Niagara University communications studies students joined together on Tuesday, Oct. 29, to hear director and writer Mary Wall talk about her experience in the film industry. Wall spoke about her time working on The Office and Parks and Recreation, while giving students that are looking for future careers in the media sincere advice.
Originally from Hamburg, N.Y., Wall attended Mount Mercy High School in Buffalo, and later attended college at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. It was there that Wall earned a B.S. in civil engineering and a B.S. in creative writing.
“It’s not a normal dual major, even there where they really encourage you to cross-pollinate across colleges,” said Wall.
After graduating, Wall taught high school mathematics in Arkansas for two years. She then bounced back and forth from Buffalo to Los Angeles, and found herself drawn to the California media industry. She moved there in hopes of finding work as a writer for film companies.
“I had zero connections. While trying to look for a job, I signed up for background acting. That was another way just for me to be on set, and pick up and learn whatever I could while I was there, and that is a really, really interesting job. I don’t know if you ever pay attention to all the people walking around in the background of all the movies and TV shows, it’s a bizarre process,” Wall explained.
Through various informational meetings and many phone calls, Wall began making connections and soon found herself in a new role – production assistant for the show, The Office. She even appeared as an actor in one of the episodes. She also did work for Parks and Recreation, and was a background actor in Grey’s Anatomy.
Wall soon realized that she wanted to do a project that hit more close to home, and decided to film a documentary about Buffalo as a hockey town. She has been filming a dozen people’s lives and their connection to the Buffalo Sabres in correlation with Buffalo and the community. Wall has been filming and editing the documentary for a few years, and has local college students getting involved in the editing process that are interested in the video production field.
As far as advice goes, Wall reassured students that the only way to make it in a field of interest is to go for it now before it’s too late.
“I would say the biggest thing is to figure out what you want and then go for it and not wait for jobs to come to you. Very few of the jobs I have gotten were from a posting,” said Wall.
“In the entertainment industry, especially if you’re going to move out to New York or LA, it’s really all about connections. You just gotta start getting out there and meeting people no matter what it is and trying to ask for what you want, and go for it.”
Article and photo by Chelsea Pelsone, a senior communication studies major at NU.