Communications grads find toehold
in cable television industry © Nov. 6, 2009, Norwich University Office of Communications

Norwich graduates (left to right) Steve Weber, Mike Nardini and Patrick “Duffy” Nagle pose with Tom Rogan, ’65, at Authentic Entertainment headquarters in Burbank, Calif.

photo courtesy of Tom RoganNorwich graduates (left to right) Steve Weber, Mike Nardini and Patrick “Duffy” Nagle pose with Tom Rogan, ’65, at Authentic Entertainment headquarters in Burbank, Calif. Rogan’s son co-founded the company.

Next time you’re channel surfing and land on the cable shows Ace of Cakes, Flipping Out or The Naughty Kitchen, consider that there may be Norwich alums behind the camera.

Thanks to networking and alumni connections, three recent graduates landed coveted jobs at Authentic Entertainment, a Burbank, Calif., television production company with 12 programs on nine networks.

Patrick “Duffy” Nagle, ’02,was the first.

A communications major, Nagle got his first post-graduation job at a Greensboro, N.C., television station. When he decided to move to California, he called William Estill, his communications professor at Norwich.

Norwich graduates are willing to put their nose to the grindstone, work hard, learn what they need to learn.

~ Tom Rogan,
Authentic Entertainment founder

Estill, who teaches television production, learned about Authentic Entertainment from Tom Rogan, ’65, who works in the Alumni Office. Rogan’s son, also named Tom, co-founded the company 10 years ago. Estill told Nagle to give Authentic a call.

“I started as a production assistant,” said Nagle. “I did everything from getting people food to running tapes to cleaning up—whatever anybody needed done.”

He worked on several shows in various capacities, traveling throughout the country, including several years in Baltimore on Ace of Cakes where he met his wife. Eventually, Nagle decided he wanted to work in sound. Authentic trained him and he is now considered one of the firm’s top audio people.

“I aways loved editing based on sound,” said Nagle. Sound “drives the visual. Anything from a nail being hammered in to someone’s talking. I find it pretty fascinating.”

In Vermont on a job, Nagle returned to Norwich’s Northfield campus to speak with students, including Michael Nardini, a communications major with a minor in digital media.

“Two years ago I was in summer school [at Norwich], Duffy came to Norwich ... and told me about California and Authentic,” said Nardini, a native of Albany, N.Y. “I thought he was crazy. There’s no way I could pick up and move out to California.”

But in April 2009, as the day of graduation grew closer, Nardini made the call.

“I had interviewed with ESPN and was given a job there, but then there was a hiring freeze. A lot of my options back home had fallen through,” Nardini said. “I thought, I'm young; the heck with it. Let’s give it a shot.” Nagle linked him with the right people at Authentic. Next thing he knew, Nardini was flying to Burbank.

He started out with a night shift [which leaves time to enjoy the beach], logging footage shot by Authentic during the day. He watches all the material shot and notes interviews and events on each tape.

“I love it here,” Nardini said.

Nardini’s classmate, Steven Weber, was also searching for a job. He gave his resume to Tom Rogan Sr., who passed it along to his son. When Weber visited California looking for work, he interviewed at Authentic.

It turns out the company had started using a Sony PMX-EX1 camera that Weber knew how to use. In fact, he knew more than anyone at the company. He flew to California the day after graduation to start training, and then spent the summer in Texas filming The Naughty Chef.

He has since been hired as a system production office coordinator at the main office.

“Had we not gotten those cameras senior year, I probably would not have gotten the job,” Weber said. “Norwich was on the cutting edge, getting those cameras.”

Estill said he wants equipment to be state-of-the-art to prepare students for the workplace.

“When we upgraded last year, I questioned my graduates in the field. I asked them what equipment to buy. Duffy advised to get this type of camera—and we did,” he said.

“The Norwich guys have a really good work ethic,” said Rogan, adding that graduates from film schools tend to want to get straight to directing. Norwich graduates, “are willing to put their nose to the grindstone, work hard, learn what they need to learn. They are still driven; they know where they need to go, but they don’t act like they are owed this.”

The three alums at Authentic, all from the Corps of Cadets, praised Estill and Norwich for preparing them for their jobs.

“Something you learn at Norwich is to work hard, to represent yourself and the school at a decent level,” said Nagle. “And being efficient and being organized. As silly as it sounds, keeping your room straight teaches you to be more organized in the working world, which allows you to get more work accomplished.”

“Norwich taught you to take everything with a smile, to roll with it and stay flexible,” said Weber. Communication classes taught him to “work with tight deadlines. ... and work under pressure”—skills he values now.

With 14 Norwich grads at ESPN Sports Center and six at Sony studios, Estill has lots of contacts at media companies. “The contacts are becoming our graduates,” he said.

Nardini recently snared a freelance job as an assistant editor on a straight-to-TV film called Fortress. He is anxious to help other Norwich students.

“I can’t wait for Estill to give me that phone call,” he said. “I’m looking forward to helping them out and ... will do my best to help them find a job. Definitely.”