Promo Pathway valedictorian Michael Amato recalls walking into his first class full of a diverse group of people with backgrounds in everything from screenwriting to directing; radio broadcasting, animation or no creative experience at all.

Together, they were “thrown to the wolves” with an open-ended semester-long project to create a piece of media that they can take to market.

The students decided to create a short film of several vignettes featuring different, connected characters at a Halloween party. Once Amato created his segment, he realized the seriousness of the breakup he scripted didn’t fit with the overall comedic tone. He considered scrapping it, but then realized there was a way to connect the conversation the couple was having to a moment at the beginning of the spot to create an optimistic twist.

“And that kind of became a big takeaway for me with all of my future promo editing, that every element of a piece needs to be there for a reason and work together,” Amato told the Promo Pathway graduating class of 20 during Thursday’s ceremony. “Every cut, every music cue, every dialogue clip, everything needs to serve the main idea of the piece.”

The one-year on-air training program hosted by PromaxBDA and Santa Monica College immerses students from diverse ethnicities and backgrounds in television marketing with hands-on curriculum, creative coaching and valuable connections that provide real-world experience to help them launch their careers as writers, editors or producers in the entertainment industry.

The student’s final project reels, highlighted in the PromaxBDA’s Promo Pathway e-book, are testaments to their newfound skills.

Promo Pathway valedictorian Michael Amato.
Promo Pathway valedictorian Michael Amato.

While the program provides them with the tools necessary to succeed in the field, Freeform Senior Vice President of Marketing Tricia Melton let them in on a little secret to help them power through challenges when starting out.

“Never forget that you’re a storyteller,” she said.

Whether it’s cutting a 30-second spot, or creating a new social campaign, the best marketing and the projects that stand out are the ones with narratives that evoke emotions.

“Because what ultimately matters is how we make our viewer feel,” Melton said. “…Tell great stories and you’ll be able to handle whatever this ever-changing industry of ours throws at you.”

Steve Kazanjian, president and CEO of PromaxBDA, also encouraged students to look to a mentor or person from their past for strength when difficult situations arise, and told his own story about his Armenian grandfather who escaped genocide at 12-years-old with his parents. His grandfather’s motto was “never give up,” and that helped Kazanjian through a difficult situation at his first marketing job.

“Take that energy, take that passion, take that determination,” Kazanjian said. “You are on the cusp of an extraordinary career.”


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