Taking his shot: Simu Liu, HBA’11, brings entrepreneur skills to Hollywood

By Angie Wiseman   

Becoming an actor on a popular new Canadian TV show or a stunt double on a Fall Out Boy music video was not at all on Simu Liu’s radar when he was working as an accountant in Toronto. Until he was laid off – and his world opened up.

“I remember feeling oddly free in that moment. I was without a job, but I thought I can do whatever I want. This is my one chance to really just try something. I owe it to myself to really give it a shot,” said Liu, HBA’11.

This past year, Liu’s acting career has gained momentum, with the success of his roles on CBC’s Kim’s Convenience and NBC’s Taken. Despite his respect for Toronto’s strong film industry, his ultimate goal is to move to Hollywood. On a recent trip there, he met with agents and casting directors in Los Angeles, including doctor-turned actor Ken Jeong (best known for his role in The Hangover) about a possible buddy cop movie that Liu hopes to write.

“I started talking to him (Jeong) on Twitter. When I got to L.A., he said come by the set and we can hang out more. So I ended up spending a lot of time with him. His advice was that you can’t wait. I joked that we should do a buddy cop movie for both of us and he said, ‘If you write it, I’ll be in it,” Liu said.

While there is no formal training to show actors how to network, Liu credits his networking and soft skills courses at Ivey Business School with giving him the tools he needed to push forward in his career and not be afraid to reach out.

“The hard part is to think of it (your career) as a start-up and think of yourself as an entrepreneur rather than an artist that waits for the phone to ring for opportunities,” he said.

“I spent so many years struggling as an actor. Then suddenly, I’m in demand. The only thing actors want to do is work. It was amazing – tiring, brutal and amazing,” he said of his recent schedule shooting two television shows at once.

In a long list of acting credentials Liu also includes stunt man, writer, director and producer – all skills that round out his already full resume.

Following his layoff from his accounting firm, Liu started out by looking at TV and film opportunities on Craigslist. In amongst some of the more unsavory ads was a posting for the movie Pacific Rim by director Guillermo del Toro. The movie was being shot in Toronto and they were looking for extras. The role paid just $10 dollars an hour, but it was the stepping stone Liu needed to start his acting career. As soon as he arrived on set he knew he was home.

“I ended up falling in love with everything I saw. People have careers devoted to the movies. It wasn’t just the actors – the assistant director, the gaffers working the lights – it was everything. It was such a big production.”

While Ivey attracted him to Western, Liu credits one of his first experiences as a frosh with giving him his first taste of fame and one he would reflect on often as he launched his acting career.

“The three sciences do O-Week together. So they had this big talent show where each of the sciences would audition one champion. Then on the final night of O-Week, they compete against each other on stage – and I won,” he said.

Liu used his dance, gymnastics and martial arts skills to put his routine together, all skills he would later draw on to expand his acting offerings.

“I had a very interesting first few months because everyone knew who I was,” he laughed.

While Liu majored in accounting, he was always involved in extracurricular activities that fed his interests and would later act as experience as he built his resume for acting.

“I loved that I could find a group of people that were passionate about the same things as me and when I did graduate and found myself laid off a few months later, it was really great to have those other skills,” he said.

Although he didn’t always recognize acting as his future career, when Liu thinks back to the first spark of interest in acting, he harkens back to his childhood when his parents dropped him off at the movie theatre for the day. “I don’t think I even entertained the thought of bringing that up to them. I was raised by movies, musicals and TV shows. And I loved all of it. Of course, it’s totally natural that I would want to go into that eventually,” Liu said.

Despite his passion for the craft, growing up, Liu didn’t feel comfortable broaching the subject of acting with his parents, Chinese-born immigrants determined to provide the best life for their family in Canada.

“I never really gave myself permission to fully pursue it. For me, my parents, above all else, wanted stability because their life, coming from a different country, had been anything but stable,” he said.

