The Show Must Go On 

UM's Entertainment Management program prepares students for a star-studded industry. But nothing compares to its current life lesson.

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In the last few months, Grimmsmann has worked closely with Klaus Uhlenbruck, chair of the department of managing and marketing, and Dean Gianchetta to develop curriculum for the next academic year. Her new role means not only planning the logistics of guest speakers, but also coordinating their itineraries and reimbursement, confirming classes and budgeting. It means taking over Douglas' weekend seminar class and coordinating with other staff and students who must now help cover office tasks and gaps in classroom teaching. It also means maintaining the relationships that Douglas has fostered over the last decade—with UM's administration, the program's faculty and staff, and students.

"Emotionally the bottom fell out from under our feet," Grimmsmann says. "It has been difficult. It has been emotionally draining, and it's been difficult for the students."

For Grimmsmann, the sleepless nights come from trying to fill the shoes of someone so well regarded by the entire community.

"It's a classic example of a very charismatic and strong leader suddenly falling out of the picture," she says, "and somebody else having to step in who wouldn't necessarily be welcome by everyone because they're not the other person."

UM alum Jeremy Sauter is also adjusting to the change. He has worked as a marketer for Paramount Pictures the past 15 years, and, since his move back to Missoula in 2008, he's worked closely with Douglas and UMEM. He says his goal is to help students understand the real—and often harsh—world of entertainment.

click to enlarge When Douglas had his stroke, Sonja Grimmsmann, UMEM’s project coordinator, found herself facing the enormous task of leading the program. “We complemented each other very well,” she says. “I’ve had to deal with not having that anymore and having to make decisions on my own. I feel like everything I’ve ever learned my entire life is being put to the test right now.” - PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER
  • Photo by Chad Harder
  • When Douglas had his stroke, Sonja Grimmsmann, UMEM’s project coordinator, found herself facing the enormous task of leading the program. “We complemented each other very well,” she says. “I’ve had to deal with not having that anymore and having to make decisions on my own. I feel like everything I’ve ever learned my entire life is being put to the test right now.”

"A lot of young people were raised by their parents that they are superstars, that they get a trophy for everything they do—just for showing up," Sauter says. "That's not the way it is in business. The best thing you can do is work for a hardass or a badass. That's what I tell the students. If you work for someone who calls out your mistakes every day in a loud voice with a red face, then those mistakes go away. And if you work for someone who gives out praise only when it's really, really due, you start to think about what level of work will get you ahead."

That philosophy goes hand-in-hand with what's been Douglas' main goal of the program. "It's a meritocracy and you get ahead by actually having skills," Sauter says. "I'm a superfan of what Scott does for students. I'm a real believer."

Just before Douglas' stroke, he and Sauter created a class where students organize focus groups for actual use by Paramount Pictures. In addition, the two launched a private venture that hopes to capitalize on the success of the Paramount class. Rather than training students to make it in Los Angeles or New York, Sauter sees an opportunity to keep management talent right in Missoula.

"I would love to help create media companies or prospects for people to stay in Missoula and connect to the sort of decentralized media field so they don't have to pack up their car and go the second they're educated," Sauter says. "It would be great to have something here, and that's one of Scott's goals too."

Sauter says there's "a pause button" on the project because of Douglas' illness, but, like Grimmsmann and the rest of UMEM, he's still pushing on. In fact, during a recent visit, Sauter spoke with Douglas about the Parmount venture and found reason for hope.

"I was explaining something to him I was doing, and he had a better idea," Sauter says. "He's really smart, he's really energetic and he's sort of trapped in this shell where he can't speak. But he drew a flowchart of this deal we're working on. And, it's like, this guy is stuck in his house and in therapy and he's still better at this than I am. He'll be back."

•••

The 1919 contract that sold Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees hangs on the UMEM office wall. Douglas likes to show it to his students as a reminder of a time when entertainment contracts were comprised of six pages rather than hundreds. On another side of the room is a framed photo of Douglas with Stuart Evey, founding member of ESPN. All this, plus several posters of Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival—whose website is now run by UMEM students—add to the sense that, even hundreds of miles away from major hubs, it's still possible to be connected to the entertainment business.

The signs of how much Douglas is the heart of this program are just as evident. Below Douglas' Outstanding Faculty Award hang dozens of "thank you" cards from students over the years, cards from local celebrities like jazz pianist Jodi Marshall, and a personal note from Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

The messages he's received since his stroke, says Judy, have also been more "thank you" than sympathy.

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