JHRTS Los Angeles: Meet the 2014 Co-Presidents
The JHRTS is the junior membership division of the HRTS and continues our organization’s bi-coastal tradition of networking and community building by nurturing those young professionals at the assistant through manager levels. I recently had a chance to interview the two rising stars who are the JHRTS Los Angeles Co-Presidents, Meredith Willis and Katie La Bouff, both are digital natives and both are young leaders in the industry who have very informative and interesting perspectives.
Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment?
-MEREDITH: before attending college just outside of Los Angeles, I was living in London, England, and thought I was destined to become a barrister. After moving to a warmer climate and being just a stone’s throw from the entertainment capital of the world, I started to intern in film, scripted television, and reality television and discovered that my true passion was in producing and storytelling. The people I met, my wonderful mentors and friends, and my lifelong interest in television are what prompted me to go with my gut instinct and work in a field I love. I started in reality, then moved to Kaplan Stahler Agency where I began as assistant to the Head of the Literary Department and ultimately became a junior agent. I then went to FremantleMedia North America’s Scripted Department as Scripted Coordinator, and later moved to the CBS Current Department at both the network and the studio, where I currently work.
-KATIE: I’ve wanted to work in entertainment since I was a kid - I've always been a huge fan of TV, Film, Musicals, and anything pop culture. My parents supported my passion by exposing me to all kinds of movies, whatever was showing at the Pantages, and concerts and on top of that, hauled me around town to piano lessons, choir practice, rehearsals, etc. I majored in History with a Film & TV minor at UCLA while interning in film, first at Participant Media and then at Lionsgate. I started at UTA the fall after graduation and have been working here for the past three years.
Q: What’s a favorite memory/experience from your time in the industry so far?
-MEREDITH: I’ve held positions at an agency, a studio, and a hybrid studio-network, and all of those experiences have been unbelievably rewarding. One opportunity I will never forget was being able to work on How I Met Your Mother, which is one of my favorite comedies of all time. Honestly, working in the Current Department at CBS exposes me to shows and people of fantastic caliber and I feel as though I’m having a new “favorite experience” every other week.
-KATIE: my six weeks in the mailroom at UTA is one of my favorite experiences – that’s where I met some of my best friends, who are now off working at companies all over town. We didn’t exactly love sorting mail, filing, or lugging around packages, but there was definitely a special relationship formed from just being in the trenches together.
Q: How did you first get involved with the JHRTS?
-MEREDITH: I became a member in early 2011 at the encouragement of a co-worker and attended every event I could. I very quickly began to appreciate the amount of exposure and opportunities JHRTS provides for its members, which is what prompted me to apply for the Executive Board. Over the past year, it has been a privilege to work with so many talented people who organize panels featuring some of the biggest Hollywood players, mixers with some of the brightest and best assistants in the biz, and other events.
-KATIE: my colleague at UTA that served on the JHRTS Executive Board introduced me to the program and encouraged me to apply for the board. UTA has been a huge supporter of assistants’ involvement in the JHRTS program for years and continues to open their doors to us for events and our monthly Board meeting. UTA makes it too easy for me to be involved, which I love.
Q: What sorts of activities does the JHRTS undertake?
-MEREDITH: We run the gamut in terms of events and activities provided for our members. We have ongoing philanthropy projects, including our new partnership with the Motion Picture Television Fund’s Channel 22, which has been an incredibly exciting undertaking in the past year. While the Channel 22 collaboration is offered on weekends, throughout the week we provide panels, roundtables and mixers for our membership, and occasionally for non-members as well.
-KATIE: JHRTS hosts various events from Inside Series Panels with shows like JUSTIFIED and PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, to Celebrity Speaker Series with Bill Cosby and James Wolk, to Executive Panels, to Networking Mixers, to the annual Holiday Party. We also co-sponsor panels with companies like The Hollywood Reporter for special events like the 35-Under-35 Panel. For a little balance, we provide our members with volunteer opportunities for great organizations like MPTF's Channel 22 and Heal the Bay.
Q: How are things coming along with the Los Angeles group?
-MEREDITH: brilliantly! In July alone we hosted a mixer at San Diego Comic-Con, offered a panel of fantastic young executives who gave their honest advice about how to succeed in the workplace, had another panel addressing the business of international television, and co-hosted a mixer with graduating UCLA film students. Last year, we had a fantastic Executive Board that set the bar fairly high for us in terms of quality and frequency of events. We look forward to setting that bar even higher.
-KATIE: things are great! We kicked off the 2014-2015 year with the annual Comic-Con mixer followed by a panel featuring young executives, who had plenty of practical advice for our members. The board will continue those member favorite series (like the ones I mentioned above) and will introduce new events as well. We also hope to expand our social media presence, increase our college outreach program, bridge the gap between JHRTS LA / NY chapters, find new partners to co-sponsor events with, and offer new volunteer opportunities to our members.
Q: As digital natives, how do you see the next 5-10 years of the industry?
-MEREDITH: I believe that as long as the content is solid, programs will be watched. The medium through which people prefer to watch storytelling is subjective, but good storytelling itself is more objectively valued. I think we may see more focus on digital platforms as we move down the line, but the digital advent doesn’t necessarily imply the death of traditional viewing. In fact, quite the opposite: with a growing variety of platforms emerging, there is more opportunity to showcase creative content, which I believe challenges already established outlets to think bigger, brighter and bolder in order to compete. All these options make it a great time to be a television viewer.
-KATIE: there will always be a demand for creative content and good storytelling, it is the way content is distributed and consumed that is constantly changing. Though I can’t say exactly what the industry looks like ten years down the road, I think we will continue to see new services that provide us with the choice to watch what we want, where we want, and when we want to. With these endless options, we’ll continue to see a demand for high-quality content at an affordable price.
Q: Are the viewing habits of today’s kids and teens really that different than Gen-Xers or Boomers?
-MEREDITH: I feel that binge watching is becoming more of a widespread phenomenon, especially given certain shows are offering themselves up a full season at a time, like Orange Is The New Black. Television is everywhere now – on our televisions, phones, computers – and I feel that the generation that grew up with instant gratification is more prone to consume content more immediately and all at once. That’s not to say that Boomers and Gen-Xers aren’t hopping on the bandwagon: my Boomer father patiently waits every week for a new Blue Bloods episode, but he binge-watched Breaking Bad.
-KATIE: my parents, grandparents, younger cousins, and friends all consume on multiple screens now – on TV through traditional cable providers, streaming on computers/laptops, iProducts, etc. The Gen-Xers and Boomers are adapting with the new technologies, and though they may not be on Vine or know what SnapChat is, they are consuming traditional television content in the same ways as teens, on multiple platforms.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
-MEREDITH: I was thrilled to be paired with my good friend Katie La Bouff as Co-Presidents. I am incredibly excited for the year to come because we are working with an extremely motivated and well-connected group of people. HRTS has been very supportive of all our efforts and Katie and I both look forward to working with them for the rest of the year.
-KATIE: I couldn't have asked for a better Co-President than Meredith; we're a good team and we were lucky enough to get an insanely talented and hardworking Executive Board who are already cooking up great events for this year.