Student-run podcast ‘Pitt in Hollywood’ showcases success stories from Pitt alumni

Benjamin Asciutto, a senior film and business major.

Image courtesy of Benjamin Asciutto

Benjamin Asciutto, a senior film and business major.

By Jacob Mraz, Staff Writer

When 2002 Pitt graduate John Paul Horstmann, a film editor and producer, first moved to Los Angeles he had to work a plethora of odd jobs and unpaid internships before starting his career. He said anyone trying to make a career in entertainment should network as much as possible, while trying as many jobs as possible.

Ben Asciutto, a senior film and business major, is aiming to do just that with his new podcast, “Pitt In Hollywood.” 

The 10-episode podcast, recorded as part of Asciutto’s final project for Pitt in LA, is available on Spotify and Anchor. It debuted Oct. 10 and features interviews conducted by Asciutto with Pitt alumni in the Hollywood film industry.

Asciutto said his idea for “Pitt in Hollywood” formed from a final project he completed for “Television Analysis” with professor Dana Och. For the project, he conducted a recorded interview with long-time mentor and cinematographer Pat Capone which inspired him to pursue podcasting further. 

“It was a big success for me personally because I was really able to condense down [Capone’s] story and how he kind of climbed the ladder from being assistant camera on ‘Ghostbusters’ to the prestigious, and head of his department, director of photography. That kind of gave me the bug for the potential of a podcast,” Asciutto said. 

In the first episode of “Pitt in Hollywood,” Horstmann talks about his arrival in LA, founding University of Pittsburgh Television and the importance of networking. He told Asciutto when he first enrolled at Pitt he intended to major in astronomy because of his love for Carl Sagan’s miniseries “Cosmos” but changed his mind and graduated with degrees in English and history. 

Horstmann also spoke on his love for editing and how he showed fellow students during his time at Pitt how to edit digitized footage — something he taught himself. He has since edited films like “Blonde” and “Killing Them Softly” and produced music videos for artists such as Billie Eilish and Doja Cat. 

Episode Two of “Pitt In Hollywood” releases Nov. 8 and includes an interview with Pitt alumnus and film director Jon Hill and cinematographer Nate Cornett

In order to fund the podcast, Asciutto said he coordinated with Och to apply for a Summer Undergraduate Research Award through the University’s Office of Research. The award grants a $4,000 stipend for students to use independently in research over the summer. He used this award to acquire appropriate audio and recording equipment, as well as a location to record the podcast while in LA.

Och, who advised Asciutto on the project, said the podcast seemed like a great idea for the award and that Pitt in LA director Carl Kurlander would be an excellent resource for finding interviews with alumni.

“I immediately realized that this would be a great project to propose to the Office of Undergraduate Research for a Summer Undergraduate Research Award, so Ben started to develop his research proposal based off his work in a required course for the major,” Och said. “[Kurlander] has strong relationships with many alums in LA and elsewhere, so I think that Professor Kurlander helped Ben with a number of the initial introductions.” 

Erin Wheeler, a Pitt career consultant, helped Asciutto coordinate an event to introduce the podcast to students when the first episode aired on Oct. 10. She explained how important internships and opportunities like this are for students as they approach graduation.

“Having experiential learning like internships, shadowing and study abroad and away opportunities are always helpful. It will give students an opportunity to understand themselves better and their ideal work environment,” Wheeler said. “That being said, experiences do not always have to be far and away — they can be local as well as within the States to still glean knowledge and exposure to unique opportunities.” 

Asciutto expressed gratitude toward the Pitt in LA program for giving him the opportunity to work on projects and introduce him to the community of former students.

“That’s been one of the biggest takeaways I’ve had at Pitt during my years — that there’s such an amazing, resourceful and welcoming community in Los Angeles that’s willing to help current students,” Asciutto said. 

Asciutto is also currently the executive producer of “Pitt Tonight,” a late night student-run talk show in its eighth season. He is working on his capstone film to complete his film degree and expressed a desire to do more documentary work and to, in general, keep busy going forward. 

“I feel like I’m always working on something,” Asciutto said. “That’s something I want to continue once I graduate, just that kind of project-based work where I’m involved in various assets of media and movies and television. If I can have a lifestyle like that, that would be ideal.”