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Student Interview with Howard Schultz

You may not have heard of Howard Schultz, but if you’ve been anywhere near a TV in the past few years, you’ve probably heard of the shows produced by his company Lighthearted Entertainment. Between Fox’s The Moment of Truth, ABC’s Extreme Makeover, and MTV’s Next, it’s easy to get your daily dose of reality television.  As a University of Colorado at Boulder Alumni, he brings a unique view to campus because he was inspired by the same Conference on World Affairs that we are fortunate to still have today.

1. Why did you decided to participate in the Conference on World Affairs?

I attended CU and went to many panel discussions while I was a student. I loved them. I found them to be incredibly stimulating. Believe me, it is an honor to have been invited to speak. I still find them stimulating to listen to and now a great deal of fun to speak on the panels. This will be my second year as a panelist.

2.What about CWA or being back in Boulder are you most looking forward to?

The interaction with all of the other panelists is number one. Boulder is a vibrant, stimulating place and a close second.  The conversations are unpredictable and enlightening.

3.I know that you received your bachelor degree at CU Boulder. What was your experience here like as an undergraduate? Favorite classes or professors? Favorite local venues?

Being a student at CU was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I had a great plan in the beginning. I took all of my prerequisites in my freshman year- biology, psychology, anthropology. It seemed like every “ology” known to man. Needless to say, that was a huge struggle and I was put on academic probation. I looked for a class that was an easy “A”. I was told introduction to communications was it. The professor was George Matter, who was dean of the department at the time. The class was held in Macky and it was huge; hundreds and hundreds of students. I loved it. I then took introduction to broadcasting and that was it. I was hooked. Making television shows in the old studio as Folsom Stadium was like coming home for me. I was never sure what I would do after college until finding the studio at Folsom. Television was my thing and is my thing.

I also was a big participant in the Trivia Bowl all four years. My team made it to the sweet sixteen every year. My expertise was in movies and television of course. My roommates covered music, sports and random trivia. That was great fun. As for venues, I loved Tulagi on the hill, which is now called something else and of course the Sink. I hung out at the Walrus on occasion too. It’s great to see places like that still around.

4. How do you develop ideas for your unique brand of reality show productions?

It all begins with a great idea. Most ideas come from being open to everything that is going on around me. I created The Moment of Truth for Fox because I kept noticing that the amount of lying was increasing and that lying had been elevated to an art form which is now called “spin-doctoring”. With Extreme Makeover, I was dealing with the death of my mother from cancer, very present to the pain she was going through. I wanted to do something that could get rid of people’s pain.

5. What do you think is the appeal of reality television to your targeted audiences? Why do you think it’s gotten so popular?

Reality participants can often times be much more interesting than actors playing roles. There can be a predictability to a character on a drama or sitcom. Often, reality participants could never be scripted by a writer. They are three dimensional. The young demographic of viewers are the people who have grown up on reality television, starting with MTV. It is a staple of their television diet. We are fascinated by other people. A good reality show enables us to spy on others from the safety of our own home.

6. How much “reality” do you aim to include in your productions?

I always believe that real is better than fake. MTV’s Next was not too real, but the original pilot for it was. I am always aiming to build a format that enables people to be themselves, then let it loose. That’s where the best reality in reality shows comes from.

7. What are the biggest challenges in your career or industry?

The business of show business is the biggest challenge. You can have the greatest show in the world, but getting it sold, getting it made on time and on budget, and having it be the way you envisioned it in the first place is very difficult. It’s a lot like running the hurdles in track while you are carrying a cinder block and people are shooting paintballs at you.

8.What advice would you give to a CU student who would like to pursue a career in production or entertainment?

I give the same advice to everyone about a career in entertainment- Run the other way. Don’t do it. Find some other line of work. If that can’t keep you away, then just maybe you might have what it takes to make it in show business. It is not a game for the weak. It will test you on every level; spiritual, psychological, physical, and that doesn’t even touch whether or not you have the skills.

Check out Howard’s panels next week:

  • Hollywood Eats its Young:  12:30-1:50 on Monday April 5, 2010 at Grusin Music Hall
  • Modern Day Hypocrisies: Hybrid Hummers, Low Carb Bagels and Smart Bombs:  3:00-4:20 on Monday April 5, 2010 at UMC West Ballroom
  • Underestimating TV: The Boob Tube in the 21st Century: 9:30-10:50 on Tuesday April 6, 2010 at
    ATLAS Black Box
  • More at http://www.colorado.edu/cwa/cgi-bin/list_sched.cgi?panelist=95&year=2010

Renee Sheeder is an English major in her third year at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She wrote this blog post as part of a project for her WRTG 3020 class.

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