This year, the in-person FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference was just… so unbelievably awesome on every level. FUTURE NOW's Founder, Peggy Kim, asked me if I would be willing to moderate the first panel which was on The Power of Storytelling: Creating Fire with Fandom.
As an aspiring screenwriter and life-long fanboy, I was incredibly delighted but also stunned that Peggy chose me for such a task. To be honest, I didn’t have complete faith in myself that I could do it. I’d never moderated a panel before. But, the fact that she thought I could do it gave me the confidence I needed.
That’s the part of FUTURE NOW that continues to inspire me. Even though we’re young, we are future leaders, and Peggy and the FUTURE NOW community already see us that way and build us up to become the best that we can be. To be seen and believed in within an industry that’s so competitive and hard to break into is just the most invaluable aspect you can’t find anywhere else.
The panel consisted of a wonderful group of speakers including Joel Chiodi (Head of Documentaries, Scout Productions), Sowon Sawyer (VP, Editorial Programming, Paramount+), Eric Feldman (Reporter, Spectrum News/NY1), and Andrew Flores (Social Creative Director, Nickelodeon). They shared their perspectives on "creating fire with fandom" from their diverse roles in the industry. It was fascinating to hear about shows like “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and the behind-the-scenes process of bringing that story to audiences. We learned how Sowon and her team strategically planned marathons to help gain a larger following (before the age of streaming), and how that passionate fanbase was integral to the development of new "Avatar" projects coming soon.
Another special moment was meeting Stu Feldman in person for the first time and catching up during the Networking Lunch. Stu was my mentor in the 9-month-long FUTURE NOW Mentoring Program. He is an assistant director on Tina Fey's “Girls5eva" and a writer, and I cannot say enough about him. He was so kind and generous with his time and advice, and even took the time to read over some of my scripts. To have a mentor in the industry like Stu, who takes the time to hear you, see you, and enjoy connecting with you, is amazing.
I also reconnected with so many FUTURE NOW alumni that it felt like a school reunion in the best way imaginable. I loved hearing how FUTURE NOW has continued to lead them to success surrounded by a community that truly cares about them. It was such a heartwarming experience.
The Media Tours were another wonderful reflection of our FUTURE NOW sponsors' support as they quite literally opened their doors to us and welcomed us in. I had the great fortune of visiting both AMC Networks and Warner Bros. Discovery, where we were able to see the Food Network studios.
It's always been a dream of mine to work at Warner Bros. Discovery surrounded by so much iconic imagery and talented storytellers. It truly was an unforgettable experience.
I first learned of FUTURE NOW at a pivotal time in my life when I was feeling very low about my career prospects in media and entertainment. I had experienced numerous rejections from internships I had applied to and had begun to wonder if the naysayers had been right all along that I just wasn’t meant to work in this industry.
I’m not even exaggerating a little when I say that FUTURE NOW completely changed my life in a way I never expected and in such a short amount of time.
My first experience with FUTURE NOW was attending the virtual conference in 2022 as a junior at the University of Rochester. The conference helped me see a wider range of opportunities in the industry, taught me the importance of networking, and helped me develop the skills to connect with others, boosting my confidence so I felt ready to enter the industry.
I was so awe-inspired by the founder Peggy’s selflessness and determination to lift others alongside her that I jumped at the chance to volunteer as a contributor to The NOW monthly newsletter and a Co-Director of the Campus Ambassador Program. I helped manage, coordinate, and support, the student representatives who were responsible for sharing about FUTURE NOW on their campuses.
I was able to connect with other talented volunteers as we worked together to get the word out about FUTURE NOW's mission and invite students to apply to attend this year's conference. I even recruited some from my school, and we were able to attend the conference together! That was such a fulfilling full-circle moment.
I can’t even begin to express what a unique, revitalizing, and fulfilling experience FUTURE NOW offers. I am excited to continue giving back to the FUTURE NOW community, and I hope more students and alumni will join me in engaging with FUTURE NOW in as many ways as you can.
From volunteering to reading the monthly newsletter to listening to the podcast to staying connected on social media to attending leadership talks and other events...there are so many ways to continue setting up your future now (sorry, I never could resist a good play on words) and follow in the footsteps of the inspiring leaders that helped make it all possible.