The tire on Tom Cruise’s motorcycle shrieks and the guitars kick in.

“Bada, bada, bump b-b-bump b-b-bump …”

Matthew Mahar '17 on the lot of Paramount Pictures

Matthew Mahar ’17 on the lot of Paramount Pictures

At the opening strains of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” your head involuntarily bobs. For the rest of the trailer for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, as a shirtless Cruise battles spies, blows things up and dodges knife blades, the song has hooked you. Or so hoped movie executives from Paramount Pictures this summer, when they added Zepp’s classic rocker to the soundtrack, in part because of Matthew Maher ’16 (Schnecksville, Pa.).

Maher, an economics major, interned at Paramount Pictures over the summer. His hands-on experience brought him up close to some of the season’s biggest blockbusters.

“I’ve always loved movies since I was 12 or 13,” Maher says. Last year, he wrote “Weightless,” a screenplay about a sexual assault at the University of Virginia for a class. Maher hasn’t found a producer yet, but he hasn’t given up hope.

Again, Maher is an economics major.

“Economics is my expertise,” he says. “Film is my passion.”

At Paramount, Maher worked with a marketing team that handled large-scale film budgets for all the studio’s upcoming 2016 offerings. He also helped reconcile the bills for 2015 movies. It’s about as sexy as accounting gets – thumbing through Tom Cruise’s hotel bills.

Outside the ledger book, Maher worked with pop-up advertising (those 3D cardboard signs you see in some movie theaters), and learned about how movies like Titanic, which came out in 1997, is still making money for the studio.

“I also sat in on a lot of screenings,” he says, along with his marketing meetings. And that’s how he became part of the team that picked “Whole Lotta Love” for the trailer.

He learned about marketing, how to appeal to audience segments, such as, in the case of Mission Impossible, young males.

Maher says he is reaching a balance. On one hand, he has “Weightless,” which he could tweak and attempt to market in Hollywood’s cut-throat executive suites. At the same time, how many aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers have the hands-on financial experience to ground their creative work, which Maher obtained through Lafayette?

Not that he has to be a starving artist. As he approaches graduation, Maher could land a job at a marketing research firm or a studio in need of someone with a whole lotta experience.

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