Alumna: NU classes prepared me for talent management

Sara Peck

On Monday night, Northwestern alumna and Niteskool founder Emily Gerson-Saines proved that the work of a talent manager never ceases.

Whether it was her late arrival, numerous calls to her phone throughout the evening or the advice she imparted to the attendees, Gerson-Saines demonstrated that managing the stars of shows such as “Heroes,” “Sex and the City” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is a 24-hour job.

About 25 students attended the speech, sponsored by the Northwestern Women’s Filmmaker Alliance.

Gerson-Saines, Communication ’86, currently manages the likes of Hayden Panettierre, Cynthia Nixon and Kristen Bell. While at NU, she began Niteskool student music video production company, which earned her a “Student Emmy” and accolades from various Chicago-based production companies. During her speech, she encouraged students to actively pursue their passions and take advantage of all NU’s resources.

“I had a lot of great opportunities, and as time went on, I was able to incorporate them into the real world,” she said. “(NU is) an incredibly invaluable, nurturing environment. A class can’t teach you that.”

Though students often gripe about NU’s demanding academics, Gerson-Saines said challenging undergraduate years eased her transition into a career in talent management.

“This university doesn’t spoon-feed any of you,” she said. “It forces you to reach inside of yourself and create. I learned to be a generator.”

She encouraged students to build relationships among themselves in addition to building ties to professionals in the industry. Through her creative projects while at NU, she worked with fellow students who would also eventually become members of the notorious “purple mafia,” NU’s entertainment industry network.

“When I was here, my friends went off and founded the Lookingglass Theater Company, and others are running other production companies, and some are pretty successful actors,” Gerson-Saines said.

Although Gerson-Saines joked that she did badly in a Shakespeare class because “the boys in my class were too cute, and I was out flirting,” she said she used her NU education to network with current student and alumni. Gerson-Saines said she currently manages six NU alumni, hires NU interns, and donates to the university.

“(A degree from NU) isn’t necessarily a guarantee of anything, but it’s a guaranteed entree to a discussion about things, and you never know where things will lead you,” she said.

Jen Goldberg, a freshman Communication Studies major, said she benefitted from Gerson-Saines’ advice.

“I really learned about how to use the resources that you have and to take advantage of leadership positions,” said the NUWFA member. “The people that you’re working with now in classes are going to work (with you) in the business later.”

Communication senior Liza Katzer said she came to gain some advice before she begins her pursuit of a career in the entertainment industry.

“As a senior, now is the time to get as much information as possible,” Katzer said.

Attendees asked about moving to Los Angeles versus New York City after graduation and how to nab a job at networks like HBO.

“Stay relevant,” she said. “Know what’s going on in the business and who the players are. Make relationships.”

Reach Sara Peck at [email protected]