Ryerson University: undergraduate experience

Boot camp takes Ryerson undergrads to “world headquarters of TV”

Ryerson University School of Radio and Television Arts in L.A. program demystifies the Hollywood scene for the next generation of Canadian media-makers.

Undergraduates at the Ryerson University School of Radio and Television Arts are benefitting from an introduction to the business of film and television their professors only wish they could have had: a two-week TV-industry boot camp in Los Angeles.

Organized in collaboration with UCLA, ‘RTA in L.A.’ features lectures, workshops, Q&A sessions, pitches and social events that connect students with seasoned Hollywood insiders including producers and directors. Testament to the once-in-a-lifetime nature of the experience, the Radio and Television Arts faculty received 80 applications for the 30 available spots in 2012.

Giving Canadian creators a competitive edge

“These students get an exposure to the Hollywood industry that my peers and I had to gain over five or six trips to L.A. when we were starting out,” explains Charles Falzon, chair of the Ryerson Radio and Television Arts’s School of Media and a television producer. “L.A. is still the world headquarters of TV production, and if you’re not in tune with what’s happening there, you’re probably missing out in your ability to compete.”

Fourth-year student Wil Noack, who participated in the 2012 ‘RTA in L.A.’, said the direct access to industry insiders was invaluable. Special guests have included Joel Surnow, the producer behind TV’s 24, and Ryerson alumnus Arthur Smith, producer of Hell’s Kitchen. About 40 percent of in-class time was spent in open sessions, giving students the chance to pick the brains of these big names in the entertainment business.

According to Mr. Noack, “The Q&As are the best part, as well as the meet-and-greets. They give us the chance to practice what we’re taught—about putting yourself out there and standing up for yourself.” He added that students gained valuable insight from the simulated writers’ rooms, which immersed them in the ways things work behind the scenes of Hollywood TV series.

Going to Hollywood with confidence

“The faculty at UCLA tell us over and over again how impressed they are with our students—their ability to pitch concepts and programs and to relate to industry professionals,” said Mr. Falzon. “We prepare them well for this experience, and this experience prepares them well for careers in the industry.”

Mr. Noack says ‘RTA in L.A.’ will have been a benefit no matter where his career takes him. “This was one of the most enriching experiences I’ll ever have. What I learned I can apply to any project.”

Mr. Falzon concludes that one of the main benefits of ‘RTA in L.A.’ is the way it demystifies Hollywood for undergrads.

“It’s also a chance for them to get used to Los Angeles and see what the marketplace is really like,” says Mr. Falzon. “Students in this country think about it as something bigger than it is. We want to show them they can compete there, or anywhere.”

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