As Ella Smith sat looking at her laptop trying to pick her sophomore year classes, she had a realization — she wasn’t excited by any of her communication classes. “Oh shoot,” she said, “I’m probably not in the right major or the right career if I’m looking at these classes and they don’t excite me.”
Ella’s going into her senior year as an integrated media and strategic communications major, with an integrated media emphasis and a film minor. She always knew that photography, videography, and film made her happy, but felt like she had to fall in line with a more traditional major that could guarantee her a good-paying, stable job. “If you’re going to pursue any job in any kind of creative or artistic field, like, the first thing that people say is, ‘Good luck with that’ or ‘What’s your backup plan?’” But she remembers having an aha moment looking at that screen, knowing that she wouldn’t enjoy college as much as she could, if she kept going the way she was.
“A lot of people get scared away by those words. But my thought is, even if 20 years from now I’ve completely failed, like, did not get a single job in the industry and it didn’t work out at all, I at least want to be able to say that I tried. If I didn’t at least do that, then I’d live my whole life regretting the fact that I didn’t even try to pursue the thing I knew I wanted to do.”
She got curious and decided to just take a look at which film classes were available, “It got to a point when I was looking at the media and film classes and I couldn’t pick which ones I wanted to take because there were so many that I was excited about. So, I was like, ‘Okay, I definitely need to switch.’” She found a compromise. She could still study media and some communication, but also do film without having to fully change her degree and add at least another year onto her study.
Her freshman year at Boise State, she was still figuring things out. She joined a sorority, made a lot of friends, and then COVID-19 hit. She was sent home spring of that first year.
She did what she could to try and get ahead with her studies, but film, media, and production is a very hands-on job — being on sets, networking, working on new projects. And she couldn’t be a part of that for a year and a half.
Going into her junior year, she felt like she needed to fast track her experience. “I was trying to get like three years of experience all at once. I’m still doing that going into my senior year.” Still in her junior year, she saw a job post on Handshake for a videographer position in Admissions. That’s when the doubts crept back in.
Ella’s mom was actually the one who sent her the job and said she should apply for it. Her mind went straight to, “Oh, I don’t have enough time. I don’t think I have the skillset to actually be able to get a job yet. But then I was talking with my friends and they were like, ‘Why would you not do that?’” That night she went home, raced to her computer, and submitted her application at 11 p.m. Applications closed the same night at 12 a.m.
“Literally, the next day I got an email. I got the job within three days.”
Before she got the job in Admissions, she was trying to piece together work and a portfolio by herself. After she got hired, Ella started learning what it was like to work on a creative team.
“If someone were to ask me what has been one of the most good, life changing decisions, it was the smallest thing of simply applying for that job. Through this videographer job I have gotten so many more opportunities.”
Ella now teaches at a film production camp for kids over the summer, while also balancing a year-long internship with Filmfort (where she gets to work with production companies and other creative professionals, and she may get to go down to Los Angeles to shoot a commercial), and is helping with filming and editing for the Boise State Bucket List, which is a video series that showcases the awesome outdoor recreation right on our doorstep, as well as all of the entertainment and sightseeing available in the Boise area.
“I’m getting to try things I’ve never done, I’m making progress. I’m finally getting that hands-on full-time experience. A lot of this is through my boss, Chelsea Smith, who’s gotten me so many opportunities.” And she feels like she’s just started. The bulk of exciting things are still on the horizon.
Right now, working as a music video director or owning her own production company is her dream job. Ella grew up in Vancouver, Washington as a dancer and her dad is a musician in a band, so music is a massive part of her life. After she started video production, she noticed that editing to music was one of her favorite things to do. She found a strength within herself, having an ear for how music and film should go together. During quarantine, Ella and her dad filmed some music videos together, just for something the two of them could do. Now, they’re on their fourth video with a much bigger crew.
If she could give advice to a younger student, it would be to not listen to self doubt, reach out, and just try. “I don’t even know what I’d be doing right now [if I hadn’t applied for the job] because everything has come from that. Be okay with not being good at something right away. Take the experience and learn. I’ve learned that experiences aren’t going to fall into my lap. I’ve worked very hard this last year taking any jobs I could get.”
As for what she’s looking forward to in her final year, she’s so ready for that Filmfort internship. Working with local media companies and contributing to and growing a local event is a super exciting opportunity for her. Her classes are also at the top of that list. She’s finally diving into the meat of her study with directing, editing, and more!
“I think this next year for me is going to be a really big year for growth and to become talented at what I do.”