Liu’s drive, determination and his ritual of checking Craigslist every morning enabled him to build his resume and gain experience. Some days he was paid as an extra on a movie or a TV show and some days he worked for free in a music video.

“Looking back through it all, at no point did I say, ‘I’m going to give up or call it quits.’ I was still convinced this was something I loved enough to keep going. It’s not just about getting a degree and conforming to someone else’s idea of success,” he said. “You need to be honest with yourself about what your interests are because if you do have something that you are truly passionate about but don’t pursue then you run the risk of waking up one day and realizing that you don’t actually like your life. Take the time and know yourself.”

This article appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Western University’s Alumni Gazette. Reprinted with permission.

Broadcasting All-Star Lands Sports Fan’s Dream Job

By Kyle Rooks

Photo credit: Agnata Lesnik,Fanshawe College

Photo credit: Agnata Lesnik,Fanshawe College

In 2012, Caroline Cameron graduated from Fanshawe’s Broadcast Journalism program on a Friday and started her career at Sportsnet in Toronto the following Monday. It was the start of a meteoric rise that saw her spend two years in Vancouver hosting Sportsnet’s national morning
show and, in 2014, be recognized with a Fanshawe Distinguished Alumni Award. In April 2016, she returned to her hometown (Toronto) to co-anchor the late night/early morning version of Sportsnet Central.

What does your job entail?

On a typical day, I arrive for work at 8:30 p.m., check in with my producer and discuss the show’s rundown alongside my co-anchor. I write my scripts, keep my eye on as many games as possible, spend some time in makeup and wardrobe and prepare to go live at 1 a.m. On a busy night, we do a post-game show out of a live event which is always fun! It keeps me on my toes! I do all my prep at home during the day. That consists of watching TV (tough life, I know), and doing a lot of reading.

What's the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is I get to sit and watch sports for a living! It’s really fun working with other sports fans. We watch the games justike one would at home, or out with friends. We cheer, debate and laugh along the way. The only difference is we’re doing it for work. It’s pretty cool!

 Is it safe to say this is your dream job?

 Absolutely! If you had told 13-year-old me, that this is what I’d be doing, I wouldn’t have believed you. I first set my sights on being a sports broadcaster early in high school. I loved playing and watching all kinds of sports, but I also grew up in a family that consumed news; putting the two together seemed like the perfect match. Now that I’ve gotten to where I am, I can’t help but think: what’s next? But your guess is as good as mine. We don’t know what TV will look like in 5 – 10 years, just like we didn’t know what it would look like 5 – 10 years ago. I’m just along for the ride!

What's your favourite sport?

Despite having two older brothers, I was the jock of the family growing up. As the little sister, I was always trying to catch up with them – whether it was playing catch in the backyard, kicking a ball around, or shooting hoops on the driveway. I played basketball and softball in high school, but, the sport I gravitated to the most was tennis. From a young age I played with my Dad. At 15, I volunteered to be a ball kid during the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Being on the court with some of the greatest players in the world grew my love of the game even more. I’ve met some of my best friends through the sport and still play a couple times a week.

What's been the highlight of your career so far?

Tough to say. I consider a highlight to be any moment I catch myself thinking “the little kid in me would be freaking out if she knew what’s happening right now!” I remember the first time I was in the Toronto Blue Jays dugout at the Rogers Centre - that was pretty surreal. Most recently, covering Milos Raonic’s run to the finals of the 2016 Wimbledon Championships, was a huge honour. As a fan of the sport, it was incredible to see him beat Roger Federer in the semi-finals. It was a great feeling to know that I was covering an important moment in Canadian sports history. Iwanted to do the story justice.

How did Fanshawe prepare you for your career?

 By the time I graduated, I already had the structure and skills to move forward. I knew how to speak to people, conduct interviews and craft a story. When I arrived for my first day at Sportsnet, as a deer caught in headlights – I quickly settled down because the surroundings and what was expected of me didn’t seem foreign. To this day, when I write scripts for the show, I still think back to the writing rules and lessons I learned from Jim Van Horne and other faculty at Fanshawe.

