Living the Dream

Musings, observations, and lamentations about chasing my dreams in Los Angeles.

The NBCUniversal Page Program

I first applied to the NBCUniversal Page Program in November 2010.  I had been vaguely familiar with the Page Program from watching NBC’s 30 Rock (Kenneth the Page is quite a fixture on the show), but it wasn’t until I had a lengthy discussion about the future with my mentor, Dr. Hoffman, that I became completely besotted with the idea of joining the prestigious program.

It was a crisp October afternoon when Dr. Hoffman and I enjoyed a nice lunch in celebration of wrapping filming on a project we co-produced together.  During our meal, I indicated my interest in becoming an NBCUniversal Page and asked Dr. Hoffman what he knew about the program.  He informed me of the basic mechanics of the Page Program, explaining that it was a fiercely competitive entry-level program for recent college graduates designed to catalyze one’s career in the entertainment industry.  Dr. Hoffman likened it to the University of Akron’s professional radio and television broadcasting program, WZIP-FM and Z-TV, in that the Page Program entails a multitude of different potential assignments in numerous aspects of the entertainment industry (ranging from programming and development to publicity, marketing, and post-production). 

The next piece of information Dr. Hoffman shared with me was serendipitous indeed: two former Z-TV alumni participated in the program and were now doing very well in Los Angeles.  He urged me to reach out to them and learn everything I could about their experiences so that I would be as prepared as possible before entering the gauntlet that is the NBCUniversal Page Program application process.

One alumnus happened to be the redoubtable Scott Sebert (the Emmy® Award winner who inadvertently inspired me to join WZIP FM and Z-TV in the first place).  Scott was very gracious when I contacted him and agreed to meet with me in December when he would be home in Ohio for the holidays.  In the meantime, I focused my energies upon my Page Program application.

The only way to apply to the Page Program is online via the NBCUniversal Careers website.  While this alone is not enough to get into the program, one must always begin the process by applying online (regardless of one’s connections within the company or the impressiveness of one’s résumé).  I pored over the online application, assembled my letters of recommendation, and revised my résumé ad nauseam until finally, I took the plunge and submitted my online application.  And then began the wait.

The day before I went home to San Francisco for the holidays, I had an illuminating meeting with Scott during which he shared his Page Program experiences, explained his current work projects, and generously offered to pass my résumé along to the Coordinator of the program.  It was rather sobering to realize how ill-prepared I was for the journey that lie ahead.  During our meeting, I learned that while Scott has been blessed with relatively steady work, his production jobs expire every few months after which he has to find a new gig.  Additionally (and what I found most startling), it’s taken for granted that anyone working in production or post-production collects unemployment during the months of summer hiatus.

I now found myself grappling with letting go of the naïve notions I had about post-graduation life.  Suddenly, it was apparent to me that even with a great education, a slew of seemingly invaluable experience, and some very solid connections, my future for the next several years would be devoid of any stability, consistency, or remotely timely gratification.  Part of me felt defeated and dejected, yet something within me felt hardened by resolve and determination. 

Both my world and psyche had been markedly shaken, but a visit to New York City in January changed everything.  Led by a dapper young East Coast Page named Zack, the NBC 30 Rock Tour I attended during my visit ignited something within me – suddenly, I had never wanted anything so badly in my life.  I would know no peace until I got into the NBCUniversal Page Program.  In that moment, I decided to devote all of my energies to earning the privilege of donning that venerable Brook’s Brothers suit.

Upon arriving home, the only thing left for me to do was hope and wait to see if Scott’s recommendation would aide my endeavor.  So, I waited.

And I waited.

In March, I was elated to receive an email informing me that I had been selected to participate in the next step of the NBCUniversal Page Program application process: the email screening.  I prepared as best I could for the screening, devoting all my spare moments to conducting research and seeking the counsel of my mentor.  There are few things as frustrating as studying for a test on unknown subject matter.  But, I did the best I could and when I received my email screening at 9:00am on a Saturday morning in the end of March, I answered the questions to best of my ability and sent it back within the allotted hour.

And then I waited.

The end of April was devastating.  I received an email from the Page Program Coordinator explaining that while they appreciated my interest in the program, they no longer wished to pursue my candidacy at the time.  I felt as though I’d been slugged in the chest with a sledgehammer.  Tears streamed down my face and I stared, transfixed, at those cursed pixels on the computer screen that mockingly crushed my hopes and dreams.

Though I was utterly crestfallen, Dr. Hoffman insisted that this rejection was a minor setback and assured me that all hope was not lost.  He persuaded me to follow up with the Page Program Coordinator and reapply to the program within six months time.  It was also at this time that he put me in touch with the other Z-TV alumna who had participated in the Page Program, Jennifer Danolfo.

Jennifer was kind enough to spend over an hour on the phone with me the first time we spoke.  Though I was a perfect stranger to her, Jennifer offered me encouraging words and guidance as she told me about her experiences with the Page Program.  She was very sweet, urging me to reapply, stay positive, and never give up.  We didn’t end up meeting in person until the following November, but Jennifer’s words have stayed with me to this day.  I’m delighted to say that she’s now one of my closest friends and I remain thankful to Dr. Hoffman for putting me in touch with her.

