During my fall 2022 semester at Chapman University, I had the privilege of participating in a series called Behind The Screens with Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution Technology that was Hosted by DMED and ABC Network Operations. Behind the Screens is a panel series that exposes college students to what happens behind the scenes on network television. This is where I met Lauryn Lawton, who was part of a panel in the series. I reached out to Lauryn via LinkedIn to ask her to take part in my Executive Interview. Lauryn is a current employee at Disney studios.
What is your current job position at Disney, and what responsibilities do you hold?
“I am a distribution operations coordinator for the masterings department. It isn’t a department that people know exists. In my department, I’m still kind of new, but when a TV show is first made for the first time, we need to air it for streaming and broadcast. We need to make sure they are sending everything to us correctly. With that, there are a lot of components that we have, video, audio, captions, and documents. We have to make sure that it comes in correctly and on time. A big part of it is quality control. Maybe if it’s animated for Disney jr. making sure there is nothing wrong in the animation or something actually filmed or a camera in the film. That’s the quality control aspect. There is a lot of back and forth between the people making it and us. We also kind of make sure that schedule stays in time.”
“We have a whole metadata warehouse. That was something that confused me at first. I’m still wrapping my head around all these pieces that come together. In regards to how immersive and how many people it takes to have a successful production company, sometimes productions aren’t Disney productions, it’s 3rd party productions that Disney wants to air.”
Why did you become interested in working at Disney? How did you come about it?
“Both of my parents work in entertainment. I grew up with my mom working in TV broadcast and my dad on film, like an actual film. I’m a consumer of this stuff, I am a fan of this stuff, and you two [parents] are the ones putting this together. I always wanted to get into the business side of entertainment. I spent the first six years of my career in retail, but I got a lot of leadership experience from that. I got to the point where I want to do something new, I can grow in retail or make the pivot to entertainment.”
When trying to figure out where she would pivot, she found she enjoyed the Digital distribution space.
“It is working on everything that goes to streaming, Disney Plus, Hulu, FX, Disney channels, Disney Junior, Freeform, and ABC. I was super interested in entertainment and seeking that side of operations in retail.”
“I think that it helped me the most because I come from a photography background, which got me into video editing. Everyone, I think my parent’s exposure made me realize there is so much I could do and so many places I could find myself. It gave me some of the vocabularies to speak to quality control issues. I had a little bit of foundational support. When I got into the role, I had no idea what the words were and what the file’s name was. I spent a good part of the first month learning these individual words. Right now, I get to put all the words together; that’s the phase that I’m in now.”
Does your boss sit down with you and discuss your job duties and responsibilities?
“It is not that spelled out. We have a new hire training guide to access the software and systems. I would hear all these words and acronyms, and a couple of times a week, I would sit down with my boss and I would ask them. I spent a lot of time YouTubing, and that was really fun. I learned about frame rate and aspect ratios. That helped a lot. Because I put in all that work, I made a playlist and shared it with departments, and I got the opportunity to share that with all the other departments and make that into a book. It was a lot of me trying to take the time to figure out what was going on and process it. A lot was self-led by myself.”
I know that you are still in school pursuing a master’s degree. What are you focusing on, and how do you think that will benefit your future at Disney?
“I don’t have a specific idea of how my master’s will help me with my job at Disney. My goal is to grow within the company, and I don’t really need my master’s to do that. It was something I always wanted to do. It will help me develop my skill. Again I don’t think that will be the thing that will help me grow at Disney. Coming from retail, I didn’t get that much computer time; now, if someone emails me, I can respond and ask them if I can sit in their next Zoom.”
“I do have time to establish myself, and once I graduate, I’m sure that will help me grow and expand my career. I’m more focused on what I can achieve now than waiting until that point [getting master’s degree] to see where I go.”
When complimenting Lauryn Lawton on her vast networking knowledge, she spoke about what works best for her.
“I could go meet as many people as I want, but will I make those relationships that will last? So learning the way I network best has been a super helpful ability thing for me. And once I make that connection to communicate with them. So I don’t overextend myself at all. I’d rather take my time and focus on one person at a time. It has taken a while to know what is possible, which is why I like sharing so much. There are a lot of ways you can network but figuring out what works for you and making those interactions intentional it’s a big learning process. I do it not just for the sake of networking but to get to know the person.”
Do you have any advice for people that want to get into the industry?
“I only have one example of how I got in. LinkedIn is a great tool for knowing what’s out there. The thing that took the longest in my path to Disney was figuring out where I wanted to end up. To be in a place where I can make a difference and be able to contribute. I had a lot of people tell me to get experience first and then come back. That isn’t the advice I want to give you. See what you are there and what role you can envision yourself in. my department they have it at other companies as well, so knowing what you want to get into and reaching out to people—making that initial connection with them. They can help keep an eye out for you. If you have something you want to pursue, keep that known. Those people aren’t going to be the ones that get that job, but it will be your motivation to get into that.”