Reprinted with permission from Fanshawe College Alumni News. All rights reserved. 

Unlocking the appeal of the escape room

By Tracy Robinson

Shawn Nagy, BA’14 (Psychology, Western University), and Emily Lyons, owners of Escape Canada on York Street, are working with Ivey Business School professor Ann Frost to use the facility for executive team building.

Adela Talbot, Western News

Adela Talbot, Western News

The teamwork required to work yourself through an ‘escape room’ is providing an alumnus with a growing business opportunity and a professor with a powerful training tool.

“Most people just want to come and have fun and they are buzzing when they leave,” said Shawn Nagy, BA’14 (Psychology), who along with Emily Lyons own Escape Canada on York Street. “But when I talk to teams about how they solved problems, it always comes down to someone on the team having a skill that others didn’t.”

Escape rooms are a physical adventure game where players are ‘locked’ in a room and must use elements in the room to solve a series of puzzles and ‘escape’ within a set time. For more than a decade, escape rooms have grown in popularity with players.

Nagy called escape rooms “a sensory experience of a perceived crisis” best solved with the combined skills of the people who are with you. Every escape room tells a story, an important part of the progress through the room and the enjoyment of solving puzzles.

Teamwork is essential, he stressed.

At Escape Canada, participants are given one hour to get through the storyline. There are generally 10-12 puzzles in a room and two-to-four steps in each puzzle. Solving puzzles can unlock doors, give you new puzzles and sometimes trigger surprise plot twists. Progress is monitored by game marshals via closed-circuit television and you are allowed to ask clues when you are stuck. Asking for clues may get you through the puzzle quicker, but the satisfaction of solving the puzzles usually means that you limit the number of clues that you request.

For inspiration, there is a leader board with time records for each room in the Escape Canada lobby.

“In an age where so much of our entertainment is experienced with our eyes only via screens, the appeal of an escape room comes from the immersive experience,” said Keegan Guidolin, a third-year Medical student, who along with his team holds time records at several escape rooms in London and Toronto.

“Not only are you completely surrounded by the puzzle (a part of the puzzle itself), you have to physically interact with the puzzle. You have to touch it, crawl through it, inspect it, listen to it and in at least one case, taste it. Escape rooms engage all of our senses and couple an immersive experience with challenging puzzles, teamwork and a sense of urgency to give you the rush of adrenaline only experienced with time running out.”

Keegan said teamwork is essential and that high-performance teams have members with diverse skill sets. “These teams understand the importance of humility and that there’s no shame in asking for help from a teammate,” he continued. “Good teams also have good communication and are able to understand the problem facing them and what solution they’re looking for.”

How teams solve problems is also an interest of Ivey Business School professor Ann Frost. She is currently using Escape Canada for executive team building.

“What seems to help are those people who are willing to verbalize. That sounds weird, but if people just start a running commentary on what they are observing they do better,” she explained. “They aren’t necessarily solving a problem, but if members of the team are verbal, it may be at exactly the moment someone with another problem needs what they have.”

Nagy is pleased to be a part of the collaboration with Ivey and believes teams can learn a lot about themselves from the rooms.

This maximizing of skills within a team is what makes escape rooms such good team-building experiences. Facilitated de-briefing is available for corporate groups to translate the escape room back to the work environment.

“In executive teams, they make connections to other people they didn’t have before and maybe they look at problems in more novel ways and not just from one perspective,” Frost said.

Nagy creates all the puzzles with help from Lyons and then constructs the rooms. To stay a step ahead of the gamers, a new room is installed about every six months. “Crafting the puzzles is my favourite part – but it’s not easy. Construction phases are intense. Sometimes, I will be standing in the shower and suddenly I’m calling to Emily to get me a pen because an idea just came to me.”

The London natives first got the idea for the escape room after visiting a room when they were travelling in Budapest. Building on their success in London, the pair will open another Escape Canada in Hamilton, in the coming months.

Reprinted with permission from Western News.

