By Mujie Cui
Scott Siegler ’69 spoke at Reamer Auditorium last Tuesday as a part of the Union College Alumni Speaker Series.
This recurrent event provides the chance for Union students to meet and hear from Union’s most accomplished alumni.
Siegler spent his four years at Union as an English and philosophy double major, aiming to become a professor.
Siegler speaks highly of Union. He says, “Union’s education has helped me think creatively, look at material critically and be able to analyze material, all of which are very important in most businesses, and certainly when you are looking at scripts and movies.”
After graduating from Union and studying at the University of Toronto, Siegler decided to attend the American Film Institute under a directing fellowship.
Siegler went on to earn an M.F.A. in theater arts from Brandeis University.
He credits his entry into the entertainment business to a versatile professor with whom he did research at the University of Toronto.
After spending time as the director of the Drama and Comedy Departments of CBS, he worked as a senior vice president of Warner Brothers Television, where he oversaw the creative affairs.
Leaving Warner Brothers in 1986, Siegler started a television division for TriStar Pictures in Hollywood.
His studio started with one employee, and has finally grown to have a staff of 55 people. Eventually, the studio merged with Columbia Pictures and was then merged with Sony Pictures.
As the Internet gained popularity, Siegler became a chairman of Pandora Internet Radio. After his career with Pandora, he made his transition into investment business, where he started a private equity company.
Siegler touched upon the evolution of the entertainment business, stating, “Today the industry is very different because it’s much bigger business and it’s more broadly defined. You can get started by creating an app in your dorm room or by working for YouTube.”
He continued, “When I was entering the entertainment business it was really all in Hollywood and it was a little bit in New York. There was theater and news network operation in New York. Now you can be anywhere.”
While Union may not be a school most renowned for having a foot in the entertainment industry’s door, Siegler offered some advice for any students looking to get involved.
“In this business, a lot of people want to hire family or someone they already know, and if you are not a part of those circles, you have to find a way to make yourself valuable,” he stated.
“When I left Union, I thought I would become a professor, but I just happened to find an opportunity in an unexpected place,” he continued.
Despite the technical credentials, Siegler emphasized the importance of truly enjoying the field.
“You can’t put all of your joy in reaching a destination; you have to enjoy the effort,” he stated.
“Don’t only have one goal. Don’t think that is the only goal that will make you happy, because you might never get to that goal or you might get to that goal but you have to do so many things you hate before reach that goal,” Siegler commented. “I think it is important to just enjoy what you are doing.”
With a background in entertainment and now private equity, Siegler remarked that the makings of success are often the same.
“In every business, regardless of what it is, you will get to a point where you realize that everyone is smart and knows most of the same stuff,” he explained.
“But what begins to set people apart is how interesting they are, how intellectually curious they are, how well they speak and how creative they try to be. I want to hire people who can provide as many different points of view as possible, because it makes for a better overall team,” he continued.
In a field that is filled with high pressure situations, the greatest frustration Siegler has encountered is fear. When people are nervous and uncertain in any workplace, they will not be at their best level of performance.
“Some bosses think that you have to scare people to push them to produce their best work. However, I think the opposite. In any business people are better off when they are happy, relaxed and can have a sense of humor,” he remarked.
Siegler advised that no matter what kind of boss you do end up having to deal with, you need to handle it in the best way for yourself.
Whether it means finding a new job or finding a way to adapt, Siegler’s advice is to learn how to deal with all kinds of people, because that is the only way you will move through each day.
While Siegler holds a list of successes, his insight for students is applicable to any field that they may encounter after college.
Whether participating in the entertainment industry or working at a law firm, Siegler’s tips can advise any recent college graduate in ways to become a well rounded and happy person, as well as how to climb the career ladder.