Photo by Allison Hritz | The Globe
Nick Sarnelli spent summer in Los Angeles for the job
August 29, 2017
Making it big in Hollywood is what most screenwriters would call success. One of the university’s own, senior screenwriting major Nick Sarnelli, took a step closer to that goal this summer as an intern at Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles, CA.
“It was interesting to see what scripts were being sent to the studio and reading through stories to see what might be popular,” Sarnelli said.
Screenplay coverage analysis was a major role Sarnelli filled within the studio. Warner Bros. have their own specific template that works as a checklist for scripts that could be a potential hit. As an intern, Sarnelli learned what makes a script stand out, under a cloud of confidentiality that allows the studio to stay competitive.
Sarnelli’s time at Point Park prepared him for what he wanted to accomplish at the studio.
“I had already taken a story analysis class, so I was able to jump right into more complicated stuff from the beginning,” Sarnelli said. “I think they were pretty impressed with me from the start because they had to teach all of the other interns things that I had already practiced at school.”
Sarnelli said in this industry, connections are everything. During his time in LA, he stayed with his uncle, Jeff Rega, a real estate agent in the area.
“Being in Hollywood, my uncle knew all these guys in the entertainment industry,” Sarnelli said. “He had connections at Pixar that tied me to my eventual boss, Donald de Line.”
Networking has become a valuable tool in any student’s skill set today, according to one of Sarnelli’s professors, Steve Cuden.
“I always tell my students, this industry is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach,” Cuden said. “You must have a burning passion, drive and determination to make it; after that, it is not as much knowledge or talent, which is still important, but it is also who you know.”
Sarnelli said it was encouraging to be in an environment that is charged by the entertainment enterprise.
“Here in Pittsburgh, you sometimes come across this stigma that you can’t get a job in this field,” Sarnelli said. “In LA, you are surrounded by it. Even the higher ups want to help people like me that are just starting out.”
Cuden, who has won multiple awards on Broadway, film and television, said he tries to foster connections between alumni and current students to kick-start careers.
“Ultimately it’s up to you to go out to LA and work hard, but networking is so important,” Cuden said. “Make friends of other students and colleagues to help each other out; it’s great to see one generation helping the next.”
Building a foundation of links with successful people is a crucial part of starting out in any field. Point Park pushes both alumni and students to reach out and learn from each other.
“Anything you can do to just get a foot in the door will help you later on,” Sarnelli said. “It was humbling and eye-opening to be in this constant balance of stress and chill at the studio, people were working so hard, but were surprisingly more relaxed than what I expected.”
Sarnelli, who is known by his friends and professors to have a sideways perspective of the world around him, excelled in this environment. Senior screenwriting major Austin Harvey, who has been friends with Sarnelli since freshman year, said he noticed a change in Sarnelli following his time in LA.
“He matured a lot by doing this internship,” Harvey said. “He got a taste of the professional world of screenwriting and came back with a newfound sense of optimism.”
Sarnelli likes to play by his own rules, according to Harvey.
“If I had to describe Nick in one word, as a person and a writer, I would say that he is weird in a good way,” Harvey said.
Sarnelli said he is impressed by stories that are different, that make you think about the plot well after the movie ended.
“I was never really interested in kids shows when I was little,” Sarnelli said. “I needed something more to grab my attention.”
Sarnelli, bored by the mainstream, took a shot at filming a show himself, with the occasional special guest. “Cool Ways to Drink: Origins,” posted on his Youtube channel, Dominelli Short Films Factory, highlights his unique sense of humor. Episode one opens with a parody of a classic ‘Austin Powers’ scene, following a nude Sarnelli parading through his living room, chugging a water bottle.
TV shows are starting to take the limelight over blockbusters, according to Sarnelli.
“I’ve always loved movies. My favorite is ‘The Exorcist’,” Sarnelli said. “It seems now that TV shows are becoming more popular because there is more time to develop a solid plot and establish characters.”
Spending long hours at Warner Bros. through the summer gave Sarnelli a glimpse into the competitive industry of screenwriting, but he’s ready to see the feature-length picture in his own peculiar perspective.
“I’m already looking into more internship opportunities,” Sarnelli said. “It was really the greatest experience of my life. I can’t wait to get back to LA.”
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