Seeking out a mentor

By Maggie Cai

As the spring 2015 semester came to a close I was on the prowl for an internship for the summer. I was a rising junior who was still unsure where I wanted to go in terms of journalism and afraid of rejection. By the beginning of March I was desperately searching for something of interest to me on various websites with internship listings.

I finally found a video editing and producing internship that got me excited and decided to apply before I lost the courage to do so. It was for CINQUA, a small documentary film company in Dumbo, Brooklyn, known for the beautiful view and artistic people who roam the streets. I sent in my application with a short explanation of my background and why I wanted to intern there. I quickly clicked submit and shut off my laptop in fear that a rejection email would come my way the second I clicked submit.

After living in fear and suspense for three weeks, I finally received a second email with the subject line referring to the internship I so badly wanted. I nervously clicked open the email only to see a long list of questions and a thank you attached to it asking me to send in more links to my work. I did what was asked and resumed the waiting game. This time, there was a deadline attached so I marked the date on my calendar, hoping I would at least get a shot at an interview. On April 25 my supervisor, John Carluccio, interviewed me and on May 14 I was told I got the internship.

I was beyond excited to start and it turned out to be a wonderful learning experience. My supervisor always made sure I was learning new skills or polishing the ones I already had. I began editing footage from event coverage he had for clients and he would look them over, critique them, give me suggestions and pass it back to me for another edit until it was done. Through this I learned the importance of having an effective workflow so I could get my best work done in the least amount of time possible.

At my interview, I told John the editing software I knew how to use and for my first editing project, he decided to guide me through a different one so that I could edit on it to learn a new software. Although I was not as pleased with this editing software, it later became something that I was grateful for at this internship. It forced me to learn something that I would not have looked up and learned on my own and gave me a taste of what might be expected of me should I end up at a job where this was the software used instead of the one I was comfortable with. It also taught me to be flexible and to ask questions instead of guessing. When I did not know how to do something, I asked. This was the time and place for me to be making small mistakes and asking questions if I didn’t know how to do something.

By the end of the internship I realized how much I grew in terms of skills and direction. I went on shoots with John, edited event coverage, was a field producer for a segment that will broadcast on a small independent television station and produced my first piece outside of the assignments done at school that combined my love for written profiles, scene setters and visual elements.

John also gave me the chance to edit videos into 15-second clips for Instagram and the company’s social media accounts, which reminded me of the less is more approach I learned in JRN 215. It was difficult because you had to take out the strongest 15 seconds of the minute long video to give people an idea of the full story behind it and it needed to intrigue them, just like the lead in a written piece.

The most incredible thing I learned from interning in general is that I don’t need to know exactly what I want to do in journalism. I don’t need to force myself to decide to be broadcast, web or print, because journalism is an amalgam of all of these labels. I learned to focus on what I am good at and interested in and find a way to combine these so I could tell the story better. I also learned that confidence in my own abilities goes a long way. The more footage I produced and edited, the more I began to see where my strong suit was and I also began to become more aware of the mistakes I was making and corrected them.

What I want other students to know is that you should not shut out the possibility of starting off interning at a small publication or company. It provides a chance for mentoring and gives you a chance to polish your skills and learn new ones.