Steven Canals, a well-known producer and screenwriter, returned virtually to talk with Binghamton University’s aspiring filmmakers and film enthusiasts alike about his path to success. Canals talked about his journey that began at Binghamton and landed him on the glorious grounds of Hollywood as the creator of FX’s “Pose.” Canals also provided helpful advice for those that are looking to become producers, screenwriters or directors.

Also attending the virtual meeting was Allard Cantor, a manager, producer and president of Epicenter, a production company in Los Angeles. Cantor was Canals’ literary manager for “Pose” and has been a producer on the set of films as well, such as “1BR” and “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

Sarah Bull, a Binghamton University alumna and lecturer for The Writing Initiative, hosted the meeting and led with questions for Canals and Cantor. She began by asking for an introduction from both attendees.

“My journey to where I am now predated Binghamton,” Canals said. “When I was in high school, I worked on a documentary short about turf violence. I immediately fell in love with the process of making films. So, I attended [BU].”

Canals moved from the Bronx to Binghamton to pursue his passion for film and begin his journey to a successful career. The year following his graduation, however, he fell off the track of filmmaking.

“I graduated from [BU] in 2005, fell into a career in higher education and did that for 10 years,” Canals continued. “I just turned 30 and I decided I really needed to get back to my art. I happened to apply for an online screenwriting class through [University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)] and did that for a year. I wrote two really terrible scripts, but I loved the process of crafting a story.”

Having earned his degree in cinema, Canals discussed the difficult side of obtaining and using the degree.

“I think that throughout my 20s, I didn’t really know how I was going to utilize my degree moving forward,” Canals said. “Unless you plan on going to film school or crowdfunding money to make a short film, what are you supposed to do with a cinema degree?”

The troubling question confused Canals at the time. However, he emphasized that while he did not entirely know what to do with the degree that he earned, his experiences at BU aided him immensely in his career as a director and producer.

“I see the way that impacts how I write, how I direct and how I produce,” Canals said. “When I was a [resident assistant] in [College-in-the-Woods], I had a floor of 32 residents that I was responsible for. A week ago in Atlanta, I had a crew of 150 people and everyone was looking to me to guide the ship. In the same way that I had to manage a building of 32 people, I’m doing the same thing on set.”

Cantor then talked about his own path to success as a manager and producer. Cantor had grown up in New Jersey, just outside of New York City, and got his education at the University of Wisconsin.

“In college I was friends with many people who were in the film program because I just loved films and movies,” Cantor said. “One of my best friends was Adam Horowitz who went on to create ‘Once Upon A Time’ and ‘Dead of Summer.’ I loved movies, but I didn’t believe in myself enough to go out to Hollywood and try to make them.”

Cantor worked as an envelope salesman at the will of his father. He worked in this profession for many years until he realized that he wanted to do something that truly interested him. He then took some screenwriting classes and found great interest in helping others with their scripts, which led him to apply to film institutes such as the American Film Institute, UCLA. After attending the American Film Institute (AFI), he went on to intern for Endeavor Group Holdings, Inc., formerly known as William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, a large talent and media agency. This path then landed him in his current position as the president of Epicenter.

Both Cantor and Canals did not take the direct path to their current careers but they lived their life until they decided to pursue their passion. Hearing these two successful professionals discuss their journey to achieve what some may see as impossible inspired listeners, particularly considering the difficulty of becoming known in the film industry.

Bull then proceeded to inquire Canals and Cantor about their normal daily life in their respective careers.

“In terms of my day to day, it really depends on where I’m at,” Canals said. “If we had this conversation over the last three months, I would’ve been in Atlanta where I was filming two episodes of a show called ‘Classical Nine.’ I would’ve been on set with my binder with the two scripts, all of my notes, all of my drawings and the maps I’ve created for where I want my camera to be. Yesterday, I just finished editing those two episodes and today I am now working on writing the show I just sold to FX.”

Canals’ schedule is pretty self-regulated, hopping from working on a pitch, to writing a script, to being on set, to editing the film. Cantor, on the other hand, explained his day to day from the manager’s end.

“My day is basically a list of things we need to follow up on,” Cantor said. “Yesterday we followed up with [Canals] about a couple of his projects. On the other end, I’m sending out new material, so I’m making a lot of calls to studios, networks and producers. I work with clients on what they want, I work on sales and that’s happening all day.”

Bull’s next question was about advice for students majoring in cinema and writing, and for those trying to break into the industry. Cantor kicked off the conversation by emphasizing the importance of relationships and connections.

“I think it starts with developing relationships with professors, figuring out who your friends know, who your family knows and who you know that is in the industry,” Cantor said. “It just takes one or two connections in the industry and you can start interning.”

Cantor then stressed the importance of reading scripts and becoming familiar with them. Along with this, he said it was vital for writers to find their voice in order to produce successful scripts. Canals followed this with discussing the different careers within the industry.

“If your desire is to produce or to direct, I think the industry overall is much more forgiving,” Canals said. “It’s more forgiving of youth if you want to produce or if you want to direct. If you want to write, my best advice is to live your life. The reality is, the industry is looking for folks who have actually gone out in the world and lived their life. One of my screenwriting mentors always told us we needed to go and make mistakes, fall, laugh, have your heartbroken. Just exist and be a human. Those are all of the incredible experiences that you get to pull from to write when you’re telling stories.”

Canals said writers have to dedicate thousands of hours to honing their craft and finding their voice. With that being said, patience is vital to the process of writing and creating a successful script.

A Q&A session followed, allowing BU students to ask questions to the speakers. Aspiring filmmakers asked for advice about how to move forward with cinema and about Canals’ and Cantor’s own experiences in doing so. Canals provided information about internships and shadowing opportunities such as The Half Initiative, in which one can shadow a working television director on a Ryan Murphy production.

In the words of Steven Canals, “Go out into the world, live your life and then start working on your craft.”