Close Menu

Emerylynn Lampitoc '95

  • Whitworth Major: Journalism
  • Vice President of Creative Talent & Content, Film – Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, Global Talent Development & Inclusion Department
  • Residence: Hermosa Beach, Calif.

'People want to see themselves represented'

I was born in Manila and immigrated to Hawaii at the age of 2, as my dad was living there. It was tough for my mom to let me go away to college, being her firstborn, so she limited me to the West Coast. I wanted to experience all four seasons and that's how I chose Whitworth.

I was an avid reader growing up and I liked writing. I wrote for my junior high and high school student newspapers.  I took creative writing at Whitworth, where I learned from Laura Bloxham and Laurie Lamon. I found the curriculum inspired students to be their authentic selves, and I decided to minor in creative writing.

After graduating I moved to California, not knowing how long I'd stay. I was temping a lot in various marketing and communication jobs in the entertainment industry – product placement, publicity, international film distribution, etc. My first real job was at Paramount Network television assisting the vice president of drama development. He liked my résumé, having tried a lot of things, and he felt I could bring all of those experiences to my assistant role. 

I spent most of my early career in TV working in development and current programming.  I eventually ended up at a production company that primarily produced reality television, but I was working to develop their scripted slate and sourced up-and-coming talent who were willing to work with us. That experience led me to Disney-ABC to work on their writing and directing programs.

In 2016, Universal reached out after learning about the work we were doing at Disney-ABC.  TV networks/studios have dedicated departments focused on increasing diversity and inclusion in their content and within production, but those departments really didn't exist in film. Universal recruited my boss, Janine Jones-Clark, who brought me along to start up film's creative diversity and inclusion department. They were the first studio to do so, which speaks to their commitment and efforts in this area.

I primarily oversee creative program strategies to develop talent focusing on underrepresented writers and directors and, soon, actors! My team and I also review content for potential diversity, equity and inclusion sensitivities such as stereotypes and tropes, providing guidance and options to address issues.

From previous observations, diversity, equity and inclusion work often falls on those who don't have a seat at the table. It's inspiring to see decision-makers champion the work we do – I see support coming from various directions, from leadership to producers and different departments.

I see change is happening when it comes to increasing representation. There's a lot more work to do in the industry, whether it's increasing Black, Latinx, indigenous, AAPI, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+, veterans, or female representation. People want to see themselves represented. I'm working on ways to make certain people understand the work I do and why it's important.

For example, when discussing the work I do, I sometimes start by asking those with whom I'm speaking to name five directors. Most times, the answers are all males, all non-diverse. Then I ask them to name five female directors and I'm lucky to hear one or two but they're often unable to remember the director's name, e.g. "the one who directed Wonder Woman…" It shouldn't be that way. I too sometimes struggle with coming up with names off the top of my head, which is a reminder that there's still a long way to go. And so, we have programs for writers, directors and composers to put talent on people's radar. Can you name at least three working female composers?  

Having worked in programming and development enables me to better support the writers or directors as they develop their material. My communications and marketing experience comes in handy when pitching talent to producers and execs. And getting to work with partners who also do diversity, equity and inclusion work helps broaden my view, which is valuable in multiple ways, like when I'm reviewing content through that diversity lens.

Each year, I'm surprised and really proud by all that the team has accomplished as well as the "lean in" from senior leadership and creatives. I see it as a win when a producer considers the writers and directors from the program. I'm inspired by those who are really committed to walking the walk, and when a program alum gets that first credit, it's super rewarding but we try not to rest on our laurels.

From left: Dayna (Asuncion) Sivankeo, Emerlynn Lampitoc and Kristin (Ota) Yamada, all '95, met during Orientation Weekend in 1991. Here, the dear friends celebrate graduation day in May 1995.

My instructors at Whitworth were wonderful, but one conversation that made quite an impact on me was with Jay Kendall [former professor of business]. I think I was walking from his class or from the HUB and we started chatting. He asked why I hadn't taken more marketing classes and said I have a talent for it. I was a senior and had already filled out my semester schedule, and it was just too late. Jay pointed out that I could apply my journalism degree to marketing, and he urged me to think about how I could do that. All along I thought I'd be a journalist, writing news stories all day. But Jay opened my mind to other possibilities of what I could do. He helped me see that I wasn't limited to just writing. Without that conversation, I wouldn't be where I am today. It led me to all of the different experiences that are helping me in my current role. My conversation with Jay lasted fewer than 10 minutes, but it is still with me. He saw potential in me that I didn't know I had. 

When you're a college student, things like that conversation with Jay matter, and I keep those memories in the part of my heart I visit when I want joy. Memories like Malia Akutagawa '93  singing "O Holy Night" in Warren Hall when she had no idea anyone was listening. Or when Loren Ayresman '95, MIT '98 and Lorna (Inda) Ayresman '95 were making chili and rice and shared it with me. Or Dayna (Asuncion) Sivankeo '95 and Kristin (Ota) Yamada '95 chasing each other around Hill House. Or having breakfast with Celeste (Montibon) Naeole '96 or dance-offs with Kathy (Jones) Brummett '96, MIT '98. All of these experiences helped me realize I wasn't alone. 

College is such a critical time. It's when people try to define who they are. My time at Whitworth helped me learn the value of friendships and the impact of "little things." I'd encourage students to give it all they've got, no matter how small the gesture is. Include others by inviting them to dinner, lunch or breakfast – make the rice. Be sure to take a break to have fun and enjoy it – you don't know if you'll have that chance again. 

I would tell my 20-year-old self to just to chill out and enjoy the moment. I was not in a good place mentally then. I was dealing with a lot that was affecting me socially and academically. I was too stoic and stubborn at times, so I would tell my 20-year-old self to relax and be present – that it's going to be OK.

I've learned in recent years that it's important to stay in touch. I am the worst at this. I'm in an industry where people often say, "It's who you know, not what you know." Networking is important for achieving success but fostering relationships can enhance your mental health.  

Lately I've been saying "inspiration and opportunity will come knocking but it has to find you working."

I'm not totally sure what I hope my legacy will be. That's something I'm still working on. I hope that people will say that I was kind. That they remember me as being someone who doesn't give up on people I believe in. That I tried my best.