‘Living the Dream’—A Discovery Fund Story

Blog | March 22, 2019
Tyla Gomez ’20 with James Dean ’89 on the set of Living the Dream

In the fall of her sophomore year, Tyla Gomez ’20 realized she wanted to change routes from the career path she had been pursuing up to that point. She had been a public policy major, but wanted to explore the media and entertainment industry.

She started reaching out to various Morehead-Cain Alumni in the field, with a focus on alumni in Great Britain because she knew she’d be studying in London in the spring.

James Dean ’89—producer of the British television comedy series Living the Dream—was one of the first alumni to respond, and one of the most enthusiastic. He and Tyla chatted on a video call, and he sent her information about his show. When Tyla got to London in January, the two met for tea.

“He gave me so much backstory about how he got into the industry,” Tyla says. “It was all so fascinating and made me want to learn more.”

James invited Tyla to shadow him on set and witness a day—or three—in the life of a producer.

“As soon as details were confirmed, I immediately went to the Discovery Fund page on the Morehead-Cain Network,” Tyla says. She filled out an application in a rush, hoping to visit Living the Dream the following weekend. But her proposal wasn’t granted.

“My application wasn’t thorough enough,” Tyla says. The Morehead-Cain staff gave her feedback on the application, asking for more details and helping her hone her grant request. She put in the extra work, and, in the end, her proposal was approved. “They really worked with me.”

Tyla says the experience on set gave her insight into the industry in general, as well as the specific type of role she’d want.

“I realized directing seems awesome, and I’m really looking forward to directing a project once I get back to Carolina,” she says. Her 2018 summer as a production services intern for AMC Networks—working on the backend business side—was designed to supplement her experience seeing front-end production at Living the Dream.

James, for his part, says he was delighted to host a scholar.

“I could just see her taking it all in,” he says. “And she wasn’t shy but asked questions, which is so important.”

Tyla says that, more than anything else, she feels grateful for the career exposure and opportunities afforded to her through the Morehead-Cain.

“I think it’s awesome that not only does the Morehead-Cain give you the Discovery Fund option, but also the alumni network to go with it.”

The Discovery Fund

Since its inception in 2008, the Discovery Fund has supported more than 1,000 scholar projects across the United States and abroad. Through the Discovery Fund, each scholar may apply for grants of up to a total of $8,000 over the course of their four years at Carolina.

Discovery Fund grants allow scholars to say “yes” to serendipitous opportunities that will accelerate their life experience and increase their self-awareness. Scholars have used Discovery Fund grants for participating in workshops, retreats, and clinics; for attending and presenting at conferences; for shadowing, networking, and informational interviewing opportunities; for conducting research; for pursuing innovative ideas; and for unique skill acquisition. Tyla’s story is just one example of many.