Danielson discusses career, women’s role in entertainment in campus visit

By Erin Moyer || Senior Editor

Thursday and Friday, Jennifer Danielson ‘95 led four different events for the F&M community about her own experiences and how F&M students could pursue similar post-graduate careers and opportunities. Danielson’s four talks centered around lessons and advice from her career in
entertainment.

Danielson is President and Head of Content for Above Average Productions, the web-content producer owned by Broadway Video. Since she graduated from F&M in 1995, Danielson has worked as a talent agent, and as a producer on platforms like Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock.

The first event Danielson led was titled “Scoring Laughs: How To Get Noticed in Comedy & Improv.” Held in the Barshinger Life Sciences and Philosophy Building, the workshop was presented in conjunction with The Rumspringas and F&M Players. At the interactive event, Danielson offered advice for students interested in a career in improvisation or comedy.

Later on Thursday evening, Danielson then hosted an event called “Women in Entertainment: Tackling the Glass Ceiling.” The talk was co-sponsored by SISTERS, F&M’s Office for Student and Post-Graduate Development (OSPGD), the Council for Women, the Alice Drum Women’s Center, and Panhellenic Council. Danielson revealed that her senior thesis at F&M had, in fact, centered on the existence of a “glass ceiling” for women in positions of power in entertainment. Members of the panel, which was comprised of representatives from SISTERS, Panhellenic Council, the Women’s Center, and the Council for Women, centered their questions on what Danielson’s experience has been as a woman in entertainment, how she made it to where she is, and how she negotiates the demands and norms of gender and family life.

Danielson said that she was fortunate to work for Saturday Night Live at a time in the show’s history in which there was no seeming glass ceiling: Molly Shannon, Ana Gayester, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler were all among the show’s heavy-hitters in Danielson’s tenure. Danielson noted that though Saturday Night Live could not speak for entertainment at large, she felt the show to be on the forefront of gradual change in the industry. In the years following her time at Saturday Night Live, Danielson said, female show-runners like Shonda Rhimes have established themselves as leaders in prime-time.

Danielson also issued some professional advice for those in attendance. Off of what she’s learned from her mentors, Danielson urged her audience to find some way to have their presence felt in the room. For her, Danielson joked, that normally meant lifting her chair. She also advised her audience not to dodge their problems, as well as to, when you’re the one calling the shots, assemble a staff of people you’d actually like to hang out with. Danielson also recommended that her audience focus on, if not being in the center of everything, working to bring those who should be at the center together. You have to recognize that you may not be integral to an event itself, Danielson said, so much as you can be helpful in pulling it together.

On Friday, Danielson led a craft talk at the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House. The event, titled “Grabbing an Audience: Lessons in Digital Storytelling,” was co-sponsored by the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House and the English Department. Danielson pulled from her experiences as producer on Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, and Mean Girls in discussing how to craft a story for an intended audience. She told an audience of students, faculty, and alumni about her own work in advising and producing stories in an ever-evolving, digital age.

After the craft talk, Danielson then led her fourth and final event of the two days. The workshop, titled “Funny (Small) Business: Leading a Start Up,” was held in the Bonchek House Seminar Room and was presented by OSPGD in collaboration with the Businesses, Organizations, and Development Department. In the workshop, Danielson discussed
her leadership of Above Average
Productions.

“Broadway Video does own the majority of [Above Average],” Danielson later told The College Reporter. “But it’s still very much a start-up. You have to present a business plan tied to what you’re doing. In a start-up, you do better if there’s some through-line that has a heart to it. For us, the heart-part is that we do find emerging talent, give them opportunities that they wouldn’t have, and watch for growth. But we still have to show the financial side, too.”

An alumna profile of Danielson appears later in this issue.

Senior Erin Moyer is the Senior Editor. Her email is emoyer1@fandm.edu.

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