Ariana Brill

Ariana Brill ’10 Makes Work as Cool as Play at Nickelodeon

Ariana Brill thrives on challenges. A few months after receiving her BA in cognitive science and geography from Vassar College—one of the top liberal arts schools in the country—she entered the UC Davis School of Law to study intellectual property law. A year later she commenced her MBA studies at the Graduate School of Management.

The following years were demanding but rewarding as Brill immersed herself in the joint degree program. By mid-2010 she had completed her formal studies. With MBA in hand, she undertook the grueling preparations for the three-day-long California bar exam. She passed, took a very welcome break to visit family on the East Coast and then moved to Los Angeles, the heart of the entertainment industry.

Brill applied to the post-production group at Nickelodeon Animation Studio and is building a career at the children and teen entertainment giant. Her first assignment was as an assistant on The Penguins of Madagascar—and she soon began doing “odd jobs” for the legal department as well. In early 2011 Brill was promoted to a coordinator and began working on The Legend of Korra, the sequel to the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. She recently post-supervised a pilot—“which was a lot of fun.”

What drives you in your work? 

I’m passionate about all of the shows that I work on, which makes me feel truly blessed. It’s a very special thing to work on a product that I truly believe in. 

Where is your career headed?

I’m interested in problems that occupy the intersection of business and art. Lucky for me, the entertainment industry is chock full of them. My favorite part of my current role is collaborating with creators to understand and promote their vision. I want to continue working to find creative ways to protect both that vision and Nickelodeon’s bottom line. I would like to find ways to help refine production processes. When systems are more efficient, it gives artists more time and energy to focus on creating—which is good for business, too.

I have a lot of other interests that I’d like to explore more in the future. I get really excited about the idea of transmedia storytelling—telling different pieces of a story or creating different openings into the same fictional world through a variety of media. I’m also fascinated by the Internet’s capacity to provide new ways to deepen storytelling experiences, to bring fans together and to foster community. 

How has your UC Davis MBA experience helped shape your success?

Television is fundamentally a collaborative art form, and it involves a lot of teamwork, which is a skill that I honed during my time at the GSM. In school, it was a big challenge for me to participate in five group projects simultaneously, but I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to try that. Nowadays, on a weekly basis, I interface with more than 50 people spread across at least four departments, as well as a couple of continents. The soft skills that I gained the GSM help me to be much more effective at this. For instance, I often think back to my Teams & Technology course to decide whether to send an email, pick up the phone or walk across the building.

What is the most significant thing that’s happened to you since graduating?

I grew up on Nickelodeon’s shows and I dreamed about working here for many years. I think it’s pretty amazing that I get to be a part of an organization that has meant so much to me.

Your favorite Graduate School of Management memory? 

I really enjoyed The Death of Movie Theaters project, which I worked on along with Kristen Monahan, Jon Mesh and Christine Lim in our Technology Management course. We had a blast with that!

Any other news you’d like to share?

Nowadays I’m living in a small house in East Hollywood with my partner, Daniel Sharpe, a practicing civil rights attorney, and our friend Sarah, a fellow veteran co-oper. We’re putting the skills that we learned in the Davis co-ops to work in our “fun-sized” community here in L.A. We have tons of CSA produce, home-fermented vegetables, vermicompost and a small garden. 

How do you support and participate in the GSM now? 

I definitely don’t do as much as I should! But I’m listed in the alumni directory—and I’m always happy to chat with students who reach out to me.