SMU 2022 Graduate Ready To Embark On Screenwriting Career At 85

Marillyn Seeberger, 85, a 2022 film and media arts graduate of SMU, plans to use her new degree to embark on a career as a screenwriter.

When she graduated from Ardmore High School in Oklahoma, she had a dorm room reserved at the University of Oklahoma, where she intended to study journalism, but she married and moved to Denison instead. Now, 68 years later, she’s fulfilling her dream of earning her B.A. in film and media arts from SMU with plans to write screenplays.

“I don’t want to just take up space on the planet,” said Seeberger.

She landed her first job in the 1960s at an Oklahoma City television station after attending secretarial school at night. She worked in several departments at the station, helping produce live shows directed at women’s and children’s audiences, writing copy and producing public service programs, and occasionally appearing on live shows.

“I always wanted to work,” she said.

After moving to Dallas in 1968, Seeberger joined the film production team at the Bloom Agency, then the largest independent advertising agency in Dallas. Thirteen years later she was the first woman vice president of broadcast production at Bloom, rolling out commercials for national campaigns, music videos, and award-winning films for corporate and nonprofit groups.  She was the first woman to lead nearly every film and production professional organization in Dallas and created her own production company, Turtle Island Pictures.

“I never met anyone as strong, tenacious, and capable as Marillyn, said Mary Collins, who worked for Seeberger at Bloom in her first job after graduating from SMU in 1979 with a degree in advertising. “Working for her set the standard for me as a woman in business.”

After managing the casting of talent for Seeberger at Bloom, Collins opened her own talent agency in 1984 – the first in the Southwest dedicated to experienced voiceover and on-camera performers. The two joined forces recently as actors from the Mary Collins Agency provided the talent for Seeberger’s senior production class film, The Author.

Seeberger didn’t tell her family when at age 80, she began taking community college classes, “just to keep busy after my retirement.” But as her credits accumulated, her thoughts returned to her long-time dream of becoming a writer.

“I always wanted to write,” she said. “I knew I had stories to tell with a little bit of fact and a little bit of fiction.”

In January of 2020, Seeberger transferred to SMU to complete her degree in film and media arts. “It was important to me to have the credentials to be a screenwriter,” Seeberger said.

Like other college students, Seeberger learned to navigate pandemic-driven ZOOM classes

“The young people in my classes have helped me out,” she said. “I have their names and phone numbers. I learned long ago from my work that the most important thing to know is who to call for help.”

Students and faculty in SMU’s Film and Media Arts department appreciate her too. At the Meadows School of the Arts Commencement ceremony on May 14, Seeberger will lead other film graduates into SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium as their marshal.

“Every spring, faculty in every program select a marshal from among the students, said Derek Kompare, chair and associate professor of film and media arts. “We tend to grant this honor to students who have displayed some signature perseverance and have a unique path to graduation. Marillyn was the only, obvious choice for us this year!”

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