NU alumnus gives students advice on entering entertainment industry


Colin Boyle/The Daily Northwestern

Emmy-nominated writer and producer Gregg Mettler gives advice to students about working as a writer in comedy television. He said he made his way up from night production assistant of “3rd Rock From the Sun” to full-time staff writer.

Jane Yun, Reporter

Northwestern alumnus Gregg Mettler (Communication ’94) visited campus Tuesday to talk about his career in comedy television and gave advice on how students can achieve similar success.

Mettler, who is is best known for his writing on “3rd Rock From the Sun,” “That ’70s Show” and “Cougar Town,” talked to about 15 people at Norris University Center. While discussing his career, he recalled how he made his way up to a full-time writer from a night production assistant.

The event was organized by the Office of External Programs, Internships and Career Services. EPICS assistant director Todd Lillethun said the purpose of the talk was to give students advice from an industry member.

“Gregg has done a lot of work since he graduated in 1994 and has had a lot of experience both in mainstream comedies and dramas and lots of studio experiences, so it was really great timing for him to come now when we have a lot of the same interests in our current student body,” Lillethun said.

Mettler said his time in NU’s Creative Writing for the Media program piqued his interest in working as a television writer, Mettler said.

“That’s when I sort of became interested in TV writing, when somebody like me came to talk; so I always wanted to do this because it had a really serious impact on me,” Mettler said. “That was pretty much the day of my life where I said, ‘I think I can do that — the thing that that guy’s doing.’”

After graduating from NU in 1994, Mettler moved to Los Angeles by himself in pursuit of a career in the television industry. Mettler said he depended on fellow NU graduates after moving and worked as a night production assistant on “3rd Rock From the Sun.”

Though Mettler said his job as a night production assistant included long hours and burdensome errands, he said the connections he made at the time helped him launch his career. Due to his relationship with writers on “3rd Rock From the Sun,” his speculative script was passed on to agents, who ultimately presented it to the creators of the program. Mettler was soon hired as a full-time staff writer.

Mettler said his positive attitude while working as a night production assistant helped him land his job.

“The number one thing to write down … is the simple thing that you think everyone would know,” Mettler said. “Just be a cool person, and then people will magically help you.”

He also spoke about opportunities in the current industry with new media outlets such as Netflix and YouTube. Though there were only about four networks in LA when he first moved, he said there are now countless job opportunities at several networks.

Communication graduate student Rachel Greenhoe, who has also worked in the industry as a production assistant, said she attended the event to learn how to move past production assistant work and build a career in writing.

“It was just fascinating,” Greenhoe said. “It was great to know that you can work your way up … I’d always heard that, but it’s nice to hear (from) someone who actually worked their way up.”

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