Carnegie Mellon University
March 11, 2019

MEIM Students Experience SXSW With a Little Help From Some Friends

By Pam Wigley

Pam Wigley
  • College of Fine Arts
  • 412-268-1047
Jason Maderer
  • Marketing and Communications
  • 412-268-1151

Twenty-five students in Carnegie Mellon University's Master of Entertainment Industry Management (MEIM) Program are taking part in South by Southwest Film, Interactive and Music Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, March 7-17, to learn about career options from peers, MEIM alumni, faculty, staff and industry professionals. MEIM is a joint degree program through CMU's Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy and the College of Fine Arts.

Program Director Dan Green said the annual trek for first-year students to SXSW is always a highlight.

"This is a continuation of what they learn in the classroom," he said. "The exposure to others in the entertainment industry, as well as gathering with MEIM alumni, really helps our students gain a sense of where their careers may go."

First-year MEIM student Claudeen Guillaume couldn't agree more. Guillaume earned her undergraduate degree from Florida State University in IT/Communications, and her focus in MEIM is on film and limited TV series. She has seen great benefit in the SXSW experience.

"I like this because of the networking opportunities and hearing about what my future can hold," she said. "The panel discussions with our alumni who work in so many fields allow me to say, 'Wow, one of those areas is possibly in my own future.'"

On Saturday, March 9, students heard from alumna Roxanne Benjamin, a 2009 graduate of the MEIM program. She is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker whose thriller, "Body at Brighton Rock," premiered at SXSW on Friday night, March 8 with 15 students in attendance. Named one of Rolling Stone magazine's "filmmakers you should know," Benjamin talked about her career path from graduation to her current success in TV and film direction.

"Body at Brighton Rock" was not only her feature directorial debut but she also wrote and produced the film which was acquired by Magnet Releasing for worldwide distribution rights. She encouraged students to go after what they want, with a focus on tenacity and avoiding aggression.

"You can be firm, and it's OK to ask for what you want and it's important to have a point of view about what you like and don't like," Benjamin said.

Alumnus Vikram Ahuja, a member of the first MEIM graduating class in 2007, had similar advice.

"It's OK to be proactive to get what you want," Ahuja said. "Go ahead and write that letter to a CEO asking for 15 minutes of time. Focus your efforts on learning who the people are who will get you where you want to go. Don't network without a purpose."

Now the global leader for digital marketing services at Cognizant, Ahuja said his education through MEIM and courses at CMU's Tepper School of Business in areas such as analytics helped to prepare him for his work in the entertainment industry.

"Data collection and analytics are so much a part of the industry now," he said, pointing to companies like Google and Facebook who are expanding beyond the services that initially launched them. "The arts and analytics now go hand-in-hand. It's allowing companies to extend their reach."

— #CMUatSXSW —