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Actor and Writer Dan Futterman ’89 Offers Career Advice to Students

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A group of College students interested in careers in the entertainment industry gathered at the Columbia Alumni Center on November 28 for a dinner and discussion with actor and screenwriter Dan Futterman ’89, his wife and co-writer, Anya Epstein, and playwriting student Jason Kim ’08. The event was hosted by the Center for Career Education and the Columbia College Alumni Association Career Education Committee. 

The event was the first in a series designed to bring together alumni in specific fields with students looking for career advice and guidance.

“This sort of support wasn’t that easy to find when I was at the College, but it’s something I would have loved to have had made available to me,” Futterman said. “It’s a pleasure to help today’s undergraduates.”

Futterman, who began his career as an actor, has appeared on Broadway in Angels in America and in films including A Mighty Heart alongside Angelina Jolie. He was nominated in 2005 for an Academy Award for his screenplay for the film Capote.

Epstein started out as an assistant and writer on NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street. She and Futterman were writers and executive producers for the third season of HBO’s In Treatment and are currently developing a new series, T, for HBO.

Futterman and Epstein hired Kim him as their assistant for In Treatment. He is now in his second year at The New School, working toward an M.F.A. in playwriting. He previously worked as a researcher at The New Yorker.

Futterman told students to be wary of the maxim, “Write what you know,” and instead suggested, “Write what you can imagine and expand the horizons of what you know.” He noted that their new series, T, features a transgender character, and that he and Epstein did extensive research and are drawing on common feelings of alienation and search for identity in telling the story.

“Be willing to be surprised by what path you take and the opportunities that come to you,” said Epstein, who added that she never thought working at Homicide would teach her so many lessons that she could apply to her own work.

Kim said he came to playwriting after a period of indecision and an unhappy two-week stint as a paralegal. He advised students to be open to new possibilities and to “embrace the uncertainty.”