The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



ND grad returns to talk pop culture

Claire Stephens | Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fred Nelson, president of the People’s Choice Awards and 1987 Notre Dame graduate, arrives at Notre Dame this week through the Film, Television and Theater Department to give a talk about what he has learned from movies, TV and music.

Though the Film, Television and Theater major did not exist when Nelson attended Notre Dame, he took classes with the Department of American Studies and understands what issues FTT majors face.

“I’m used to having to defend the notion that pop culture is a serious field of study,” said Nelson. “I had a lot of friends who were [in the Program of Liberal Studies] … while I was writing a paper on ‘Charlie’s Angels.’ So they’d give [me] a hard time and would tease me that it wasn’t going anywhere.”

Nelson has worked in magazines, television, ad agencies and more, including positions at Time, Esquire, Entertainment Weekly and Leo Burnett Advertising. He was co-executive producer of VH1’s “The World Series of Pop Culture” and has shared his entertainment expertise on “Access Hollywood,” “Entertainment Tonight,” E!, Bravo and network television stations.

“Whenever there was a news report or talking heads shows to comment on pop culture, I became one of those people that producers would call,” Nelson said. “I ended up being on TV talking about my pop culture expertise.”

He is currently president of the People’s Choice Awards that airs yearly on CBS. He is responsible for the whole franchise, including working on press conferences, hiring executive producers and working with sponsors and talent bookers; both producing TV and managing a franchise.

Nelson’s talk, titled “Popular Culture is Not an Oxymoron,” will provide tips for career advancement in film, television, theater, publishing and advertising.

He said he hopes to give his talk about what he would have wanted to hear as a student attending a talk like this, giving wisdom from his past 25 years reflected by pop culture at the time and his career in the time.

“I want to give little tidbits of wisdom I’ve gained over the years career-wise, tied back to what pop culture taught us,” Nelson said. “My training at Notre Dame was education, supplemented by a really strong training program taught me to work in the business world.”

With his many experiences in jobs involving media entertainment, Nelson has a lot to tell about different working environment for students hoping to pursue similar careers.

“Because of the nature of the output, it’s just always different,” he said. “No two days are alike. You’re working on a variety of things and different levels of development.”

Looking back, Nelson admitted he was naïve when he graduated, because it’s impossible to know something until you do it. An important virtue Nelson learned through his experiences is the value of patience.

“One of the things I’ll talk about is about patience. I did find if you’re dedicated, hardworking and talented, you’ll reach the level of success you deserve,” Nelson said. “We have the tendency to want it now. I found for me that I thought it would happen a lot sooner, that I wouldn’t have to have patience over the long haul, and that’s definitely not the case.”

Another aspect of his career important to Nelson is loving what he does for a living.

“For the most part, because you’re surrounded by like-minded people interested in the subject matter,” Nelson said. “No matter how hard you’re working it’s inherently fun.”

What: “Popular Culture is Not an Oxymoron” with Fred Nelson

Where: Browning Cinema

When: Thursday, Nov. 3, 4 p.m.

How Much: Free, tickets available at Debartolo Performing Arts Center ticket office

Learn More: performingarts.nd.edu