Media Maven, Aicha Cisse

By Abigayle Walker, WorkStory Ambassador at University of Ottawa


Aicha Cisse is the Web Editor of MSN Canada, in charge of the Entertainment and Sports pages. Aicha is also responsible for the marketing of the Microsoft online store on MSN. She decides which Microsoft electronics or merchandise the site will promote and how it will be promoted. She likens her job to that of an Editor of an online magazine.

On a regular day, Aicha prioritizes any advertising campaigns that are running on the site. She works directly with advertisers on campaigns in order to generate a certain amount of clicks. If a campaign isn’t running, she focusses on keeping the site up to date with content, especially for the Entertainment and Sports pages. She sorts through the latest news stories from content providers like TMZ, Vanity Fair, and Vogue feeds and decides which source and content to feature on the site.

At Concordia University, Aicha originally majored in Biology. She soon discovered that the sciences were not the best fit for her; so she decided to seek assistance from her university’s career centre. The councillor gave Aicha a personality test, which revealed that she was well-suited to a career in Communications.  With this information in hand, Aicha transferred into the Communications program at Concordia University. After her program change, she found her passion for media and journalism. Beginning to work in newsrooms, Aicha learned that her niches were magazines and television.

Aicha started out as a writer for a start-up magazine, in the entertainment and lifestyle section. There she was able to build her portfolio and gain experience in the field. Due to the harsh competitive market, the magazine folded after the publication’s first issue. Being the go-getter that she is, Aicha pushed forward and found an internship at the CTV as a reporter for E-talk. Since this internship was unpaid, she searched online for work and stumbled across a positing for a Community Manager at Yahoo Canada.  Her responsibilities for this job were to moderate, screen spam comments, and to report abusive language that she found on the Yahoo Answer website. She developed an interest in further responsibilities whilst she was learning from her senior management team at Yahoo.  As people eventually left the company, Aicha was able to apply for an opening as a News Editor. From here, she gained a deeper interest in online news, social media, and  new technology.  She eventually got laid off from Yahoo, but through her strong networking abilities and experience in the flied, Aicha was soon hired at her position at Microsoft.

Aicha stresses that the industry she is in is extremely competitive. Her advice?  Work hard and hustle.  Be persistent. Develop impeccable writing and communication skills.  And above all else, know how to sell yourself! 

Coordinating Christmas: Craig McRae’s Story

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Craig McRae plays many roles in life. He is a husband, father, musician, and a Master of Ceremonies for many of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life events. He is also the owner and operator of an ATM company. On top of this, he runs Canada’s largest vocal competition and perhaps most notably, Craig describes himself as Santa and Mrs. Claus’s “tallest elf”.

Craig became one of Santa’s many helpers by following in his father’s footsteps as the Band Coordinator for “the world’s largest and longest running children's parade”— the Toronto Santa Claus Parade.  This year is the 111th anniversary of the magical event and Craig is very proud to have been a part of it for most of his life:

“I have worked the parade since I was about 10 years old.  I used to help my Dad, George McRae, with his bands. He is a retired High School Music Teacher from Malvern Collegiate Institute. He always had his band in the parade, and I was a band helper! My father was involved with the parade for 60 years, and when he retired from teaching, he became the parade's band coordinator, a position that had not existed before, but the [organizers] realized that music was a very important part of the parade! I was always his right hand man, and when he retired after 60 years, I took over that position! (One funny note -- I've never actually seen the parade as a spectator --I've always worked it, and enjoyed doing so.)”

“I look after all aspects of music within the parade. This involves scouting and hiring all the bands (usually between 20-28 bands) and organizing them within the parade, with months of planning on a huge, well-scripted parade lineup. I try to set certain bands up within certain sections of the parade, to try to match up colour, style, and size with whatever else might be contained within that certain section. It is a ton of work, and it does take all year, but in the last 2 months [prior to the parade] things really heat up!”

