HBO executive shares rise to the top

There is nothing college students appreciate more than advice from professionals in the industry they are studying.

“You have the world in the palm of your hand. You just don’t know it,” Dominic Ambrosio, vice president of studio operations for HBO, said. “You have to follow your heart. You should be in a business that makes you happy.”

Ambrosio visited the College to talk about his career path and give advice to communication studies students about their own opportunities. Though it was a lecture format and setting, the event was more like a conversation between Ambrosio and the introduction to television studio class he was visiting. However, he did share some good lessons with the students.

“I’m speaking to you the way it is, not the way you may read it in chapter nine,” Ambrosio said.

Suzanne Carbonaro, professor of communication studies, invited Ambrosio to speak to her class. On Monday, Nov. 12, the class was open to the public to hear Ambrosio speak.

“I knew he would be dynamic and he has a lot of good tips and excellent experience to intrigue the college audience,” Carbonaro said.

Because the majority of the class is interested in different aspects of television production as careers, it was easy for Ambrosio to keep the students entertained with stories and anecdotes that he has collected over his 24 years of work in the field. As an added bonus, Ambrosio distributed posters featuring popular series from HBO such as “Flight of the Conchords” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” However, students had to earn them.

Because of the classroom setting, Ambrosio joked with the students and made them work for a poster by either asking a significant question or answering one about the field.

During the time with the students, Ambrosio discussed what was really important to him. With his wife of over 25 years and his four daughters, he has a lot to be proud of.

Ambrosio spoke specifically about the day he was promoted to his present position with HBO and the responsibilities he then had. He said, “This history, legacy and quality of what we do was entrusted to me to carry as a torch. It was an honor. I was humbled by it and grateful for it and that opportunity is something I am very fortunate to have.”

Ambrosio added, “My goal when I’m 50 is to be the best husband, father and leader I can possibly be in my life and contribute in that way. … There are people who sacrificed a lot for me and I want to do the same for others.”

A trend in television, Ambrosio has changed job positions and locations throughout his career. Besides HBO, Ambrosio has also worked for Showtime, HSN, the Entertainment channel, Unitel Video and others. According to Ambrosio’s biography, some of his duties for HBO include overseeing the technical staff and interfacing with the creative teams, engineering and program divisions.

Ambrosio encouraged the students sitting before him to be creative and to not let money hold them back as he repeated throughout the lecture that, “It was the idea, not the technology, that made the difference.”

Ambrosio has a knack for speaking in front of an audience as he cracked jokes and shared funny stories. One was about a conversation between Ambrosio and a friend of his who was getting recruited by the newly-created channel ESPN.

“A 24-hour sports channel, who’s going to watch that?” Ambrosio recalled from the conversation. “What do you think they’re going to do next, weather?”

During his lecture, Ambrosio showed clips of different trailers seen on HBO. These included trailers for “Inside the NFL,” “The Departed,” Justin Timberlake’s live concert and “The Wire.” Through this, Ambrosio showed that when you are trying to sell a show, you are actually selling a feeling that you hope the audience gets while watching the piece.

“Every great cinematographer tells a great story with what they paint,” Ambrosio said. “You’re buying a feeling. … If you do it without letting them know you’re doing it, then you’ll be successful.”