Making it in the entertainment industry

by Cristian Cano | 1/25/17 2:05am

Amelia Acosta ’14 currently works for NBC News in Manhattan, New York. As part of the on-air talent department, her work includes finding, training and developing on-air talent. Since applying to the NBC Page program her senior year of college, she has held a variety of positions, including working on “Saturday Night Live.” Acosta has found working for NBC exciting, especially in the time leading up to the 2016 presidential election. The Dartmouth sat down with Acosta to learn more about her experience within the fields of comedy and entertainment.

What inspired you to work in the television industry?

AA: It was something that I’d always been interested in. I knew that I wanted to work in TV, but I didn’t necessarily know what that meant. I absolutely loved Dartmouth and I loved the education I got there, but it was definitely a liberal arts education. I didn’t know a ton about what opportunities there were in TV. I sort of thought you could be a director, you could be a writer or you could be an actor. In a news organization like NBC, there’s just so much going on. So the NBC Page program was a really great program for me to be able to find out what I was good at and to find out, beyond the generalized nature of television, what would be a good fit for me. I always loved the creative side of things and I’ve always loved news. So with all these very broad interests that people tend to have when they graduate from college, I was able to go into the Page program, adapt and find out what was the best fit for me.

Did your experience at Dartmouth, in any way, affect your decision to apply to the Page program and get into the television business?

AA: Being a reporter in 2012 when we had the Republican presidential debate on campus to working for The Dartmouth’s Mirror and being the Mirror editor and sort of feeling like I had ownership over something like that was so important to me and to my career interest helped — just knowing that I was interested in news and journalism. It was important for me to find a creative outlet for that, which I think the Mirror always provided for me. I was a government major with a creative writing minor, and I think both of those focuses really informed my interests after college. And then, less academically, I heard about the Page program from someone who was in my improv comedy group, and I talked to them at length while I was preparing for my interview for the application process. Everyone always talked about it, but that alumni network, that alumni connection was so, so absolutely essential to me in the actual Page application process. Dartmouth was definitely sort of the big formative factor in me going into the career that I have now.

Once you started, did you find that the Page program was what you had expected? Did you even have an idea of what to expect?

AA: I think it’s one of those things that you just have no idea what to expect until you’re actually there. In the Page program, your default responsibilities are that you’re sort of “an ambassador of 30 Rock[efeller Plaza].” That basically means that you’re giving tours of the building and also guiding the audiences for our shows that are live in 30 Rock. That’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” at the time “The Meredith Vieira Show,” which was a daytime program, and “Saturday Night Live.” In addition to that, throughout your time at the Page program, you’re always applying for specific assignments within the company. Those assignments tend to run three months — some are a little shorter, some are a little longer, but most are about three months. So while I was a Page, I did three different assignments. I did one with USA Network, which is part of our cable group, in their publicity department. I had one assignment with “Morning Joe,” which is a cable program on MSNBC. At the same time, I worked on “Saturday Night Live.” I think they all sort of informed the work that I do now. That’s one of the great things about the Page program — even if things sort of seem different than your most immediate interests, you’re still learning skills and learning about NBC as a company in a way that’s definitely useful down the road.

Did you ever get the opportunity to meet someone famous?

AA: So my assignment for “Saturday Night Live” was as a talent escort. Basically, I would start my day working in seating, and we would be assigned to seat VIPs. So in the course of that, we did run into a lot of famous people. I seated Jonah Hill and Jon Hamm. Aaron Sorkin was a big highlight for me personally because I’m a huge “The West Wing” fan. It’s not the most high profile job, but it was so much fun and so exciting to be part of that world. Now that I work at the news group, the celebrities that I run into are sort of more in the news world, but they’re some people with such a broad variety of expertise that I feel so lucky to be able to encounter them on a semi-regular basis.

One last question. Do you have any advice to current Dartmouth students that you wish you knew when you were a student?

AA: My first big thing is don’t be afraid to reach out to people within the Dartmouth network that are potentially sources of information for you, such as someone who has a job you’re interested in or is in a program that you’re interested in. People will be very happy to share their experiences with you and be helpful as much as they can. For me, when I was applying to the Page program, talking to someone I never was at school with but who had done the Page program and who had gone to Dartmouth — he was a ’10 and I was a ’14 — was just an invaluable resource for me, and I’m really glad that I did reach out to him. I’d also say — this is something that’s been helpful for me professionally ­— keep a list of every hard skill or tangible experience that you have and be able to have those specifics on hand. If you’re interning somewhere and you work on projects X, Y and Z, keep those in a list and be ready to be able to put those in a cover letter, to have those for an interview, to have those on your resume to really have that color and specificity of your past experience. I think specificity is just the name of the game, and it really helps you stand out as a candidate.

Acosta is a former member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff.