When Pete graduated in 2002 John Paul Horstman, a film editor and producer, first moved to Los Angeles before starting his career, having to work various part-time jobs and unpaid internships. He said anyone trying to make a career in entertainment should network as much as possible while trying to work as much as possible.
Ben Ashuta, senior film and business major, aims to do just that with his new podcast, “Pete in Hollywood.”
A 10-episode podcast recorded as part of Asciutto’s latest project for Pete in Los Angeles, available on Spotify and Anchor. It debuted on October 10 and features interviews conducted by Asciutto with Pitt alumni in the Hollywood film industry.
Ashuta said his idea for “Pete in Hollywood” came from a recent project he completed for “Analyzing Television” with professor Dana Oh. For the project, he recorded an interview with a longtime teacher and cameraman Pat Capone which inspired him to continue podcasting.
“It was a big success for me personally because I was able to really thicken up [Capone’s] story and how he climbed the ladder from camera assistant to “Ghostbusters‘ to the prestigious, and the head of his department, operator. It gave me the bug for the potential of the podcast,” Ashuta said.
In the first episode of “Pete in Hollywood,” Horstman talks about his arrival in Los Angeles, founding University of Pittsburgh Television and the importance of networks. When he first enrolled at Pitt, he told Ashutosh he intended to major in astronomy because of his love of the Carl Sagan miniseries Cosmos, but changed his mind and graduated with a degree in English and history.
Horstman also talked about his love of editing, and how he taught his fellow students how to edit digital footage while at Pitt, something he taught himself. Since then, he has edited films such as “Blonde” and “Killing them gently” and has also created music videos for artists such as Billie Eilish and Doge Cat.
The second episode of “Pete in Hollywood” will be released on November 8 and includes an interview with the Pete alum and the director John Hill and cinematographer Nate Cornett.
To fund the podcast, Ashuta said he arranged with Oh to apply for a Summer Undergraduate Research Award through the university Office of Research. The award provides students with a $4,000 stipend to use independently for summer research. He used the award to purchase appropriate audio and recording equipment, as well as space to record the podcast while in Los Angeles.
Oh, who advised Aschut on the project, said the podcast seemed like a great idea for the award and that Pitt’s L.A. director, Carl Kurlander, would be a great resource for finding alumni interviews.
“I immediately knew this would be a great project to propose to the Office of Undergraduate Research Summer Undergraduate Award, so Ben began developing his research proposal based on his work in a required course for the major,” said Oh. “[Kurlander] I have strong relationships with many alumni in Los Angeles and elsewhere, so I think Professor Kurlander helped Ben make some of his first acquaintances.”
Erin Wheeler, Pitt’s career counselor, helped Asciutto coordinate an event to introduce students to the podcast when the first episode aired on Oct. 10. She explained how important internships and similar opportunities are for students as they approach graduation.
“Experience-based learning, such as internships, overseas observation and study abroad opportunities, are always beneficial. It will give students the opportunity to better understand themselves and the ideal work environment,” Wheeler said. “That being said, experience doesn’t always have to be far away—it can be local or within the States to still gain knowledge and gain unique opportunities.”
Ashuta credited the Pitt program in Los Angeles with giving him the opportunity to work on projects and introducing him to the alumni community.
“That’s been one of the biggest takeaways I’ve taken from Pitt over the years I’ve been studying — that Los Angeles has such an amazing, resourceful and welcoming community that’s willing to help current students,” Ashuta said.
Ashuta is also currently executive producing the eighth season of Pete Tonight, a late-night student talk show. He is working on his feature film to complete his degree in film and has expressed a desire to do more documentary work and generally continue to work.
“I feel like I’m always working on something,” Ashuta said. “That’s what I want to pursue after I graduate, just this kind of project work where I’m involved in different media, film and television assets. If I can live that lifestyle, it would be perfect.”