Rachel Abarbanell ’02 Moves Ahead in Hollywood Film, TV Industry
May 16, 2014
by Ashley Wolfgang '14
Rachel Abarbanell '02 moved to Los Angeles, California, after her time at Knox College with not much more than a pillow and a suitcase. Now, she is president of production at Lynda Obst Productions, where she typically works on about 20 feature film and television projects at a time.
Abarbanell came to Knox to speak about her Knox College experience and her professional career at Caxton Club, a student-run organization devoted to the pursuit of literary interests.
An economics major and theatre minor at Knox, Abarbanell began exploring the world of film in her junior year, when she landed an internship at an industrial film company. With the support of the English and Theatre departments at Knox, she completed a post-baccalaureate fellowship in film studies.
She read books on filmmaking, served as a teaching assistant for Professor Rob Smith's film courses, and "filmed everything for the year: any dance performances, any show that the Theatre Department had, and then my big project for the year was to make a documentary about the Theatre Department."
Abarbanell then reached out to Knox alumnus Bob Misiorowski '66, who helped her land an internship with the independent film company Millennium Films, where she gained her first exposure to the Hollywood industry. Two years after her internship, Abarbanell worked in production for the company while also working on a few films with students from the University of Southern California.
"I went and produced a couple of [the films], and then I went out and put out a couple short films of my own. So I kind of just learned how a real set worked and what the different roles are for people on set. I also met a bunch of people, (and) it was a good start for networking." Networking, according to Abarbanell, is the key to finding work in L.A.
Abarbanell later found herself working for Lynda Obst Productions, where she eventually grew into her current position: president of production. Lynda Obst Productions has produced numerous well-known films, including Sleepless in Seattle, Contact, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.
Working on about 20 feature projects and 20 TV projects at a time, Abarbanell is responsible for developing projects by making the connection between writers and directors to build a pitch that can be presented to a variety of networks and studios. Her biggest project thus far is Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, set for release November 2014.
(Photo above right: Abarbanell delivers her Caxton Club presentation. Photo at left: Jamie Ruml '14 listens to Abarbanell's Caxton Club talk.)
Knox students said they appreciated hearing her story.
"Abarbanell's talk bolstered my confidence in the sense that what I want to do is actually a viable career option," Jake Maryott '15 said.
Abarbanell is among the Knox alumni featured in Knox Magazine's "18 Under 37."