Stephens graduates are finding success in the world of television, both in front of and behind the camera.
Alex Rodriguez, a 2011 theater graduate, has been involved in all capacities: producing, directing, acting and photography in the TV and film industry since moving to Los Angeles.
Rodriguez recently made an appearance on the hit show NCIS. Rodriguez commented on the importance of networking, being able to communicate and being nice.
“People want to surround themselves with outgoing, upbeat people. Film sets tend to be long hours. People want enjoyable crews and actors on that set where you won’t wrap until 5 AM,” he said.
Rodriguez credits Stephens for his continued success. “I have daily reminders that going to Stephens was a great thing for me. I learned how to not only be a better artist, but to be a better person,” he said.
Rodriguez says his summers in Okoboji, IA with the theatre department were especially important to his development. “There is not going to be a better experience than Boji at a college level,” said Rodriguez. “I feel like after 2 years of being in Iowa, I can still conquer whatever any director or producer throws at me.”
Stephens didn’t leave him with total knowledge, however. “If someone ever asked me to give a workshop on something that the students never got when I was at Stephens, I would touch on how to officially start a legal theatre company and how to network,” Rodriguez said. “I know a lot of people who move out here and become hermits. The goal is not to move, the goal is to work.”
Rodriguez emphasized the importance of looking at film and TV as a business, especially from an actor’s point of view, quoting professor Dan Schultz, “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man!”
Rodriguez also has his own comedy group, directs shorts for other groups and spends time supporting other people’s projects.
Alumnae are also finding success behind the scenes. Rodriguez’s classmate, Caitlin Zimmer, also a graduate of ’11, is working successfully as a production assistant in Los Angeles.
Zimmer started in reality TV, working on the production team of “The Biggest Loser.”
“I got a call from my grandma two weeks before I graduated from Stephens and she told me that she thinks she got me a job working on “The Biggest Loser,” Zimmer said. “I changed all of my plans and moved out to LA… I’ve been here for over a year and I’ve been extremely fortunate that I’ve been working almost constantly.”
Zimmer is now working in Live Events for E! Entertainment. She is knee deep in awards season, focusing on the Golden Globes, SAGs, Grammys and the Academy Awards. She is working with 8 other production assistants. “We all rotate jobs, so for each show we do something different that way we learn new things,” Zimmer said. “I’ve created the cue cards and the research cards for Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic to use when they’re interviewing celebrities on the red carpet, I’ve created the deko files,” which are the name files that pop up in the corner of the screen to identify celebrities on the red carpet, “ and sometimes I have to find footage from past award shows and premieres to use for our show.”
Zimmer has met many famous faces and says Seacrest is definitely the nicest. “I’ve seen everyone from the Modern Family cast to Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann to Lena Dunham, Glenn Close and Jimmy Fallon.” Zimmer looks forward to working the 55th Annual Grammy Awards premiering Feb. 10.
In the future, Zimmer hopes to go into producing. She is unsure if that will take shape in film or TV. “I haven’t worked in film yet, so I don’t know which one I’ll like more. And my plans may or may not change as well. A year ago, I wanted to do casting,” she said.
After the Academy Awards take place at the end of the month, Zimmer will be filming a new show with Bear Grylls in New Zealand, and looks forward to traveling there for a month. “I always freak out as a show is about to end because I have to look for the next job, but life has a funny way of working everything out,” Zimmer said.
Some of our less recent graduates have also been making big steps in the television
world. On January 23, Stephens theatre alum Stephanie Bischoff, who graduated in 2002, made her debut appearance on the hit series “Modern Family” as Sofia Vergara’s sister.
“It was a pretty good episode. Stephanie’s character added a lot, and it was really cool to see someone on one of my favorite shows and know that she went to Stephens. It’s exciting,” Leslie Hudson, a senior theater major and “Modern Family” fan said.
From behind the scenes to on the screen, Stephens alumnae are taking the industry by storm. Whether it is a potential recurring role on a hit show like Bischoff, the beginnings of a promising career on screen like Rodriguez, or the budding career of a soon to be successful producer like Zimmer, Stephens graduates have the tools to succeed in show business.