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Tricia Meola ’15

When Tricia Meola ’15 was searching for her perfect college, she knew she wanted to be relatively close to home in Skillman, New Jersey, but that her ultimate goal would likely take her a bit further afield. She was looking for a Cinema program with a low student-to-faculty ratio — and that faculty had to be hands-on. McDaniel fit the bill, and the member of the Director’s Guild of America knows she wouldn’t be where she is now without a stopover on the Hill.

Tricia Meola, a white woman standing in front of the Hollywood sign on a TV set, wearing a hat that says "The Rookie."

Tricia Meola ’15 on the set of "The Rookie" with a view of the Hollywood sign in the background.

Q&A with Tricia Meola ’15

How did the liberal arts education you received on the Hill complement your Cinema major?
I always knew I wanted to do something in film, but I didn’t know where or what city. The Cinema program at McDaniel is unique and uses the liberal arts to teach you all aspects instead of having one focus like at other schools that I was considering. The courses that were available at McDaniel gave me the knowledge and skills to problem solve by learning how other people think. I use this daily with my interactions with creatives in different departments who may see a problem differently than I would. Every day, I carry my communication skills and a thirst for knowledge. I loved and valued my time at McDaniel. I would not be the same person, be doing the same thing, or be in the same space today if I had gone to a different college.
What extracurricular activities were you involved in on the Hill?
I was involved in the Terror TV Club and Green Terror Productions, as well as being a teaching assistant for the TV Productions course. I also was a student-worker in the Office of Student Engagement. I did an internship with Jim Wilberger ’72 the summer after my junior year, and that set my sights on being an assistant director in Los Angeles.
How did you get started in your career?
I have the great fortune to have a close relationship with Jim, and he has been my mentor for the past 10 years. Our paths have been very parallel, and he’s helped me along the route I have taken. After graduation, I began working full time as a production assistant (PA) for Jim.
After five years in L.A., I worked over 900 days as a PA on TV shows and movies. During the pandemic, I submitted these days to the Directors Guild of America to be able to join the union, which I did in 2022. I now work as a 2nd assistant director (2nd AD) or a 2nd2nd assistant director (2nd 2nd AD) on movies across the country.
Tricia Meola, a white woman on a TV set wearing a hat that says "The Rookie."

After working over 900 days as a PA on TV shows and movies, Tricia Meola ’15 was able to join the Directors Guild of America in 2022.

What does your day-to-day look like in your career?
Every day is vastly different depending on the format of the project and my title. I manage the actors and communicate with them ahead of them showing up, including updating them when things change (which they usually do). I cross-check with department heads about upcoming equipment and personnel needs to make sure they are coordinated properly. And I choreograph non-speaking actors in crowd scenes to make them look natural and not interfere with the scene.
What are some productions you’ve worked on?
I was 2nd AD on Jagged Mind on Hulu; 2nd2nd AD on Ghosts of Christmas Always on Hallmark; 2nd2nd AD on Holiday in Harlem on Hallmark; PA on seasons 2 and 3 of The Rookie on ABC; PA on season 4 of Lucifer on Netflix; and PA on seasons 2 and 3 of Atypical on Netflix.
Have you been able to give back to McDaniel?
I have begun joining Jim Wilberger ’72 in his incredible mentoring of current students at McDaniel. It has allowed me to reconnect with professors Jonathan Slade and Richard Brett.
A few pieces of advice:
  • Get involved: You never know where a passion or future career will come from. There are so many avenues that don’t present themselves as obviously as others.
  • Talk to your faculty outside of class: They have so much knowledge and so many connections, you never know where it can lead.
  • Pursue internships: Learning on the ground is the best way to see what you like, and it can often lead to employment after graduation. If you can afford to try something new, you absolutely should.
What is the reality of working in the film industry?
This business is hard. Freelance work (the majority of film production) can and will be stressful. You have to chase your money, survive on minimal sleep, cancel plans or turn down work for important life events, eat crappy food … all with a smile on your face and a grateful attitude. This career path isn’t for everyone.
Some people advance and thrive and find the absolute perfect job and none of the negatives matter. There are so many ways to find your perfect job, and with a freelance career you are always on the hunt for the next job, so you meet a lot of people and very quickly learn who you like working with and what you enjoy working on.
You have to want it and work for it. It can be hard, but seeing your name in the credits is always exciting. I know that this path is not for everyone, but it’s the right path for me.

About Tricia

Career: 2nd Assistant Director in the Directors Guild of America

Class: 2015

Major: Cinema

Minor: Communication