~ Photos courtesy of Josh Feemster

~ By Miguel A. Gastelum, Communications Specialist/Box Office Manager for the Department of Theatre Arts

Fresno State Theatre Arts majors are working all across the country in varied fields. Theatre alumnus, Josh Feemster, is one former student whose degree led him to the silver screen.

Feemster graduated from Fresno State in 2004 with a bachelor of fine arts in Technical Theatre – Set Design. He has been working in Los Angeles as an associate director on “Access Hollywood” and has also worked for Fox Sports and “Saturday Night Live.”

Q: What is your favorite Fresno State memory?

A: I always go back to Experimental Theatre Company work days.  I loved being around and laboring with friends that were working hard early on a Saturday, just for the pure love and passion of theatre.  Especially in my early days when we would work till 10 p.m.  Shhhhhhhhhh…

Q: Are there any particular professors that left a lasting impact?

A: Jeff Hunter was integral in supporting me when I decided to switch from acting to set design.  I always felt welcome to talk and bounce ideas off of him.  He taught me to hone my chaotic passion into a focused, concentrated vision. 

Melissa Gibson.  What can I say about Melissa that hasn’t been said by so many?  Melissa cared for her students more than any teacher I have ever had.  Always willing to listen and evolve her teaching methods to what would help and inspire her students to want to do more, go further.

She always had time for people.  I don’t know how, but she did.  I would sit in her office for hours spewing all these pent-up thoughts and ideas and working through the confusion and crumbs of ideas I had about art, pop culture, society.  Melissa would just listen and let those concepts gestate and work themselves out.  And never once did she make it feel like I was wasting her time or boring her.  These are all practices I use today while mentoring people in my business.

Josh Feemster, left, with actor Norm McDonaldQ: What did you do after graduating from Fresno State?

A: I moved to Los Angeles only three months after graduating.  I got a job immediately at Babies R Us to just get some income rolling.  I started taking classes at Second City and IO West studying improv and sketch comedy. I then got a job managing the Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios.  I worked there for about a year before I got my first job at Access.

Q: What was your first professional gig?

A: I was a performer on a Nickelodeon hidden camera show called “Hi-Jinks.”  It was a great way for me to learn how productions work.

Q: Tell us how you got started at Access Hollywood and Access Hollywood Live, specifically how you got to where you are today.

A: I started out in the library.  This was an entry-level position but helped me understand how television worked and gave me the opportunity to work with producers, editors and post-production  This gave me insight to where my next move would be.

I moved to the script department and became a script production assistant.  I made it a goal to learn every job in the department so I could cover any position as needed.  This made me become more well-rounded and indispensable.

After six months, I moved to a graphics coordinator, then three years later a script coordinator. Two years after that I was the script supervisor and now in charge of the script for Access Hollywood and Access Hollywood Live.  I began to work weekends at Fox Sports as an associate director, learning everything I could and giving myself more options for the future. A little over three years later, I became the associate director of Access Hollywood.

Q: What role did you play in the first ‘live on both coasts’ episode of “Saturday Night Live”?

A: I was the West Coast associate director.  I coordinated with their producers and director all the changes our talent (Melissa McCarthy) needed during the rehearsals and final performance of the show. This included script changes, set changes and cameras.

Q: At what point in your career did you realize television was where you were meant to be?

A: When I took on the job of being a kid.  I was the youngest of three boys, and TV was my happiness.  I always had trouble sleeping from a young age and took to television for my comfort.  I would consume anything that was on.  I locked on to shows like “Saturday Night Live” and “Kids in the Hall,” as well as early Nickelodeon (“You Can’t Do That on Television,” “Salute Your Shorts,” “Adventures of Pete and Pete”).

Video stores became integral to my youth, browsing down aisles of VHS boxes and grabbing anything I haven’t seen or heard of. I consumed everything I could get my hands on.

I’m glad I didn’t grow up in this on-demand/streaming world or I for sure wouldn’t have any friends. My head would have exploded. My family always joked about my useless knowledge of TV, movies and pop culture. Teachers too. They always said, “What are you going to do with all that useless info? How is that going to get you a job?” Then on the day I interviewed for the librarian position at “Access,” I was handed a test where I had to identify pictures of celebrities. Haha… HAHAHAHA!!! THIS IS THE KIND OF JOB I CAN GET!!!

Q: Do you have a dream show you would love to work on?

A: “Saturday Night Live” was a big one. Even just working on one sketch of one episode was a huge honor.

Q: Do you still find time to act at all or are you solely behind the camera?

A: When I started in L.A., I performed every night at Second City and IO West in Hollywood. I did this for years and these were some of the best times of my life. I could definitely perform more if I chose to, but I took the path of having children and never looked back.

I still perform here and there and still love it.  That passion never really goes away, but working behind the camera, at this stage in my life, has been a blessing.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to students trying to pursue a career in television production?

A: Be ready to start at the bottom. A college degree will get you into the door, but it will not get you a job starting in the middle.

I can’t tell you how many people contact me asking for help and when I ask what they are looking for, they say they want a coordinator position making $50,000 a year.  That will not happen. After I tell them I can submit them for a PA position, I don’t hear back.

This is a different business, a competitive business. Start at the bottom, listen and absorb everything around you and work your way up. Find a community and group of friends that will support you and build you up. 

I had Second City, which was one of the best communities I have ever been a part of. I would not be here today without them. 

Also, be mindful of your social media presence. This is a small community and you never know who is friends with who. You don’t want to lose a future job with someone because of a post. People worked extremely hard on that movie you told your friends on social media, you hated.

Q: What would you tell students considering a Theatre Arts major at Fresno State?

A: Listen, work, and enjoy. Don’t take this time for granted. This is the time to find yourself, grow up and figure out what you want to do. 

Find your community and support one another. I have so many lifelong friends from the Theatre Department. Question everything. EVERYONE. This is the time to rethink what you know. Ask multiple people because they all have different points of view. 

If you’re an actor, take tech classes. If you’re a tech student, take acting classes. This doesn’t mean you have to be in a play or design a set, just understand the other side’s process, their frustrations and joy. Try to understand why they have a passion for what they do, and all the work they do to achieve it.
Josh Feemster on the set of