Q&A with Jordan Salama, Ryan Ozminkowski and Benjamin Jacobson of ‘Princeton Tonight’
They’re the Princetonians who made McCosh 50 just a little fuller with a visit from comedian Dave Coulier of “Full House” fame … “The Street” brings you a Q&A with the students behind “Princeton Tonight,” Princeton University’s first TV show, Host and Show Runner Jordan Salama ’19, Executive Producer Ryan Ozminkowski '19 and Director Benjamin Jacobson '19.
The Daily Princetonian: How did “Princeton Tonight” begin?
Jordan Salama '19: It was the beginning of the year, and Ryan and I had met up and seen the Princeton University Broadcast Center, which is in the basement of Lewis Library, and it’s a fully professional TV center that is used to interview professors when they have big accomplishments. But students had never used the studio, so what we had conceived this idea for a TV show where students get involved with real world TV production in the style of a talk show, so Ryan and I created a pilot, and we brought it up for funding, we formed a partnership with Princeton Film Productions, and then we brought Ben on board and a lot of great other student workers.
Ryan Ozminkowski ’19: Basically, Jordan and I met after watching some Princeton Film Productions footage from last year, and we were like, “Hey, you like TV?” And he was like, “I like TV. You like TV?” So we decided to make some TV together. So we shot a little pilot with Charlie Baker ['17], he’s a student here, and that went well. And we decided we needed a bigger team behind it, we needed someone who knew how to direct, which is when we brought in Ben, and we needed someone who knew how to write so we brought in Rami [Farran '19]. And so we worked to bring out another pilot, and since then it’s just been working to keep building on that, whether it’s newer guests, bigger guests, different kinds, more interaction with the campus community, just trying to gradually build since then.
DP: What’s the process behind inviting guests like Dave Coulier?
JS: Well if you want contacting people, that’s primarily what I do. I reach out to agents, through connections to the University, basically any lead I can find, either people who might be interested in coming to Princeton or people that are already coming to Princeton. Primarily it has been people who we are bringing to Princeton, but when we contact them, we always try to give them the option of hosting an event that will serve the larger community. So we’re having them on our show, but maybe they’re having a master class or a concert or some sort of fun event that students and faculty members can come to enjoy. So that’s the process of bringing the guests here.
RO: It can be as casual as, like, a Facebook message, or a, “Hey, I saw you this summer and I liked you. Want to come to Princeton?”
JS: And it works, and you’d be surprised at how many people are already willing and able to come to Princeton and get publicity on our show. People are honored to be on “Princeton Tonight” and it’s a great feeling.
DP: What are some other aspects of the show, aside from star power, that you’d like people to know about?
RO: We really want to make sure our show appeals to people outside of Princeton, but we really want to make sure that the organization of “Princeton Tonight” enhances everyone’s experience of Princeton here. So like we were saying, every time we bring the guests, we want to do something big with the community here. We really want to make it very interactive and get a lot of people involved. Also, just for the team itself, we try to work some stuff, whether it’s more writers’ meetings to make them better writers, just learning to edit, put together video footage or direct or any of that stuff.
Benjamin Jacobson '19: Yeah, there are definitely other aspects. We do sketches and stuff, we do comedy. We have a writers’ room for that. So that’s a lot of fun, and that’s something we think has a wider appeal, because it’s not just Princeton-specific comedy or anything like that. It’s just stuff that we think people enjoy. And then we’re always looking for new ideas and stuff. We definitely don’t want it to be just about bringing celebrities to campus, but what we do we definitely want to do it outreach. I think with every guest we’ve done something –a show or performance or something for everybody – so it’s not just interviewing.
JS: And I think something important to note is that we want to make Princeton a more film- and television-oriented campus, and we want to try and use the show as a centerpiece for that. Historically, Princeton has had a lot of opportunities, but those opportunities were not to the extent of other schools’ in film and television, so by providing people with real world television production experience in a professional TV studio, networking with professionals in the TV industry. So I think that’s a big aspect that’s underrated right now about “Princeton Tonight,” but we hope to bring that to the forefront, along with the show that we’re making.
RO: So hopefully we can make Princeton a film campus. I mean, how awesome would that be? You know, where it’s not just like little, small groups that are trying to start up, trying to force it to happen, but a campus where everybody knows about it, everybody’s involved, everybody’s actively engaged, whether they like watching movies or making movies – that’d be awesome. You know, some little senior in high school is going, “I don’t know which school to go to, but I like film and Princeton has a film and TV culture.” We just want to try to change the entire culture here.