The Catholic University of America

Alumni Relations

Lieren Stuivenvolt Allen, B.A. 2012, production assistant for Manhattan Beach Studios


We asked this month's spotlight a few questions. Below are her answers.

AR: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Did you grow up on the West Coast?

LSA: I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. I have an incredible, supportive family, and while
Utah will always be where my heart calls home, I have been fortunate enough to live on
both U.S. coasts and in Europe, along with traveling to countries like Brazil and Jamaica
through programs and connections I made at CUA. 

AR: Can you tell us about your career path? How did you get started?

LSA: I interned for a local Salt Lake City TV news station as part of my media studies curriculum while at CUA, and was fortunate enough to be hired full time by them
immediately after graduating. I spent three months learning in the fast-paced newsroom environment, listening to police scanners and constantly sifting through the persistent
output of social media to find the facts for our live afternoon broadcasts. It was an incredible opportunity to have so soon after graduation, but when my boyfriend told me he was moving to California to pursue his dream
to work in film, it was an easy decision to pack up and follow my own dream to be a film producer out in L.A. Through the
English department's Dr. Taryn Okuma, I had been connected with an incredible mentor named Lisa out in L.A., and she
helped me secure my first industry job as a production assistant at a reality TV studio, working on shows like Undercover

Boss and The Pitch. After a few months there, I was promoted to office coordinator for The Pitch, a challenging position with a
lot of responsibility. Midway through the season, I received the phone call every wanna-be in L.A. is waiting for: the chance to
work on a feature film. Needless to say, going to work every day now is like someone paying you to play with your favorite
toys and eat oatmeal chocolate chip cookies all day when you're a kid. I never stop smiling.

AR: What is it like to work in the film industry? What are your responsibilities?

LSA: Working in the film industry is exhilarating. We work a minimum 12-hour day, every day, and working in L.A., it ends up being at least 14 with your commute -- there's probably a good deal of insanity involved, but it never gets old. The industry
attracts an incredible group of positive, resourceful, passionate people, starkly contrary to the negative depictions of
Hollywood we see so often. I'm sure there are people out there who reflect more of what we see on TV and in the movies, but
the real people behind the scenes so far have been some of the most helpful, dedicated people I've ever met. Your co-workers quickly become your family, and I can't believe how lucky I am to have ended up with the 'film-family' I've got.

AR: What is a typical day at work like for you? Who are the people you work with?

LSA: There is no such thing as a 'typical' day of work for me. Some days I'm doing data entry, some days I'm delivering
scripts to big names in Hollywood; some days I'm driving a golf cart around a film backlot, and some days I'm watching
stunt doubles do flips on elaborately constructed stages. Every single day, I leave work having done at least one thing
that is so unbelievably awesome, I can't believe I did it. That's my favorite part of the job.

AR: When you are not working as a production assistant, what do you like to do?

LSA: When I'm not on the lot, I am working with my very talented group of friends to produce independent projects, watching
as many movies as I can, and enjoying everything L.A. has to offer. We are currently in pre-production for a short film I'm
really excited about hopefully shooting in June or July. Being in L.A. is like being a kid in a candy store for an aspiring
filmmaker -- everyone you talk to is trying to be a sound designer or an actor, you just have to construct a team that works
well together and let the camera roll. With my boyfriend Eli's film moving around the festival circuit, we've also had the
opportunity to go to a number of film festivals from northern to southern California, a really exciting way to see what other
people in the business are turning out.

AR: How did Catholic University prepare you for your current career? Any specific courses that you took or experiences you had while a student? Were there any specific faculty members who mentored you?

LSA: When I was a second semester freshman, Stephen McKenna, Ph.D. 1996, of the media studies department took a
chance on me by letting me enroll in Lincoln's Eloquence, a cross-listed undergraduate/graduate-level course celebrating the
bicentennial celebration of Lincoln's birth. Dr. McKenna taught us how to look at history and the world around us with a keen
eye, and in so doing, introduced me to the realm of media studies. This early experience led me to a double major in media studies and English, allowing me to marry my love for text analysis with a better understanding of visual and auditory media.
It was through the English department that I met Dr. Okuma and was challenged in my analysis to think deeper and push
harder, preparing me for my experience abroad at Oxford University and giving me the connection that led to work here in L.A.
In my senior year, I was fortunate enough to work closely with Dr. Jennifer Fleeger and Professor Maura Ugarte in the
formation of the CU Film Society -- 'CUFS' -- where I was able to share in film with my peers in an educational and
entertaining way. Professor Ugarte also allowed me to be part of the small group of students who made a film for our senior
thesis, giving me the chance to learn from my mistakes and find out if film was even what I wanted to do. Every one of these
professors made a difference in my educational development that has evolved into where and who I am now. I learned a lot
from my classes, but I learned more about what kind of person I want to be because I was influenced by an amazing group
of people. 

AR: What clubs and organizations were you a part of, if any? How did they prepare you?

LSA: My senior year, I was a founding member of the CU Film Society, together with a group of lovely young ladies with
similar interests. We were able to hold a weekly screening of a 'must-see' film, giving us all the chance to see the classics
we had never seen or to enjoy movies that we'd watched so often we knew them by heart. As an aspiring filmmaker, there is nothing quite like sharing film with a group of other people who simply love movies, and those Thursday night gatherings were something I always looked forward to and miss now. I know that CUFS is in good hands this year, and I hope people are still showing up to share in the love of cinema!

AR: Do you keep in touch with other friends or classmates from CUA? If so, how? Who in particular?

LSA: Emma Gallagher, B.A. 2012. She's remarkable. We're living on opposite coasts, so we're always looking forward to the
next reunion. I've also been lucky enough to have John Shannon, B.S.Arch. 2012, another of my closest friends, living in
NorCal, so we've been able to see each other a few times. Christina Wolfgram, B.A. 2012, and I have also done the typical
L.A. brunch at the Alcove, then strolled along the beach. It's a lot of phone calls with people who are still back East, but I'm
slowly attracting everyone to the 'best' coast!

AR: What is one of your favorite memories of your time at Catholic University?

LSA: I have a lot of incredible memories from my time back East. I was present for the first inauguration of Barack Obama, I
went to a drag queen high heel race on Halloween, and I lived in a trailer my senior year! I also have a very vivid memory of
walking down the steps of Marist at sunset right after I had met with both Dr. McKenna and Dr. Okuma to confirm my media studies/English double major. If I had to pick one moment, it would be the laughter from the arts and sciences students when
I talked about shutting down the Turtle and Hawk & Dove at graduation.

AR: Since you are a recent graduate, what advice would you give to current seniors just graduating?

LSA: I would advise current seniors to cherish the people they're with, but relax about everything else. Life will go on, and your diploma is just another piece of paper. The people you surround yourself with will have the biggest impact on who you are
going forward.


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