All You Creative Writing Majors Out There – Don’t Despair!
This Pacific Alumna graduated with a BA in Creative Writing and now she’s a professional writer and filmmaker working for MTV. Read this interview with Bri Castellini, class of 2014, to learn more on what she does and how she scored such a great job.
What is the title of your current position and what does it entail?
My current position is Associate Producer for Digital Development at MTV. Essentially, I assist in developing, pitching, and researching new MTV digital video content for release on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Snapchat.
What first drew you to your line of work?
I have always loved the internet and have been an avid watcher and maker of YouTube for as long as it existed. Digital video feels like home to me because I grew up watching it evolve and come into its own as a viable media format.
How did your college education help prepare you for what you do in your job?
My Pacific education helped prepare me for my current position because it taught me how to write well and take criticism better. I had wonderful professors who helped me develop my voice and style while also making sure I still took other perspectives into consideration. And I was a member of the speech and debate team all four of my undergraduate years, which taught me how to research and construct arguments and short-form summaries of complicated subjects, which has become a big part of my job. I also just finished my MFA in Writing and Producing for Television out here in New York City, which pretty directly translated into my current position.
Which connections and/or experiences helped you get to where you are now?
During my first year of graduate school I made the first season of a web series which was really well received and which was actually a major reason I was recommended to my current boss. At my internship last fall with the MTV research department I became something of a go-to web series resource due to my being a fan of many and a producer of one, and they felt I would be an asset to the digital team because I'd proven my work ethic and knowledge of the format. I've since made a second season, which recently premiered on YouTube, which was funded in part by some of my wonderful coworkers.
Have you found anything about your work especially gratifying?
I've only been in my current position for three months, but almost everything has been especially gratifying. I get to go to work every day with talented, driven people in the exact industry I want to be in. Even though I'm fresh out of grad school, I'm taken seriously, my opinions and ideas are valued, and I get to work on projects I not only enjoy, but believe in.
Have you found anything about your work rather challenging?
The most challenging part of my work is casting, which for nonfiction projects means calling real people who don't know who you are and asking them if they want to tell their stories to MTV. That's kind of awkward.
What does an average work day look like for you?
An average work day for me starts with answering emails, checking various social media to see if I've missed anything current or useful, then compiling new research on my ongoing projects, meeting with my coworkers and boss to update said ongoing projects, and coming up with new ideas to pitch. Sometimes the pitches are brand new show ideas, and sometimes they're pitches for episodes within preexisting digital shows. I also keep track of a spreadsheet that organizes all the current digital projects in terms of their development/production status so that we stay organized.
What job accomplishments are you most proud of?
So far, I'd say my proudest job accomplishment was going into a pitch meeting and having the majority of pitches chosen be ones I researched and came up with. In terms of my "side hustle" as an independent filmmaker, my proudest accomplishment was launching the second season of my web series and having fans who aren't personal friends or family members excitedly engage with it and help us promote it.
Do you do most of your work independently, as a team member, or does it vary?
I do most of my work independently, but the big decisions are always with at least one other person. I usually meet with my partner or my supervisor at least once or twice a day to check in and give status updates.
What sources do you draw inspiration from? Any particular projects of others that you admire?
I draw most of my inspiration from other online creators, mostly independent ones. I love the work of Yulin Kuang, a writer and director who recently premiered a web series on CW Seed (the CW's online arm), as well as Shipwrecked Comedy (creators of the web series Edgar Allan Poe's Invite Only Murder Mystery Dinner Party), Pemberley Digital (the creators of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries), Kate Hackett (creator of the web series Classic Alice), and Tara Jayn (lead actress/co-creator of the web series Social Medium).
Is there any knowledge/experience you wish you had gotten before entering the business world?
I wish I'd learned more about negotiating contracts and understanding the legalese of freelancing, because I'm technically an independent contractor/freelancer and that's always complicated.
Do you have any advice for students thinking about pursuing your line of work?
My advice if you want to go into filmmaking or any other creative field is to make things, no matter what your experience level or your resources. You can't very well call yourself a writer if you don't write, or a filmmaker if you don't film anything. The first season of my web series, which I consider a major reason for getting me my current position at MTV, was filmed with a camcorder and the help of some very wonderful, talented friends. It's rough around the edges but I cared so much about it that other people started to notice, and my second season was filmed on a beautiful Black Magic Pocket Cinema camera with the help of even more talented and wonderful people and has a built-in fan base with some minor but very exciting press coverage. I wouldn't have gotten here if I hadn't started from nothing, just making things because I loved doing it.
What do you most look forward to in the future? Any goals in your career?
I look forward to making more projects, both with MTV and as an independent creator. My eventual career goal is to be the showrunner for a television show, or the owner of an online production company that funds and produces short form digital content. And fame wouldn't be a bad outcome either, especially because the more people who know who I am, the more likely I am to get to continue making things.
Is there anything you found particularly surprising in your career?
The most surprising thing in my career is how much I already knew before going into the business world. I thought I was going to feel completely overwhelmed by my "big girl" job and I was afraid I would feel like some sort of imposter, but I really don't. I am exactly where I'm supposed to be, and I've only been out of Pacific two and a half years. That's both surprising and amazing.
Do you have any anecdotes from your education/work history you’d like to share?
Oh man, so many! For education, I have to give huge credit to my senior thesis mentor from Pacific, Kathlene Postma. When I was in her advanced fiction class, she told me that my writing was really funny with very clear, distinct voices and dialog, but it was like they were all talking in the dark because I had trouble describing the physical actions and space. She didn't know it at the time, but that actually convinced me to go more seriously into screenwriting, where you ONLY have to write dialog, and someone else mostly takes care of the descriptions! She was also just an incredible mentor and always knew how best to critique and shape my work without making it just sound like her own style. I don't have quite enough work history yet to have any particularly fun anecdotes, although back when I was still a barista in lower Manhattan, Paul Bettany was a regular at my coffee shop and when he forgot what his favorite drink was I'd just make it for him from memory. I also once refilled Paul Rudd's coffee and suggested a chocolate truffle for Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep's daughter).