‘The Office’ assistant director to visit FTDM students

Film, television and digital media students who are fans of watching the characters on “The Office” make fools of themselves on a weekly basis will soon have the chance to pick the brain of an assistant director of the hit show.

Julie Harrison, a sophomore film, television and digital media major, said “The Office” was her favorite TV show. She will get to learn about the behind-the-scenes details of her favorite show from its assistant director, Rusty Mahmood, when he speaks to FTDM students Nov. 2 and 3.

Mahmood will visit FTDM classes with his wife, Kara Harshbarger, a university alumna and a writer and director for TV and film.

In addition to “The Office,” Mahmood worked as the second assistant director for “The Forty Year Old Virgin” and “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Harshbarger directed and wrote the movie “A Little Inside.”

Harshbarger and Mahmood’s visit will include an evening lecture and several visits to FTDM classes like Video I, Video II and History of Broadcasting. They also will offer one-on-one sessions where students will be able to ask questions and discuss issues in the film industry.

Harshbarger said she wanted to return to the university because she felt she owed her former professors and administrators a lot. She also said she wanted to share her experiences in the film industry in Los Angeles.

“I have never forgotten what it felt like to sit in that classroom and really hunger for that outside information,” Harshbarger said. “If someone, like myself, had come back at that time and talked to me about it, it would have been incredible for me.”

Harshbarger said she hoped to prepare students to work in the new film industry. She said the industry in L.A. has changed with the economy.

“When I moved out it was very cool and hip for studios and companies to find the next new talent, and now, because of the economy, they only want to work with seasoned people,” Harshbarger said. “They only want to work with someone with a solid resume.”

The film industry put art and creativity on hold because production companies were not willing to take financial risks, she said. Students needed to realize their creative ideas would need audiences to make money for a company.

In addition to her experiences, Harshbarger said she thought students would be very interested in her husband’s work on “The Office.”

Richard Allen, chair of FTDM said he thought Mahmood would be able to provide insight into every behind-the-scenes aspect of “The Office.” An assistant director deals with everything that goes on behind the set of a production, he said.

“If you want to ask him ‘Does Steve Carell come on time to work?’ … he’ll know everything,” Allen said.

Nov. 2: Mahmood speaks to the 10 a.m. Video I class and 11 a.m. Video II class
Lecture by Mahmood and Harshbarger at 7 p.m.

Nov. 3: Mahmood and Harshbarger speak to History of Broadcasting class
Lectures open to FTDM students only