From Show Business to Business, Business
By Kelsey Wagner
BSBA Marketing ’12
When Gavin Howell graduated in 2002 from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in film studies, he found himself broke and out of work, like many people in Hollywood. But with hard work, dedication, and a lot of networking, he was eventually able to make a name for himself. In 2010, he left his steady job and took his pregnant wife Tucson for the Eller MBA program in pursuit of a new career dream: video games.
Howell started out at New Wave Entertainment as a production assistant — what he describes as the lowest of the low as far as show business is concerned. He worked long hours, got people coffee, and carried things around for executives. In his free time, he volunteered in the Home Entertainment department, learning from producers, networking, and showing his dedication as a competent and creative person. It was there that executive producer Jeffrey Lerner hired him as an assistant.
Under Lerner, Howell worked on DVD and Blu-ray titles including Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Troy, Happy Feet, and We Are Marshall. He also worked as an associate producer on a few titles of his own. Then, in 2008 at the peak of the writers’ strike, Howell was laid off and found himself looking for work.
He soon found a position with global entertainment company Deluxe Digital Studios, in its creative division. As one of four producers, Howell said he “took the initiative and started focusing on interactive applications and games in addition to video content,” because of the success of Blu-ray technology.
His work included a feature for Fox called “Live Lookup” that allows users to download and view up-to-date actor credits from the Internet Movie Database, and a mobile application called “Pocket Blu” that enables smart phones owners to tap into a variety of special features while watching a movie. It was this position at Deluxe that Howell considers the most rewarding.
“Their creative department really wants producers to ‘think outside the box’ for new ideas for applications, story ideas, and ways of pushing the limited hardware of Blu-ray players beyond the normal functions,” he said. “While it was a tremendous amount of work, I really developed my skills as a producer and learned to be adaptable and forward thinking. No one really knew what technologies would take off, and what would fade away. Being able to follow industry trends, and learn about up-and-coming technologies became second nature. In the entertainment industry that has become necessary.”
As Howell worked on producing videos and interactive games for DVDs and Blu-ray discs, he got a taste of video game development, and eventually decided to make the career jump.But he decided to pursue higher education first, because, “I felt that getting my MBA would help differentiate me from other producers within the entertainment industry.”
His wife, a Tucson native and UA alumna, convinced him that Eller was the place to go to make the career jump. “The more I looked into Eller, the more I was impressed by the curriculum – the emphasis on business communication, the international experience, and the ability to learn the basics then customize my degree with any set of electives that I want. All of that fit with what I was looking for in a graduate school.”
This summer, Howell landed an internship with Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC, working on development of the Playstation 3 and Sony’s next generation portable system in the strategic business development division.
“This internship will allow me to hone in on exactly what I want to be doing, which is going to be the groundwork for where I will want to be once I graduate,” he said. “I feel very comfortable knowing that the education I’m getting from the Eller MBA program is really expanding my potential career options. I’ll have a well-rounded education that covers exactly what I wanted out of my MBA.”