Santa Clara alum brings finance skills to the world of film
THE SANTA CLARA
February 2, 2017
When Caroline Robinson (‘08) began her career as an undergraduate at Santa Clara, she reasoned that getting a Business degree would be a solid foundation for any future job. And for a while, she thought her career path was set.
The summer after her junior year, she interned for Smith Barney, now under the name Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.
“It was not a great experience. I saw firsthand the high pressure of the work environment of investment banking and realized it was not for me,” Robinson said.
Fortunately, in her last quarter as an undergraduate, Robinson discovered the “Business of Entertainment Alumni Panel.” The event featured Santa Clara graduates working in the entertainment industry including production accountants, video game product managers and production executives.
“I remember freaking out, because I thought ‘I could do that!’” Robinson said.
The prospect of combining her business degree with the film industry allured her. A lifelong movie lover, she didn’t even know a job in show business was possible for someone studying Finance.
“I didn’t think there was a way for me to make a career in film,” Robinson said. “As a kid, I would watch everything and memorize all the dialogue. I was also fortunate enough to be a child actor, so I got to be on set and see first-hand the filmmaking process. I took acting classes at A.C.T. Young Conservatory in San Francisco and acted in the plays at my high school—Saint Ignatius College Preparatory.”
After hearing from professionals in the business side of the entertainment industry, she was sure she wanted to follow a similar career path.
“There was one alumna on the panel who said, ‘As long as there is show business, there will always be business.’ That always stuck with me,” she said.
Spurred to action, Robinson contacted Michael Whalen of the Communication department to find out if there were similar events to the panel in the near future. The film professor heads the SCU Entertainment Industry Group, which connects undergraduates to opportunities like internships and networking events.
Whalen informed her that he was organizing a week long shadowing program with alumni in Los Angeles.
Yet, unfortunately due to a large interest in the program, it was only limited to communication majors.
“I was devastated but persistent,” Robinson said. As she explained, she wrote the professor a lengthy note detailing her interest and qualifications. She followed up every couple of days, asking for updates.
Fortunately for her, someone cancelled a week before the trip and Professor Whalen gave her the spot.
“I guess it was meant to be, because it changed the course of my life,” she said.
During the trip to Los Angeles, Robinson and the other students visited DreamWorks Animation, the studio responsible for hits such as “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda.” There, she learned about DreamWorks’ campus in Redwood City— and she immediately knew where she wanted to work.
Robinson applied for every entry level role on the website ranging from production assistant to mail delivery. After interviewing for five positions, she earned the job of executive assistant. Her end goal was to work in production and after a year and a half on the job, she began shadowing production meetings and taking training classes from the department.
When her dream job opened up, production coordinator in the design and assets department, she studied everything she could about production and was given the job after three interviews. She spent seven years total at DreamWorks, working her way up until she reached the role of production supervisor.
Currently, she works at Lucasfilm where she’s an associate producer for the “Star Wars Rebels” series, a critically-acclaimed animated show in the “Star Wars” franchise that takes place in between “Episodes III” and “IV.” Her daily job blends business and creativity, since she ensures the production remains on schedule and within budget.
“On every production, there are two groups of people: the creatives, the artists responsible for everything you see and hear on screen, and the production staff, who help facilitate the creative process behind-the-scenes. As associate producer, I manage the production staff and work hand in hand with the creatives to make ‘Star Wars Rebels,’” she said.
While she’s primarily based in the Bay Area, Robinson’s job has taken her overseas to destinations such as Taiwan and Vietnam. She has also had the chance to work with actors such as Freddie Prinze Jr. (a series regular), Forest Whitaker and “Star Wars” legend James Earl Jones. She’s even worked with Clancy Brown, the voice of Mr. Krabs on the beloved children’s series “Spongebob Squarepants.”
Had she ignored opportunities outside of typical finance careers or let a lack of experience in communications stop her from finding a job in the industry, she might have chosen a job that doesn’t reflect her passion for film.
“I love working on ‘Star Wars Rebels’ and I go to the studio every day with a smile on my face,” Robinson said. “From the quality of our storytelling to our incredible team that I consider family, I couldn’t be prouder to work on this project.”
Contact Lindsay Tenes at ltenes@ scu.edu or call (408) 554-4852.