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People of Point Park: Peter Wentzel, '81 goes from dance to finance

Friday, October 02, 2015

PeterWentzelAlumni Snapshot:

Degree Earned: B.A. in Dance
Class Year: 1981
Current Occupation: Senior Vice President of Production Finance
Employer: MRC Studios
Current Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Two years to 'make it'

When Peter Wentzel, '81, graduated from Point Park College with his degree in dance, he gave himself two years to succeed as a professional dancer in New York City. “Point Park had prepared me with the fundamental training. I knew how to audition. But I had no contacts in the Broadway community, and this was in the days before social media, when you had no way of knowing who was doing what unless you ran into them.” 

Fellow Point Park dance alumnus Rob Ashford, '83, connected Peter with the Appalachian Dance and Music Ensemble (now known as the West Virginia Dance Company), with which he danced for four months. “It was a great experience going through the rigors of being in a professional dance company.”

'What Color Is Your Parachute?'

At the end of two years, Peter was not ready to leave New York.  He was working as a typesetter at night and was offered a supervisory position. “I had to make a decision between a higher-level full-time job or dance. The position put food on the table and I took that commitment.” He continued to dance on the side sporadically, including choreographing an off-off-Broadway show, but ultimately found that it was unrealistic to pursue performance seriously.

Around this time, Peter read “What Color is Your Parachute?” and realized he had some business acumen.  He was still interested in media and entertainment, including TV and film, and landed an entry-level administrative job at CBS News. He attended Fordham University at night and earned an M.B.A. in finance, realizing that “no matter where I ended up, I could use that degree.”

What do O.J. Simpson, a space shuttle and a U.S. president all have in common?

Peter spent 12 years with CBS, working his way up through the company. His work on the business side allowed him to be a member of the special events unit that facilitated coverage of historical events such as the O.J. Simpson trial, presidential campaigns and space shuttle launches. “The work was unpredictable, but I enjoyed it," he said. "The fun part was to be the business person on site. I traveled all over the world, weeks at a time," as part of the news team.

His later finance positions involved cultural and arts programming at Thirteen/WNET in New York City and prime-time television production at ABC Studios. He currently oversees production finance at MRC Studios, including work on such notable projects as "Ted," "Elysium" and "House of Cards."

From dance to finance

While Peter’s career trajectory was not obvious on graduation day in 1982, he has found a connective thread between his beginnings in performance and his career behind the scenes. “I moved away from dance, but remained in fields that are creative and unpredictable, and at the same time offering the security and stability of a regular paycheck. The transition was a good fit for me and my personality.” 

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