An entertainment education -- Sundance and the NBC Associate program are where Hollywood's up-and-comers go to learn the ropes

Every entertainment generation has its own breeding ground. Here’s a handbook to the latest institutions and showcases for up-and-comers.

FILM: Sundance Institute/Festival
Robert Redford’s 12 year-old Institute sponsors two labs per year — one each for screenwriters and directors. Teachers include writers James L. Brooks, Richard Price, and Alice Arlen, and directors Alan J. Pakula, Paul Mazursky, and Sydney Pollack. This year’s Sundance Film Festival, held last month, had so many young filmmakers that the festival had a seminar panel called Twenty Somethings: The New Generation. Among the under-30 crowd were El Mariachi‘s Robert Rodriguez (24), Boxing Helena‘s Jennifer Lynch (24), and Amongst Friends‘ Rob Weiss (26).

TV: The NBC and ABC Associate programs
ABC — whose program has been on hiatus for two years but will be reinstated next year — hires two associates in L.A. who for the better part of a year work in comedy, drama, and movie development and current programming. NBC associates spend a year working in a single department. Swan Paik, 28, NBC’s current associate, had worked for the network’s business side in New York. Wanting to switch to the creative end, Paik applied for the associate’s program because ”it gives you a head start on establishing the relationships you need to be a player.”

MUSIC: The CMJ Music Marathon
Each year, the college-radio scene converges on New York City in the form of the CMJ (College Media Journal and New Music Report) Music Marathon. Last year, some 5,700 band members, A&R reps, and music moguls attended. ”The CMJ Mar-athon is genuine,” says Mike Sikkas, Mercury Records’ director of West Coast A&R. ”It’s true to its intent,which is to showcase alternative talent.” Current chart toppers that earned crucial early exposure at the CMJ Marathon include R.E.M. (’85), Bobby McFerrin (’86), Sinead O’Connor (’87), and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (’89).

BOOKS: Although the University of Iowa and Columbia University have first-rate fiction departments, the writer’s program at the University of California, Irvine has recently become a lode of new talent. One reason may be its size: of 320 applications for fiction writing, only six are chosen. ”You’re dealing with the crème de la crème,” says Mary Evans, a New York literary agent. ”When you say someone’s from Irvine, everyone sits up and pays attention.” Recent 20ish authors to come out of Irvine include Marti Leimbach, 25 when her Dying Young was auctioned, and Lane Von Herzen, 28 when she sold her Copper Crown.