Meg Bailey ’10 was the definition of an active film student at Emerson College. Having regularly helped out on weekend shoots and school projects alike, Meg gained helpful insight into what it takes to bring a project to life from casting to production to editing (with a special emphasis on the latter).
I caught up with Meg to learn more about her experience as a student at Emerson as well as her current experience working with Zero VFX (located in Boston and Los Angeles) as a Senior Producer. I was especially interested in learning about Zero’s culture as well as what originally drew Meg into their ranks, both as a way of promoting their current internship opportunity and as a way of showcasing a local powerhouse in post-production and VFX.
What was it that originally drew you to Emerson College?
Definitely the energy of the campus. I didn’t necessarily want to go to a traditional college campus and just being in the Theatre District in such an arts-focused area in the heart of the city is really what drew me to it.
What was your experience here like?
I loved being at Emerson and I loved being around people who had the same interests as me. In high school that was a huge struggle for me — I felt like no one wanted to watch Taxi Driver with me and that was a drag. At Emerson, I felt like I met my people.
I didn’t do a lot of formal involvement but I did do a lot of student productions and student-run films. I loved being a part of Film 2 projects or just something put together over a weekend for a class. I was always involved with those, whether I was interviewing, directing, producing, or shooting. Anything I could do to be a part of those productions, I did.
What were your first steps after graduation?
I really liked post-production. I concentrated on it in college and spent the majority of my classes focused on developing my editing skills. So I knew I wanted to work for an editorial company of some sort.
I used every resource I had — professors or anyone I knew that was in the industry — and did my best to make new introductions. To be honest, and I think this is something that’s helpful for current students to hear, my first year out of school was a mix of many, many jobs. I worked a variety of roles to try and get my foot in the door for a full-time staff position. (Which a lot of production positions are not staff.)
I’ve found that was a naivety I had that I think a lot of other people coming out of school right now have as well — that they think they’ll graduate and land a full-time production job with benefits somewhere. Unfortunately, production does not really work that way.
A lot of jobs are contract or project-based and those are really good jobs to get. So that’s really where I started. I ended up getting booked as an Assistant Editor on a feature documentary through a small post-production company in Kenmore Square called Paul’s Place.
I worked there for about 6 months while bartending on the side. I was also doing some freelance editing at the time for an additional company. After the film ended, I asked Paul (from the post-production company) if he could introduce me to some people he knew in the industry around Boston and he introduced me to a ton of people. And they introduced me to even more people.
Basically, from there, I kept having informational interviews with as many people as I could meet. I would email each contact, stop by to introduce myself and explain my skill set, and I’d shop my resume around as much as possible. I went to at least 15 places and did that, in both New York City and Boston.
How did you end up at Zero VFX?:
I was given the information of the owners through someone I was working for before. I sent almost 30 or 40 blind emails asking if I could introduce myself and I heard back from about half of those. So I eventually came in for an informational interview and met the owners.
I knew right away that I really enjoyed the feel of the workplace and its vibe. I also really liked that the company worked on a mixture of features and commercials — a lot of places in Boston are exclusively commercial so having the opportunity to work on a feature was something that really excited me. For me that was like the best possible job I could have.
Even though I had a few job offers at different places for Assistant Editor roles (which was really what I was looking to be), I wound up looking for a role with Zero before anything else. The role they eventually offered was more of a general Assistant type position but I figured that Zero was still a young company. They were a start-up that had really only been around for about a year at the time. There was something about it that drew me to the role and to the growth potential that could be offered by the company. So I took it.
And I answered phones, grabbed coffees, and did any general responsibility an Assistant would take on in my first few months at Zero. But that didn’t matter — I chose this role because I saw room to flourish here. I knew there was plenty of growth potential here that wouldn’t be available at other employers.
What is Zero’s culture like?:
Zero has a great culture here. Like I said, I really like the vibes of the owners — I really clicked with them. I really enjoy the way we emphasize a work hard, play hard mentality here. Everyone is a super hard worker here but they’re also fun — it’s a really great team-based vibe. Especially on the visual effects team.
That’s another thing that really drew me to Zero originally: I didn’t have the opportunity to learn much about visual effects in my time at Emerson. So I thought, in joining Zero, I’d have the chance to develop an area of my skills that would give me a leg up on competition in the industry because a lot of people applying to editing jobs today may not have the proficiency they need to land the job.
Tell us a bit about your current role:
Ironically, when I first started I was an Assistant, and then I climbed the ladder so to speak. I became a Production Coordinator, then a Production Manager, then a Producer, and now I’m a Senior Producer. I basically am the main producer of the whole commercial department.
I’ve been here for about seven and a half years and I’ve produced both features and commercials. I’ve found that, in recent years, I really prefer producing commercials instead of features. Features were very romantic when I first started but the process of working on one of them is brutal.
I got to realize the dream of seeing my name on the big screen which was definitely amazing but now that I’m in my thirties I want a little more of a work-life balance. In my day-to-day, I have two roles, internal and external.
My internal role is to manage the artists and workers assigned to a specific project while my external role is to manage clients and maintain a positive relationship. I’m basically the main client contact for any job that comes through that I’m producing or managing. My primary role is to work as a translator for clients as many of them are unfamiliar with the effects we’re creating.
I translate a lot of the tech speak to clients so they are comfortable working with us and know what they expect. Then, on the internal side, I manage the work we’ll be doing and follow it from start to finish.
Do you have any ‘words of wisdom’ for current students seeking internships?:
People, at the end of the day, don’t really care about the software you know or the work you can do — don’t get me wrong, all those things are good because we can use that information when the time comes. What really gets people noticed is a great attitude and a great work ethic. Those are the interns that will always stand out and those are the interns that are most likely to be hired.
These are people who are not constantly trying to be the center of attention based on their achievement or skill. Which is tough for some students to hear because some of us are so used to getting recognized in high school or college for our talents and what you’ve executed but, really, in the working world, people care more about your ability to work for the team more than yourself.