Alumni Career Profile
Andrea Platten '08
For UWM graduate Andrea Platten (JMC and Art History, '08) helping talent down the red carpet, driving a golf cart on the NBC back lot, and seating audience members at The Jay Leno Show are all part of the job. Platten recently completed a stint as an NBC Page and is now Marketing and Communications Coordinator in the International Television Distribution Group at NBC Universal, in which she helps promote NBC Universal owned content to international distributors. In my conversation with Andrea, we talked about the importance of networking, what it's like in the entertainment industry, and some things you might not expect about LA.
Q: What made you decide to major in Art History and Journalism and Mass Communications? What careers were you considering?
A: I developed an interest in Journalism when I was editor of my high school newspaper. Writing was one of my stronger subjects in high school, and I really enjoyed meeting people, getting to know their stories and sharing them in a creative form. So when choosing colleges, I decided on UWM not only because of the Journalism major, but also the big city atmosphere and possibilities for internships and jobs. I decided to get a second degree in Art History after I took a required Modern Art class early in college. I never had artistic abilities throughout my life, but I enjoyed studying and talking about art with my peers. I really developed an even better appreciation for art when I studied abroad in London, England, and had the opportunity to take classes on English art, travel throughout Europe and see pieces I studied in person. With an Art History and Journalism background, there were a lot of options open to me. I had more passion for Journalism and telling people's stories than telling an art piece's story. I was very involved with UWM's Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) during college. From those experiences I knew I would be a much better fit in Public Relations than in strict Journalism.
Q: How was networking a part of your success? How did you find out about the NBC Page Program?
A: Networking played a huge factor in getting to where I am at today. I found out about the NBC Page Program after reaching out to Jeff Fleming, a guest speaker in one of my Journalism and Mass Communication classes, to learn more about his background as well as careers in Public Relations. When we met the first thing he told me about was the NBC Page Program. As soon as I got home from our meeting I started researching the program and from there dedicated a project to career programs and highlighted the Page Program. Once I got the job it was all about meeting with people in the company and finding out their stories. I met with a few assistants and by luck one of my future bosses. Once you are in the industry and people see the way you work and carry yourself, they are very supportive in helping you reach your goals because they were in the same boat as you at one point.
Q: You said that you had two weeks to go from working at front desk position at a salon here in Milwaukee to starting at NBC. How was that?
A: It was quite a crazy experience and pure luck, too. I applied to the Page Program in November 2008 and didn't hear back from them for a while because of the holidays. When I graduated from UWM in December 2008, I didn't want to go back home to my parents' house in Oshkosh because I had a good job in Milwaukee, but I didn't want to be stuck in a lease. So I asked a friend if I could stay with her until I got a job with my major and she let me make a home in her dining room. After being "friendly aggressive" for a while and making it through the online portion of the Page application, I decided to take a trip to LA in March to interview for jobs. Luckily I got an interview for the Page Program and they told me it might be a while before they would have an opening. A week later I got a call that they wanted me to start in two weeks. That night I started planning my move. I called my aunt in LA and she was kind enough to let me stay with her until I found a safe place to live. I also quit my job and started moving my belongings back to my parents' house. Those were the craziest two weeks moving from point A to point B, but when my plane took off, I was ready to begin my new life in LA.
Q: What are the biggest differences you've seen between Milwaukee and L.A.? How are they similar? What do you miss most about home?
A: The biggest difference is obvious...the weather! It is quite nice to see snow in the mountains rather than on my car after a blizzard. Another difference is traffic...but you get used to it, and it's avoidable if you can live close to work. A major similarity between the two cities is a strong work ethic. The two things I do miss...Summerfest and good public transportation.
Q: What is the best part about your job? Or what have been some of the highlights you'll remember most?
A: The best part of my job as a Page was never knowing who or what I'd see every day. In the beginning of my "Pagedom" I worked every day on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, so I got to watch the show live every day. I took talent to their dressing room, checked out Jay's car of the day (he has over 200), and I was part of the Leno legacy by handing out the tickets to the last show. For Late Night with Conan O'Brien, I worked a good chunk of his test shows and ran into him around the lot a few times—boy is he tall, too! I got an assignment (like temp work) in Bravo's On-Air Promotion Department so the glitz and glamour aspect faded away. But I did get to work with producers making promos for NYC Prep and went to a promo shoot with all the Housewives of Orange County. Right after Bravo I moved over to the Focus Features Publicity Department and got the chance to go to private screenings of their movies and on my last day took a tour of a five-star hotel in Beverly Hills. In between assignments I worked several events like LA Screenings with the International TV Group (where I currently work in a full-time position), Summer Press Tour and the Daytime Golden Globes. The one time I was kind of star struck as a Page was at the Press Tour—I saw almost every talent from every NBC Uni television show and got to interact with a few as I escorted them to make-up and the red carpet.
Q: So, is your job really like that of Kenneth Parcell on 30 Rock? And how many times have you been asked that?
A: Countless times have I been asked that, and a handful of other times I had to explain the difference between East Coast Kenneth and a West Coast Page. There are a few assignments in the West Coast Program that showed the Kenneth side of life, like cleaning up dressing rooms and filling in for top NBC Universal executive assistants. My Kenneth moments included working Summer Press Tour, wearing a polyester suit and giving tours of the Burbank lot. My experience in the Program was more about getting desk experience rather than working with talent like Tracey. The two things about Kenneth that real Pages don't share is getting into a Page-Off to keep the suit jacket and staying in the program for a lifetime (you can only be a Page for a maximum of one year).
Q: What advice would you give a new alum just starting out who might be interested in getting into the entertainment industry?
A: First off, you have to be committed to the industry and understanding what makes it tick. Become a pop culture and entertainment junkie by doing your research—find out who the big players are at the studios, read the trades, watch the top rated shows/movies and try to meet with as many industry folks as you can. Once you start getting an entertainment backbone, apply for any and all training programs in your particular field. Although you might not get paid the big bucks, you'll make connections and figure out what part of entertainment you will fit best in.
Q: If you could describe your career in five words, what would they be?
A: Crazy...rewarding...workaholic...never dull.