WHAT ARE MEDIA STUDIES ALUMNI DOING?
Tom Niemisto ’08
Concentration: Media Studies
Current Position: Video Production Specialist at Minnesota 2020 in St. Paul
What is your current position? What are your responsibilities?
I'm currently a video producer specialist for Minnesota 2020, a non-profit policy think tank in St. Paul. I produce short, engaging web videos that explore an idea or issue we're working on. I run every aspect of the video production: research, HD camera operation, interviewing, and non-linear editing. I constantly work with communications staff and policy fellows to craft a message that moves Minnesota forward.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in this field?
In most ways this field chose me. I have always been attracted to the craft of multimedia storytelling in various documentary arts and I enjoy the challenge in making a story have maximum impact yet seem effortless. It's hard to do, but it sticks with you. I've had wonderful media training during and post-St. Olaf, but the best experience came from hands-on learning. I have come to find that proficiency with new technology is important, but not as much as knowing how to tell an engaging story. I'm also trained as a classical musician, which helps me think in terms of sound: arranging sound, layering sound, and designing sound with images in a gesture to strengthen a particular message - the rest tends to fall into place in the editing process.
How did you gain the experience necessary for this position?
I gained solid experience for this position mostly from media training institutes, workshops and internships I attended during or immediately after St. Olaf. The Media Institute for Social Change, an internship at Clearwater.org, and Third Coast International Audio Festival in Chicago were instrumental in setting me up for a higher level of professionalism. I mostly learn by doing and doing and doing. I couldn't be where I am without just going out and creating media, making lots of mistakes along the way, but learning and growing as I go.
How did your Media Studies coursework or experiences help you get where you are today?
The media studies concentration helped me learn about the landscape of media production and helped me figure out where my voice fits in and where it stands out.
Any advice you would give a Media Studies student knowing what you know now?
First, I'll pass on advice I heard years ago from Ira Glass that has stuck with me: force yourself to do a lot of media. Put yourself in an environment where work is expected of you from others on a regular basis, and deliver. Get out there, meet deadlines and you will get good at what you do - it will take time. Second, always have a resume, work samples, and a personal contact/business card on hand at all times. Could be on a flash drive resume, could be a Tumblr blog. Three, watch and deconstruct a lot of media and watch the special features and making-of features on DVDs, which I sometimes find more informative than the feature. Four, leave a good impression with everyone you meet: that means be on time, be informed about other people's work, read the newspaper, follow through with requests, and be nice.