Alumni Spotlight: Olivia Bonin

Name: Olivia Bonin
Graduation Year: 2012
Majors: 
Cinema Critical Studies and Neuroscience
Hometown: 
Washington, D.C.

What roles/positions did you hold at Trojan Vision?
Trojan Vision was a huge part of my college experience and a highlight of my time at USC. My most significant roles were as one of two Executive Producers of Platforum (a live, nightly debate show) with my friend and colleague James Creech. And then later as the Promotions Manager. 

What are your favorite memories or highlights from working at the station?
My favorite memories all revolve around the station’s sense of community and spirit of experimentation. I remember talking with my friends about what we thought would be cool to see on TV… and then making it! Whether it was about politics or pop culture, it was amazing to have the freedom and resources to explore our own creativity and opinions and to just try things. Even when they didn’t work. My TV8 coworkers were some of my closest friends– and still are. 

How was the process of transitioning out of USC and into the workplace?
I have Trojan Vision to thank for my first job out of school. James Creech (who I worked with there) had a job at a cool digital media advertising startup and recommended me for a position. It was a great experience, but I eventually realized I wanted to pursue the creative side of TV and got a job working as a CBS Page (where there were also some familiar faces from Trojan Vision!). 
I feel very lucky and have loved almost every job I’ve had. But one of the things that I think can be tricky to navigate in those early years is realizing that suddenly you’re at the bottom of the ladder in a huge industry. To me, the key was to make sure I always found a way to learn from every experience. I was soaking up information, picking the brains of the people I worked for, and developing my own opinions and creative skills so I was ready to show what I was capable of when the right moment came. 

What has your journey and experience in the industry been like?
After the Page program, I worked as an executive assistant at a production company and then as the assistant to an Unscripted showrunner. I’ve now worked for him for five and half years after being promoted to an Associate Producer, Producer, and now his VP. I’ve had a lot of adventures in the world of production. I’ve worked on shows on FOX, ABC, NBC, and now Netflix. They’ve included a singing competition (The Four: Battle for Stardom) a live cooking show (The F Word with Gordon Ramsay), game shows (To Tell the Truth, Capital One College Bowl), a physical competition (Dwayne Johnson’s The Titan Games), a comedy competition (Bring the Funny) and more.

What are you up to now?
I’m currently the VP of Development for an Unscripted Showrunner / Executive Producer who has a deal with Netflix. He showruns projects for them and we develop unscripted show ideas to pitch them. My job is to come up with new ideas and to figure out how to build out existing concepts into full shows that could be produced. This ranges from testing the rules and mechanisms of a game show to helping with casting, coming up with challenge ideas, and more. Every day is different. I spend a LOT of time building pitch decks and materials. You’ve got to be able to sell your ideas, no matter how good they are!

Any advice to current students?
I would never presume to have it all figured out. But some advice I’ve collected from others over the years that I’ve found useful would be… 

  • Treat everything you do as if it matters and every person you meet as if they’re important. It’s nice, but also good for your career. People see how well you do at small tasks and use it to decide on whether to trust you with increasingly more important ones. And the person who was driving your Uber could be deciding whether or not to pick up your show in a few years. 
  • Constantly consume content– read books, watch shows (even bad ones), see movies, browse TikTok. Figure out what you thought worked and what didn’t in each. Continue to learn and grow from what other people are doing and develop your own taste. How would you do it if you were in charge?

Please reach out to our Industry Relations Manager, Phoebe Lai (pelai@usc.edu) to get in touch with our Notable Alumni or be featured in our next newsletter!