Student Spotlight: Career in an Independent Studio

Felipe Cerón, Entertainment Editor

Felipe Núñez (MBA ’22) shares his atypical pre-MBA experience at MRC Entertainment.

Felipe Núñez (MBA ’22) worked in MRC Entertainment for four years. MRC is an LA-based studio—co-founded by two HBS alumni—that focuses on film, television, media, and data. Núñez started out as an Assistant and worked his way up to become a Manager, working on productions including the recent blockbuster Knives Out.

Núñez’s media and entertainment roots trail back to his childhood; he has always had a passion for films and television. In high school, he worked in the theater as a director, writer and performer. He studied Marketing and French at the University of Texas at Austin (UT). Marketing appealed to his storytelling and creative side while he chose French because of the strong faculty at UT.

He graduated in 2012 and moved on to work on GLG, a company that offers “expert networks” to businesses in need. He stayed for three and a half years, and, while he loved the work, he felt that it was not his purpose. There was something else that he needed to find, and maybe some other industry had the answer. He was naturally drawn towards the media and entertainment industry. Núñez recalls, “I started talking to as many people as I could, wherever I could—coworkers, directors, writers, marketers, strategists, agencies, and studios—asking things as simple as ‘what’s your day like’ and just building connections.” He stresses the fact that connections are the most important resource in this industry, and it is important to build such connections from the ground up. He set out to become an executive assistant in a small studio, figuring it would be a great foundational experience.

After six months, his intense research paid off. It took long because “it’s a very insular industry, people don’t know what to do with resumes that look different.” He got an interview at MRC through a GLG co-worker whose wife was the head of Strategy at MRC.

Initially, the work at MRC entailed everything that comes to mind when thinking about an assistant, and it certainly felt like a rite of passage: answering calls, scheduling meetings, picking up coffee, ordering gifts, and such. Notwithstanding the intensity of the role and the unfamiliarity of the new work environment, the job had great benefits. “The position plugged me into the network of high-level execs. in MRC and took me under the wing of one of those business managers. Besides, I got to know information from many areas of the company, since every senior executive had an assistant. Strong networks were developed between us assistants, and we shared as much information as we could.”

Núñez spent two years as an assistant but then transitioned to become an analyst, and later a manager, in the Strategy department. Working on the strategy and business aspects of the studio required a completely different skillset. The whole flow of information was different and the work was more analytical. He worked on developing film and television strategies, supported green-light decision making, helped launch the company’s documentary division and gave feedback to creative executives on scripts. His ultimate goal was to help the head managers make successful business decisions. As a manager, he took a role in investing in and integrating companies such as Dick Clark Productions and The Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Group. He worked on topics ranging from reorganizing team structure and developing common branding but it did not come without its challenges “I thought merging would be more straight-forward, but the reality is that it’s hard to know when to push forward or hold steady, and you need to gauge how people are feeling throughout the whole process. 80% of merging in the industry is about the culture, so you have to build true partnerships between all companies.”

What were your biggest challenges in your role at MRC?

Finding my voice was hard. It’s similar to the case method as opportunities to participate were scarce and you had to add value whenever you did. Managing everyone’s priorities was also challenging. Sometimes I was told that I had to make certain meetings happen, but the person on the other side of the phone was not very compliant. It was key to prioritize the good of the company, and at times it felt not everybody was on the same boat.

What did you like the most?

I liked the proximity to creativity, art and performance, visual culture, and my passion. My bosses were all incredible.

Based on your career path, what do you think are the most valuable skills to have in the industry?

People need to be passionate about film and television. People must also portray that they have an understanding of what is happening in the industry.

Do you want to go back?

I would love to work for a digital distributor like Netflix or a venture capital firm focused on media, or even pursue Entrepreneurship.

Based on your pre-MBA experience, what do you think are some of the specific challenges for the industry?

There are a small number of companies in the industry, and a lot of them are really big. There is continued downstream and upstream verticalization, which allows already enormous companies to become even larger. For example, WME now has Endeavor Content, CAA created Wiip, Disney acquired Fox, and NBC moved into direct-to-consumer business. I am hopeful though that regulators will manage this correctly, so as to not limit consumers choices in the market.

Getting to Know the Interviewee

Favorite movie: The Shining

Favorite TV series: American Dad

Recommendation: Lovecraft Country

Favorite director: Pedro Almodóvar

Favorite actor: Julianne Moore in Magnolia

Favorite play: Good Person of Szechwan by Bertolt Brecht 

Favorite book: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Felipe Cerón (MBA ’22) is a Chilean who previously worked in consulting and retail. He considers himself to be a lifelong musician and actor, and he is an avid fan of film and television. Having a laugh over a beer, getting in a challenging workout, and reading inspiring books are among his favorite pastimes. While he thinks sparkling water is the best beverage ever created, he is also currently the owner of the most luxurious home bar in SFP.