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Creative Careers For a Soon to be Graduate?

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Christian Maine de BiranCreative Careers For a Soon to be Graduate?
by on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:22:29 pm

I am a Senior at Hunter college in NYC with a major in Emerging media. It essentially teaches you a ton of creative platforms such as: Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, HTML and web design. I Have always been a curious type so I have taught myself a lot of this outside of class using lynda or whatever I could get my hands on.

I also take production courses where I get hands on with camera equipment but I really enjoy using my dslr for all my projects and do a bunch of cinematography for artists actors and musicians on the side.

Im not saying that I have mastered all of these creative programs and am a pro cinematographer, but I do have a very solid understanding of them and I would say I am way better than the average student at this school in terms of my creative abilities.

My question is however, what would I do when I graduate? I was originally planning on getting into advertising because it seems like I could be a good amount of help to a creative team, but I really have ZERO idea in what field would be best for me.

I know this sounds a little jaded but I want a really fun job that I love going to every day and make a good amount of money using skills I'm good at. All my friends work as investment bankers or for some corporate job so Im wondering where creative peeps like us find the good jobs.

Hoping someone can point me in the right direction and share their journey to success.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Creative Careers For a Soon to be Graduate?
by on Jan 28, 2014 at 12:11:58 am


The first thing I would advise is, that this is not first about making a lot of money. Rather, that this is something you are driven to do, a song you can't keep from singing out loud. Because you're in a field that is highly competitive and overloaded with talented people all looking for the same thing as you. You do this first because you love it and second because you think you can make a career out of it. if you reverse those last two things, you'll just get a lot of frustration. You need the love of it to sustain you thru the long initial breaking-into-the-biz struggles.

The second thing I would advise is, to look for all the things that differentiate you from the HUGE mass of people all wanting the same job. A subset of this second idea is that you shouldn't look so much for a particular job FROM someone, but to gradually CREATE the job that's perfect for you, that you can do better than anybody else... and in that narrowing-down of specialties, you create a niche you can exploit to command higher wages, getting the job satisfaction AND the decent pay. Video/photography is uniquely applicable to SO MANY different disciplines outside of the few most common ones people think of.

So, think really hard about this; take a deep self-inventory and then ask your friends, teachers, people you trust, what they see in you that you do better than anybody else, or have an incredible natural aptitude or affinity for. If you come up empty; well, that means you're young and need to get out there and try a LOT of things to find out what you have a love for or aptitude for.

Then do THAT thing, until it becomes a money-maker for you. The old saw is that "If you work at what you love, you'll never "work" a day in your life".

One example of what I'm talking about:
This year, everybody with a quad-copter and a go-pro or DSLR thinks he/she is now an aerial photography expert, marketing their "unique" shots to everybody from used car dealers to golf-course condo realtors and extreme sports wedding planners. By next year, 95 percent of them will be out of that business and moving on to something else. The ones that stay with it, pushing their boundaries and exploring new ways of working with it, will eventually increase their skills and knowledge to get to a higher plane of work, real art, in the air. But it doesn't come quickly. And it doesn't come without sacrifice and difficulties on the way.

I don't know what you're really good at. Maybe you just have a really great eye for composition and lighting. Great. You only have 4,563 people graduating school in this year, alone, ahead of you, all wanting to be Hollywood D.P's.

But maybe you have a hobby or other thing you love, that gives you a unique insight on how to photograph That Thing.

Now there are only 2,357 people ahead of you. Things are looking up.

Keep narrowing it down, getting more expert at one really unique thing, and at some point, you will become good enough that people will pay you a premium for that expertise. Select the gigs you work at, if you can, to always aim in the general direction of that goal you've set. Of course, you need to eat every day, and not every job is going to feed you AND advance your goals... but we are talking long-term here. You will have times where you must take a calculated risk; single, unattached youth is the best time for that, with the fewest consequences to loved ones, the least to lose, and time to start over. If a gig comes up that fits your long-term plan and it may include some travel or other sacrifices, consider it well and make your best decision.

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Matt HallRe: Creative Careers For a Soon to be Graduate?
by on Jan 28, 2014 at 3:50:46 pm

Hi Christian-

I run the post production department at an ad agency in NY. My advice on finding work is to try to find people like producers, editors, motion designers, creative directors at ad agencies, post houses, production shops, etc. In my experience, personal contacts have been the best way to get work. Linkedin is a good tool for this. Ask your professors for contacts. Find those people and send them an e-mail. (don't call! they are busy and a call is annoying)

In your e-mail, pitch yourself as a recent graduate with a wide range of capabilities. Don't try to pitch yourself as a pro. You're not yet and you won't get the jobs people need pros for. Keep your e-mail very short: who you are, how you just graduated, a brief list of capabilities. Include a link to a reel of your work, preferably on a simple classy website. (warning - a badly designed site is worse than no site at all. your site demonstrates your taste, as a creative person it's important to have good taste) When you pitch yourself to these people, the most important thing you can show is enthusiasm. From reading your post it seems like that is no problem. But also you need to show people that you will be willing to tackle whatever they need and then ask for more. You will probably be given the boring stuff, because that's what junior people are used for. But if you prove you can tackle it as requested more interesting stuff will come along.

You also might want to look beyond the traditional video production world into the interactive world, branding agencies, etc. These other companies are playing more into the video world, but are sometimes look for that junior (ie - cheap) one man band approach.

In terms of a suggested career path? it's way to early to decide on that. get out there, try a lot and see where it leads you. best of luck.

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Christian Maine de BiranRe: Creative Careers For a Soon to be Graduate?
by on Jan 28, 2014 at 8:04:51 pm

Thanks Matt, Really good advise. I feel like I am trying to go to towards your direction.

