Career Spotlight VI: Charon Cummins- Video Content Producer
The Career Spotlight series aims to shine a light on people from a range of different academic backgrounds and career pathways beyond the less traditional ones to inform, inspire and empower others to explore their own interests and talents. I’m constantly inspired by so many people around me who have taken the leap, challenged the status quo and pursued their passion which in some instances is different to what they studied at university. So, I’m hoping I can share their own accounts and stories to help you on your journey. To find out more about what inspired this, check out the launch blog here.
The sixth guest featured on the Career Spotlight blog series is Charon Cummins, a video content producer at Amnesty International. We both went to the same university and I’ve been so inspired by her journey and her side project @Hellaamelanin which are both so aligned with her passions. Read on to learn more about how she studied English Literature and Drama, her year abroad at Spelman College and her internship at BBC which led to her role as digital producer at ITV, social media executive at Channel 4 and now a video content producer at Amnesty International. The key takeaways for me from her career journey are:
Don’t self-reject. When applying for jobs or university, always aim high! Also, it can be hugely beneficial to take a gap year or a break to figure out your next steps in terms of higher education.
If you're passionate about something, say it and do it. The industry is really what you make it, so speak your mind if you have an idea and believe in yourself. That self belief is your biggest weapon.
Lean on your colleagues when you need to, build those relationships, ask for that extra insight. It will work in your favour.
What did you study at university, why and how did you find it?
I studied English Literature and Drama studies at University. If I'm completely honest, I wish I had chosen something different but I struggled to figure out what I was truly interested in at 18 years old. Given that, I went with what I knew (and had done for A Level) as I had some level of interest in it. It took me until my year abroad at Spelman College and my final year to truly enjoy my course, I struggled to relate to the literature and found it quite difficult initially. I had a better sense of self and my interests as I progressed throughout my degree, and that made me understand what areas of literature and theatre I enjoyed, and I put that into my work. My year abroad was transformative. I spent an academic year at a historically Black College in the west end of Atlanta. It changed my life. I was inspired by the variety of courses i could take, my predominantly black professors and the passionate people I met on my way.
How have you applied your major in your career field? And what are other courses you took or you wish you would have taken that would also add value in your career?
My degree has definitely helped me secure roles but purely based on the merit of going to University. I haven't put any of my practical experience to use in my day-to-day role. My ability to think critically, interrogate the world around and fight for social change grew out of my time at University. This has since fuelled my passion project (@Hellaamelanin), where I have been able to nurture an online community. HellaaMelanin is an online platform with the sole goal of celebrating blackness. Through the platform, we run networking/social events, do online podcasts and run an Instagram celebrating all things in between. It’s been around for about 3 years and i’m excited for it’s post-covid future!
In my day job as a video producer, experience in shooting and editing would have been super useful to add value to my career. I'm still learning as I go and loving it, but it would help!
How did you find your way to where you are today? Share a little about your professional journey and what you do currently.
I applied for an internship after university at the BBC through Creative Access. This was the biggest stepping stone for me as working at a public broadcaster opened various doors, I built networks and understood how the world of TV works behind the scenes. It also helped me figure out that I wanted to do work in Digital.
I interned in the Marketing and Social media teams across BBC One and Three, meaning that I helped produce trailers for various programmes. I also fell in love with making content for TV shows that would go live online. That led to my next steps, which included Social Media Executive at Channel 4 and being a Digital Producer at ITV's Loose Women. I've just started a new role out of TV which is new for me, as I'm going into more global news as a Video Content Producer for Amnesty International.
What motivations fuelled your career path?
The idea of learning new skills fuelled me massively. I have always been eager to learn how to operate camera equipment, how to edit and produce content well. I am also a big fan of television and news, so storytelling in some way pertaining to those areas has been essential to my growth and interests in the roles I've taken on. I want to work on platforms and across programming with a purpose, that make positive change and fight to represent voices that are underrepresented in society.
What do you love most about your job?
The people side to it is really great. You meet people who are so talented and passionate and creative, that has been truly inspiring. I'd like to connect more and get some kind of mentoring going, as I think that'd be beneficial. I also love the creative element, having creative control over how a message is put across is exciting to me
To what degree did you parents’ impact or influence your choice of degree or career? If your parents weren’t supportive initially, are they more convinced now?
My mum rushed me quite a bit in terms of going to University. She specifically said that I should do it immediately after college otherwise I'd "never go" and I should "just get it out the way".
Whilst I am glad that I have my degree, I think I could have massively benefited from a gap year or break to really think about my next steps in terms of higher education.
She's convinced I made the right call now that I'm working and a little more settled aha! I know it was out of a place of love and that she wanted the best for me.
I also underestimated myself in terms of my applications so my advice would be to aim high!
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your industry? How has COVID-19 impacted your role?
I think COVID-19 has impacted the security of my role and industry massively. Whilst there is a big need for social content creators, in the world of TV it's based on shows being filmed and made. As productions have slowed down massively, we've had to think a lot more about how to uplift an online audience using minimal material, and rolling with the fact that people are spending more time online now more than ever before.
What’s your advice for anyone interested in pursuing a similar career path?
If you're passionate about something, say it and do it. This industry is really what you make it and I couldn't encourage people enough to speak your minds, suggest your wacky/alternative/creative ideas and believe in yourself. That self belief is your biggest weapon and makes you memorable in an industry that can sometimes feel quite competitive and daunting. Also, people are lovely. Lean on your colleagues when you need to, build those relationships, ask for that extra insight. It really does work in your favour.
How do you practice self-care?
My passion project is a big part of that, as I get to channel energy into something different. I'm also big on podcasts and home workouts, they make me feel energised and informed, which I really enjoy.
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