Profile: Michigan graduate finds her direction at Harold Ramis Film School 


Andrea Rivera is on a journey, and every step she takes gets her closer to where she’s going – now that she knows where she is going.

Rivera, a native of Bloomfield Hills and 2011 graduate of Country Day, is a recent graduate of the Harold Ramis Film School at Second City in Chicago. She “loved” her experience at Harold Ramis where she was one of just 31 graduates from only the second graduating class of the only comedy-focused film school in the world.

The school fosters young comedic talent through a curriculum based on iconic Harold Ramis’ own sensibilities.

Ramis, a Second City alum and star of the ground-breaking SCTV, was an actor, writer, director and producer whose film credits included “Groundhog Day,” “Stripes,” “Caddyshack,” “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and “Ghostbusters.”

“There are six classes with three semesters and each semester you take an improv class,” she says. “What sold me on improv happened in my first semester. One of my teachers said ‘when you are writing you are improv-ing and when you are improv-ing you are writing. I love that idea and it really sold me on improv-ing as a skill. It got me to exercise that muscle and is very liberating.”

Rivera, 24, has a smile as bright as a spotlight, a personality as booming as a boom mic and now that she can clearly see the mark on the stage, she’s ready to stand on her own and find that star in the sky all her own.

Her journey began at Country Day, where took a course called film and lit. She then headed to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan. It was her first step before her next step took her in a different direction.

“Things were crazy different then,” she says of her days in Ann Arbor. “I didn’t have a specific direction at that point. When I first went to Michigan I applied to the business school. My high school was really small so I wanted that big school vibe and romanticize the school with the football games and the giant community. I liked all the options the school offered and I was trying to explore at that point in my life. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to explore at such a big university but it ended up working out.”

While at Michigan, she took an introduction course in “Screen, Arts and Cultures” and was excited about that area of study. “Then I happened to get on a film set of a movie filming in Ann Arbor after my sophomore year. Then I was hooked,” she says.

Between her junior and senior year at U-M, Rivera lived in Los Angles for a few months as she headed down the production route in the direction of assistant director.

“That summer was very telling for me,” she says. “Even though I love being on set and love production, I discovered that path was not for me. I discovered out there that I really wanted to have more creative control.”

After graduating from Michigan in 2015 with a degree in “Screen, Arts and Cultures,” Rivera moved back home and did some freelance work as a videographer while continuing to explore that creative side and discovered not only a passion for a screenwriting but a talent for screenwriting.

“I really loved it and also felt like I had a knack for it,” she says. “As you start writing you discover these communities like writing rooms and groups of people who write and I started seeking that out. So I started taking improv classes in Chicago and really fell in love with Chicago.”

It was while she was in Chicago in 2016 that Rivera heard about the Harold Ramis Film School at Second City. She thought it would be a perfect fit so she applied and was accepted into just the school’s second-ever class.

Rivera was “blown away” with both the curriculum and the teachers at the Harold Ramis Film School, which was founded in 2016 and immerses aspiring filmmakers in comedy theory, comedic film production, screenwriting, improv, and storytelling through a unique teaching style inspired by the comedic legend.

“The University of Michigan was great and I actually took my first screenwriting course at U-M, but because the Harald Ramis School is a place of community and ensemble there was so much more to learn because of that perspective,” she said. “I still have a lot to learn but I feel like I have the necessary skills I need to get me going. I feel confident now to create my own work and I didn’t have the confidence before I got to Second City. My ideas are much better thought through now and organized and I can see them in a different light and I’m proud to share them. It’s a deeper sense of pride.”

In Rivera’s perfect world she would be a director but writing and creating is something that still has a firm grip on her soul.

“I really enjoy directing my own work,” she says of her perfect world. “I’ve always enjoyed writing and always will. There is still a lot of work to be done and I need to put my work out there and see where it takes me. I’m ready to put in the time and work. I still need to hone my craft if I want to be a very good writer and director.”

Many of The Second City’s former pupils have come out to support the film school, including Steve Carell, Keegan-Michael Key, Eugene Levy, Tim Meadows, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Bob Odenkirk and Martin Short, are all alums of the famed institution and currently sit on the film school’s advisory board.

Rounding out the star-studded board are icons and industry giants like Judd Apatow, Betsy Beers, Doug Belgrad, Stuart Cornfeld, Paul Feig, Joe Flaherty, David Kramer, Debbie Liebling, Adam McKay, Masi Oka, Amy Pascal, Gigi Pritzker, Erica Mann Ramis, Jay Roach, Bob Teitel, Betty Thomas, Dave Thomas, Peter Tolan, and Emma Watts.

The methodology behind HRFS is true to the core values of its namesake, revolving around creative collaboration, an in-depth curriculum and hands-on mentoring from industry titans, many of whom sit on the institution’s advisory board.




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