Karissa Valencia G'14

August 2, 2018

“Newhouse made me fall more in love with what I wanted to do. By taking a variety of classes in production, I learned how to write for a TV show with a budget, execute a director’s vision, and still shape my own voice as an artist.”

A photo of Karissa Valencia G'14
Karissa Valencia G'14

Karissa Valencia graduated from the television, radio and film program in 2014 and is currently a script coordinator and freelance writer for Disney Junior/Brown Bag Films’ animated series “Vampirina.”

How did you obtain your current position, and what positions did you hold before it?

Before working in the land of vampires and ghouls, I was very fortunate to start my career at Nickelodeon. I started out as a “nicktern” with the talent development team and then was a production assistant on Dora and Friends. It was an unbelievable intro to the animation industry—especially as a fan of Nick! During this time, I was eager to learn and meet with as many industry pros as I could. Through a fellow Syracuse alumni, I met a wonderful writer at Disney Junior who inspired me even more to pursue writing for animation. I made sure to keep in touch, and then one day the stars aligned and there was opening on the show she worked on (Vampirina). Ever since then, I’ve been on the team!  

What are your job responsibilities?

Currently, I’m a coordinator by day and a freelancer by night. As a coordinator for a writers’ room I’m responsible for tracking all of our episodes, distributing scripts and assisting our incredible showrunner, Chris Nee. As a freelancer, I get home, usually watch an episode of something fun on Netflix, then get back to writing! To prep for freelancing I do a lot of research, carefully study the show’s scripts and watch other pre-school programming to keep current with the cartoon world.  

How do you feel Newhouse prepared you for your current job?

Creativity has been a muscle of mine that I’ve not only had to flex, but strengthen during my time in LA. Training this muscle truly began at Newhouse. During my final semester, I was enrolled in both Keith Giglio’s Feature Film Writing course as well as Michael Schoonmaker’s TV Production course (whew!).  I would spend long hours in our TV writers’ room or on set, and then come home and write my feature. Some days were easier than others to push myself creatively but looking back, I’m so happy for the challenge. That semester was an intro to a lifestyle I live now by balancing multiple projects and staying creative.

Did Newhouse open your eyes to new professions you may have not considered when applying?

If anything, Newhouse made me fall more in love with what I wanted to do. I always knew I wanted to write, but I was still grasping what that truly meant. By taking a variety of classes in production, I learned how to write for a TV show with a budget, execute a director’s vision and still shape my own voice as an artist.

Why did you select Newhouse for graduate studies?

Newhouse was always my number one choice. Reading the bios of the professors and alumni was my favorite past time while crossing my fingers for an acceptance letter. I would read their bios and think, “That's who I want to be when I grow up!” 

How did the Newhouse Career Center Development center aid you?

The Career Development Center taught me how to navigate the alumni database and gave me the pep talk I needed in order to send those blind emails of asking for advice or meeting for coffees. As soon as I got to LA, my network quickly grew because of it and I met some amazing Orange Mafia members.

What advice do you have for current or incoming students?

For incoming aspiring writers, take a class with Keith Giglio. His classes and approach to storytelling are exactly what you’ll find in Hollywood today. If he ever taught a class in LA, I would still sign up! I’d also highly recommend Michael Schoonmaker’s TV Production course. You not only challenge yourself as a writer, but it’s really rewarding to see the series come to life with actors reading your lines and a crew building out the world you helped create.  

Have fun with and get to know your cohort. The year at Newhouse goes by so fast, but your cohort will still be with you for the years after as future co-workers or even roommates!