" But also you need to show people that you will be willing to tackle whatever they need and then ask for more. You will probably be given the boring stuff, because that's what junior people are used for. "

I have no problem doing boring stuff as long as a get a well rounded amount of experience over time. What is the normal hierarchy for this industry? as a junior person what kind of work would I be expected to do and could you give me a brief description?

Im curious to where I would start and where I could end up as I learn and grow along the way.

Thanks so much for the response, this is exactly the kind of insight I was looking for!

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Matt HallRe: Creative Careers For a Soon to be Graduate?
by on Jan 28, 2014 at 8:55:51 pm

Hi Christian-

I don't know that there really is any industry standard anymore. At least that's not the experience I have had. I've seen that different companies have different structures and so have different needs. But for one example, at my agency, junior responsibilities include doing the encodes for video postings, being a PA on smaller video shoots, doing simple editing, maybe some after effects work on templated projects. People that have started off doing that have move into fulltime animation and editing positions once they have shown they can deliver.

ultimately, how much you learn and grow on a job will all dependent on your performance. if you show you are capable, follow direction, and do (or better yet - exceed) at what you've been asked to do, you'll be given more. If you are a pain the butt to work with, then see ya later.

i'd be interested to hear what others thought about it.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Creative Careers For a Soon to be Graduate?
by on Jan 28, 2014 at 9:09:10 pm

There's such a glut of applicants for any entry level video post facility job today, the pay rates are horribly depressed in general, and the owners can afford to be exceptionally selective, with so many eager people to choose from, and cheap freelances available from anywhere in the world, via web... Specific tech skills are not the real key - tech skills can be learned; what many facility owners seem to say is that they look hard for applicants who have a tech foundation, PLUS good organizational and people skills, because dealing with clients and co-workers successfully is critical in the post world.

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Todd TerryRe: Creative Careers For a Soon to be Graduate?
by on Jan 29, 2014 at 4:37:44 pm

[Mark Suszko] "There's such a glut of applicants for any entry level video post facility job today..."

True true... and sadly quantity doesn't equal quality.

I get tons of reels across my desk (which I do watch... just maybe not right away). In almost 17 years of business I can think of about only four or five that I would even consider hiring. And those weren't even to the level that I'd consider "ready," just people with potential.

In fact, only one of them would I hire right on the spot today if given a chance. Incredibly smart and creative guy... unfortunately for me though he went to college on an ROTC scholarship and is having to give Uncle Sam a few years back before I can get my claws in him.

And we pay very well, so I can only imagine the quality we'd get if we paid peanuts.

Now, full disclosure, we've had the exact same staff for 10 years, so we have never advertised a job opening. So maybe if we were actively fishing the talent pool would be better. Oops, I take that back, we did once actively solicit resumes/reels when we were just considering adding a position, but I don't recall those applicants being any better, either.

I think the main key, other than pounding the pavement and being uber-persistent is just to be very VERY good at what you do, or a least show tons of real potential.

Unfortunately, that's seems to be the hard part.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Andrew KimeryRe: Creative Careers For a Soon to be Graduate?
by on Jan 29, 2014 at 7:35:46 pm

I'll throw in my 2 cents as well (and hopefully I can keep it brief).

First off Christian, you sound very self motivated (doing your own side projects, take classes on Lynda, etc.,) which is great as this industry can be very chaotic so you need to be able to self-propel to keep your head above water. In my experience many of the people that 'make it' aren't necessarily the most talented or most skilled but are the people that can continuously weather the storms adversity that blow through on a regular basis.

Does you college have any relationships with local broadcasters and/or production companies with regards to internships or work placement? That can be a valuable resource to getting your foot in a door and having 'real world' work experience definitely stands out on a young blood's resume. Like I said before, it's great that you are teaching yourself a lot but there is a big (b-i-g) difference between teaching yourself and learning how things are done in actual post/production facilities. Where ever you land, assume you know nothing and be an information sponge.

If you want to get into post in a major market (in my case LA) the following scenario seems pretty common. New grads usually land gigs as PA's or runners which typically entails some combination of misc. office duties, lunch orders and driving around town picking up/dropping off things as needed. That might last for a year or two and then you could moved up to working in the tape vault or logging/transcribing for another couple of years (personally I liked working in the vault but I completely loathed logging/transcribing). The next step on the ladder is becoming an assistant editor which you'll probably do for 3 or 4 years before garnering the skills, credits and/or personal network to make the jump to full time editing. Not everyone has the same path to success but this still seems to be pretty common.

The biggest thing is to have goals. Have short term goals (how do I become better at my current gig), medium term goals (how do I get the next job/raise/promotion I want) and long term goals (how do I get the position I ultimately want). When I came out of college I knew I wanted to be an editor and literally (and I mean literally) every career decision I made was viewed through the prism of, "Does this get me closer to becoming a professional editor?". If the answer was 'yes' I did it, if the answer was 'no' I didn't do it. Sometimes this meant taking a hit short term in hopes of getting a pay off down the road. My long term goal at the time was to be supporting myself editing by the time I was 30.

I hit that goal and I feel like from experience (and talking with others) people should have a 10 year plan. For example, Alan Bell (editor of films like The Amazing Spider-Man and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) spoke at an editors 'meet up in LA last summer and talked a bit about his career path and that the conscious decisions he made at 25 to pursue Hollywood feature film editing laid the ground work for his success at 35.

There are obviously a variety of places to work and a variety of ways to be successful but I think setting goals, keeping an eye on the big picture and staying tenacious are universal keys to success.

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jim brodieRe: Creative Careers For a Soon to be Graduate?
by on Feb 3, 2014 at 2:33:52 pm

This is sage advice for all of us. Thank you for this generous offering of wisdom!

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