The OCC Effect: Mark Wolicki ‘01

Mark Wolicki ’01 on the set of The Ellen Show.

During his senior year at Marcellus High School, Mark Wolicki took advantage of an exploratory program the school offered with Onondaga Community College that set him on a path to success. “My meeting with the high school guidance counselor took all of five minutes,” Wolicki said. “I told her I was going to go to OCC and then work in television at NewsChannel 9 (WSYR TV).” Upon his arrival, Wolicki began taking classes in Coulter Library where the old studio resided for the former Radio and Television program. The following year, Wolicki and his fellow students were the first class to try out a new studio and equipment as part of the new program to replace Radio and Television, called Electronic Media Communications.

The combination of state-of-the-art equipment and expert faculty guidance placed Wolicki on a course to receive the advanced training and experience he needed for the professional world. “From day one, (professor) Tony Vadala became my mentor and helped me not only learn the new equipment, but opened the door to opportunities that allowed me to get jobs outside of school.” He recalls his first paid job was working a camera his freshmen year at the OCC Commencement Ceremony.

True to his word, he started at Channel 9 shortly after graduation and worked part-time in production. He would find his true passion by taking advantage of the flexible time between evening newscasts to learn about another television component, graphic design. “I had no professional training in graphics, but would visit the station’s graphic artist who would show me how to work the software,” he said. “After she would leave, I would  teach myself the elements to the point that when she went out on maternity leave a few months later, I was placed in her position until she came back.”

From there, Wolicki’s career began to fast track as he grew more comfortable with television graphics. His work soon caught the attention of the Athletic Department at Syracuse University where they contracted with him to create and produce all of the content for the Carrier Dome video boards for all home football, basketball and lacrosse games which still continues today.

In 2012 Wolicki decided to take a leap of faith and packed up and moved out to Los Angeles where he was able to settle and land his first job at Studio City, the production home for many daytime network talk shows. “For me, Studio City was an L.A. boot camp because I was able to come in, learn a lot, make some mistakes, but ultimately prove my worth.” At Studio City, Wolicki went to work on The Dr. Oz and The Ellen DeGeneres Shows, which garnered him and his promotional team two Prime Time Emmy Award Nominations for their work on the latter.  From there, he began work on a new show, The FABLife starring Tyra Banks. The show was cancelled after one season in 2016. For the rest of the year, he had his work with SU to fall back on and tried to apply to at least five job openings a week. He scheduled a lot of coffee and lunch dates to network his way into another job.

Shortly thereafter he received an email out of the blue from a former employer, Studio City, asking if he had ever thought about writing. The next week he interviewed for his current position, Creative Director of Marketing for The Ellen DeGeneres Show. After some negotiation for the next season, Wolicki signed on in a permanent capacity with the show. During his tenure at Ellen, Wolicki and his team have been nominated for a total of four Daytime Emmy Awards including three in 2018 and one for this season. When they were shutout of last year’s awards Wolicki and his team went from the awards ceremony to a nearby TGI Friday’s while dressed in their tuxedos. They ate onion rings and drank beer which is exactly what they plan on doing after this year’s awards show on Sunday May 5. “The competition is very tough in our category, but just being nominated really is an honor and does open a few more doors. Win or lose, we’ll still end up at TGI Friday’s for beer and onion rings, but we hope to bring some hardware with us this year!”

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