Advice For Students

I have seen the same short film with the murder in the woods over and over for the past 6 years. The same woods, the same fake blood, the same special effects.

That is, applications from students including their school projects in their portfolios.
I had a chance to sit on a panel at the University of Rochester to address digital media students as they began thinking about their next steps. I have a dozen years of experience in the field, 6 running my own business in Rochester, and was able to add a unique perspective to the discussion. But there was one piece of advice that I really wanted students to heed: be mindful of your portfolio.
This advice is primarily for students looking to go into commercial video production for a living, but in many ways it covers everybody. Doing something different will help you stand out. Perhaps the woods seems like an easy place to shoot–it doesn’t need to be scheduled far in advance and you don’t need permission. But taking the extra step to be creative in locations will be noticed. Taking initiative, scouting locations, and obtaining permission are all skills that will be useful in your professional careers, and they’ll impress employers.
What am I looking for?
From my standpoint, working in the corporate and commercial video industry, I want prospective employees to be able to show me something, anything, that I can look at and apply to my business. While I strive to incorporate creative storytelling in my work, the student films that cross my desk are not particularly applicable.
As a student, keep in mind that your work in college might be the only work in your portfolio for a while. If you’re not able to incorporate the type of videos that you envision creating as a professional, try to incorporate elements that translate. Even narratives can frame an interview, showcase editing that is thoughtful of pace and music, and include creative b-roll.
Most of all, please stop sending me that film about the murder in the woods.
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