MacLean ’15 making moves on Dancing With the Stars

juliewebWhile some Colby students don’t go into a field at all related to their major or minor, Julie MacLean ’15 used her degree in theater and dance to spring herself right into the entertainment industry. Almost immediately after graduating from the College, MacLean moved to Los Angeles, California and began her job on the ABC reality show, Dancing with the Stars (DWTS), as a Story Assistant.

“As a Story Assistant, I’m a part of the field team, so I’m in the trenches most days, sitting in on rehearsals with celebrity contestants and their dance partners. My primary job is to help the producers shape the storyline for each couple as they compete for the coveted Mirror Ball trophy,” MacLean said. MacLean’s day-to-day schedule shifts, but much of her time is spent in the dance rehearsals. However, MacLean also gets to work during live tapings: “In rehearsals, I take notes on important story points and shoot behind the scenes footage of the production process. During our weekly live tapings, I get to put my stage managing skills to use and help wrangle talent and produce behind the scenes moments with each couple.”

Although MacLean’s job entails working six days a week, sometimes for twelve or thirteen hours, she claims that the job is “so worth it.” The alumna mentioned that while there are many great things about her job, “the coolest thing about my job is that I get paid to help create something. Although DWTS isn’t scripted, there is a lot of work that goes into making sure our audiences keep watching after 22 seasons. We need to be innovative with our material so that America doesn’t get bored. It’s really rewarding to see an idea, even a small one, get realized on national TV.”

MacLean was a theater and dance major with a creative writing minor during her time at Colby. Outside of classes, she was heavily involved with the performing arts. She was a member of the Megalomaniacs, an a capella group, as well as a cast member and director of Broadway Musical Revue (BMR). In addition, MacLean was a Community Advisor for three years. As MacLean neared the end of her Colby career, she was certain that she wanted to continue to be a part of the entertainment industry. During her job search, she found a connection with a Colby alumnus who works in Los Angeles, and he offered her her current job on DWTS. “Never be afraid to reach out to your fellow Mules!” MacLean said.

Although MacLean had very little time to adjust to Los Angeles after graduating from Colby, she has experienced many “perks” of her job that have made the fast and stressful transition worth it. “I’m lucky enough to work with both high profile talent and industry professionals every day,” MacLean said. She continued, “The people I work with are what make this job worthwhile. The professional dancers, the celebrities, and most importantly, the production team are what make this job so much fun.”

In addition, MacLean has had the chance to travel with the DWTS cast and crew as part of her job. “Last season I also got to travel a little bit, which was an incredible experience. I was sent on a cruise ship out of New York to follow two of the contestants and film them both in rehearsals and enjoying what the ship had to offer. We worked sixteen hour days for three days straight, but still managed to have some fun and bonded in the process,” she said. MacLean also recently attended the Golden Globes award show as a production assistant for the red carpet special.

As a first-year “post-grad,” MacLean claims that the hardest part was moving to a new city so quickly. “I got the job on Dancing with the Stars at the beginning of August and I barely had time to breathe before the season started. I moved from New York to L.A. with barely two weeks notice, and had to scramble to find a car, a place to live, and settle in before I started working. I only knew a few people out here. Most of my friends from Colby moved to Boston or New York, and I was really lonely for a while. It can be difficult to make friends in a new city where it seems like everyone has their lives figured out. But once I started work, it became easier to break down those barriers. It gets better every day!”

MacLean also claims that living in Hollywood is “different from everything I grew up knowing.” She continues, “I’m used to fearing hypothermia during the entire month of January. But here I was going to the beach on New Years. I missed out entirely on winter this year. Not that I’m complaining. The weather here is lovely and it’s nice to know that I’ll have all of my fingers and toes heading into April.”

McLean also commented on the stigma surrounding Hollywood, as well as the gender balance within the entertainment industry: “Hollywood is often stereotyped as superficial, and there is definitely some of that out there, but L.A. is an extremely diverse city, and I have surrounded myself with only the best people. Although I have found that the Hollywood production world is definitely male heavy at the moment, that seems to be changing daily. There are fantastic and incredible women on my team who operate a camera just as well as the guys do.”

Having moved from a small liberal arts college in New England to a large, diverse city immediately after graduating, MacLean had much to say about the real world in comparison to the Colby. “The real world is awesome,” MacLean said, “People will say that college is the best four years of your life, but I can already tell you that that’s not true. Colby was an incredible place to go to school and I will always be a Mule, but moving on is not as terrifying as you’ve heard.”

MacLean continued, “The idea of adulthood is daunting. You have to pay rent and cook for yourself and clean your own bathrooms. But I’ve found that the more I throw myself into the skid, the less likely I am to crash. It’s exciting to have the freedom of being able to do whatever you want and not be confined to a classroom. This is the time when you take your Colby education and use it to create your future. This is what you’ve been working for throughout your years of school. If you’re excited about the real world, the real world will get exciting.”

In addition to being across the country from each other, MacLean states that there is an abundance of differences between Colby life and post-grad life, and not just in Hollywood. “The social life is very different. Your friends don’t live down the hall from you, and it’s difficult to make plans when everyone has such crazy schedules. Grabbing a quick meal in Foss is no longer an option. If you want to eat out with a friend, you have to plan it ahead of time, and also pay for it, which is just not fun. However, popping the Colby bubble meant meeting so many new personalities and having experiences that I could only have outside of the classroom.”

MacLean also took time to reflect on the job application process. She advises Colby students to not “be afraid to tell people what type of job you are looking for. Shout it from the rooftops if you are up to it. You never know who might hear you and want to give you a hand. Working in film and TV is very unpredictable. You can have a gig lined up for one season of a show or the run of a film, and then three months later be unemployed again. But if you make an impression on the people around you, you are more likely to hear that phone ring with an offer.”

On the difficulties and benefits of networking, MacLean commented, “Connections are everything, but you don’t have to have a famous cousin or a powerful uncle to make them. You just have to get to know people and be friendly to them. After the first season of DWTS wrapped, I was worried that I’d be out of work during our hiatus, but on day one of unemployment I got a call from a colleague of mine asking me to help out at the Golden Globes. All it took to land that gig was being nice to a coworker who wanted to help me out. You can do that too. Or call up a Colby alum that works in your industry. It may take a few tries, but it worked for me!”