Media Career Day connects students to industry professionals
Media Career Day featured more than 35 alumni presenting their career advice in a series of 14 panel discussions, networking sessions and one-on-one chats with students.
Associate Director of Employer Relations Sarah Cady organized the event, which took place Friday in Franklin Hall. Find the itinerary and panelist bios online, then read reports of selected panel discussions below.
Digital Journalism Master Class
By Zoe Spilker
Ninety-three percent of adults get their news online now, senior producer at CNN Digital Thom Patterson, BA’87, told Media School students at Friday’s Digital Journalism Master Class.
Learning how to transfer journalism skills to digital platforms is increasingly important, he said.
“We really are living in the best time in history to be a journalist, and I probably don’t need to tell you this or even why,” Patterson said. “But look, we get more reporting, researching and newsgathering done in less time because of the internet.”
Patterson has worked for CNN for 30 years, straddling the pre- and post-digital worlds. After 15 years of broadcast television experience for CNN producing packages and having opportunities to interview people on Capitol Hill and the White House, he moved to Atlanta to start his career with CNN Digital. He saw the internet was changing how journalists could produce news and wanted to join.
“I had to get online as soon as possible, just to make use of that library that you have at your fingertips and all that data,” Patterson said. “In every data set there’s a story, and it’s just begging to be told in some way.”
The internet brings as many challenges to journalism as it brings answers, however. In digital journalism, he said, the deadline is always now. The time crunch complicates workflow, because packages are done between multiple content creators now. Communication is important to be sure story elements are not being repeated, and journalists must be able to produce accurate content quickly.
“One of the best things you can learn to do in journalism if you want to be a digital journalist is how to write an 800- to 1,000-word story in three hours with no factual errors and learn how to write a great headline over it,” Patterson said.
Along with writing fast and accurately, Patterson wanted to be sure students aren’t afraid to trust their instincts and work on projects that interest them. Have confidence in your ideas, stay humble and never take the swagger and humanity out of your writing, he told students.
“When it comes down to it, journalism is a human business. We’re covering ourselves, and we’re really all a lot more alike than we are different.”
Gaming Roundtable Discussion
By Laurel Demkovich
Mary Kenney, BAJ’13, associate writer for Telltale Games, didn’t go to school to work in game design. She majored in journalism and worked as a print journalist for three years after graduation.
But eventually, she realized she wanted to pursue a career in game design. She earned her master’s at New York University’s Game Center and has worked as a game writer ever since.
“I always wanted to write, but I never knew video games (were) something I could write,” Kenney said. “I slowly began understanding I could write and do something I love.”
Kenney, along with Chris Ingerson, BA’14, founder and lead developer at Sleepy Owl Software, discussed the importance of keeping an open mind during the Gaming Roundtable Discussion at this year’s Media School Career Day.
Kenney said the one thing she wished she knew after graduation was that it is OK to fail. After graduation, she said, she was so focused on finding a job that she did not stop to think whether it was right for her.
“I was so worried about just getting somewhere,” she said. “I started to realize at the end of my college career that this might not be the greatest fit.”
Ingerson agreed. He said college and early post-graduation is the best time to try new things. He urged the audience to take big risks.
“This is the point in your life where you can dream big and completely fail, and it’s OK,” Ingerson said.
Even though she changed career paths, Kenney said the skills she learned as a journalist helped her in her career as a game writer. She highlighted professionalism and storytelling as two of the biggest skills she gained.
She added that there are so many career paths that can lead someone to game design and that a game designer can really come from anywhere.
“Everything you learn in your career is still helpful, even if you change paths,” Kenney said.
Ingerson and Kenney also talked about how they continue to find inspiration for the games they create. Kenney said she’s constantly reading and consuming media.
She said playing games, both old and new, has been the best teacher. She said watching TV, movies and plays has helped her learn to show characters’ internal conflicts externally.
Ingerson said it’s been helpful for him to have a job outside of his own game company. It gives him time to experiment and work with new software and skills.
