Binghamton University student approaches TV production with business mindset
School of Management student has worked on Adam Sandler movie and Emmy-winning TV show
By the time his junior year at Binghamton University rolled around, Zach Homler had already worked on three major TV/film productions. It’s real-world experience that would make any internship-seeking student envious, but for Homler, these opportunities are much more than just building blocks for a résumé.
For him, these opportunities are fun.
“There’s always something new coming up, there’s always a new project, and nobody who I’ve met so far gets bored in this industry. Everything is always refreshing, always changing and always developing,” said Homler, a business administration major.
A Long Island native, Homler got his “big break” after his uncle, a talent manager, helped him land an internship during the summer before his senior year of high school as an audience coordinator on The Chris Gethard Show, a variety talk show that was filmed in front of a studio audience and aired on Fusion and truTV.
The show had a loyal fan following, with many of the same audience members coming back for multiple tapings. In addition to keeping the crowd organized and engaged, he also helped prepare celebrity guests such as Jason Sudeikis, Seth Meyers, Nick Kroll and Ellie Kemper for the show.
The experience gave Homler a taste of an industry that he wanted to grow in and began a chain of events that led to even more opportunities that he attributes to the power of networking and building connections.
As his freshman year at Binghamton was winding down, he learned that an Adam Sandler movie for Netflix was going to be filmed on Long Island over the summer. After applying for a production assistant position and expressing an interest a number of times, Homler landed an interview with the production coordinator, who happened to know Chris Gethard.
“That connection definitely helped. I got the job and literally started the next week. It was a crazy, fun time, and they had me doing a little bit of everything. I was working on the set and in the production office, doing a ton of different tasks,” he said.
His next opportunity came when the Amazon Prime show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was set to film a portion of its second season in Deposit, N.Y., about 35 miles from Binghamton.
Out of the blue, Homler got an email from a Maisel crew member who had crossed paths with someone from the Sandler film who knew Homler went to school in Binghamton, asking him if he was interested in working as a production assistant during the summer shoot. And with that, Homler was hired.
“It’s crazy how small the world is. As a School of Management (SOM) student, we’re constantly told about the importance of networking, and these opportunities have really shown me how important building connections truly is,” Homler said.
Maisel, set in the late 1950s, tells the story of a New York City housewife (played by Rachel Brosnahan) who decides to pursue stand-up comedy. Because the show typically films in New York City, the Deposit shoot meant having to coordinate bringing the entire cast and crew up to Broome County for the summer. Homler was heavily involved in this preproduction process. While some would look at it as a logistical nightmare, Homler saw it as an opportunity to put his skills to the test.
One of the skills that SOM emphasizes, in particular, is teamwork, and that skill came in handy as Homler worked with the production team to hash out all the details of where everyone would stay.
“The small details matter, and I think it’s the small details that make everything run smoothly. The show is perfectly run, and that’s part of why it’s such a success,” he said.
After weeks of planning, production began at Scott’s Oquaga Lake House, a resort in Deposit, in June 2018.
“The crew does such a great job with the sets and costumes and makeup. Walking onto the set felt like walking out of a time machine. There were extras all over the place in period clothing and cars from the ’50s — it was really cool,” Homler said.
Every day during production was different. Homler said call times were rarely consistent, meaning the time his day started and ended varied greatly. His responsibilities changed from day-to-day as well, ranging from printing scripts to keeping track of purchases to driving company vehicles back-and-forth between Binghamton and Deposit.
He even had a special work companion some days — actor Tony Shalhoub’s dog.
“Tony would let me watch his dog from time to time during the shoot. He was so well-behaved and I loved having him around,” he said.
Homler said one of the highlights of the experience was helping plan the production’s Binghamton wrap party. As he researched different locations and costs, he came to a realization.
“It reminded me so much of a case competition in SOM. You have this project or this problem to solve, and you do some work, weigh your options, then present your recommendations to the decision makers. I treated it like a large-scale case competition, and it helped” he said.
In September, the first season of Maisel won eight Emmy Awards, including Best Comedy Series. A few days after Emmy night, a party was held in Manhattan to celebrate the wins and the wrap on production of Season 2, which is slated to be released on Amazon Prime in the coming months. Homler said the party allowed him to look back with pride on the work he put in with the cast and crew.
“It’s a proud feeling, being able to work on an Emmy-winning show,” he said. “I liked being a part of something like that. It was such a valuable experience that I learned so much from.”
Homler hopes to eventually work in entertainment law or talent management. With his business education, combined with his experience so far on various productions, Homler feels he’s well on his way down an exciting career path.
“This is me getting my foot in the door,” he said. “I’m able to get that ground-up perspective of what goes into these productions, and I think putting in that work and understanding the day-to-day process is only going to help me on the business side of things. And so far, it’s been a lot of fun.”