It sounds like the opening of a television show: "What happens when 14 Ithaca College graduates move out to sunny California and are hired to work at the same TV and film production company?" Well, you wind up with a high-energy workplace and a lot of happy employees.
Rupert Thompson '86 was the first Ithaca College graduate to work at Evolution Film and Tape, a Los Angeles production company whose clients include MTV and the Disney Channel. Originally hired as a director and cameraman in 1988, Thompson eventually bought into the company in 1990, becoming one of four owners. Convinced that Ithaca College students would be well suited to the company's fresh, professional style, he encouraged Evolution to add Ithaca College graduates and interns to its staff. Twelve years later, the company counts 13 other Ithaca alumni among its 25-person core staff: Tom McCudden '96, Tim Knauff '97, Anthony Carbone '98, Dawn Garcia '98, Blake Levin '98, Brian McCarthy '98, Dave Patry '98, Tennille Ruth '98, Jesse Kerns '99, Justin Mclaughlin '99, Evan Mediuch '99, Amy Woods '99, and Jon Katz '00.
As one of Evolution's executive producers, Thompson spends a lot of time training and guiding his young employees. He has been consistently pleased with his fellow alumni. "Every Ithaca College graduate who's worked here has had a really strong work ethic," says Thompson. "Also, there's something about the personality of an Ithacan that is appealing --- a social mind-
set that is both open and lighthearted. Now it's at a point where we put Ithaca College grads at the top of the list when we're interviewing."
According to Thompson, after the first few Ithaca College graduates were hired Evolution did not need to do any further recruiting. Most Ithaca graduates find out about Evolution through word of mouth.
"I ran into Dave Patry, an Ithaca College friend, at a flea market in Los Angeles," says assistant editor Woods, recalling the time she was job hunting. "He worked at Evolution and gave me his card." Soon after, Woods was hired by the company. She has since worked on a variety of documentaries, and most recently on Disney Channel's Bug Juice, a reality-based show set in a summer camp.
Production coordinator Kerns credits his employment at Evolution to Ithaca College networking and to the Park School's L. A. program. "Half of this business is who you know," he says, "and the people you know get you the jobs." Currently, Kerns is working on the Disney Channel's Totally Music, a show that documents the lives of students in high school orchestras.
What makes Ithaca alumni so valuable to Evolution? Stephen Tropiano '84, director of the L.A. program, believes it is their blend of youthfulness and professionalism. "By the time Ithaca College students are ready to intern or graduate, they are very well trained in their field," says Tropiano. "Evolution appreciates that. Also, Evolution is a young company that is inspired by the students' energy and is genuinely interested in furthering the students' careers."
If the folks at Evolution are pleased with their alumni employees, those employees are equally pleased with the company's casual, supportive atmosphere. "At Evolution, everyone helps one another from the top down," says casting manager Garcia. "You don't feel there is a hierarchy here. Everyone's opinion is respected." Garcia is currently doing the casting for Fear Factor, a new show for NBC in which contestants compete in extreme challenges like rock climbing and bungee jumping.
With four shows now in production for the Disney Channel and a rapidly growing roster of production credits, the company has its own challenges. But there's no fear at work here --- and Evolution's preference for Ithaca College graduates seems like a matter of natural selection.