In total, Craig is in charge of approximately 2500-3000 musicians, with some coming as far away as Ohio! In the past, bands have also travelled from Kentucky, Georgia, Texas and California to participate with many Canadian bands along the parade route.

Something that people might be surprised to learn about the spectacle according to Craig is that they “literally start prepping for the following year's parade the moment the parade ends.” So everyone involved has to think about Christmas year round. They also collect data from every aspect of the procession in order to continue its successful run.

“We track all bands/times/people/weather/events that happened during the parade, and start to see what worked, what didn't work … and what we should do to improve next year! Then we start to look at what bands to re-hire for next year, and then spend the next year fielding calls from bands all across North America. Usually anywhere from 40-70 bands contact me to see who should be in the next year's parade!”

The Toronto Santa Claus Parade is well known for its hugely creative floats: “All the floats are re-created and recycled each year,” says Craig, “but the one that is the oldest and my favourite, is the Mother Goose float; many years it's been a Canadian goose – but it's just elegant and beautiful.”

And what’s a Santa Claus Parade without Santa? Over the years, Craig has become good friends with Santa and his wife, but admits that he probably didn’t make “the nice list” this year, even though he has a special connection…

“The fact that I get to visit the North Pole on a regular basis and meet with Santa and Mrs. Claus is the most exciting thing of all - I've known them for a long time, and they trust me, which I appreciate…. The two of them are really so nice, and it's a pleasure to be able to know them so closely.” In addition to working with the famous couple, Craig’s favourite part about working at the Santa Claus Parade is seeing all of the hard work come to fruition each year:

 “Once the parade starts moving, [it’s an] absolutely beautiful sight, seeing hundreds of thousands of kids and families enjoy such a beautiful thing. It is beyond words, and beyond magical!”

If you’d like to join in on the magic next year, Craig explains how you can help. “The parade is a non-profit, volunteer organization, and we LOVE volunteers! It's been running for well over 100 years and is the world’s largest and longest running children's parade. Anyone that wants to help can contact us here!”

If you are planning to attend the event but haven’t done so before, here is Craig McRae’s advice for watching The Toronto Santa Claus Parade in person:

“Be prepared for a long day! Bring chalk for kids to draw on the road, Santa reads all the signs the kids make and dress warmly even if it's warm out; Bring food and mostly, bring smiles and happiness and something to sit on!” Click here to visit the parade’s official website for more information.

You can also watch the parade from home on your TV, computer or mobile device on Sunday, Nov. 15 at 4:30 ET/PT on CTV, and 5:30 p.m. AT on CTV Atlantic, and on CTV GO. The parade will also be available to watch online after its initial broadcast in case you miss it! You can even tweet to Santa if you’d like, @TOSanta

Big Screen Brothers

By Janis Wallace

Hollywood has plenty of examples of successful brothers – Joel and Ethan Coen, Beau and Jeff Bridges, heck, there’s even four Baldwin brothers. Now, Western can add two of its own to that list – Wayne and Scott Lemmer.

“When we were kids, there was no indication we would both end up in film,” Scott said. “Working in the entertainment industry was always sort of a fantasy with no tangible path of getting there. It was certainly nothing I thought would happen to us so quickly.”

However, that is exactly where they landed.

Today, Scott, BA’01 (Visual Arts), is an animator who has worked for Dreamworks, Disney and Pixar. He counts among his credits a shelf full of parent must-haves including Rio, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Turbo, The Croods and Ice Age: Dawn of Dinosaurs.

Wayne, BMusA’02, is a sound editor and re- recording mixer. His credits include Oscar- winning films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Black Swan, as well as blockbuster fare like Transformers, X-Men: First Class, Monsters vs. Aliens and Kick-Ass 2.

The Ilderton, Ont. brothers were raised by parents who supported their creativity, especially their mom, Dawn, an elementary school music teacher and gifted musician.

“They encouraged us to play music, draw, paint and build stuff out of whatever was around the house,” Scott said. “I also really enjoyed the magic of cartoons and animation, but I never imagined there were actual jobs creating that stuff.”

