The lineup of film professionals slated to speak to Keene State College students and community members this semester includes some big names — among them, famed actor William Shatner.

These conversations about what it’s like to work in the industry — which will be held via the teleconference platform Zoom and are open to the public — were put together by film professor Tom Cook for his career development class. The course discusses internships and career opportunities in film and media.

In addition to Shatner — an actor, producer and director best known for his portrayal of Capt. James Kirk in the “Star Trek” franchise — this fall’s speakers include Lee Unkrich, director of “Finding Nemo” and “Monsters, Inc.,” who has also worked on several installments of “Toy Story”; Keene State film alumni; and local filmmakers.

Others in the series include local award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns; Alan Bell, editor of movies in the “The Hunger Games” series and “The Amazing Spider-Man”; and multiple Keene State film alumni on various career paths.

Cook said he secured Shatner and Unkrich through his own personal relationships with them. He and Unkrich both graduated from the University of Southern California, where Cook was the cinematographer for Unkrich’s senior project.

With Shatner, Cook said it was a stroke of luck that brought them together.

Several years ago, Cook said, he was listening to Shatner’s audiobook, in which the actor mentions he did a benefit ride for the American Legion and recorded it but had no one to edit the footage.

Flash forward a few years, and Shatner was in Concord as part of his nationwide 25th anniversary tour for “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” which Cook attended. Shatner mentioned again that his American Legion project was incomplete.

“So I got a picture with him, and I figured, ‘What the heck.’ I wrote him a letter, saying, ‘I’m a film professor, and I’ll cut your project,’ “ Cook said. “And sure enough, he got the letter, and his assistant called me, and I’ve been working for a few years now on this project.”

From there, Cook said, Shatner volunteered several times to return the favor, which led to him eventually agreeing to speak with Cook’s students.

Cook said Shatner and the other speakers plan to talk about their careers and field any questions students have, with the sessions lasting about an hour.

And while people have come to speak to his class before, Cook said this will be the first time he has had so many professionals in one semester.

“Students have to be sick of me lecturing and hearing our same voices over and over, so one of the things I have found is they kind of wake up when they hear the same thing from someone else,” Cook said.

Ultimately, he added, he hopes his students understand the realities of the film industry.

“I kind of say, ‘Practice saying do you want fries with that,’ because you never know if you will get work in the industry,” Cook said. “I am trying to show them all the different careers.”

Students will be able to ask the guests about their careers and any other industry-related questions. The class has six students in it so far, Cook said, and up to 500 people total can attend the Zoom conversations.

The first of the series is Shatner, who will speak Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. Unkrich will follow the Monday after, Sept. 21, at the same time.

Those interested in attending can contact Keene State spokeswoman Kelly Ricaurte at for more information.

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.