by Jennifer Sobolewski
Even though their careers have taken them far from Bowling Green, they all point to their time on campus as a vital component of their current success.
"Desperate Housewives," "Scandal," "Private Practice," "90210" and "Hart of Dixie" are just a few of the television series that Bethany Rooney '77, '78 has put her stamp on as one of the most sought-after television directors working today.
The Findlay, Ohio, native got her start at WBGU-TV, working as a production assistant, eventually moving up to running camera, producing, on-air talent and directing. "I did a little bit of everything and loved it," said Rooney.
Rooney's contacts at WBGU also led to her first job in the business. She reached out to fellow WBGU alumna Michelle Gallery, who worked in the accounting department of the Mary Tyler Moore Studios."I said, 'Michelle, I'm coming out to California! Can I call you?' She said yes.
I landed in Hollywood on a Friday and called Michelle. She connected me with the HR person. On Monday I had a job interview. On Wednesday, a secretary quit, and on the following Monday, I started as secretary to Bruce Paltrow and Mark Tinker on a show called 'The White Shadow.' I answered phones and typed scripts and learned as much as I could."
However, being a secretary wasn't the ultimate goal. Rooney says she asked, and kept asking, for more responsibility. Her dedication and persistence paid off. Paltrow and Tinker went on to create the show "St. Elsewhere" and brought Rooney along with them as an associate producer. "Bruce really believed in giving young people a hand up, and I was the lucky beneficiary of his philosophy."
Paltrow eventually gave her an episode to direct and Rooney has been a freelance director ever since. She directs eight to 10 episodes of various shows every season.
Rooney says she's known as an "actor's director" and she's worked with some of the biggest names in the business — Robert Downey Jr., George Clooney, Hilary Swank, Mary Tyler Moore and Angela Bassett, to name a few.
"I love that part of the job. I am so respectful of the creativity and vulnerability inherent in the craft, and I love the interplay between the actor and director to elevate the material and bring the story to the screen."
It was as a resident adviser in McDonald Hall that Rooney learned one of the lessons she still carries with her today.
"It was my first experience with being a leader of a disparate group of people. Getting everyone to play nice was an excellent introduction to what I do today: getting a cast, staff and crew to pull together in a positive way to create a product with one point of view."
Swanton, Ohio, native Brian Dzyak '91 also left Bowling Green for the bright lights of Hollywood. When you pop in a DVD of the "Bourne Legacy," "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," or "American Reunion," be sure to watch the behind-the-scenes extras. That footage is the work of Dzyak, who travels the world as a cameraman on movie sets.
It's a job that he says he fell into quite by accident. After he had been working as a camera assistant on feature films for years, productions gradually moved overseas, leaving Dzyak and many others looking for work. He found himself at a crossroads, wondering if being a camera assistant was really what he wanted. A phone call from a friend helped him find an alternate career path.
"The DVD market was just heating up and studios were getting hungry for behind-the-scenes footage and interviews for new and old titles," Dzyak said. "I went out to shoot on the set of 'S.W.A.T.,' spending a week of cold nights on the 6th Street bridge in downtown Los Angeles. The behind-the-scenes/DVD path was really, really busy and kept me working solidly for months, which has turned into years now. It's just one of those niches in the business that seems to have been made just for someone like me."
Dzyak's journey started as a radio-television-film student at BGSU, but the University wasn't his first choice when looking at post-high school options. "To be quite honest, I was looking at the University of Southern California and its film school, which at the time was more or less the school to go to for film."
A high school friend told him about BGSU and WBGU-TV, and so he headed to Bowling Green for not only a more affordable education, but also for a chance to learn about film.
He found that chance at WBGU-TV. He began as an editor, then started shooting as a field cameraman. "I learned a lot from the real-world experience and from the staff, many of whom I am still friends with today."
In January 1992, Dzyak packed his things and moved to Los Angeles, without "a clue as to what I needed to do, who to ask, or where to go to find out. But I had armed myself with a list of names and numbers."
Sleeping on a friend's couch, Dzyak started cold calling, looking for any opportunities. The only offer was an unpaid one to come work on a student film at the University of California, Los Angeles. He jumped at the chance.
That paying camera job led to a big Warner Brothers movie called "Murder in the First." About a month in, Dzyak earned his union card, which opened up an entirely new world of opportunities and eventually led to his current position. But, he says, he's still looking for that perfect job. Dzyak has been writing screenplays and finished a book about working on a professional movie set called "What I Really Want to Do: On Set in Hollywood."
Dzyak credits the staff at WBGU-TV, from the producers to the engineers, for "putting up with him" and teaching him a lot. "Having the chance to learn and even play with all of that equipment and push it to the limits, always with the advice and encouragement from everyone there, was well worth the time at BGSU. I have experiences and friendships from BGSU that I wouldn't trade for anything."
As Dzyak and Rooney were making their mark in California, alumna Hilary Maiberger '10 made the decision to leave the Golden State and come to Ohio to pursue her dreams. Now she's living the life of a Disney princess as Belle in the national tour of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," an opportunity she calls "a dream come true."