“I use my experience at work to build a better skill set for my own work,” Ingerson said.
The two also discussed what they took away from their education at IU. Kenney said one of her most valuable experiences was publishing work in the Indiana Daily Student. She said it was good for her to see what editors want and what kind of pitches they like.
There was no game design major during the time Ingerson was at IU, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing it as a career. In his early career, he was a designer, but over time he built up a skill set that he could use in game design.
Ingerson also stressed the importance of challenging yourself to learn something you don’t know.
“My best advice is to find something that you like and work with that,” Ingerson said. “The most valuable thing I took away was to find something you don’t know how to do, and do it.”
Production Careers in TV
By Audrey Deiser
The panel started at 10 am, and students were lining the back wall by five after. Sarah Maneely, BAJ’09, Kyle Benham, BA’09, and Marla Hudnall, BA’00, comprised the Production Careers in TV panel.
Hudnall graduated with a degree in telecommunications. She works as second associate director, most recently on GLOW, a Netflix show. She advised students looking for careers in production to make themselves invaluable on set.
“I need you to pick up information quickly and have a constant list of prioritization,” she said.
Benham is a producer on Chelsea, Chelsea Handler’s latest talk show. He’s also worked on Lopez Tonight, The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, and Brand X with Russell Brand. He said the most important thing to remember about live television is to stay calm.
“When you’re live, you can’t freak out, because any mistake you make goes on air,” he said.
He also stressed the importance of having a good attitude on set, a sentiment that was echoed by his colleagues.
“I see you more than I see my son,” Hudnall said about her coworkers. “I need to feel like you have my back. I need to know that you support me.”
Maneely encouraged students to take advantage of the equipment available here at IU.
“Camera equipment is not cheap,” she said. “Keep using all of the resources that you won’t be able to afford after graduation.”
Hudnall said students should familiarize themselves with budgeting, because it’s something she constantly deals with.
“Every time I read a script, all I see is dollar signs,” she said.
Benham reminded students of the importance of networking, and that asking friends for jobs is common – and expected – in show business.
“It’s all networking,” he said. “Every job I’ve gotten since (Lopez Tonight) has been from people I met there.”
Marketing in Entertainment with Universal Pictures
By Austin Faulds
Universal Pictures executives and IU alumnae Tara Martino, BA’04, and Maya Lasry, BA’11, appeared in Franklin Hall to give advice to young media students, particularly those interested in advertising.
Martino is the vice president of publicity and integrated marketing for Universal. The latter, she explained, is a unique form of promotion for a particular product that may be distributed by the company. For example, while standard publicity may be a celebrity appearing on a popular talk show to talk about her upcoming project, integrated marketing would be that same celebrity appearing on an unrelated television program to promote the same project.
At the session, Martino played various clips showing examples of integrated marketing initiatives she oversaw. These included Ice Cube and Kevin Hart appearing on ABC’s The Bachelor to promote Ride Along 2, Charlize Theron filming an advertisement for FOX Sports’ Ultimate Fighting Championship broadcast to promote Atomic Blonde and both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler doing a Comedy Central sketch for Sisters.
Lasry is the director of creative advertising at Universal, a department she has been involved with since she began more than five years ago. Her work in advertising is more traditional, involving posters and trailers.
The most elaborate example Lasry gave at the session to demonstrate her work is her involvement with the marketing for the family drama film A Dog’s Purpose, released earlier this year. With her team, she developed multiple drafts for a potential trailer for the film. She presented one of these drafts and the final product during the session.
In order to properly decide which trailer does or doesn’t work, Lasry and her team screen these drafts to focal groups and test audiences and listen to their feedback. She said the most important way to garner their attention is by giving them “wish fulfillment,” a term she said is often thrown around in this industry.
“Wish fulfillment” is giving the audience a moment or element within the advertisement that encourages them to continue watching and eventually seek out the film itself when it premieres.
