Ms. Camera Operator & Video Producer translated her creativity and combined it with social advocacy to fashion a career path. She talks about following your passion, serendipity, and the power of a smile!
ZD: Describe your current job. What is a normal day for you?
A: I'm a freelance documentary filmmaker. A normal day for me is rare. I work from home, so depending what project I'm working on, I can be up answering emails, fielding phone calls about jobs and also working on promoting my film. All at the same time. Some days are much slower than others. If I'm on a shoot, then I'm up and out of the house very early and usually I’ll be gone for 12 hours.
ZD: What was your major in college?
A: In college, I double majored in Art History and Fine Arts with a concentration in photography and film.
ZD: When you were in college, what did you think you would be doing when you finished? What was your actual career path?
A: When I was in college, I thought I was going to be working as either a photographer or a video installation artist creating art about social justice issues.
ZD: Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? How do you plan to get there?
A: Five years from now I hope to be a successful documentarian with a successful feature film under my belt. I'm writing a grant now for a film, but I’d like to be making smart, thought provoking, beautiful films.
ZD: What did you think was the most important thing you learned while in college? Did that help you in your career? What do you wish you had studied or studied more of in college?
A: In college, the most important thing I learned was how to use my creativity as a job. Even though I'm not working as a photographer, I'm still working in the arts - in a field that seems more practical to my ideas and what I hope to achieve in my life. I have never wished I had studied something else in college, but as a freelancer I really could have benefited from a few business classes.
ZD: Looking back at where you were in college and where you are now, what is the biggest surprise you encountered in the work world and in your career?
A: After college, I worked as an assistant to a fashion photographer for 7 months. After that I left for the Peace Corps, where I worked in the public health field for 2 years. It was a very uncreative time in my life but a tremendous learning period. During my second year in the Peace Corps I was tired of teaching, so I started painting murals all over my village. The first day I was painting, these men came up behind me and were talking to each other about what I was drawing. It was incredible to hear them figure out what the message was. That moment changed my career choice forever. I discovered that art as advocacy was something not being utilized enough. It didn't matter if you were literate or illiterate, as humans we respond to visual things better then someone talking to or at us.
ZD: What do you feel is an important quality to have to do well in your field?
A: I feel like you need to be able to think quickly but also roll with the punches. Things rarely work out the way you'd like them to, especially when following people's lives. It helps to be able to adapt to any new situation.
ZD: Do you have one piece of advice for college students interested in pursuing a career in your field? What worked? What you would have done differently?
A: I decided to go into documentaries when I was 26. After Peace Corps, I wasn't sure if I should go into the field of development work and realized that documentaries were the perfect blend of art and social issues. I went and did a MFA Program in social documentary film. Basically getting a masters was my way of getting into the industry, but if I was a college student internships are so important! Interning at film companies or for filmmakers you admire is an invaluable learning experience. Chances are if you do a really good job and they like you, they will hire you in the future. Networking and making connections is very important - you never know when you'll need to call someone.
ZD: What is the best piece of advice someone has given you in your workplace?
A: The best piece of advice I’ve received was, to always smile. In my field we all work very long hours, and if we're out in the field sometimes people are working on limited hours of sleep. If you are positive and pleasant and smile, it does wonders for those horribly long days.
ZD: What do you do in your spare time, do you have a hobby? What book did you last read?
A: I'm an avid runner and competed in college, so I try to run as often as possible. I recently joined a soccer team, which is a fun activity. I love to cook and ride my bike everywhere. The last book I read was The Iacuna by Barbara Kingsolver.