"It's one of my favorite movies," said Maiberger, who earned her master's degree in vocal performance from BGSU. "It's a wonderful love story about such an unexpected relationship that is based on inner beauty."
When Maiberger saw an audition announcement online about playing Belle in the NETworks national tour of "Beauty and the Beast," she immediately sent a photo, resume and a video of her singing, knowing full well her chances might be similar to winning a lottery. However, in a relatively short time, she defied all odds and was selected to play Belle, her favorite Disney princess.
The initial video audition instead of the typical face to face in New York "is virtually unheard of in the industry," said Christopher Scholl, one of her BGSU music professors.
"She has the talent, intelligence, looks and perseverance to succeed," he said, adding, "She is one of the most expressive musicians I've taught; that will carry her far."
The California native has been singing since she was 6 years old and earned her bachelor's degree in music from San Diego State University. Her journey to BGSU was started, in part, out of her connection to northwest Ohio. Her father was born and raised in Tiffin, 40 miles southeast of Bowling Green.
"Bowling Green was a great fit for me," Maiberger said. "The faculty all were supportive and believed in my talents, and they encouraged me to audition for operas and theater.
"I had never performed opera, but I loved it. Mr. Scholl was an incredible teacher," she said. "I didn't realize opera was so hard, but it's a wonderful foundation to train in a classical way." Maiberger also improved her acting skills with the help of one-on-one acting sessions with Dr. Michael Ellison, associate professor of theater and film.
She realized that singing was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life during her undergraduate years. At BGSU, adding opera and acting to her repertoire "ratcheted up my career," Maiberger said.
Now, as Belle, she is performing in eight shows a week, Tuesday through Sunday, which, she admitted, "is a crazy schedule."
"I am so excited to be a part of something like this; it really is unbelievable. There is something very special about the Disney magic," she said. And theater is where she wants to be, she explained. "It's like playing dress-up. It's being able to affect people, make them laugh and tell a story. There is nothing else really like it."
Beauty and the Beast" isn't the only show with a BGSU connection. Hits such as "Mamma Mia!," "Billy Elliot the Musical," "Ghost," and "The Book of Mormon" all have one thing in common. BGSU alumnus Shaun Moorman '00 was involved with the management of them all.
But the Cincinnati native wasn't looking toward the bright lights of The Great White Way when he came to BGSU. In fact, his main reason for becoming a Falcon was to join the Men's Chorus and work with its director, Dr. Richard Mathey.
"My brother was attending BG and was a member of the Men's Chorus," Moorman said. "I wanted so badly to be a part of that group. Dr. Mathey had a national reputation of being one of the finest choral directors, and the chance to work with him was a no-brainer."
Moorman graduated with a degree in music education with a vocal/choral emphasis, but only spent a brief time as an assistant music director at a northwest Ohio school. A chance to work in business and operations in BGSU's Department of Theatre and Film changed his career path.
"I helped to manage the Huron Playhouse, the summer stock division, and wrote grants for the department. That job quickly grew over a few years to me being the production coordinator for the entire program and being part of the Alumni Association team to fundraise and design The Wolfe Center for the Arts."
Moorman credits Drs. Ron Shields and Jann Graham Glann, theatre and film, with pushing him farther down the path of theater management, a path in which he excelled. He also developed a passion for enhancing the connection between the theater and film department and its alumni. It was through that endeavor that Moorman got his shot at Broadway.
"I invited Dean Greer '86, who is one of the stage managers for 'Mamma Mia!,' to do workshops for students," Moorman explained. "Over the next year, Dean invited me to meet with many of his colleagues in New York and through those exchanges I was offered a position on a new Broadway show. Never in my wildest dreams would I think I would be managing some of the biggest shows on Broadway."
It is not an easy job. Moorman says he can't remember the last time he worked less than 70 hours a week and that the stress of always being on call for high-profile producers can wear on him. But, the trade-off is working with "some of the most talented people in the world — the directors, designers, musicians, actors and dancers. When you get to work with people who are extremely talented it makes everyone in the room work at a higher level."
Moorman continues to give back to the University he says gave him so much. The box office at The Wolfe Center bears his name, and many alumni have made it to Broadway with his guidance.
"I feel it is only right to continue to connect more BGSU students to the world of Broadway, and in the last seven years I've been able to help at least six graduates get jobs on Broadway shows. I find that to be hugely fulfilling, and someday my dream is to return to the world of academia and bring my skills and knowledge to a classroom or a series of seminars."
Moorman encourages other alumni to be active with the University. "Not just in writing checks," he said, "but to contact a former professor and offer to come back and do a lecture; see if the company they work for would do an internship; see if there is a way their company can support the University in equipment; mentor a student; and if you are able, open your checkbook."
The future is also bright for current BGSU students hoping to break into entertainment. Whether it's Broadway, television or film, they can graduate knowing there is a strong network of Falcon alumni willing to help them get that first chance.