URBANA – Fred Rubin knows how to talk the talk. And he knows how to write it too.
The former Hollywood producer and screenwriter spoke Wednesday night at Unit One/Allen Hall on the University of Illinois campus as part of the dormitory's Guest-in-Residence program.
Rubin, a University of Illinois graduate and writer of television shows like "Diff'rent Strokes," "Archie Bunker's Place" and "Step by Step," gave his tips for success, based on his own experience and interviews with successful people across the television professions.
The public talk was one of many Rubin gave during his residence, which ends tonight with "Fred Rubin in Concert: An hour of songs, humor and chatter" at 7 p.m. in Allen Hall, at 1005 W. Gregory Drive, U.
With a booming voice and a casual appearance, Rubin tried to teach the 40 or so attendees on Wednesday night "how to begin your life," he said. "How to find work, how to keep work."
Rubin engaged people with his practical advice, such as "be kind," and inside-Hollywood stories, including one about how he befriended a producer's assistant while waiting outside a producer's office. Shortly thereafter, the producer was fired, and that assistant replaced him
"He said to me, 'Dude, we're gonna do a movie together,'" Rubin said.
UI theater major Stephanie Charaska said Rubin's advice, and his approach, rang true. "I really liked how he emphasized being a nice person," she said. "It wasn't preaching and he wasn't on a soapbox – he was just talking to us."
Rubin asked the crowd of mostly students to be optimistic in their endeavors and to "have a radar for opportunity." He said to focus on just one thing at a time, not to try to be an actor and director without conquering one first.
"Pick your heart's desire, the thing that you really want," he said. "And that's hard for us, because a lot of us are multitalented."
Rubin also stressed – and stressed again – the importance of networking, finding peers in the field you want to be in and also talking to people regardless of place or status.
"In life and in business, you never know who you're talking to," he said. "Nowhere is it more true than in Hollywood."
For UI senior Zachary Herrmann, who helped coordinate Rubin's visit to campus, the lesson is already well noted.
"I picked Fred Rubin because I'm interested in possibly going to film school," Herrmann said. "He's obviously a master at networking."
On the job, Rubin told people to be calm, hardworking, energetic and pleasant. "Don't share your anger at work," he said. "Even though you get a new job, your (reputation) might be 'very angry person.'"
And don't expect perfection from any job. "Wherever you work, no matter how great the job is, one thing will always be terribly wrong," he said.
Rubin also told people to be a "Radar O'Reilly." The "M*A*S*H" character "was always three beats ahead of the captain," he said.
Rubin suggested working somewhere every day, even if that work is something as simple as 15 minutes of Web research. Don't just dream and talk about what you want to do, he said. "The secret is: Do it."
Follow your instinct to the best job, Rubin said. When he was offered a supervising position on "Alf," with a long commute but great pay, he turned it down to work on "Night Court," near his home and on a studio lot where other shows were being shot.
He doesn't regret it.
"A part of me didn't want to write for felt."