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Student Filmmaker Series: Part 2 – So You Majored In Media, Now What?

You want to be a storyteller, and you’re getting the right degree, but how do you reassure yourself (and your family) that you’ll find a job when you graduate? Studying media in college is oft a sore subject at family get togethers. What will you do, make movies? What are you going to be, a wedding photographer? You know, you’ll have to live in New York if you want to find a job. Jenna majored in that and she is still working at a coffee shop. But, don’t you want health insurance? Relax, fam! There are a TON of media jobs out there. As a Journalism, Communication, Public Relations, English, Web-design, or Photography student, you are in the business of information, media and technology.

First of all, get used to saying, “I am in the business of information.”

As Michael Wolff aptly noted in his critique of Journalism degrees, “The information marketplace is going through a historic transformation, involving form, distribution, business basis and cognitive effect…” Some jobs in the information marketplace show up in keyword searches, but many don’t fit into traditional boxes. Public Relations Specialist and Fundraising Manager are fancy titles for storytellers, content developers and filmmakers for Tom’s: One for One, the local animal shelter or Runner’s World.

You might work on native advertisements and write stories about marathon training for a shoe company. You might raise money for a cause that you really care about. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salaries for public relations and fundraising managers were $95,450 in 2012 and 8,000 jobs will hit the market before 2022. The median salary for technical writers was $65,500 and they project a 15% growth rate in the next ten years. I predict that writers who make technical films will have the edge on those jobs. Archivists, curators and museum workers tout $44,410 and they predict an 11% growth rate. Be creative with your job search, and your future.

Secondly, you are in school to learn how to read, research, write, visualize, package and publish information.

These fundamental skills are desirable in a wide variety of industries. At a basic level they are the skill set of communicators. You are learning how to communicate an idea, a message, a brand, a solution to businesses and consumers. This is the skill sets of bloggers, authors, editors, users, and entrepreneurs – content originators. Companies that need content originators include media firms (news, entertainment, directories, marketing, business and trade analysis), science, technology and healthcare companies (pharmaceutical solutions, health information, clinical trial recruiting), education training and human capital management agencies (digital textbook platforms, company training, educational games) industry suppliers (business intelligence software, big data management systems, text analytics), and finance, legal and governance risk and compliance specialists (financial news, deals analysis, market research reporting).

You might work in government, healthcare, corporate or education. You might do analog, mobile, digital, print or in-person work. While you are in college, work on creating a portfolio that shows you know how to use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, data, Premiere Software and blogging to read, research, write, visualize, package and publish interesting stuff on your own website.

Thirdly, get past Craigslist if you want a grown up job.

Use Twitter. Many companies and individuals will Tweet media jobs.  Build your Twitter network to find out how potential employers think. Find companies that align with your values and style. Make your LinkedIn profile awesome and connect with people you want to be like.

I went to a workshop for women in business at Stanford University and learned a super fun and helpful game. Find three people that have cool jobs that you like. Cold call (or message) them. Tell them that you admire them and you are trying to learn about their industry and you’d like to ask them four questions:

  1. What is your favorite part of your job?
  2. What is your least favorite part of the job?
  3. What advice would you give someone just going into your field?
  4. Do you have any ideas about who else I can talk to about this industry?

Add them to your LinkedIn network. If you display genuine interest, they will likely be a great contact in the future. Remember that professionals like having innovative young people in their network too, just in case they are hiring or branching out to start their own company.

Kenna Griffin publishes a round-up of media jobs weekly, so read her blog. Be okay with moving. Make friends. Go to graduate school. Learn how to love technology. Get a nice suit. Do your nails. Stop saying um. Be bold. Be okay with working at a bookstore from time to time. You will be good at life. And when someone very close to you discovers a life threatening illness, you will be the one to understand troves of data, outcome statistics, doctors records, clinical trial guidelines, test results and care management networks. You will just get it because you studied information analysis in college. Your parents will say, assuredly, thank you. It will be worth it and they will be proud of you. Trust me on this.

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Student Filmmaker Series
Missed Part 1? Catch up here.
Stay tuned for Part 3: What Gear Do You Need to Make Great Film? coming soon…

Join the conversation

5 Responses to “Student Filmmaker Series: Part 2 – So You Majored In Media, Now What?”

  1. Dave Stanton on March 13th, 2014 4:50 pm

    I’m a little confused about how Part 1 & 2 are connected. Part 1 seems to be about making a video that YOU want to make. Part 2 seems to be about getting a job at a company where they will tell you what THEY want you to make. These are two completely different things! Trust me, what you will be told to do often won’t be what you want to do in the corporate world.

    Here’s my take on working in media, after almost 40 years of experience. Broadcast media, i.e. TV, radio, cable, pay very little. They want young people today willing to work dirt cheap and they want a person that can do it all: write, produce, direct, shoot, edit, create graphics, even 3D in some cases. You will often be a one-man-band and have very little time to do what needs to be done.

    The corporate world is filled with politics. Not only will you be told what to do but if you have your own ideas, they will often be ignored or you will be punished for “not being a team player” if you try to push your creative ideas through. The pay will be good, although much less than what I made when I started in corporate work in 1994. Benefits will also be very good. After a while you may get lulled into a false sense of security…you know the company well, you have had years of training they paid for, you are doing your best work when allowed…then, one day, they’ll discover your salary has risen pretty high over the years you’ve been there and they’ll get rid of you because you cost too much. It will have nothing to do with your performance. Guess who they’ll replace you with? Someone much younger who’ll work for whatever salary they offer.

