My guest today is Germán Ornelas. Germán grew up in Southern California to immigrant parents – one of whom had a long career as a factory worker and the other who created opportunities for herself through odd jobs and entrepreneurship. Germán attended University of Southern California and received his Bachelor of Arts in Economics. Germán always had a passion for the television industry but worried about having financial stability. After graduation, he struggled to find work and started a job in retail until he could figure out how to pursue a career in the television industry. A friend provided a connection to a very entry level position and Germán built his career from the ground up by looking for opportunities and producing quality work. Germán is currently a freelance Producer/Editor and has worked for Major League Soccer (MLS), JK Film and TV productions, and Fox Sports. Here is a little of his First Gen Journey . . .
In this episode, Germán discussed how his major didn’t really prepare him for his career but his college experience was vital to his personal growth. He also detailed the trials and triumphs of navigating a career in television production. Here are a few highlights from his episode:
· Germán’s parents and older brother set the example that education was important as a means to attain a better life (1:45). His parents couldn’t help him with the college application process but Germán felt that his high school provided a lot of guidance and support (2:43).
· Germán attended USC and noted that he mostly applied to in-state schools because he was afraid of encountering culture shock in a less diverse community (3:05). In addition, he wanted to be a movie director and felt USC would be a good match for that career path. Unfortunately, after working for USC’s donation program, he was faced with the reality that a lot of the film school graduates were not doing well financially. He pivoted to a major in economics in hopes that it would be more practical (4:16).
· After graduation, he had trouble landing a job and ended up being a retail manager at a sporting goods store because he needed a job. He took advantage of that time to make some decisions about how to break into a career he was passionate about (6:25). A friend provided a connection to a very entry level position in the television industry and Germán took advantage of the opportunity to learn and hopefully build a career in that industry (7:59). Germán describes how he learned to approach networking in a way that felt authentic (8:48).
· Moving to an entry level position at Fox Sports was a pay cut for Germán but it provided him with opportunities to build his career in an area he felt passionate about (10:50). By taking that risk, he was able to shift from tape librarian, to production assistant, to editor and producer. Germán also described some of the sacrifices he had to make for his career. On the other hand, there were a lot of benefits to doing a job that he loved.
· Germán didn’t end up using his economics degree in his career, but he appreciates that his experience in college provided an opportunity for personal growth (14:15).
· Life circumstances have moved Germán to different states over the years and he details his experience trying to find work in these new environments and the opportunities he pursued as a result (16:04). Germán’s confidence grew over time and he began to feel more sure of himself and the work he was doing (19:36). Networking has been a big part of German’s career, as was getting comfortable with the freelance nature of his work (21:36). A lack of mentors led to Germán operating based on trial and error (22:49). Eventually, Germán made the decision to purchase his own equipment and invest in himself (23:46).
· Germán still struggles with the idea of networking but has found that if he reframes his intentions, it feels more genuine (26:11). He also describes what it is like to not have a stable job and not be connected to a single company his whole career like his father was (27:30).
· Germán has some tips for First Gen students who want to break into television production and editing (32:00).
Germán’s tips for First Gen students and professionals wanting to get into television production:
1. Get out of your comfort zone and take risks. Follow opportunities even if it takes you to a different state.
2. Work with what you have, start small, and start doing.
3. YouTube and web-based tutorials are great resources
4. Getting a job as a production assistant (PA) is the traditional way to break into this field and continues to be a relevant path.
5. Get creative and put your videos online to start building your portfolio.
6. Learn to make peace with starting at the bottom.
Connect with Germán through social media: @tvgerms on Instagram and Twitter.