Malaika: Advice from My Mentor

At sixteen, I, like most people my age, had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. For a long time I believed I was destined to be a constitutional lawyer. Heck, I even had a concrete plan: read, study, get a history degree, go to law school, then finally make a difference. Yet no matter how much I tried to convince myself otherwise, I couldn’t imagine a future with my nose buried in volumes of case books and legal dictionaries. Nope, not me (a girl who can barely finish a Netflix series).

In all honestly, I only wanted to be a lawyer because Drop Dead Diva made it look cool (yup, that’s right, I chose my career based on a Lifetime Network television show. YIKES!). After some much needed soul searching, I decided I would never pursue a job I didn’t feel passionate about. As it turns out, the thing I was most passionate about was television shows themselves, not just the lawyer characters within them. I love TV. I love consuming it. I LOVE talking about it.

To get a feel for the entertainment industry, I flew out to New York to participate in a film, journalism, and digital media program. Although I was nervous to travel across the country for this, it ended up being one of the best and most life-changing experiences. Why? Because I met Mariana, a BU COM alumni.

Mariana is not your run-of-the-mill person. She’s all encompassing with a magnet personality. Anyone who speaks to her for even one second would walk away with a giant smile on her face. She convinced me that life is best lived when you can say you have no regrets. At a time when I needed guidance, she was there to support me in every way possible. After leaving New York, her and I kept in touch. When my college application process began, I reached out to her for advice. Her response to me is ultimately what solidified my decision to apply and enroll at BU.  She convinced me to come to this great school and pursue a degree in Film and Television instead of History.

Now, with one semester in my pocket, I couldn’t be more grateful for her influence. It’s crazy how a few nuggets of wisdom from a mentor can alter your goals. For anyone reading this in need of some sound advice, here are some thoughts from Mariana on her experience at COM:

College is over before you know it. Your grades will (likely) not matter. Your work ethic is what lasts. How you do one thing is how you do everything. You need to work hard to make things happen. If you’re proactive, you’ll be fine. If you’re not, you better start. That was such a big thing everyone at COM said, if you want something, you’re going to need to work for it and achieve it, handouts are slim and the industry is tough. Best believe I was the first one grabbing those c-stands and kino flos. I also thought that because I didn’t “know” anyone in film or because my parents weren’t in “the biz,” I’d have a disadvantage. But the best connections are those around you, your classmates. I am still helping out BU peers and friends on sets and projects, have gotten job interviews because of them, and know I can turn to them for any advice.

I meet BU alum EVERYWHERE. You’re coming up together, you’re going to be each other’s’ best support system and encyclopedia. Concerning internships, I got my first two internships by compiling a list of production companies in my area (NYC at the time) and emailing them all asking if they needed an intern for the summer. This may not seem feasible to all depending on your financial situation or your proximity to a city, but I negotiated a travel stipend, worked the rest of my days, and gained invaluable experience from doing so.

My cinematography professor left me with this parting advice before I went off to Los Angeles: “Tenacity Trumps Talent.” Stick it out because odds are, you’ll make it longer and further than those that had more talent than you but got unmotivated or defeated. A tried and true way to life as well: “FAKE IT ‘TIL YOU MAKE IT.” Most first jobs and internships will be more impressed by a hard worker with an eagerness to learn than someone who has all the “right” credentials. Do you have a vague idea of how to do a job? Then go for it! If you can make an employer feel confident in your abilities when they give you a task, they will be more likely to give you interesting work. As long as you put in the time and keep on learning, one day you’ll know enough to teach others!

I hope her advice will appeal to you, as much as it does to me.


CA Malaika

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