Carson School's Uribe returns for Alumni Masters Week

Julie Uribe returns to campus for the Alumni Masters Week in November.
Julie Uribe returns to campus for the Alumni Masters Week in November.

Julie Uribe (B.F.A. 1984), a television producer with more than 25 years of experience in Hollywood, has been selected to participate in the Alumni Masters Week, a program sponsored by the Nebraska Alumni Association, Scarlet Guard and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Chancellor’s Office.

“This is exciting for me,” Uribe said.

She said the recognition was a nice “welcome home,” as earlier this year she and her husband moved back to Lincoln to be closer to her aging parents.

“I was very busy, traveling internationally and working long hours. Then my father was diagnosed with memory issues, but they continued to visit Los Angeles often. But last Christmas they told me they couldn't travel anymore. I said to my husband, 'I know this is a bold move, but I can't imagine my life where I only see my parents a couple of weeks a year in Lincoln during the holiday seasons. Let’s go and see if we can’t reinvent ourselves back in Lincoln and make more memories.' That was six months ago, and I start teaching at the university in January. So this award is fortuitous timing. It was like the theater department gave me a fantastic welcome home gift by offering me a job."

Every fall, outstanding alumni return to campus to share their experiences and knowledge with students. All students are encouraged to take part in lectures, presentations and events with the Alumni Masters, who will speak about ways to apply formal education to working situations and career goals. Since 1964, 388 alumni have participated in Alumni Masters Week.

Uribe will be on campus and participating in classes Nov. 9-11 and will be honored at the Nebraska football game on Nov. 12.

Uribe is an Emmy Award-winning producer. She is currently the Co-President of Katrillion Entertainment, a media and entertainment company.

Most recently she served as senior vice president of non-scripted development for FremantleMedia North America (the company that produces "American Idol," "X-Factor," "America’s Got Talent," "Price is Right") where she led development, pilot production and international acquisition strategy.

"My career as a television executive is an example of being in the right place at the right time," Uribe said. "It's the old adage, be prepared and jump in—and that's what I did. First I was an actor, then transitioned into a writer/producer, then used those skills to launch my career as a television executive."

Prior to joining Fremantle, Uribe served as a writer-producer on various programs for networks like National Geographic, Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel. In 1999, Uribe won a daytime Emmy award for her work on ABC’s “Better Homes and Gardens.”

Her professional acting highlights include guest spots and recurring roles on “The Drew Carey Show,” “Family Matters,” "Perfect Strangers," “General Hospital” and “Days of Our Lives.”

Some of her career changes reflect the evolving landscape of television.

“I got into production when acting work became limited. I was trying to be a writer, but it was a bit of a boy’s club, so work was intermittent.” she said. “I took a production job and it was such a good fit. I loved it, and never looked back.”

A friend encouraged her to work at Fremantle.

"I was working at a small production company working on documentaries when a friend called and urged me to come work for her at Fremantle developing foreign formats for the US market. I took the job, but I wasn't sure what the gig was. With the success of the U.K. hit 'American Idol' on Fox, developing in the reality space was just starting to explode at this time so I went for it, and I maximized the opportunity.

Eventually, "American Idol” became the biggest show on television and led to an influx of reality television, including “Dancing with the Stars” and “America’s Got Talent.”

"One genre I spotted early on was the wave of Japanese formats. I discovered a show called ‘Hole in the Wall,’ which sold to Fox for a season and continued on the Cartoon Network. Ultimately it was the physical comedy that resonated with audiences.”

Everyone wondered in the early 2000s if reality television would last.

“The genre has evolved and matured and I don’t think an ‘American Idol’ will ever happen again because there are too many platforms to watch content,” Uribe said. “However, reality television will never go away because it's less expensive and quicker to produce than scripted shows. It also has an excellent track record of launching TV personalities like chefs and business entrepreneurs."

She cited Gordon Ramsay as an example.

“The Food Network has made everybody foodies,” she said. "Before Gordon Ramsay, no one would have thought to put a chef on a major network at 9pm."

She encourages students to learn a variety of skills, work hard and be prepared to take advantage of unexpected opportunities.

"When I moved to Los Angeles in 1986 there was no way to know I would have a career in reality television—it didn't exist!" she said.

While at UNL, Uribe studied with William Morgan, Rex McGraw, Tice Miller and Janice Stauffer, among others.

“I just feel so lucky to have been there with Dr. William Morgan,” she said. “To get a compliment from him was a gift—oh man, I embraced that. I’m still embracing it. As a freshman, I was so afraid of him, but he eventually became my director, mentor and then dear friend. He was a teacher who changed my life.”

Her lasting memory of Nebraska is a specific day: Dec. 8, 1980. The Temple Building was being renovated, so they were in Bessey Hall. She was a freshman and was told that freshmen never get cast in productions.

"I found out that morning that not only had I been cast in one, but two shows,” she said. “The lesson I learned was, even if you might not win, you have to try! It was an exciting moment for me, and then I heard somebody say, ‘John Lennon has been shot.’ I knew a certain innocence was lost that day. I’ll never forget that afternoon.”

After graduating, she spent a year in graduate school in Kansas City before taking some summer theater jobs. She was accepted to Rutgers to finish a master’s program, when opportunity sent her elsewhere.

“I met an acting coach who was based in Los Angeles. They thought I was suited for comedy and television, so I switched gears and made that horrible, awkward call to my parents and said I’m not going to finish graduate school, so I won’t have that in my back pocket. And even though I don’t know anyone in L.A. and no one in the entertainment industry, I’m going to drive out there with all my stuff and go for it! So yeah, I’m excited about this alumni award because, in many ways, it’s their award. My parents gave me the gift of giving me their blessing to pursue a professional, creative life, and it was a great ride.”

Her career continues to evolve. Now in Lincoln, her next project is taking her into the world of casino table games with Katrillion Entertainment. She and a former colleague created a twist on 3-card poker, and they patented the game and are in the process of selling it across the country. They launched in Vegas this past December and are premiering their game in the Midwest at a casino outside of Des Moines in two weeks.

“Where this goes, I don’t know,” she said. “Twenty years ago, a man named Derek Webb invented 3-Card Poker. Everyone turned him down. He finally got a casino in Mississippi interested. The owner said, 'Listen, if you train the dealers and watch over it, I’ll give you a table.' He’s a very wealthy man now.”

She has no idea what the future holds for their game.

“It’s another crap shoot,” she said. “Why the casino business? It's not that crazy. I was a game producer, so that part wasn’t foreign to me. I was in sales, and a big part of sales along with selling is marketing. When you lay it out like that, the venture is not a big stretch."

In addition to teaching, Uribe is also consulting as a marketing and brand expert for a Lincoln ad agency and a new start-up company.

It goes back to her core philosophy: your core skills can serve you in many different industries—you just need to be ready when opportunity strikes.

She is also very clear with young people curious about a career in show business.

“If you want to pursue something in entertainment, you can't over estimate how competitive it is," Uribe said. “You have to really want it. If you can do something else and be happy, then you should probably do that. If somebody is squelched by just that statement, it wasn’t for them."

She's grateful for the journey her career has taken her on.

“I never thought I would work at such a high professional level and end up as a senior vice president. I was overseeing 12 executive producers, buying television all over the world and selling it to the U.S. market,” Uribe said. “It was very satisfying. But there are also some trade offs. You don’t see your family, friends and spouse often enough. It’s a life balance that I’m looking forward to capturing in this next chapter in Lincoln.”