 “I think there was little doubt about what I wanted to study in university,” Wayne said. “Music was my biggest passion.”

At Western, Scott enrolled in Computer Science, but switched to Visual Arts in second year.

“I was in a pilot class for animation,” he said. “It was a basic introduction to technique and history and it was super interesting. I took a class in 3D software with a friend and enjoyed it. So, I focused on that during my last year.”

After Western, Scott studied at the Vancouver Film School. His first job took him to Dallas. A series of studios and films followed. He’s been with Dreamworks for more than two years, and lives five minutes from the studio with his wife and toddler twins.

The final year of university was transformative for Wayne, who, until then, thought he would be a performer.

“I took a course in composing digital music,” he said. “I was assigned to go out into the world and record non-musical elements, take them back to the studio and create a musical soundscape. I spent long nights struggling to make something cool and musical. But I loved every second – time just seemed to slip by effortlessly. I think after that I knew I was hooked on working in the studio.”

Wayne attended the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology (OIART) and focused on sound for film. “It just grabbed me. It engulfed my life. It was an exciting new venue for me to create and perform art.”

As a sound editor, Wayne watches the rough cut of the film, making notes on the story and what will need to be recorded. Like his student assignment, he then goes out in the world and records sounds to manipulate in the studio. “Guns and cars are a good example of things that exist in the world,” he explained. “However, giant robots and T-Rex’s do not. That’s where you can really have fun creating something new and interesting.”

 When he switches to re-recording mixer role, he finalizes the soundtrack. “I think it’s best explained as ‘performance art.’ That’s when the dialogue, music and effects all come together on the stage. This is where careful choices are made to enhance the film. You can really focus on the track and work with the director to bring his vision to life.”

As an animator, Scott tracks motion on screen.

“You want to replicate the performance that honours the actors. That is a tough thing,” he said. “It’s like ‘digital puppeteering.’ It’s similar to old 2D, frame-by-frame poses and refining the action. You see the character come to life. It’s surprisingly rewarding, this feeling of completion when you see what you’ve created.”

In the early years of his career, Scott said it was a bit of a novelty. “At first it was cool to see the names (of actors) but after a few times it’s more about the shot. You’re working on making it look good. The animation has to look good, be appealing and move well, and show the acting, meaning and intent of the shot.” For Wayne, the challenge/reward is in telling the story. “There is so much technology, detail and complexity in what we do. Sound is one of many crafts required to make a film. They all should have one goal, and that is to emotionally support the film and help tell its story. A film comes to life when you add sound."

This article appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of Western University’s Alumni Gazette.  Reprinted with permission. 

Rodeo Announcer Keeps Things Interesting

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Joe Scully has worn many hats in his career as an announcer. He is a DJ and has done live commentary for Motorsports and other sporting events. He is also a Race Director, but the hat he is most comfortable in would probably have to be his cowboy hat and his role as a Rodeo Announcer:

“I analyse a performance or competition and find a way to enhance the spectator experience by highlighting storylines as they develop.” Scully says that in most cases, “the competitors are unknown to the general spectator”. So, it is his job to give the crowd a reason to cheer the competitors on “and also [for them] to begin to appreciate the intricacies of what comprises a successful run or ride.”

For Scully, “The ultimate goal is to make this commentary interesting and intriguing for first-time spectators.” He also finds a way to keep things interesting for those who continually come out to rodeos, whether they are participating in, or watching the events.

Joe explains that “the energy” is what he loves most about being a rodeo announcer:

“Through rhythm of commentary and complementary music, one can really bring the energy of the room up and down in anticipation of the action.  It's a challenge to time it right, as there are so many variables, but to be able to enhance a moment and make it a genuine experience, that's a win.  I like to look at the ‘energy’ like how you would drive a race car. You don't redline the whole way around the track, but if timed right, bursts are the difference in finishing at the front, middle or back.  Some of my colleagues will yell for an entire performance, and have hype for every single component – which is ok – but if you want the crowd to stick with you, they can't carry that energy for 3 hours, and neither can the announcer.” Scully warns that announcers can also lose credibility if they give too much “hype” to a participant whose performance is consistently poor.  “So, [you have] to ride the energy and have the right highs and lows. You may be exhausted, but it's exhilarating.”