    Non-profit organizations. Forget it. The pay is lousy as are the benefits. Your only hope of making a job at a non-profit into something good in your future is if you’re lucky enough to work on a fundraising campaign that exceeds it’s goal and you can prove the media you created had a direct impact. Take that victory and run to a new job as fast as you can.

    Do I sound negative? Probably but that is not my intention. I love that I have been in visual media for almost 40 years. I love what I do. If I could do it all again, I’d do it the same way mostly. I just want young people to know, media is a TOUGH way to make a living. Not necessarily physically hard but mentally an almost daily beating. If am not kidding when I say everyone thinks they are a writer, producer, director and the world’s best camera person. Clients, bosses and others will always tell you they know more about what you do than you do. Get used to it. The best advice I got from a great DP I admire is, if you do 20 videos in a year, there may be one you think is great because a bunch of people didn’t screw it up too badly. Put that one on your Vimeo page and forget the rest. Don’t get mad when others F-up the “art” you have created. just smile and say, OK. The pay is still the same for good work or bad. If you get several years of experience and want to go out on your own as an independent, great, you may be much happier but you WILL still have many idiot clients you’ll work for who will try to F-up your work. See advice above.

    If you love what you do in media, keep doing it. The world needs more right brained, creative people not more left brain analysts. If you start to hate what you do. Get a new profession. You cannot change how others view what you do. If you are a student in media, I say good luck. Always ask others, especially the veterans questions, about anything. We love to share what we’ve learned. Don’t hesitate to teach us “old guys” stuff too. You know things we don’t. Have fun, Don’t get discouraged. If you are a writer, editor, graphics specialist, producer, whatever, you create art, no matter what others say. That is a wonderful thing.

  2. Beatriz Jean Wallace on March 17th, 2014 2:39 pm

    Dave: You make GREAT points about the media industry. I’m excited you noticed the themes behind parts 1 and 2. Although they explore different topics, the goal is to nurture personal vision AND help young people find work. I also wanted to explore what happens when personal vision meets industry. We discuss these topics in greater detail in part 5 where I interview the filmmakers.

    How would you suggest young filmmakers find a balance between doing what they love and funding what they love? Thanks so much for weighing in – I appreciate your insight!

  3. Dave Stanton on March 18th, 2014 10:11 am

    Good question Beatriz…tough question. I have never had to find funding for anything I produced because I’ve always worked for someone who paid for it. However, I have worked with many freelance creative people and here’s what I learned from them. They do whatever work they have to do to pay the bills and put whatever money aside they can afford from their paying gigs to fund the movies they want to make on their own time. They ask friends and family for money sometimes. They ask a lot of their colleagues for help for free because they know someone will ask them for the same favor some day and they will oblige. Of course these days there is Kickstarter and others. I have seen several pleas for funding of independent movies there.

    One other thing I have seen is, a creative person will produce a video for a non-profit group that could really use a visual marketing tool and give it to them. The upside is, usually the non-profit entity is so grateful they will not question the creative. They are happy to get anything well made, for free, that helps their cause. The creative person gets to do what they want and it gets used and seen by many people and they get credit for helping a deserving organization. This usually takes a lot of planning and time but little if any money. The non-profit groups will usually cooperate fully to help get the video produced.

    Lastly, I have several colleagues who just shoot “pretty video” of outdoor scenes or whatever and edit it to some nice, original music that some young, up-and-coming musical artist/composer creates and they put it on the web for all to see. Eventually they find a story idea they like and repurpose the scenic video they shot to go with the story. Again, they get other colleagues, including actors, to volunteer to be in the production because they are all looking for something to “put on their reels”, some demo of their work. Usually this turns out to be a short feature but I have seen them expanded into longer movies in the future as time, volunteers and some money allow.

    I have been one of those “volunteers”. It has been my experience that the production community in most big cities is like a club. Everyone knows everyone. Mostly they get along well and and glad to help each other out. Favors are asked and favors are repaid. Thanks for asking. Dave S.

  4. Beatriz Jean Wallace on March 19th, 2014 4:58 pm

    Thanks Dave! I really appreciated this line: “It has been my experience that the production community in most big cities is like a club… Favors are asked and favors are repaid.” I think it’s so helpful to stay connected to a support network that one trusts and appreciates.

  5. Student Filmmaker Series Part 3 | Zacuto USA on April 10th, 2014 2:33 pm

    […] Read Part 2: So, You Majored in Media. Now What? […]

About the Author


Beatriz Wallace is currently a Visiting Professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her friends do cool stuff like take pictures of pets that need adopting at animal shelters, make movies with famous people and tell stories that matter. She worked at Cellar Stories Bookstore and Time Magazine after she graduated from Amherst College with a degree in writing and photography. She has a Master’s Degree in Photojournalism from the University of Missouri. She’s from New Orleans and she’s kind of scrappy. She might be a juicer, a yoga teacher or a software developer next. And she’s okay with that. To see her work, visit www.beatrizwallace.com, follow her on Twitter @bigmuddyheart or friend her on Facebook (Beatriz Wallace).

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