Each moviemaker’s journey is different, from graduating and landing first jobs to making connections and creating new stories. Throughout the challenges and memorable achievements in this career, having journalism skills could be helpful. Here are stories of three trained journalists who found a path to work in movie production.
For some, this career path is a natural choice. Quinton Smith began making movies with his family’s VHS camera at the age of four and creating short sketch comedies with his middle school friends. Even though he studied journalism in college, he is now the owner of Landsick Media, LLC, and a freelance filmmaker in Anchorage, Alaska. Smith’s education was much more than his experiences in the classroom. He recounts the number of hours spent working up the courage to interview strangers for soundbites.
“My journalism degree was so useful because it got me out of my shell,” says Smith.
The post-college job hunt is not always a smooth ride. Even though Smith knew he wanted to work in the film industry, he could not find a job anywhere. Eventually, a prior connection helped him land his first job in Alaska where he worked for two years before he began freelancing.
“That was one of the most terrifying experiences in my life,” says Smith. “I hadn’t planned on ever working freelance and didn’t know the first thing about how to start a business.”
Through hard work and determination, contracts fell into place and Smith continued to make connections that would lead his production company into a safe and successful position.
For others, the journey to a filmmaking career is not set on a straight path. Andrea Buccilla earned a journalism degree but decided to become a middle school English teacher. After seven years of teaching, she uncovered her fervent interest in movie production and realized that her heart was leading her down a different path. She found herself spending time on indie film sets and learning more about production, going back and forth with the idea that she could be capable of succeeding in the film industry.
“I realized that, contrary to what I’d been feeling, I was qualified to work in this industry,” says Buccilla. “Some of today’s best filmmakers- writers, directors, producers- didn’t go to film school. All I needed in order to be qualified was a natural inclination for storytelling and a humble willingness to learn.”
If you want to succeed in the film industry, be prepared to step out of your comfort zone and set yourself apart. Buccilla took a leap, leaving behind her employer of seven years because she knew her passions were leading her behind the scenes of video production. She now co-owns an indie production company, Greater Fool Productions, with her husband. This leap of faith also led her to a full-time position as a creative producer for Madwell, an ad agency in Brooklyn. To set herself apart from the competition, Buccilla wrote a screenplay as a cover letter when applying for this position. Relying on creativity and innovation are key journalism skills that can create so many different career opportunities. Journalism training also provides a versatile skill set and an extensive perspective within a production career.
“I’m not a cameraman, but I know how to work the camera. I’m not in props, but I understand what the props department does on a daily basis,” says Rob Pittard. “Broadcast journalism is not the same as a film degree, but it helps you understand how all of the parts work together as a whole.”
Upon graduating with a degree in broadcast journalism, Pittard worked onset at Olympus Has Fallen in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, before landing a public relations internship for the San Francisco 49ers. Throughout these early stages of his career, Pittard was able to forge new connections, ultimately leading him to his current role as a key assistant location manager in Atlanta, Georgia, where he has worked for a number of production companies including Sony and Paramount. He credits his journalism training for bringing him into the studio, where he was able to pick up skills that he would carry with him throughout his career and onto the big screen.
“It is a very surreal feeling to see your own name on movie credits,” says Pittard.
Of course, this kind of success does not happen overnight. It may take a couple hundred rejections before landing a contract or writing a powerful screenplay. Each film career is dotted with different success stories and memorable challenges. Having journalism skills may supply unique outlets of creativity that only you can bring to the table. Being surrounded by creative people will allow you to make new connections and spark new ideas.
“You don’t have to go to film school to be a filmmaker,” says Buccilla. “Be a production assistant, shadow people, offer to read scripts, participate in table reads…Just put yourself out there.”
Willingness to connect with others and hard work can carry hopeful filmmakers further into a successful and enjoyable career.