Cheryl Horner Sirulnick '87, Executive Producer/Founder, Gigantic! Productions
"The biggest piece of advice I can give any new graduate is to be humble.”
AOC: Media Arts
Since graduating from New College in 1991, Cheryl Horner Sirulnick has taken her interest in the arts and entrepreneurship to international heights. As the owner, founder and executive producer of Gigantic! Productions since 2001, Sirulnick has won two Prism Awards and a Daytime Emmy, among many other accolades. She has been a creative director for networks from Bucharest, Romania to Sydney, Australia, and has produced a string of lauded programs for MTV. Gigantic! is known for its “True Life” series about drug rehabilitation, as well as feature-length documentaries such as “Fat Camp” and “Ice Queens.” Sirulnick lives in Tribeca, N.Y., with her husband, Dave Sirulnick, and their two daughters.
Did your career path vary from your original expectations?
When I was at New College, I was purely focused on gaining interesting life experiences and having big adventures. I knew that I wanted to make documentaries, or work in film, or be a writer, or a broadcast journalist, but I had no plan for how I’d get there. I took some classes, gained practical “real world” job experience at a movie theater and a Top 40 radio station, and worked for free at a public TV channel. Then I moved to New York and made a strong commitment to finding an entry-level job in TV or film.
Who were your favorite New College professors?
I revered Andrea Dimino. I took just about every class she offered, and I think she’s brilliant. I also had great experiences with Gary McDonough, Ken Tucker and the late Jack Cartlidge.
What was it like working for MTV?
I loved my time at MTV. I met great lifelong friends there, as well as my husband. I wasn’t paid very well, but the projects were fun. I traveled a lot, rubbed shoulders with many celebrities and political figures, and I gained invaluable experience producing everything from movie specials to news shows and documentaries.
Starting your own business is bold.
Much like my initial move to New York City from Florida, this was a case of “ignorance is bliss.” When I decided to incorporate in 2001, I had no intention of starting an actual production company. I was essentially going to produce a couple of small projects on my own and figure out where to go from there. As the business expanded, there were more and more people relying on me to provide them with jobs, and there were larger and larger financial commitments (edit rooms, camera equipment, office space, etc). The responsibilities and the stresses of running a small business were sometimes overwhelming. But despite the multitude of challenges, I love having my own company.
What words of wisdom would you give to today’s graduating classes?
The biggest piece of advice I can give any new graduate is to be humble. When you get out of college, you’re riding a high. You feel intelligent, accomplished and ready to conquer the world. The problem is that, when you enter the workplace, you’re starting from scratch. You have to accept that you are entering a new arena where no one cares how high your SAT scores were or how brilliant your thesis was. I spent some of my first months in New York opening and sorting incoming mail in the accounting department of a movie channel just so I could get my foot in the door. It was humbling, almost to the point of humiliation, but I managed to impress enough people to land my first production assistant job, which I consider the start of my career in TV.