Everyone takes a different path to their first media job. Some people land their first choice right out of college. Others need to apply to dozens of places before landing an interview. There’s not a perfect way to get the job you want, but it can help to learn from the experience of others. In our feature “How I Got the Job,” we talk to some of the best people working professionally in media about what they did to get a foot in the door, and what it took to finally sign the contract. This week: Reid Johnson, former TV news photog and current owner of Best Made Videos.
What first got you interested in a TV news career?
I was in a print journalism class. I realized what a limited scope the class focused on and got frustrated. It talked mostly about print news and old school front page layout and I wondered how long that type of education would be relevant for. I took a radio class where a professor recognized my technical proficiency and recommended I take a TV class. I enjoyed the more hands-on experience. My final project in my junior year was a Meatloaf music video. What other profession can give you that?
Do you remember what you included on your first tape/work sample?
I included a story about snowboarding on the quad at Gonzaga University, a story about couch surfing, and one about cars trying to outrace trains at crossings. The snowboarding video had won an award, so I felt that was good to include
How many rejections did you get?
I sent out 12 tapes; three to Yakima, Eugene, Tri-Cities and Bakersfield. Got one call back from the NBC affiliate in Bakersfield. They flew me down for an interview before my finals senior year, I took the job and drove out a week after graduation
What happened in your first interview?
If a small NBC station in Bakersfield flies you in for a photog job, you basically know you have it. They just want to make sure you’re not crazy. We talked about movies and TV for a few minutes, then I went and drove around with a reporter/photographer working on a story. I got the offer before noon and hung out around the station the rest of the day
Why did you decide to leave TV news?
I was tired of having people with less information and knowledge than me dictate my daily life in my career. Gonzaga did a good job of making well-rounded people who knew a little bit about all aspects of a TV station, but my last station had assignment desk people and producers who had no idea what it was like to be a photographer. I felt they had no idea what they were asking for. I was tired of feeling like i had to go into work every day and fight against a deadline AND everyone at my station. I felt like my creativity and drive was being wasted every day because of my station’s poor news judgment. My station also just added an 11 p.m. news hit, and the thought of going from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. in a live truck every night doing live hits was just too much to handle
What are some of the best parts about being in a video production business?
Working for myself, setting my own hours. The money is better. When I’m done with a story i don’t have to worry about the desk finding 18 more things for me to work on. The ability to be creative, more so than when I was in news. I do lots of fun events, weddings, most of the time everyone is happy and wants you to be there, unlike my news experience when it always felt like you have to chase people down. The ability to own everything that I do top to bottom. Being able to produce things I’m proud of. I don’t think i saved a single story I did in my last year of news because I was never proud of any of it. Either time restraints or story restraints, I never felt like i got to work to my full potential at my last news station.
What has been the most challenging part of starting your own business?
Lots of things. Dealing with multiple deadlines for multiple projects instead of just one or two stories a day. Money things, hiring an accountant, state licenses and business licenses and things like that. Having to realize that some clients will just never be happy. Also, trying to realize that not everyone will want to hire you, lol.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you had known in college?
I wish I could know that news really wasn’t for me, and that video production was. I took my news job because I needed to work after college and I couldn’t find anything in video production at the time. Doing news however got me used to short deadlines, and fast turnarounds that today give me a greater edge in my current business. The flexibility I had to learn in news gives me a leg up on the competition today.