Another project Lasry said she was proud of was The Fate of the Furious Times Square Takeover, a special event surrounding the debut trailer for the eighth Fast and the Furious film. Early last December, more than 30 public screens in Times Square featured an advertisement for the film, leading up to the reveal of the trailer itself. The event even featured a Facebook livestream and an NBC broadcast premiere, preceding the New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys Sunday Night Football game.
Audio and Video Production
By Ellen Glover
Students interested in audio and video production heard from some of the best in the industry at Friday’s Audio and Video Production panel discussion.
The panel included Elise Jaffe, BA’99, the executive producer at Big Teeth Productions; Brian Hrastar, BA’96, managing director at Optimus; and Chad Stum, BA’09, managing director and founder of Original Six Media and assistant director of video at IU Communications.
The conversation centered around what students can do to stand out when they’re looking for jobs, how much the business has changed in recent years and where it is likely to go.
Today’s video production industry is different than the one Jaffe, Hrastar and Stum entered when each of them graduated.
Hrastar likened the ‘90s to the years of Mad Men-like success. “When I started this work, it was an exciting time to be in advertising,” said Hrastar, who entered Optimus, a production and post-production outfit in Chicago, as an intern right out of school and climbed the ranks to become executive producer. “There were good budgets and there was a lot of post-production work in Chicago. That all shifted when independent agencies got bought out. Then the budgets got smaller. But we’re still here, because we’ve adapted.”
Hrastar also said internet and social media also has a lot to do with changes in the industry.
“We are making more perishable content,” Hrastar said. “Now, clients only need a spot for a week, so they can put it on Facebook or Instagram.”
Jaffe argued that this increase in internet content meant that there is more work than ever for young and eager video production professionals. However, Stum countered that, although there is more work, there is less money to be made off the work.
“There has never been more work than right now, but the budgets are shrinking,” explained Stum, whose Chicago-based production company, Original Six Media, specializes in live-action commercial projects. “Something that once took $2 million now needs to be done with 10 grand. So there is more work than ever, but it is much harder to make that six-figure salary.”
Stum also explained that this increase in work and the relative ease of building a reel and portfolio means there is more competition for jobs than ever before.
“Getting a job like the ones we’re talking about will be very difficult when you’re just getting out of school,” Stum said. “There’s more jobs than ever, but for every 100 jobs out there, there’s 10,000 people who want them.”
All three explained this means that students and recent graduates have to work much harder to stand out and network.
“We are looking for someone who is engaging, articulate and smart,” Hrastar said. “And having the right attitude is everything. We need to be able to see what you’re made of and see your work ethic.”
Jaffe encouraged students interested in entering the business to schedule informational interviews with professionals and to be as social as possible.
“This is a very social business. There are social events, parties,” said Jaffe, who started Big Teeth Productions in Chicago with her husband in 2005 and now serves as executive producer. “We need someone who will fit in our work environment, someone who will jibe with the personality of the company.”
Stum also emphasized the importance of having a good personality, saying confidence is important, but arrogance is a turnoff. Hrastar went so far as to say that a likeable personality is just as, if not more, important than one’s portfolio.
That’s not to say that having video production talent isn’t important. Stum said students should use everything IU has to offer now while they still can.
“Don’t blow off projects, because they’re going to be the only thing you have when you apply for jobs,” Stum said. “You want to have all of your ducks in a row.”
Jaffe also encouraged students to maintain the dreams they have for their career, even if they don’t happen right out of college. In her time at IU, she had the singular dream of working with Sesame Street. She didn’t accomplish that dream until about 10 years later. Now, after 18 years of pushing through a couple of different careers, she is making spots for Sesame Street at Big Teeth Productions.
“It took a long time, so you have to be patient,” Jaffe said. “But keep your focus on your dream.”
In the meantime, though, all three said, to be a success in the video production industry, you have to be willing to do anything to make the client happy. That means working late nights, giving up good ideas because they aren’t feasible and breaking the rules once in a while.
“Rules are important,” Stum said. “But you learn the rules so you know how to break them sometimes. It’s not a game. But it’s so a game.”