It seemed futile at the time, but I contacted the Page Program Coordinator and expressed my remaining interest in participating in the program, asking what I could do to improve my chances of being selected in the future.  I was thankful to receive a gracious response from her in which I learned that though I had very good experience, the fact that it was primarily limited to the state of Ohio (many of the people they select for the program have completed internships in Los Angeles or New York City) hurt my case.  She encouraged me to reapply upon receiving more entertainment industry experience and wished me well.

I was still very discouraged, but I elected to focus upon my imminent finals and impending graduation, knowing that afterwards I could concentrate on garnering more entertainment industry experience.  May and June were a blur of awesome, life-changing events: I finished a few projects I had been producing, I graduated summa cum laude with my bachelor’s degree from The University of Akron, and I won an Emmy® Award for my work as a segment producer on Akron After Hours.  Shortly thereafter, I also worked on a couple of features that were filming in Cleveland.

And then I waited.

In September, I decided it was time to tempt fate and reapply to the NBCUniversal Page Program.  I sent my updated résumé to the Page Program Coordinator along with an email highlighting some of its pivotal changes and expressed my continued interest in the program as well as my plans to move to Los Angeles by the end of the year.  I sent similar versions of the same email a few more times before receiving a joy-inducing response: the Page Program Coordinator thanked me for my continued interest in the program and told me she would like to interview me upon my relocation to the Los Angeles area.  Finally, there was a glimmer of hope amidst this heart-wrenching journey. 

The promise of an interview with the Page Program fueled me through the next three months.  Nothing in the world was going to keep me from making my move to Los Angeles happen now – fatigue, anxiety, and self-doubt all gave way to unyielding determination.  I worked as much as humanly possible, saved every single cent that I could, and prepared for the big move back to my home state.

Suddenly it was January and I had successfully relocated to Los Angeles.  I touched base with the Page Program Coordinator, letting her know that I was now in the area and available for an interview at her convenience.  Though I was braced for another bout of extreme disappointment, she got back to me within a week and scheduled my interview for 10:00am on January 20, 2012.  Over the course of the next three weeks, I focused upon acclimating to my new city, settling into my new serving job, and preparing for my interview. 

Being interviewed by the NBCUniversal Page Program Coordinator and Director was a surreal experience – after all the ups and downs of the past year, it seemed impossible that I was now speaking with the heads of the program in person.  I was prepared to be put through the ringer so to speak, but the entire ordeal was actually quite pleasant.  The Page Program Coordinator and Director were extremely friendly, professional, and informative and it was a true pleasure meeting with both of them.  The interview went very well and I found myself feeling completely justified for wanting so desperately to be an NBCUniversal Page.  As a result, I became even more determined to make this dream of mine come to fruition.

I was told that due to the nature of the Page Program hiring cycle, I could expect to wait between two to five months before hearing back from them.  Of the thousands of people who apply to the program each year, only a select few are accepted.  Every six to eight weeks, a new Page Class comprising of 5-8 people is brought into the program.  This is largely due to the fact that new Pages can only be brought in after existing Pages either assume full-time positions elsewhere or reach the end of their year-long appointment with the program. 

My interviewers encouraged me to keep in touch with them, assuring me that even if they didn’t always respond that it would be prudent for me to communicate my continuing interest in the Page Program.  I took this advice very much to heart, resolving to touch base with them approximately once every two weeks.  With a newfound feeling of hopefulness and my strategy set firmly in place, I resumed the task of waiting.

And I waited some more.

By the middle of April, I was beginning to feel quite restless.  It would soon be three months since my Page Program interview, but I still hadn’t received responses to any of my email inquiries nor had I been given any unsolicited updates.  On Tuesday, April 24th, I half-heartedly sent what seemed like another futile email to the Page Program Coordinator.  I was pleasantly surprised to receive a response shortly thereafter, indicating that that while the next group of Pages had not yet been selected, they were anticipating bringing them in some time in June.

Less than thrilled at the prospect of waiting another two months to be brought into the program (but nevertheless happy to have received at least some kind of news), I went on about my day.  While driving into work that evening, I noticed I had a missed call and voicemail from an unknown number.  Curious, I retrieved my voicemail my heart froze when I heard the Page Program Coordinator’s voice asking me to call her back in order to discuss my application.  I struggled to keep calm as I fumbled with my phone and clumsily managed to return her call.  Adrenaline coursed through my veins as I panicked because it was 5:45pm and it was highly likely that the Page Program Coordinator had already gone home for the evening.  I was overcome with relief when she answered the phone and completely unprepared for what happened next: she told me they would like to bring me on with the NBCUniversal Page class starting on April 30th if I was available.  Without hesitation, I accepted.

It’s been two weeks since I began the NBCUniversal Page Program, and I couldn’t be happier.  Words cannot describe how thankful and grateful I am for this amazing opportunity.  I am proud to say that I am one of approximately 50 people who were selected from last year’s pool of over 9,000 applicants to the NBCUniversal West Coast Page Program.  I wear my Brook’s Brothers suit with pride and delight.

I am an NBCUniversal Page.  I am the 0.005%.  And I am savoring every single moment of it.

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