Western Reserve Academy welcomes back Hollywood alumni members

Western Reserve Academy welcomes back Hollywood alumni members

On Sunday, March 14, alumna Cara Russell '91 returned to Brick Row to host a special talk and Q&A session in the Wilson Reading Room. Students gathered in the cozy space to hear from the successful and prolific screenwriter and Creative Development Executive and prepared questions to gain insight into the industry, her artistic process and her path to Hollywood.

Many of Russell's works are currently available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, the Hallmark Channel and more. Included in her work is the 2019 The Knight Before Christmas, available on Netflix, which stars Vanessa Hudgens and Josh Whitehouse.

Seated in one of the upholstered armchairs, Russell spoke of her career path and the lessons she learned along the way, pressing on the conviction, confidence, patience and hard work needed to make a successful and sellable script. Along the way, she peppered in memories of Reserve and fun facts — did you know she has a cameo in The Knight Before Christmas?

She remarked that even as a student at Reserve, she knew writing was in her future and though it hasn't been a smooth and easy journey and that rejections are still a difficult blow to endure, she prescribed tenacity and gumption and encouraged listeners to follow their dreams so long as the work brings them joy.

"Don't give up on your dreams," she said. "And make sure you enjoy the journey. Because once you're there, you don't want to look back and think you missed out on something. If you give it your sole focus, make sure you enjoy it."

Russell was not the only Pioneer from Hollywood to pay Reserve a recent visit. The cast of The WRAp sat in on a virtual conference with film and television Director, Producer and Writer Jeff Schaffer '87 (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm), thanks to Assistant Head of School for Advancement Mark LaFontaine. Schaffer, Gunnar Gray '22, Landon Allis '23, Jill Reef '21 and Carter Frato-Sweeney '22 talked shop about best camera angles, comedic timing and writing, and general directorial best practices. It was a productive session and surely one that will come in handy as they prepare for the next episode of The WRAp.

It's always a pleasure to welcome back our graduates and even more so when there's opportunity to share sage advice, a few laughs and words of encouragement to our Pioneers as they set their sights on their own futures ahead.