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Posted by Patricia Zimmermann at 12:12AM   |  Add a comment
Billy Hall

Blog written by Patricia R. Zimmermann, professor of cinema, photography and media arts at Ithaca College and codirector of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival

“Leave the industry with your soul intact at the end of your career,” advised Billy Hall, the vice president of programming for TNT and TBS, part of Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting System.

Hall was back on campus to do an informal, audience-driven, no-holds barred interactive seminar with students and faculty on October 11, 2010 About 50 students and faculty gathered in a circle to hear Hall recount his experiences –and labyrinthine career paths--in the commercial and non-profit entertainment industries. If there are two words that describe Hall, they would PASSION and INTEGRITY.

Billy Hall graduated from Ithaca College in 1984, a Cinema and Photography alum. He had been a student in virtually every critical studies class I offered in the School of Communications.

He possessed  a sizzling wit, a  crystal clear sense of purpose, and a boundless passion to consume nearly every kind of cinema imaginable. He was open to everything: experimental film, feminist work, Hollywood genres, international cinema, and theory. Lots of theory. He thrived on dense ideas. He was also the only African American student in the entire department during those years. 

Currently, Hall serves as vice president of programming for TNT and TBS. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia, corporate headquarters. He schedules for the networks, places all original programming, and manages the programming department and budget. Currently, he schedules such high profile originals as the Closer, Rizzoli & Isles, Leverage, HawthoRNe, and Menphis Best, as well as Conan, starring Conan O’Brien. 

Hall’s career has been expansive. He was vice president of programming at the Fox Movie Channel, and helped to launch fXM; Movies from Fox. He’s worked for the Health and Sciences Network, Lifetime Television, Walt Disney Studios, Disney Channel and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Hall’s seminar ranged widely, honestly, and passionately, describing the ups and downs of his career. He cautioned students that their careers will not follow an ascending straight line, but would look more like extreme highs and very low lows, spiking and then falling and then rising (you hope) again.

When Hall was unemployed, he networked with Ithaca College alums, professional organizations, and former contacts. Hall emphasized over and over again that the entertainment industry is a global business—and that foreign language skills, international experience, and some knowledge of how these industries are structured –are perhaps even more essential than learning production skills.

Stay tuned for Billy Hall Part 2, for a list of his 15 essential survival skills for a career in the entertainment and non profit media industries.


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