The path he took may have been “the long path” however it seems to have served Joe well. He was born in the Greater Toronto Area and raised at a roping facility near Guelph, Ontario. He now lives in Grey County but Scully has always been interested in the rodeo environment:

“I was a rodeo competitor and became a rodeo clown in my teens.  I then went to college for Radio Broadcasting, as it was the closest field to being a rodeo clown. [I] eventually got into Radio Sales which took priority over being a rodeo clown.  Soon, I missed the excitement, and then took up announcing as ... another career, and loved the experience.  From there I entered the International Professional Rodeo Association Contract Acts Showcase and won in 2007. [I] then applied for my Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association accreditation and earned it in 2008.” Joe has since worked as an announcer in 13 different states and 4 different provinces.

For anybody interested in this career path, Joe advises aspiring Rodeo Announcers to “get as many gigs as possible, and try something new every time.  I do a lot of junior or high school rodeos, which is my testing ground for sound effects, timing, etc.” In addition, Joe strongly suggests that you “video every second and watch it back. Have the videographer [record] both the action and you, so you can see what you were looking at, and what you missed.  I like ‘eavesdropping’ to hear what people around the camera are talking about.  Often times, it's simple stuff like, ‘her horse's boots match her saddle pad’, which is something that ‘newbies’ relate to. [This] is stuff to highlight to appeal to ‘newbies’.  No performance is the same, learn something or try something every time.”

You can learn more about Joe at www.joescully.com and follow him on Twitter @rodeoannouncer! He follows back and he will also “like” your Facebook page if you like his!


A Dream Job: Natalie Quinlan, News Anchor and News Room Supervisor

University of Guelph-Humber stories don’t end with graduation. The university revels in the success of their past students and was pleased to discover that Natalie Quinlan, a Media Studies graduate had landed her dream job on Canada’s west coast! This is Natalie Quinlan’s post-graduation success story.

Natalie graduated from the UofGH Media Studies program in 2013 with an area of emphasis in Public Relations. After graduation, she completed a post-graduate certificate in Broadcast Journalism - Television News at Fanshawe College. 

In November 2014, Natalie, 24, became the evening news anchor and news room supervisor for CJDC-TV, a division of Bell Media, located in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. The evening news show reaches about 60,000 viewers.

Working for a local station, Natalie finds her role requires her to “wear a lot of hats.” As the evening news anchor, Natalie relays important local, national, and regional news to viewers. This is no small feat – working for a local station, Natalie has to do her own makeup and hair, mic herself up, follow her own cues, and roll her own teleprompter. As the news room supervisor, Natalie manages a team of four reporters and works on her own stories in preparation for the evening news. “It’s a huge time crunch during the day,” says Natalie. “Reporting and shooting and editing everything definitely take the most time.”

Making the six o’clock news show seem effortless requires a considerable amount of energy – and effort. “We’re working so many different roles that we have a ton of responsibility on our plates. So, that’s why it feels like the day feels flies by,” says Natalie. “We are the reporter, videographer, editor, news anchor.” This makes for an invaluable and, more importantly, fun, experience.  “It makes the day so much fun,” Natalie adds. “It gives me a really good appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes.”

Natalie credits much of her drive and inspiration to pursue a career in television broadcasting to her experience at UofGH. Natalie was one of the pioneering students who worked on the very first student-run Emerge Conference at UofGH.

A hands-on learner, Natalie values the Media Studies internship opportunity in her final semester. “I interned at Entertainment Tonight Canada in Toronto and that really opened up my eyes to the possibilities associated with broadcast journalism and the world of television,” explains Natalie. “I always knew I had a passion for it, but I was a little bit scared of pursuing the industry because I’d heard so many horror stories. “ But after the internship, Natalie’s mind was made up: “I knew that it was where I wanted to be.”

