Carnegie Mellon University

Good in a Room

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A Top Hollywood Exec's Advice

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Take it from Stephanie Palmer (A '97), former MGM studio exec and Carnegie Mellon alum: if you want to succeed in Tinseltown — or in any industry, for that matter — you've got to be "good in a room."

A Hollywood term, "good in a room" refers to creative people who excel at pitching their ideas in high-stakes meetings.  It's also the title of Palmer's new book, which is devoted to helping creative and corporate professionals alike.

"The techniques used to sell ideas in Hollywood not only work in other industries, they often work better," said Palmer, who now coaches business leaders, senior executives and established creative professionals on how to get their ideas the attention and financing they deserve.

Palmer's tips range from the simple not-talking-business-too-soon to the trickier how-to-proceed-after-your-pitch-has-been-interrupted-by-an-earthquake. (Yes, that actually happened during one of Palmer's meetings.)

She says identifying the buyer's top priority is key; and good sellers will be adept at both coaxing it to the surface and convincing the buyer they can meet the need.

Palmer credits Carnegie Mellon as being crucial to her success. After arriving in Hollywood, she asked for advice from fellow alums at each stage in her career — and alums have asked for advice from her.

"I feel so grateful for the people who have helped me and who help each other to navigate this wild business," she said. "I feel very connected to campus in a way that I know my friends who attended other schools just don't."

Carnegie Mellon's collaborative environment and focus on team projects helped her understand how to work with other people in a positive way that improves everyone's performance.

"By the time I got to Hollywood, I knew how to identify good material, develop it to make it great, and encourage my colleagues to do their best work."

During her tenure at MGM, she acquired screenplays, books, articles and pitches, and she supervised their development. Some of her projects included Legally Blonde, Sleepover, A Guy Thing, Good Boy, Agent Cody Banks and Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London.

Prior to MGM, she worked in development at Jerry Bruckheimer Films on Con Air, Armageddon and Enemy of the State. Her first job in the film business was as an unpaid intern on the Academy Award-winning Titanic.

Palmer has been featured on NBC's Today, CBS's Early Show, National Public Radio and in the Los Angeles Times.

Related Links: Watch Video  |  Good in a Room  |  College of Fine Arts