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‘Friends’ Producer Helps Bolster Emerson College’s Expansion in Los Angeles

The sweeping views of the Hollywood sign are just a taste of what Emerson College’s new Los Angeles campus, located in the heart of Hollywood at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gordon Street, has to offer its students, thanks in large part to alumnus and former trustee Kevin Bright, the Emmy-winning exec producer of “Friends,” and the founding director of Emerson L.A.

“Everything that we have in this building mirrors a real world situation,” says Bright, who donated a special film screening room with a 4k projector, and selected every last detail, right down to the cup holders in each seat. “(I) don’t want to just settle for making it good enough to teach in or good enough for students,” he explains. “I want to take it to the next level (so that) it’s good enough for professionals.” The facility also consists of six classrooms, two performance studios, computer lab, audio lab and distance learning room.

Those participating in Emerson’s long-standing internship program will now be able to live at the new facility while completing a semester-long internship. Emerson broke ground on the 10-story, $85 million structure in March 2012, and it was opened to students in January. Alumni and guests will fete the college’s expansion at a grand opening gala March 8.

Emerson began its L.A. program in 1986, and students from the Boston campus would spend a semester of their senior year interning in the heart of the entertainment industry and take one or two classes. The new Los Angeles location now provides students with a more communal setting by housing them in its two residential towers, complete with dorm rooms, prepared foods and fully stocked kitchens.

Bright says his focus was ensuring that students would have access to all the latest technology and be able to film, produce and collaborate with ease.

“We have media hydrants on every floor of the building. You can shoot any place pretty effortlessly here,” Bright notes, adding that he hopes students will soon be able to do more production on the premises. He also says the L.A. location provides mentoring and networking opportunities so that students can “start to become familiar faces at the vendors and facilities in this town.”

The college previously rented space on Alameda Avenue in Burbank, but high demand led to long waiting lists. Emerson L.A. now has the capacity to house 217 students. There are 130 students living in the new building this semester, and the school expects to welcome 160 for the fall term, then increase that number to 200 for spring 2015. Students typically work at their internships during the day and then attend classes at night.

Bright is realistic with students about the difficulties of working in the entertainment industry, and hopes this program will help prepare them for what lies ahead.

“I see L.A. as kind of a finishing step for our students,” Bright says. “They’ve spent three and a half years in Boston and now they get to come out here and immerse themselves in their future careers.”

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