The College of Arts & Media Welcomes Two Faculty Members With Extensive Experience in Law and Film
The addition of Alyson Feltes and Matthew O'Brien to our Film & Television and Music & Entertainment Industry Studies programs represents a boon to the college.Megan Briggs | College of Arts & Media Mar 10, 2023
The College of Arts & Media (CAM) welcomed two new faculty members this semester who represent experts in their respective fields.
Matthew O’Brien joins Music & Entertainment Industry Studies (MEIS) and brings with him 25 years of teaching experience alongside the knowledge he gleaned from decades of practicing entertainment law. Film & Television (FiTV) is very fortunate to welcome Alyson Feltes, who is still active in Hollywood and brings a very full career’s worth of experience from both the Canadian and American film industries. Feltes is known for having a hand (either as a producer or writer, or both) in many notable works, including the critically acclaimed Ozark.
Alyson Feltes, Award-Winning Writer and Producer, Joins FiTV
Before film, Feltes started in entertainment law, which she practiced for a year before deciding to shift her focus to film. She describes the film school where she earned an MFA, the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles, as having a similar, “hands on approach”, to CU Denver’s film program.
Feltes has seen a lot of success in her career. Her writing for the Canadian show Traders won her a Gemini Award for “Best Dramatic Series” in 1998. She’s been nominated for a Primetime Emmy, a PGA award, and a Writer’s Guild of America award for her writing and producing work on Ozark. Other credits on Feltes’ long resume include The Firm and The Alienist.
While her ongoing work necessitates her having a foot in Hollywood, Feltes moved to Boulder, Colorado to be closer to family. Desiring to take part in Colorado’s artistic community, Feltes looked into some of the film programs in Colorado and “loved” what she saw CU Denver was doing. She reached out to FiTV Chair David Liban to inquire about teaching a class titled The Writer’s Room. Feltes has taught a similar class to graduate students at the Canadian Film Center.
The Writer’s Room sees students taking a pilot episode Feltes has written and writing multiple episodes to create a full season of television. If that sounds like a simple writing assignment that the students turn in at the end of the semester, it’s not. Writer’s rooms are notorious for late nights, revisions, perhaps an argument or two between writers as they work out the plot, the character arcs, and the dialogue. Feltes says she has already been surprised by how the students gravitated toward one character, who Feltes originally envisioned only taking a minor role in the unfolding season. This character has now developed past that initial thought thanks to the efforts of the students.
In addition to the learning the students are doing, Feltes says she is learning a “ton” herself. “I’m learning what this generation wants to see. And it may not be what I thought I was giving them,” she says.
Feltes’ goal for the class is to help students produce work they could show a potential boss—like a producer. After taking her class, Feltes feels the students would be very effective in a writer’s room assistant role or something similar as they seek to get their foot in the door in Hollywood. Based on what she’s seen so far of the film program at CU Denver, Feltes says she appreciates that it “teaches a kind of collaboration that’s really vital for working well in Hollywood and enjoying Hollywood.”
Matthew O’Brien Brings Entertainment Law Experience to MEIS
Shortly after receiving his law degree from University of Wisconsin Madison, O’Brien took a job at a prestigious law firm in Chicago. He later transitioned to work at a couple different record labels including Narada Productions and Miramar. O’Brien’s transition to teaching happened almost serendipitously. A fried saw an ad in Billboard Magazine for a teaching position at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and convinced him to apply for it.
O’Brien explains he approached teaching as a new opportunity.
At that point in my career, I had only been working from the perspective of the record company…I felt a little guilty about being on that side of table since record companies have a reputation for operating to the detriment of the artist. I thought maybe I could go teach and prepare people on the more artistic side about ways to maximize their career and avoid some of the pitfalls I was witness to.
O’Brien taught at MTSU for 25 years and saw his students go on to populate some of the highest levels of the executive and artistic population of Nashville (and beyond). “I feel like I’ve got a thousand children out there that are working in the music industry right now,” he says.
With a son in Denver and previous connections with MEIS faculty members (Professors Dan Hodges and Storm Gloor), O’Brien felt the time was right to “take a leap.” While CU Denver’s program is a “smaller and newer”, he’s energized to give students more individualized attention than he was able to do in a larger program. Additionally, he hopes to contribute to the continued development of MEIS and is excited by how nimble, progressive, and dynamic both the program and the faculty are.
Concerning entertainment law, O’Brien enjoys the challenge of getting both parties to feel as good as they can about the agreement they are trying to reach.
During his short tenure at CU Denver, O’Brien has enjoyed getting to know all his students by name and learning about their unique ambitions. “I’ve found that the students at CU Denver are a little more creative and inventive about what they want to do, which is just what you need to be in today’s ever-changing environment of the music industry.” In fact, shortly into the semester, one ambitious group of students approached O’Brien to ask if he would be their faculty advisor for Denver LYNX Radio, a new endeavor to launch the school’s first student-run radio.