It may be a quantum leap from country Queensland to the bright lights of Hollywood, but Kilcoy’s Cassandra Gundry has shown she’s got what it takes.
Earlier this year, the 21-year-old made the big decision to move to Los Angeles in the hope of finding work in the ultra-competitive television production industry.
And, in less than six months, she has worked on two program pilots (for Comedy Central and VH1) and has been signed on for the new season of Rove McManus’ hit talk show, Rove LA, later this year.
“Living here and being part of the television industry is a dream come true. The place is fascinating. The people are amazing. And I’m loving every minute of my time here!” said Cass.
Cass’ journey from Kilcoy to LA started when she was awarded a scholarship to study at Bond University on the Gold Coast after she completed Year 12 as a boarder at Brisbane’s Clayfield College.
An outstanding student, she opted to take on two degrees simultaneously – a Bachelor of Business and a Bachelor of Communications. Thanks to Bond’s fast-tracked, three-semesters-per-year schedule, Cass was able to complete both degrees in less than three years.
“Studying at Bond was a fantastic experience,” said Ms Gundry.
“As a private, relatively small university, the professors and Faculty staff go above and beyond to help students on a one-to-one basis.
“They set up internships for me, put me in touch with other Bondies in the industry and provided job contacts with media leaders.”
A highlight of Cass’ time at Bond was being selected for the Bond University Washington Internship program, which saw her moving to Washington DC for four months to intern at CBS News.
“The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences arranged a number of internships during my time at Bond, but working at CBS News and living in Washington was definitely one of the greatest experiences of my life,” says Cass.
“I was part of a four-person team producing a daily webcast now known as Political HotSheet. This involved booking guests ranging from Congressmen to celebrities. I also conducted a number of interviews myself and even shot some of my own pieces.
“One of the most memorable moments was reporting from the red carpet at the Mark Twain Prize, held at the Kennedy Center, where I interviewed everyone from guest of honour, Tina Fey, to Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, Steve Martin, Betty White and Jon Hamm.
“I also worked as an assistant producer at the Kennedy Center (sic) Honours where we interviewed Oprah and Sir Paul McCartney,” she said.
Cass’ internship adviser at Bond then put her in touch with a Bond alumna at MTV in Sydney so she went straight from working at CBS News in Washington to an internship and full-time job with the 24-hour music channel.
“I was production coordinator with a small, hands-on team working on campaigns and ideas for brands like STA Travel, Sony Ericsson and Sol Beer that wanted to connect with the MTV audience,” says Cass.
“My role involved everything from idea generation and budgeting through to location scouting, casting, creating social media strategies and hiring crew so it was a fantastic learning experience.”
After a year with MTV, Cass made the big decision to move to LA with no work lined up and few contacts.
“I started out by reading everything I could about other people’s experiences of landing jobs in the industry.
“I stayed in very, very low-budget accommodation and spent my money on attending industry events.
“I eventually got my break by contacting every production company that was filming a pilot show in LA. I was lucky enough to get an email back from David Martin, President of Avalon Television, who invited me to meet him and ultimately offered me a job.”
With two productions now under her belt, another in progress and Rove LA lined up for later this year, Cass has made remarkable strides in what is a notoriously tough industry to get into.
“At the end of the day, you have to believe in your abilities and be consistent, positive and grounded,” she says.
“Every day brings new surprises and new lessons to be learnt so I am just trying to take it all in, enjoy it and learn as much as I can.”
Students can find out more about where a degree in Business and Communications can take them at Bond University’s Open Day on August 19. Find out more about Open Day at bond.edu.au\open-day.