CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Holding an Emmy Award, walking the set of a popular television series and learning from famous TV producers can be crossed off Dr. Ethan Thompson’s bucket list. Thompson, Professor for the Department of Communication and Media at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, was recently selected to participate in the Television Academy Foundation 2017 Faculty Seminar Program. He was one of a cohort of 25 faculty from across the nation to participate in the week-long seminar in Los Angeles.
“I always tell my students they deserve to be in Hollywood. Don’t just let the people who grew up in California or New York get these big opportunities,” said Thompson.
Thompson was motivated to apply for this opportunity by colleagues and his former student Mike Henneberger, an alumnus from the Island University, winner of an Emmy and current member of the TV Academy.
The Island University professor, and his fellow seminar faculty, had private studio tours in the Warner Bros. Studios facilities guided by John Schaffner, production designer of “The Big Bang Theory” and many other TV series. In addition, the faculty witnessed the shooting of a live episode of “Dancing with the Stars.”
“The most impressive thing to me was meeting Jonathan Murray, who possibly more than anyone else, is responsible for the reality television genre as we know it,” explained Thompson. “He was one of the original creators of ‘The Real World,’ long-running MTV show, ‘Project Runway’ and the popular ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians.’ I got to tell him about my documentary, ‘TV Family,’ and the research I have done.”
The experience also included panel discussions with top experts in television development, production and programming, including writers, directors, producers, executives and editors from HBO, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and more. He learned from creative minds the latest about opportunities in digital entertainment, new media, broadcast and cable television.
“It was truly impressive how very successful people were enthusiastic about talking to professors because they want to pass along their knowledge to students, and they want to encourage students to get into the industry,” explained Thompson. “It was also evident to me how the people who are the most successful still work the hardest.”
Following his return to campus, Thompson has shared his experience and talked about the future of the television industry with his students.
“The experience gave me some specific case studies, and also helped me update things I have been teaching for a long time,” said Thompson. “In my class, we talked about the different kinds of productions and the different approaches to creating sets, including what sets are supposed to communicate about the characters in shows.”
The Television Academy also runs a prestigious, highly competitive program for college students across the country who compete for eight-week summer internships based in Hollywood. Thompson encourages Islander students to apply as it could be an opportunity to launch their careers.
“One of the challenges of teaching media students here is bridging the distance between their lives in Texas with what can seem like the distant land of the media industries. I hope that my experience will help me better communicate with my students about how they can pursue their own careers in television, not just locally, but on a national and even international stage,” concluded Thompson. “I believe that TV doesn’t just entertain; it impacts how we make sense of the world.”