Lee Hollin makes sure there is something entertaining to watch on television.
The Carnegie Mellon University alumnus is vice president of Current Programming at CBS and CBS TV Studios and oversees seven shows, including such hits as Criminal Minds, Jane the Virgin and Madam Secretary, which accounts for nearly $350 million of television production annually.
A 2007 graduate of CMU’s Master of Entertainment Industry Management (MEIM) program, which is a joint offering of the College of Fine Arts and Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, Hollin is being recognized for his career accomplishments with CMU’s 2017 Outstanding Recent Alumni Award.
CFA Dean Dan Martin is not surprised his former student is such a force in the broadcast world. Martin established the MEIM program in 2004 and first told Hollin about the degree.
Hollin, who had been working in theater in New York, liked what he heard and enrolled.
“I immediately did somersaults in my head,” he recalled.
The first year of the MEIM provides theoretical training. In the second year, students go to Los Angeles and learn specific skills.
Even before Hollin left for the L.A. internship, he said CMU provided a living laboratory. He sat in the control room at WQED, learning how to fine-tune television shows, raise funds, hire actors and produce a movie — hands-on experience that solidified his know-how and enthusiasm for the entertainment business, and helped him learn to manage time, resources and intellectual capital.
“The experiences provided by CMU positioned me to end up in exactly the career that I went out into the world seeking.”
Martin tells a story that testifies to Hollin’s talents. In L.A., MEIM students take classes on Fridays and Saturdays. When Hollin was offered a job before he finished the program, he accepted but said he could not work on Fridays until he finished school.
“There’s a line of qualified people waiting for that job,” Martin said, “and in most cases, the company would have said no.”
But in Hollin’s case, they did not.
“They realized Lee had a creative, hard-working, ambitious, assertive spirit that they didn’t want to lose,” Martin said.
Martin adds that Hollin is generous in sharing career insights with today’s CMU students, including teaching a MEIM Television Development course.
“Lee is the first one to volunteer, to mentor new students, to advocate for the program,” Martin said.
Amy Reisenbach, senior vice president of Current Programs at CBS Entertainment, is astounded Hollin can juggle teaching with his workload.
“Lee is beyond passionate. He is a terrific mentor to young writers,” she said.
Hollin said the best thing about his job is he never feels like he is going to work. He embraces chatting with a director on set, tweaking lines with a writer, searching for the best version of a scene. He also relishes hearing pitches for new TV series.
“My work allows me to get a glimpse of early greatness and watch it come to fruition,” he said.