Hitting Hollywood From Home
By Matt Morgan
San Jose native Lucy Nino ’22 worked with an Oscar-winning team of producers during an internship with Story Force Entertainment.
Lucy Nino ’22 knew she wasn’t ready to stop performing. At Archbishop Mitty in San Jose, she sang in concert choir and was in productions of Les Miserables and Bullets Over Broadway in a competitive drama department.
Nino wasn’t always in a starring role, but that didn’t matter. The joy of even being part of the ensemble was something she wanted to keep in her life.
When it came time to apply to colleges, Nino wasn’t just looking for a career path but a life path—a school that helped her explore her full personality. When she looked at Santa Clara, she saw that the quarter system allowed her options to take lots of different classes and that the requirements for a musical theatre minor would let her perform and get meaningful professional experience.
Now a senior communication major, Nino is still performing—she was the lead in The Book of Holding On last year and is singing two pieces in the Concerto/Aria this month—but she’s also found a career path that combines her interests in entertainment and writing. Taking advantage of Santa Clara's alumni network and undergraduate research opportunities like the REAL program, Nino has already had multiple internships in the film industry and currently works for the University’s alumni publication, Santa Clara Magazine. As Nino enters the final months of college, she sat down to talk about her experiences.
Last summer you had an internship with Story Force Entertainment, the production company responsible for films like Spotlight and Warm Bodies and the docuseries Lula Rich. What was it like working with Oscar winner Blye Pagon Faust ’97?
I was really excited to work in the industry for the first time. When I found out I had landed the job, I jumped around my living room with one of my best friends, so it was a positive experience before it even started.
My job was to research possible story ideas. The job was fully remote so I’d meet with the team via Zoom as they worked in the Bay Area, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. They’d give me a topic and I’d try to find everything I could on it: read and organize articles, find photos and videos, compile names of people we could interview, determine if they’re still alive so we could actually interview them.
How did you see yourself grow over the course of this internship?
I learned so much about the world. I heard stories I never would have heard otherwise. I’ve also learned so much from the amazing women I worked with—Blye Faust, Cori Shepherd Stern, and Mariah Chappell ’16, who is another Santa Clara graduate. They were such a great source of inspiration for me. They are so smart and do their jobs so well and with so much grace. They make it look easy.
I was so nervous going into it. I remember thinking after my first meeting, “Oh my God she didn't like it.” By the end, I would just remind myself that as long as you put in the legwork and do your best, it’ll turn out well. You know, I’m just entering the professional field and it's kind of scary but I have to trust myself.
You’ve been fortunate to have a few different professional opportunities at Santa Clara. What advice would you give to high school students about finding meaningful internships?
Well, one thing I would do is hammer down the importance of getting to know your professors. In high school, I always kind of avoided my teachers and flew under the radar but I made the decision to get to know my teachers in college and I’m so glad I did. They're there to help you and at Santa Clara that’s especially true.
Professor Mike Whalen was my advisor and he’s been such a big help. I remember I went to him and said, “I’m applying to all these internships and not seeing that much success. What do you recommend?” He connected me with Story Force in March of 2021, and I started there that month, and have been there since. I definitely would not have gotten my internship with Story Force if I hadn’t been open and asked for help.
In addition to Story Force, Professor Whalen also was working on a series about the history of the American Catholic Church and he had this section about St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City. He asked me to help out, so I started digging into archives to find photos, videos, articles, anything you could find to help put together a sizzle reel. It was really fascinating work.
I’d been to New York a handful of times, but not enough to really get to know any specific area and I’d obviously never been to this hospital. But through my research, I was able to immerse myself and see the story of this hospital. I remember finding a picture of a couple of patients in old hospital beds and it turned out they were survivors of the Titanic.
This project was a lot of fun to work on and thanks to the REAL program in the College of Arts Sciences, I was able to get paid for doing this work.
You grew up in San Jose and went to Archbishop Mitty, which is just a few minutes from campus. Have you been able to carve out your own life at Santa Clara University living so close to home?
Absolutely. My hometown and Santa Clara feel like separate entities. When you live in a dorm or in an apartment nearby, Santa Clara is its own community. Walking around campus, it's just peaceful and quiet and gorgeous and everyone knows everyone. Even in my Zoom classes, when I’d open up the window I’d think “Oh, I know most of you guys.” That wasn’t even the case when I was in high school.
But at the same time, it’s been the best of both worlds. I’ve had my independence but also my parents’ house is 10 minutes away—down 17 and then down 85. When I had bad days, I could go home for the weekend and see my family and pet my dog. It was a safe haven. Life is too short to like to not do the things you love and I love my family. I’m grateful I get to have dinner with my dad on his birthday. If I’d gone across the country to New York for college as I’d considered, that wouldn’t be possible.
What has surprised you about SCU?
Just how much is possible to do from here. You’d think to study film you’d need to go to USC or Chapman but I was able to get into the entertainment industry from Santa Clara. And that’s not just true of film but so many different fields. If you're intentional and thoughtful about what classes you take and the way you engage your professors, you can get experience in anything. Santa Clara has more than 100,000 alumni around the world, so the connections are there. You just have to find them.