By Terri Peterson and Rachel Wayne
ARI LUXENBERG was seven when Gator football coach Galen Hall awarded him a little orange whistle for doing the most push-ups for his age at a UF summer football camp. While that whistle has since been lost to history, Luxenberg’s Gator Pride has only grown.
“I always knew I wanted to be a Gator,” Luxenberg said. “It’s something that has always felt a part of me.”
Today, Luxenberg credits his education at UF with providing him the foundation he needed to pursue his dream job in Hollywood, where Luxenberg works as a Senior Vice President of Business Affairs at Paramount Television, negotiating deals (such as hiring actors, writers and directors) for the studio’s TV projects, including “Jack Ryan” on Amazon and “The Haunting of Hill House” on Netflix. He was previously employed at Warner Bros. Television, where he worked on shows such as “The Leftovers” on HBO and “The Middle” on ABC.
Luxenberg learned how to be a leader at UF, especially while serving as the president of Florida Cicerones, UF’s official student ambassadors. “Running that organization and feeling I’d been able to make an impact at UF was a constant reminder that through determination and hard work there’s nothing I couldn’t accomplish — including achieving my dreams in Hollywood,” he said.
At UF he strategically chose English as his major following the advice of his academic advisor who believed it would provide a great foundation for law school, a key step in his plan to move into the business side of the entertainment industry.
After his 2006 graduation from the Emory University School of Law, Luxenberg accepted a position with a large law firm in Atlanta focusing on corporate law. Although he was getting valuable experience and making a good salary, Luxenberg still felt the pull of Hollywood.
So, he arranged a short vacation to Los Angeles and lined up some informational interviews at talent agencies. A month later, an agency called and offered him a position — in their mail room. Although this meant a significantly smaller salary, Luxenberg accepted and began planning his move to Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, the 2007 WGA strike spurred a hiring freeze, eliminating his opportunity. Undeterred, Luxenberg still moved out West, landing an assistant position in the business affairs department of the William Morris Agency’s music division.
After a few years in LA working as an assistant and trying to break into the executive ranks, Luxenberg was considering a move back to Atlanta to work for a big firm again. “I was waiting on my California bar results, and was just at the point where I had to start paying down my law school loans. I’d really given it my best shot, but was being realistic that it just might not work out in Hollywood.”
“Then suddenly, everything seemed to click into place. Just as I got the news I passed the California bar, I landed a dream job at Warner Bros. Television, which was the big break to join the studio executive ranks and finally make my way into the television side of the business,” he said.
“When leaving my law firm and setting off to LA on this journey, I knew in my heart that I had to pursue my dream regardless of the risk. It was a long difficult road, but truly my experiences at UF were invaluable in helping me see it through and reach the position I’m at today.”