Disney released its Disney+ streaming service this past week, and two UW graduates are the minds behind a fresh new tv series on the streaming service.
“Encore!” is a 12-part show that reunites 12 different high school theater alumni to reproduce their school musicals. UW alumni Jason Cohen and Richard Schwartz created the series after reuniting over, as many do, Badger sports. Wisconsin played Kentucky in the final four, and the pair reconnected over a mutual friend at the game. Here, Cohen and Schwartz came up with the show concept and ran with it.
According to a recent Cap Times article, Cohen and Schwartz filmed an episode in Fish Creek, Wisconsin, citing it as a “homecoming of sorts for the UW grads.”
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Between the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the UW Theatre program and the Communications Arts major, UW trains plenty of students for artistic success. Still, one rather large barrier seems like it’d stand in the way of success.
Madison isn’t anywhere near Hollywood. It’s hard to make it to the big screen from dairy country. Rebecca Louisell, a Minneapolis-bred LA resident and blogger, argues being from the midwest is not only “not an asset,” but inhibits her ability to penetrate the screenwriting field.
“I’m an unknown, without too many connections, certainly none through family or family friends,” Louisell said.
She claimed LA seems to value you based on your IMDb ranking, and her humble midwestern character is extremely foreign to the industry.
Like Louisell, lots of Badgers move out West in search of celebrity status. While some flounder, others have somehow flourished.
UW has graduated a fair amount of A-Listers. From Emmy-award winning actors Joan Cusack and Jerry Bock, to filmmakers Thomas L. Miller and Andrew Bergman, the list is extensive. How do Badgers make it big in show biz?
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UW offers various services to boost a student’s Hollywood track record. In the communication arts department, for example, students have found success through internships. One student raved about getting to hold Sofia Vergara’s dress train on the red carpet as part of her intern duties. The Journalism School also offers similar opportunities for writing and broadcast in major metropolises like LA and NYC. Many of these opportunities lead to permanent jobs after graduation.
In addition, UW alumni constantly return to school to offer advice and networking opportunities. I got the chance to meet Allee Willis in a Journalism School session. She shared her story of growth, and gave advice on how to enter the competitive field of music writing. Another speaker raved about her NYC news station internship and how it led her down an exciting and winding career path in the producing world.
So, it’s not impossible to be a celebrity Badger. It is not easy, and probably isn’t fun for the first few years — but it can happen. Badgers are notoriously hardworking and persistent, making them the perfect candidate to survive the hellish world of Hollywood. With confidence and connections, a Badger can indeed make it out West.