Hey there! Let me introduce myself. My name is Jenny Truong, and I’m one of Reel Media Group’s new summer interns. (If you keep up with RMG’s social media accounts – which you already should, but I’ll excuse you if you don’t and link to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram here just in case – you’ll have seen the posts introducing me and Lindsey Wilhite, the other intern I’ll be working with this summer.) Although I only started last week, I was able to jump immediately into the RMG workflow; I’ve come to learn that this is very much the style of Reel Media Group, which replicates the rapidity and the swiftness of the broadcast journalism field itself. I was fortunate enough to interview Bianca Vanessa Hock, one of Reel Media Group’s very first students, who can certainly attest to the speed and the efficiency with which RMG operates.
Bianca came to Reel Media Group with virtually no on-camera training, having spent most of her undergraduate career behind the scenes. Bianca attended UCLA for her undergrad, and although UCLA has no broadcast journalism program, it does have one of the most reputable college newspapers in the nation. This was where Bianca gained a large part of her experience with journalism before coming to Reel Media.
Three years and a Masters from Columbia University later, Bianca has landed an exciting job with ESPN One Nacion as their newest Social Media Correspondent and Digital Reporter, where she will be producing weekly online segments entitled “3 Things With…” Bianca attributes her on-camera success to the training and work she did with Reel Media – Check out my interview with her below to see how she got where she is today, and how Reel Media helped her get there.
Tell us about yourself and your journalism background.
I grew up in San Diego, specifically in San Ysidro, the last city before you cross the US-Mexico border, and I would say that my interest in journalism started before I really realized it. I’m a second generation Mexican-American. On my father’s side – he’s from Texas – we have deep roots in America, but my mother’s side, she was born in Mexico and raised in San Diego. So I would say that my reporter ways started very young when I was asking my mother about who she was and what her background was. At a very young age I learned that you really don’t know people until you ask, and I was just drawn to that, I was drawn to personal stories because of my background and that’s where the interest evolved.
In high school I was always into creative writing, and I dabbled in the high school paper a little bit. That kind of sparked my interest, so I went to UCLA thinking, ‘I want to pursue journalism.’ But UCLA doesn’t have a journalism program. What it does have is one of the top college newspapers, which is The Daily Bruin. So I went there to specifically work for The Daily Bruin. I was thinking long term; I wanted to set myself apart by learning something tangible, so I studied politics at UCLA while I was getting the hands-on experience working for The Daily Bruin. I worked as a video journalist for them, for their website, and my senior year I worked as a sports writer.
It was during my time there at UCLA with The Daily Bruin that we were sent a mass email about this “Reel Reporting” group, and I remember thinking, ‘This is perfect,’ I’m not studying journalism so I haven’t had the luxury of practicing in front of a camera. I was in video, but I was always honing my skills more so behind the camera. So this looked like the perfect opportunity to get that on-camera experience that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
After that, I applied to Columbia’s journalism school, because once I reached my senior year at UCLA, I did a little bit of self reflecting and knew I could either go straight into applying to TV jobs, or I could continue honing my skills as a journalist. Journalism integrity is very important to me, so I wanted to take the grad school route, and I got my Master’s in journalism from Columbia University.
Was RMG your first experience with on-air TV training?
It was and it was absolutely wonderful. Stephanie actually paired me with a mentor that was from ABC San Diego, where I was from. His name was Dan Haggerty. It was absolutely wonderful to have a professional guide me through the process. Rather than throwing us to the camera, she had someone who was there who knew what they were doing, who has been doing it for years. I felt comfortable, and it was really nice – having so many friends who were going the TV route who did not go through a program like Reel Media’s, they’re getting thrown into it. They’re getting experience from places like Columbia but kind of getting thrown to the dogs. But what’s unique about what I did is that I was paired with a mentor who is doing it. Normally, even in grad school, they give you a camera, and they tell you, ‘Alright, go do it.’ Instead, I worked with a group that genuinely wants to help you get that fast-track learning experience. It’s incredible what I picked up in one day.
How important was creating a good reel to launching your TV/broadcast/on-air career?
Very important! The only thing that you have representing yourself when you’re applying for jobs is your resume and cover letter, and it’s all paperwork. It’s all listing skills and all this, but when it comes to being a TV reporter, it’s all about your personality – you can’t do that without a good reel. They get so many of these reels, and most people who get these reels will probably only watch the first couple of seconds of it, and you need to reel them in immediately. I feel having some of RMG to help you create a clean, concise, nicely done reel, is a wonderful way to capture people’s attention and set you apart in the piles and piles of applicants.
Once you created your reel, what doors opened for you?
[Creating my reel with RMG] opened the doors to grad school. I went to the number one journalism grad school in the world, and I’m certain that played a big role in it. I really feel that the personality and ability that I showed in my reel captured their attention, and when I applied to ESPN I also put that as part of my resume. Yes, I added to my reel with stuff that I did in New York with Columbia, but a lot of the stuff that I had done in LA was with the RMG. What’s funny is that I had my reel reviewed by guidance counselors at Columbia, and their favorite part of my reel was what I shot with RMG, not at Columbia. Having a professional photographer and having the awesome landscape of LA too worked really well for my reel.
What was the most important lesson you learned with RMG, and how do you apply it to your work in the professional field?
I would say the best takeaway was actually something that Dan told me while we were on our lunch break that day. It was to basically keep the focus on the subject. We were eating lunch, and we also had a professional photographer with us, who I’m also still friends with – side note, that’s another great thing, that in this one day you build friendships with professionals that you maintain – and I started asking him about himself, and Dan said to me, ‘You know, the fact that you care where Doug came from, that you care to ask all these questions, kind of shows the heart of the reporter in you.’ He pointed out how important that will be to stand out in a nitty-gritty field such as this. There’s so many reporters who are a dime a dozen, who go on camera because they want to be on-camera. They’re there because they want to be on TV. And he pointed out to keep the heart in it. That was the best lesson he could have pointed out, because being genuine in this field, and genuinely wanting to learn stories and not being there because I want to be on camera – that should never be the goal. But to keep at the heart of it all, to always keep it about what you care about.
Why would you recommend Reel Media Group to up-and-coming broadcast journalists?
I would recommend it because of its supportive environment. It’s a safe space to make the mistakes. I think it’s great to have a place where you can make the first mistakes that you’re definitely going to make as someone just stepping in front of the camera, rather than making them on-air. Not only that, but it’s a place where you’ll be more aware that you’re making these mistakes, because there’ll be someone there who knows what they’re doing, who’s been through the game – they’ll be there to guide you and point out what should be fixed. That’s valuable because if you’re alone in it, which most people are, you don’t realize until somebody tells you, when it’s already a bad habit.
Do you have any goals or aspirations looking towards the future?
The goal is always to continue getting better. Right now I’m in the position as a social correspondent for ESPN’s One Nacion. It’s an on-camera platform in the digital space, and it’ll be more short, quick-cut videos, but I’d say the long-term goal would be more along the lines of in-depth reporting and a little investigative to get those incredible backstories on personalities within sports, and humanizing stories that, since childhood, I’ve always been interested in, but within the sports world.
If you don’t know this already, we host our workshops in seven cities once a month. Email us if you want find out more… firstname.lastname@example.org
You can learn more about Bianca’s journey tonight. Click here to join our Skype chat at 8pm.