Editor’s Note: Domer Diaries is the newest storytelling series from the Alumni Association where members of the Notre Dame family tell their stories in their own words. This week’s Domer Diaries entry comes from Michael Swanson '93, Senior Vice President of Production for Universal Television in Los Angeles.
Class Year(s): 1993
Residence Hall: Dillon Hall
Majors and Minor: Film, Television and Theater
Student Activities: Multicultural Executive Council, Undergraduate Admissions Student Recruitment Coordinator, Voices of Faith Gospel Choir, NAACP Notre Dame Chapter
Occupation: Senior Vice President of Production, Universal Television
Location: Los Angeles
Notre Dame clubs or affinity groups: Notre Dame Performing Arts Advisory Council, Black Alumni of Notre Dame
What accomplishments have you been most proud of in your career?
Accomplishments that have made me smile throughout my career as a studio executive include being responsible for and successfully overseeing the productions of several beloved comedies in recent television history. Over the past 12 years, my shows have included Community, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Master of None, The Good Place, Never Have I Ever and Hacks. Despite each series having its own set of challenges and problems to solve, producing these episodes with my outstanding production teams has been a fulfilling and rewarding accomplishment, not to mention all the wonderful memories created along the way.
Over the past few years, I have become involved with Broadway shows and I’m most proud of our Tony Award winning musical, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations. This heartfelt musical about the iconic Motown group takes us through the ups and downs of The Temptations’ journey while celebrating their timeless music and classic dance moves. Ain’t Too Proud is a celebration that brings me so much joy every time I see it performed on stage.
I am also very proud of all the movies I’ve produced, many of which were written and directed by my wife, Christine Swanson ’94, through our production company Faith Filmworks.
What was a formative moment in your time at Notre Dame that continues to influence you today?
During my freshman year at Notre Dame, I visited South Bend’s Center for the Homeless and that experience truly influenced me and changed my life. When I decided to major in Film, Television and Theater, my first film project I chose to produce and direct was a documentary short film about a mother and her young son who lived at the center. They agreed to allow me to document their daily lives and shed light on their current situation by telling their story with dignity and respect.
Ever since that initial visit to the Center for the Homeless, I have held people struggling with homelessness very close to my heart. Those experiences from my early years as a Notre Dame student continue to influence me today as I participate in feeding holiday meals to individuals living on the street and supporting the Urban Rescue Mission’s homeless shelter in Los Angeles.
What books, music, movies, television shows or other forms of art have had a lasting impact on your life?
One book that has created the most profound impact on my life and molded me into the man, husband, father and servant leader I am today is the Bible. The Bible is my ultimate guide, my roadmap, my comfort, my reassurance. The scriptures are full of wisdom and examples that continue to shape and influence me. The Last Arrow by Erwin McManus is a recent book that has also impacted me significantly.
Music by Gospel singer CeCe Winans makes me dance, sing, cry, reflect, be still and worship God for His goodness and faithfulness. I have loved just about every song by Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder since I was a little boy. I really enjoy all kinds of great music and have pretty eclectic taste. I’ve seen so many artists in concert whose music has inspired me, from Anita Baker, James Taylor, B.B. King, Natalie Merchant and Tony Bennett to Luther Vandross, Yo-Yo Ma, Earth Wind & Fire, Alicia Keys and Sting.
I love the art form of dance. Dance is extremely expressive and creative and inspiring. My favorites have been the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Misty Copeland, Savion Glover and The Nicholas Brothers.