Student Experience at Jennifer Howell's Lectures and Q&A Session

Student Experience at Jennifer Howell's Lectures and Q&A Session

By: Abby Allred

On Thursday, September 14, I had the opportunity to attend a day of lectures and Q&A sessions with Jennifer Howell, a successful executive and producer in the entertainment industry. The topics of these sessions ranged greatly, from the corporate side of Hollywood to the latest in Deep Fake AI technology and the ethics surrounding it.

Known by fans as the voice behind Bebe, on the hit animated TV show, South Park, Jennifer is no stranger to acting, comedy and animated storytelling. In fact, she spent time as Head of Animation at 20th Century Fox Television, Head of Comedy Development at Paramount Pictures, and Head of Feature Film Development at DreamWorks Animation.

A resume like that is impressive to anyone, but for a nerdy animation student like me, it’s especially exciting.

In the first two sessions, Jennifer gave us a glimpse into how her career started: discovering her love of film in college, doing anything she could to get involved in movie making, and when she finally got there, being the absolute happiest, most excited person on set--even while doing some of the smallest jobs.

Some might be embarrassed to be so openly delighted to work, but for Jennifer, it ended up being the detail that made her stand out. This led to some of her first real entertainment industry jobs, showing that people notice when you love what you do.

Moreover, she talked about how “not knowing the rules” was one of the best parts of being young in Hollywood. She would do things back then that she cringes about today, however she could attribute a lot of her early networking to those questionably bold moves.

The Animation session was fascinating. My peers in the program asked questions about breaking into the industry, and Jennifer spoke of the growing world of social media and how posting online can be one of the best ways to be discovered in this competitive job market.

In addition, Jennifer made a point that we shouldn’t be afraid of rejection. The entertainment world is practically made of rejection- it’s just a part of the process and shouldn’t deter us from continuing to try.

Though I love most forms of animation, Deep Fake technology usually makes me nervous because of the strange ways it has been used to embarrass people. But in the Digital Media session, my fears were soothed as Jennifer made it clear that she and her team at Deep Voodoo work hard to ensure they use their coveted technology for good. Deep Voodoo was founded by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the guys responsible for South Park, who eventually asked Jennifer to come help them build this new AI-focused company. Throughout the lock down period of the recent pandemic, the company developed their technology continually, which has led to their current standing as the most advanced Deep Fake company in the world. 

Throughout the day, Jennifer’s humor and honesty kept each session fresh and interesting. The occasional South Park reference and quick-witted quip kept each topic engaging. It’s been said that Jennifer is funnier than most people who pitch comedy to her, and after hearing her speak for a day, I think it’s safe to say that’s true.

I also got the privilege of attending the Woodbury School of Business’s luncheon with Jennifer. During this exclusive lunch, business and film students got the opportunity to ask her more questions. Topics included how to manage a work/ life balance, which is difficult for everyone- even successful Hollywood executives! As well as what makes a good TV show pitch.

Another standout lesson from Jennifer was in response to a student’s question about how she handles the challenges she faces as a woman in the industry. She explained that yes, of course, she does face challenges as a woman in Hollywood- it’s largely impossible not to- but she doesn’t dwell on those situations. She focuses on the commonalities, doesn’t let the differences scare or overwhelm her, and tells herself she deserves a seat at the table- and then acts like she believes it fully. (This fake-it-until-you-make-it approach looks to have worked, as I would have never thought she was nervous while speaking).

I thought this was an invaluable answer. It’s easy to get overwhelmed as a woman hoping to break into the entertainment industry, but we need to have the courage to take up the space we earn, and act like we deserve it, even if we don’t quite believe it yet.

In the last session of the day, after talking a bit about voice acting, storyboarding, and the process of TV filmmaking, Jennifer said something that will stick with me: “If you worry too much about what other people think, it’ll freeze you. Block it out– be true to your vision first.”

My dreams were suddenly a lot less impossible as I walked away from that last session, feeling more inspired and motivated than ever to pursue my ambitions. I left the event with a new appreciation for my curiosity and passion. It’s never a bad thing to love something, and Jennifer Howell’s success is proof that if you follow the call in your heart towards what makes you feel alive, then amazing opportunities can open themselves up for you.


As Jennifer said, “Believing in yourself will transcend your major, your situation, and your future– it’s the secret to finding *your* path.”

Photo of Jennifer Howell

Jennifer Howell speaking to students

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