Hanging out with Bill Murray the night before George Clooney’s wedding is, one presumes, exactly what Matt Dearborn ’82 (Communication Studies) had in mind when, as a kid, he would stay up late to watch The Tonight Show, listen to celebrities tell Johnny Carson about their lives, and think about how they seemed like the kind of people he wanted to be around.
Today, the Davis native is a Hollywood vet, the kind who gets the exclusive invite to Venice to witness Clooney finally settling down. But this weekend, the longtime film and television producer, writer and director is bringing his latest project home to Sacramento. Bubble, a short film that Dearborn wrote, directed and describes as “an absurdist love story,” will screen at this weekend’s Sacramento International Film Festival.
At Sacramento State, where he initially came to study broadcast journalism, Dearborn appreciated the diversity of opinions and styles of his professors, calling them “disruptive to my mind.”
“What I learned at Sac State was how to organize my day, stay resilient, and approach each day as if it mattered,” he says. “I learned a lot of life lessons and I remember the faculty being agreeable and encouraging to everything I was trying to accomplish.”
Precisely when Dearborn became interested in film and television is unclear even to him. After graduation, he got work driving a grip truck for film productions, thinking it would be an easy job for him to leave once he found his passion. That led to him working in various production jobs and, eventually, television writing.
“I sold the first thing I ever wrote, and that encouraged me to write more,” he says.
Over his 30-year career, Dearborn has written more than 100 television episodes and produced or directed dozens more. He is the creator of the children’s show Even Stevens, set in Sacramento and starring a then-unknown Shia LaBeouf. Other credits include dramas like Beverly Hills, 90210 and Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well as a host of children’s shows, including The Secret Life of Alex Mack and Zeke and Luther.
“Lee Nichols, one of my Sac State professors, once told me, ‘You don’t discover your path, you uncover your path,’” Dearborn says. “My path just got uncovered. I was traveling in the right direction and I ended up in the right place.”
His advice for students hoping to follow his path to Hollywood success? “Learn story structure. Don’t worry about dialogue. And write for five minutes every day.”
Scott Freshour ’06 (Communication Studies) was a freshman at Sacramento State and attending a baseball game when he and some friends decided to heckle the opposing players. That got them the attention of a member of Sac State’s athletics staff.
“I thought, ‘We’re getting kicked out,’” Freshour recalls. “But he says, ‘I like your passion. Do you guys want to intern in our sports marketing department?’ And I was like, are you kidding?”
He wasn’t kidding. Freshour got the internship, an experience that, in turn, helped land him his dream job: working for the Sacramento Kings, where he gets to put his infectious and seemingly inexhaustible passion and energy to good use.
Officially, Freshour is the team’s producer of live entertainment, curating the plan for all in-game entertainment, from contests to baby races (seriously). But for Kings’ fans – who know him as “Fresh” or sometimes simply “Kings Guy” – he also is one the most visible elements of the in-arena experience, serving as emcee for skits and contests, as well as hype man responsible for pumping up the crowd.
“With my talented team, we create an entertainment experience and then I’m lucky enough to play a character in our presentation to fans,” he says, “It’s beyond fulfilling.”
It’s a role Freshour could have only dreamed of as a teenager in Redding during the early 2000s, when the Kings’ “Greatest Show on Court” was one of the hottest commodities in sports. He regularly made the three-hour drive to then-Arco Arena to catch games.
His love of and desire to be close to the Kings is one reason Freshour chose to attend Sacramento State, enrolling as an art major before switching to communication studies, where his professors encouraged him to challenge traditional methods.
“I’m incredibly proud to be a Hornet. My time on campus provided a foundation for navigating relationships with my team, building scripts and crafting an entertaining show, and ensuring that our fans are thrilled every time they visit Golden 1 Center,” says Freshour. “From the classroom to the quad, I found my calling: engaging with and entertaining people.”
Freshour’s success with the Kings isn’t surprising to Adam Primas, director of marketing/promotions and spirit groups with Sacramento State athletics. Primas supervised Freshour during his internship and saw first-hand the energy and creativity he brought not just to Hornet athletics events through his unique in-game entertainment or promotions, but to the office as a whole.
“Every time I hear his name I crack up,” Primas says. “He was just one of our best students. He could take the most monotonous job, hanging up a banner, and just have everyone laughing, hanging up more banners.”
At the end of Freshour’s sophomore year, the Kings called to ask if Sacramento State had any students who wanted an internship with the NBA team. Freshour jumped at the opportunity.
“Once I joined the athletic department, my college classrooms extended to the hardwood of Hornet Gym to the soccer fields and beyond,” he says. “Every season – volleyball, soccer, football, basketball, baseball – became its own semester and study of how teams operate and the intense work behind the scenes for each game-night experience.”
When Freshour graduated, the Kings offered a full-time position as an event coordinator. Over the years, his role has grown to stage and eventually talent manager. In 2008, he became the team’s emcee, and he was promoted to his current position as producer in 2016.
“During the course of his time with the Kings, they have not been the best team record-wise, but our fans continue to come out and Fresh continues to entertain them and make the best experience possible,” says Scott Moak, the team’s vice president of game entertainment, production and content. Moak, the longtime PA announcer, first met Freshour in the early 2000s while working as the announcer at Sacramento State football, basketball and volleyball games. “He’s a crazy fan that’s turned into an emcee and is one of the best in the league.”
Moak says Freshour is the creative force behind the Kings’ in-game skits, contests and other entertainment features, many of which – including, yes, baby races – have been copied by other teams. And Moak isn’t kidding about that “best in the business” thing. Freshour has been invited to emcee the league’s All-Star Weekend for the past six years, a prestigious gig that lets him share his passion with NBA fans around the world – all while sporting Kings gear at center court and on national TV.
Off the court, Freshour’s passion these days is his 1-year-old son, who he is starting to bring to games and share the experience with as frequently as possible. He enjoys his sojourns to bicycle in the mountains, where he often finds inspiration for ideas to implement at games. And he still pinches himself that, 41 times a year, he gets to go to work on the Golden 1 Center floor, microphone in hand, in front of 17,000 fans, enjoying an adrenaline rush he calls “the best feeling in the world.”
“As a proud kings fan growing up, it is so mind-blowing to come to work every day in the NBA,” he says. “I know how much the city means to the Kings. I know how much the Kings mean to the city. I’m honored to be a part of it and look forward to the next phase of my career with the Kings.”