Syracuse-based production company provides film industry internships, jobs for Newhouse students

by Micah Castelo

September 4, 2019
Matt Sacca '19
Matt Sacca '19 Courtesy Matt Sacca

Most television, radio and film (TRF) alumni find themselves choosing between New York and Los Angeles  when searching for jobs or internships in the film industry. Recent graduates Matt Sacca ’19 and Caroline Cianci ’19 were able to start their careers locally at American High, a production company based in the Syracuse suburb of Liverpool. The company hired them after they participated in American High’s eight- to 10-week training program for college students through their non-profit organization, The Academy at Syracuse Studios.

“American High was really my first mentor outside the classroom,” Sacca says.

Sacca interned at American High during the summer after his sophomore year. TRF assistant teaching professor Ben Frahm told his screenwriting class that Jeremy Garelick, American High’s founder and a friend of Frahm’s, was looking for students to help read and critique scripts for the company. Garelick is known for writing several films including “The Break-Up” (2006), “The Hangover” (2009) and “The Wedding Ringer” (2015), which he also directed.

Jeremy Garelick on a set in blue light talking to comedian Kevin Hart.
Jeremy Garelick with The Wedding Ringer's Kevin Hart. Courtesy of Michael Schade

Sacca says Garelick and American High’s development team were impressed with his work, so they hired him as a part-time development assistant during his junior year. He reviewed scripts, pitched ideas and served as a post-production runner on the films “Holly Slept Over,” “Looks That Kill,” “Banana Split” and “Big Time Adolescence,” which was recently accepted to the 2019 Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Competition. As part of the training program, he also attended workshops on studio mechanics with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), a labor union representing workers in the entertainment industry.

Sacca was promoted to development executive a few months after he was hired and started supervising production and development interns from various universities while continuing his script coverage and post-production work. Sacca will also scout locations for American High’s next film, which will begin shooting this fall.

“I’ve been able to condition my creative instincts and natural intuition [about] what makes a compelling story,” Sacca says. “And having this invaluable experience of working with professional, renowned people in the industry while I was still at school was priceless, especially in Upstate New York, where I didn’t expect to feel like I was in a mini-Hollywood.” 

“I never would’ve foreseen early on that there can be this really viable production hub right in our backyard,” he says. “And it’s not just a big-league studio making and calling all the shots. It’s very much a group effort to express stories as youthfully and hilariously as we can.”

Caroline Cianci '19 Courtesy Caroline Cianci

Cianci heard about American High from a fellow member of Delta Kappa Alpha, a professional film fraternity. She started as a production intern on the film “Holly Slept Over,” then became an assistant to the director for “Banana Split.” 

“It’s fun to be on student sets and learn from your professors and peers, but you don’t get to know what a real set is like until you enter the real world,” Cianci says. “That was the most rewarding experience for me—just being on set of a real film.”

During her senior year, Cianci took a screenwriting feature film capstone course taught by Frahm, which involved pitching, writing and developing a script with Garelick. After graduation, American High offered her a job managing all script drafts for un upcoming American High film while also continuing her assistant work. 

Michael Schade Courtesy of Michael Schade

“The students who we get to work with have proven to be incredibly talented and bright,” says Michael Schade, a producer at American High. “We’re excited to continue to build this relationship and help make the television, radio and film program the best film program in the country.”

Schade says the company is actively seeking on-set interns to start immediately for the next film. American High also offers internships in both on-set production and remote development every semester. Interested students should email programs@americanhigh.com

Micah Castelo is a graduate magazine, newspaper and online journalism major at the Newhouse School.