As a filmmaker, I have found that there is not a single resource more valuable for learning than mentorship.
Of course, there is a ton of value in taking classes through the Digital Filmmaking program here at Mason Gross. And I’ve also spent more hours learning the craft on YouTube than I would like to admit in writing. Still, there is nothing that compares to actually learning skills from someone who has already done the things you want to do.
Even though most students are aware that it’s a good idea to find mentors in the fields they want to pursue careers in, I think a majority have not come to the realization of just how vital it is to find someone who can help you get ahead of the competition.
When I first heard about the Road To Communications and Media program (RTCM), I instantly knew it was something I wanted to be involved with. I have a friend who had experienced the Road To Wall Street program, which is similar in scope for those interested in finance, and had nothing but praise for it. So I applied to RTCM, got in, and was paired up with my mentor Chantal, who is a documentary filmmaker and media producer currently living and working in California.
Most people are aware of how competitive the filmmaking world really is, and some would even argue it is the most competitive field out there. It requires you to be diligent and creative, but also have the ability to remain open to advice and guidance from others.
There are two types of filmmakers: the ones who insist on doing everything on their own, and the ones who actually go out and make films with their friends because they realize they can’t do everything by themselves. I would say Chantal and I fall under that second umbrella, and I have learned a lot from her because of that.
I did not apply to the RTCM program to get an internship or to try to take advantage of a relationship I have with someone who is working in the industry. I did it because I wanted guidance. I wanted advice on the tough decisions I have to make on a daily basis as an independent filmmaker.
For example, with my senior thesis project, was it a better idea to go all out with a short film, or attempt to make a full but extremely low-budget feature? Should I move to New York or LA after graduation? Are there any video opportunities in the Rutgers area that I can take advantage of while I’m still here?
These are just some of the dozens of questions I have asked, and it’s been really comforting to have someone like Chantal to help me weigh out all of the short-term and long-term effects of my decisions. And while the RTCM program itself only lasts for a semester, this is a connection between my mentor and myself that has already lasted longer than that.
Interested in having a mentor of your own? Learn more about Career Exploration and Success' Road to Industry Programs here.