Every college student should know that from day one of freshman year you have to network. The more you network the better your chance of getting a job. What some don’t understand is that networking can literally make your dreams come true.
One of the best ways to network is through internships and getting into contests. If you’re a film or video creator, there are few better options than the College Television Awards (CTAs). The CTAs are in their 33rd year, and the awards are run by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation.
There are 12 categories including television, drama, documentaries and others. (Other categories and information can be found here.) The judges are members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation and often judge for the Emmy Awards.
Along with bragging rights there are even ways to receive scholarships.
Getting Your Foot in the Door
One of the biggest doors that can open after receiving an honor like a Student Emmy Award is the possibility to meet and network with your presenter. The presenters of the CTAs are celebrities, and networking with one of them can certainly jump start your career.
Last year, Julian Higgins took home the Best Director Award. Higgins, who is a graduate of the American Film Institute in California, was presented with his award by producer Greg Yaitanes. Yaitanes is the producer of the hit television show House, M.D. He has also worked on Heroes, Grey’s Anatomy and Prison Break and won his own Emmy in 2008 for his work on House.
Higgins won the award for a short film that he directed about the boyhood of Saddam Hussein. The film was based loosely on real events. Yaitanes ended up seeing Higgins’ film and offering him the opportunity of a lifetime: He invited Higgins shadow him while he worked on an episode of House.
“I saw his short film which I thought was really terrific, and we invited him at that time to come to the show and see how we make an episode of television,” said Yaitanes. “I mean we are the most popular a TV show, and I thought that would be a great way to come in and learn what the day to day operations of a TV show is.”
Higgins took every opportunity he could to learn from Yaitanes, and he allowed Higgins to shadow for more than the one episode.
“So, I shadowed him for the first episode, and he opened the invitation for the whole season,” said Higgins. “Just getting to shadow a director on that level is extremely rare anyway so I would’ve been totally alright with that being it.”
Yaitanes was impressed with Higgins eagerness to learn and soak up as much information as he could. When you’re given the opportunity to be around people you can learn from, it’s important to ask questions, take notes and let them know you’re interested in what they’re doing.
Mentoring seems to be the thing that successful television producers and film directors [recommend]. Mentoring seems to be one of the things they are most enthusiastic about because they understand how crazy it is that they get to do what they do.
“He came every day asked good questions [so] we included him a collaborator,” said Yaitanes. “I’d get his notes and see what he’d have to say. He seemed to be in tune with a director that we’d have on the show.”
Yaitanes saw that Higgins was talented, and he admired Higgins’ drive. Yaitanes wanted to help him succeed.
“He’s investing the time and doing the work. Interestingly, more so than people on the show that had asked to direct,” said Yaitanes. “This was a very impressive thing that you want to see in a director. I took myself off of the episode and gave it to Julian.”
Higgins is now preparing to do his episode of House, and as you might imagine, he’s excited.
“I’ve been yearning for a moment like that for over half of my life. I realized in seventh grade that I wanted to direct as a career, and I’ve been pursuing that sole goal ever since,” said Higgins. “None of this would’ve happened if the [Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation] hadn’t recognized my film.”
Finding a mentor
By entering the CTAs, Higgins was able to gain a mentor. Mentors are incredibly valuable to newbies in the workforce. Yaitanes himself had a mentor when he graduated from college.
“I was fortunate to be given my start, and I largely credit a director that is now deceased named Richard Compton,” said Yaitanes.
The late Richard Compton worked on JAG, Baywatch, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Charmed. Compton helped a young Yaitanes get his start and Yaitanes felt like Higgins was a way to pay it forward.
“Mentoring seems to be the thing that successful television producers and film directors [recommend],” said Higgins. “Mentoring seems to be one of the things they are most enthusiastic about because they understand how crazy it is that they get to do what they do.”
Yaitanes also mentioned to Julian that mentoring was so important that he wanted him to pay it forward some day as well.
“[Greg told me] years from now when you need someone like you need now, you pay me back by giving them that opportunity,” said Higgins. “He’s paying it forward, and he’s just a good man.”
“No one will submit your Work for you”
Higgins is glad that he made the effort to enter the CTAs. He knows now how important it is to get your work out for others to see. He also says that you shouldn’t think about whether your work will win an award or not. It’s just important to make the effort.
“My mom told me a long time ago ‘you certainly won’t get it if you don’t apply. No one is going to come hunt down your film, there are so many films being made,’” said Higgins. “You have to take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of you.”
Yaitanes, who also has played a large part in beta testing and is a big Twitter user, agrees with Julian. He thinks that social media and other resources are much more easily accessible to rookies looking to get in to the business.
“My feeling is now there’s absolutely no excuse for leaving school with something in your hands,” said Yaitanes. “The ability to tell those stories is now in everybody’s hands. So, if you have something to say there’s no excuse to not say it.”
The College Television Awards is currently taking submissions for next year’s awards from now until January 11, 2012 at 6:00 PM PST. See all the details here.
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