Brenda Lau

A year after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 1983, radio TV film (RTF) alumna Brenda Lau packed her things into her Volkswagen car and with $800 in her bank account drove to across the country to pursue her dream of working in LA.

In LA, Lau moved in with friends she had met in the RTF program while she searched for a job.

“I did a lot of cold calling, writing letters, pounding the pavement and answering ads,” Lau said. Lau landed her first job in LA through her connections at WTMJ-TV, a Milwaukee TV station she worked at as a production assistant for a year prior to moving to LA.

Lau said she credits networking and the hands-on learning available through the UW Oshkosh RTF program for her success.

“Oshkosh allows you to get as much or as little experience as you want to,” Lau said. “After switching my major from chemistry to RTF, I did everything that was available. I made films, produced TV and radio shows and had built a reel to show employers what I could do.”

In the RTF program at UW Oshkosh, students learn how to use equipment and facilities currently used in the industry through classroom experiences, which they can apply by participating in TitanTV productions, hosting their own radio show on WRST-FM or joining the UW Oshkosh Film Society. Lau said learning to work with others and build a team while at UWO are skills she uses everyday.

“At UWO I learned how to work with other people,” Lau said. “Forming those friendships and alliances is so important. You learn how to navigate conflict, build teams and communicate your ideas with a team.”

Lau, who has worked at ABC since 1993, is a senior writer, producer and creative director. In her role in entertainment marketing, Lau has led campaigns for network television programs such as Grey’s Anatomy, Lost, The Academy Awards and How to Get Away with Murder to name a few.

In addition to her full-time role at ABC, Lau is also an independent filmmaker. “It’s really a fulfilling accomplishment to really put my vision for a film on screen,” Lau said.

Lau said her award-winning 2010 film, Deadbeat is one of the most satisfying accomplishments of her career. “It’s gratifying to know that you really can have an impact on people through your work,” Lau said.

For Lau, camaraderie and staying together as an industry is important. She serves as a mentor to interns and newly hired employees and has also hosted RTF students at her home for a Packers game during their interim class to Hollywood in January 2014.

“I had the students at ABC and introduced them to what I do and what the people in my department do. I gave a presentation, a tour of ABC and one of the weekend’s hosted them for a Packers playoff game,” Lau said. “I love talking to students and asking what they are interested in and giving them advice on how to find that path to where they want to be.”

Lau’s own trip to Hollywood as a student at UWO is what confirmed her decision to pursue a career in the film industry. “I got to meet people I aspired to be like, such as Aaron Spelling. That really confirmed for me that this is where I wanted to be,” Lau said.

Lau said she encourages students and recent graduates to reach out to people in the industry for advice.

“Asking for a 15-minute informational meeting is a great way to ask someone questions about their career and how they got where they are,” Lau said. “Be sure to also offer to help them and not just ask what they can do for you.”

Aside from mentoring others, Lau is passionate about providing support to young professionals in any way that she can.

“I put myself through school and I feel it is very important that people be supported, which is why I established a scholarship for students in the RTF program,” Lau said.

The Brenda Lee Lau Storytelling Scholarship is open to full-time RTF students with 60 or more credits, at least a 3.0 in RTF classes and a passion for writing or directing with a focus on narrative storytelling.

“Whatever you dream is possible,” Lau said. “You just have to follow your dreams and not be afraid to follow your passions.”

 

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