In the spring of 2014, Natalie applied to a job posting at a radio station in Alberta. “What scared me more than moving out [there] by myself was not having a job in something I graduated in,” admits Natalie. “That’s why I just jumped on the opportunity right away. I would definitely recommend people to search out for the opportunities instead of just kind of waiting for them to come to them. You really have to go where the opportunities are, sometimes. Sacrifice a little bit, and you might be home in a year. That’s really a blip on the large scale of life.”

It was the right move – without it, we couldn’t have penned this momentous chapter in her career.

With permission of the University of Guelph-Humber

Matt O’Brien: Serious About Comedy

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Matt O’Brien is serious about comedy because that’s his job! He is very passionate about what he does and he loves “everything” about being a stand-up comedian

“I love making strangers laugh, the travelling, hotels, the road food, the hanging out with other comics, the partying, the down time, the constant feeling that I'm very, very lucky to be doing what I'm doing for a living.”

Matt may seem familiar to you, and that could be because of the award-winning comic’s appearances on Video On Trial, Comedy Now, and the prestigious Just For Laughs Festival. You may have also seen him late at night on a subway in Toronto with a video camera because that is where he filmed his own talk show; appropriately titled, “Late Night Talk Show on a Subway”. You can see many of his above mentioned performances on his YouTube channel. Matt can also be found on iTunes. His “Rehash” podcast has been featured in the “New and Noteworthy” category and you can purchase his first comedy album there. Live in a Basement in Front of 20 People reached #1 on the charts in 2014. His awards include: “Best Stand Up” at the L.A. Comedy Festival and “Canada’s Next Top Comic” by Sirius/XM Radio.

O’Brien recalls his time on Much Music’s Video On Trial as an “awesome experience” and says that he really misses it:

“When it was on the air, it really was the launching pad for a lot of comedians and I feel really honoured to have been a part of it. It sucks that it’s cancelled now because I felt it was great for comics [to get] exposure. Also, it was a fun writing exercise, making fun of videos [and] having to come up with pages and pages of jokes.”

The London, Ontario native studied Journalism at Durham College in Oshawa and when asked if this program influenced his comedy and writing style, Matt replied:

“Journalism absolutely influenced me. When I applied to Journalism, I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career. It absolutely led me to doing comedy. I realized I didn’t really like writing about news.... [I] enjoyed more laid-back, fun articles about the best breakfast sandwiches on campus and stupid stuff like that.”

“When I was in journalism one of my professors suggested doing improv or stand up to be more comfortable with crowds and speaking in front of a camera. I tried it and realized I wanted to do stand up more than anything else.”

Matt often returns to London to perform, which for him is a “weird feeling” but it is “still fun” to see his old stomping grounds: “[It’s] funny to think that I’m hired to tell jokes to these people now.”

O’Brien advises that if you are serious about comedy (as a career) then that’s what you should do – take it seriously: 

You really have to make comedy your entire life. It’s fun but there are a lot of ups and mostly downs. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done but because of that, it’s also the most rewarding. If you’re thinking of doing comedy, move to Toronto and go out to open mics every single night of the week.”

“Someone asked me what my hobbies are and I couldn’t really think of anything because I literally go to shows and write all day, every day. I guess that’s the most ideal situation to say ‘my job is my passion and my hobby’.”

Matt O’Brien’s “ideal situation” is now his reality and he is very fortunate to be doing what he loves for a living. His many accomplishments came from “years of hard work, practice and open mics.” Although Matt is a stand up comedian, you can apply his work ethic to any occupation:

“Like any passion, it takes thousands of hours to be good at it, and I have absolutely worked thousands of hours to be good at what I do. Even when it was really tough, I never thought about giving up.  I guess that’s how I knew my job and my passion were the same thing—and I feel very lucky for being able to say that.”

For more information on where and when you can see Matt, you can visit his website and follow him on Twitter.