The Forbes 30 Under 30 set of lists are put out each year to help recognize the top names in a variety of industries. This includes areas such as Art & Style, Consumer Technology, Marketing & Advertising, as well as several other fields and industries.
Earning a place on any of Forbes lists is an incredible honor, one only bolstered by the fact that 30 Under 30 editors have to work through thousands of nominations to identify the top names and talent in each field. Finding your name on this list shows how far a professional has come while setting them up for success in their future career.
Forbes 2020 30 Under 30 list included a special surprise when it was announced back in December 2019: An Emerson alum was featured as one of the names listed within the Marketing & Advertising list. This obviously prompted the Career Development Center to reach out and learn more about what led this alum to their current position!
What has the Forbes 30 Under 30 experience been like for you? Where were you when you found out you had been named?
Ross: “It’s been a crazy honor. What I’m happy about regarding Forbes more than anything is the fact that anyone working in immersive or experiential art or theater or VR/AR, be it me or someone else, is being recognized in a notable honor. It helps the whole community when the industry is brought to a higher level of visibility. I want a lot of us to benefit from its exposure. More investors will realize the industry’s strength, and more artists will be attracted to take part in it. All of it’s great.
I have a particularly cliché story of when I’d heard I’d been named. I was preparing for a meeting with an investor on a theater show, and right after I’d heard, I had to of course uphold my meeting with her at Soho House – which was the perfect place to celebrate the sudden great news. She ordered me champagne to celebrate and, on top of that, one of my best friends is the concierge there, so he waived the fee of our drinks. ‘Twas delish.
The best part was celebrating with the NYC experiential community a few days later though at a holiday party; we were all in incredible spirits. Again, the Forbes 30 Under 30 honor for being a producer, director, and writer of immersive theater and experiential marketing activations feels like a win for our industry.”
What is it that draws you to the work you’re currently doing in marketing, theater, and live entertainment?
“There’s an urgency to immersive content that matches well with a certain… happy-productive anxiety that’s really prevalent in my generation. It’s very fast, alive, requires you to be alert – all things our minds want to do. It’s calming in that way. I’m helping turn movies and TV into live experiences in an Imagineering sense but for many other companies and studios (like Giant Spoon and Amazon) besides what Imagineers do for Disney – I’ve always wanted to do that and I found a weird way to get there. The marketing aspects go hand in hand with the theater aspects: in both fields, you are always thinking about your audience.
I love being that bridge, and I love helping others achieve that bridge and reaching their fans or demographics through theater and Marketing.”
What were some of the challenges you faced early in your post-grad experience?
“Everywhere in film is primed to say no. It fascinates me because the younger generation has to get started somehow, they can’t all be told no. So why are they hearing no constantly?
It’s easiest for people to break into their dream profession when, say, family is already in the profession because then it’s like, “Step right this way, sir!”
It’s harder breaking into an industry, be it film or theater, where everyone’s a stranger to you and hesitant to let you in because of – I’m not sure. A worry that you’ll replace them? They weren’t raised to come from a place of kindness? I’m the opposite of previous generations – when I hear of someone in their early 20s starting on my same path, I’m immediately like, “how can I help!?” I have a hunger to open doors for them because it was missing from my experience.”
What were some of the first steps you took after graduation?
“I immediately took on two more film producer internships – around my part-time (non-film-producer) summer jobs. Then I moved to LA with many others from my class where I eventually cobbled together six different part-time jobs as an assistant to filmmakers and mainstream TV writers.
While being a freelancer, I really began practicing the experiential theater idea I thought of while at Emerson, out of bootleg LA venues and, after word of mouth, receiving private commissions.”
What are some of your next steps career-wise?
“I have several freelance experiential marketing activations coming up in different cities, plus luckily a few independent large-scale ticketed theater experiences in NYC and other cities that I’ve either pitched or become attached to, Off-Broadway scale.
I’m always looking for more collaborators – I act as producer, director, and/or writer but often not all three at the same time, so I’m always looking for top artists to fill those roles. Plus: costumers, designers, stage managers, beyond. Contact me, we’ll make something insane, and have fun making that happen.”
Do you have any advice for current students?
“I would probably say that if your biggest passion is in a career that doesn’t have much of a trajectory, doesn’t have many milestones, markers, “signs of validation” so to speak, just keep moving forward anyway. You’re asking all the right questions, and you’re doing all the right work. Stay confident. Eventually, gatekeepers will realize what you’re doing and they’ll let you on in. And stay kind!”