, these characters, mean so much to her.”

“Ariel has the ability to juggle many roles and do each role well. If she’s stressed, she doesn’t show it. She’s always smiling and laughing.”

The healthy relationships Vida created with her crew members are perhaps due in part to her willingness to learn.

“One of my favorite things about film is that it is so collaborative,” said Vida. “It’s something magical when I have this group of people with diverse talents come together.”

It is not just within film, however, that openness to collaboration is useful. MSU students, no matter their majors, can benefit from adopting Vida’s desire to best utilize the strengths of those around her.

“I would hear a song and know, oh that’s kind of what I want,” said Vida of her film’s music. “But I’m not a musician so I have my composer and she can whip something out. And I’m not a musician, but a composer will know exactly what I mean and create something beautiful. It’s just amazing to see that many different kinds of art come together.”

If people and personalities are factors in Vida’s success equation, then so is passion.

Photo credit: Kim Berens

“Some people call it passion, some people call it crazy,” laughed Vida. “I might end up in complete abject poverty making little indie films, but with how excited it makes me and how much I love it, I feel so lucky I did find what my passion is.”

It’s an outlook on life that likely leads to happiness. College classrooms are filled with students uneasy about their futures whose goal is landing any post-graduation job. Forget about that job also being fulfilling or even bearable, a massive economic recession and global uncertainty have shaped a generation of realists.

Such worries and anxieties are why campus needs an Ariel Vida, a breath of fresh air and a reminder of life’s importance.

“People will be like, I’ve got a script, I’ve got an idea, I’ll do it in 10 years, I’ll do it in 15 years when the cards are right,” said Vida. “I don’t know what the future holds. I have no idea. So I just said, I’m going to try it now. I don’t want to have regrets.”

Vida isn’t exactly on the fast track toward regret. She has accomplished more before leaving school than many people accomplish in a lifetime, but remains unfazed by her successes.

“I just want audiences to have fun,” Vida said of Sleep, Wake, Forget. “If it can make people happy that’s what I want, for audiences to really enjoy it the way I enjoy films.”

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Enthusiasm surrounding election down despite newfound voter eligibility status

Enthusiasm surrounding election down despite newfound voter eligibility status

The upcoming presidential election holds special significance for many Michigan State University’s current undergraduate students. When President Barack Obama won the election in 2008, most of the students populating the residence halls, studying at the libraries and strolling to classes amongst friends did not cast votes. For students who only recently entered legal adulthood, the 2012 presidential election is surrounded by the youthful excitement of finally having a chance to help decide the nation’s future.

“This is my first time voting for president,” said sophomore Jasmine Hunt. “Presidential elections just feel so much more exciting. It’s a big deal.”

Whether it’s absentee or they’re going to the polls on Nov. 6, many MSU students are voting for the first time this election. Photo credit: Alyssa Firth

Seniors Jazmine Miller and Delorean Brown agree with Hunt, and both said they plan to bestow Obama with their first ever presidential election votes.

“I’m voting for Obama, and it’s honestly not even a race thing for me anymore,” said Miller. “As a college student, I really feel like Romney doesn’t understand me and what I need.”

“It’s important for the middle class to be represented,” added Brown. “College students have a lot to deal with like financial aid and college loans. I want someone who will understand that. I want someone to make policies that will help me as I graduate college and start working.”

According to Bonnie Bucqueroux, a journalism and media professor who emphasizes the importance of being informed to her students, the mindsets of Miller and Brown are common at MSU.

“Many college students are in a transition period,” said Bucqueroux. “They are starting to shed some of their self-centeredness, while slowly becoming more aware of important global issues. Mainly, though, MSU students are concerned with how the next president will help them specifically. Students want to be able to find jobs. That is their top priority.”

“MSU students are exhausted”, said Bucqueroux. “They just want to see something happen.”

Sophomore Erin McGowan is one such student. She said she doesn’t think students understand the importance of the election and why they need to get out and vote.

“This is my first year voting, but I know a lot of people who are voting just because their parents told them to,” she sadi. “I understand it, though. The issues addressed on the news and in the debates can be confusing. The importance of voting and learning about the issues should be stressed more on college campuses to increase the knowledge of student voters and, in the long run, increase our country’s understanding.”

Being an informed citizen is vital, and, clearly understanding this concept, Bucqueroux offered extra credit points to any of her students who watched the recent presidential debates.

“The logic behind that,” said Bucqueroux, who arranged the debate viewings on large projectors, “was to encourage my students to become media literate. There are so many sources of information out there, and not a single one is completely true. I want students on this campus to seek information from all different sources, and to be interested in a wide variety of issues.”

Delorean Brown feels similarly.

“I just really hope people are smart about their votes. I want people to be informed voters, not just voters, and truly understand why they are voting for a candidate”.

Bucqueroux made clear that the current campus level of involvement does not come close to the excitement surrounding the 2008 presidential election. Despite decreasing enthusiasm and increasing pessimism, the youth vote still carries tremendous weight.

Since 2008, experts estimate that 19 million Americans have become eligible to vote. Even if the youth voters of 2012 are less enthusiastic than they were four years ago, their sheer numbers ensure the vitality of the youth vote.

Likely, many college students do not fully grasp the power they hold. Young voters matter. It is entirely possible that this nation’s youth will decide the 2012 presidential election. MSU students have full and hectic schedules, but becoming informed and casting a vote on November 6 should be considered top priorities.


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