“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”
Wow, we did it. What a semester. I am so proud to have reached this moment as a student, and more importantly, as a journalist. From the beginning, I felt like I was already embarking on an uphill battle. Taking Multimedia Reporting and Audio Journalism together in a semester was demanding to say the very least. My counselors and professors warned me, but I was prepared and ready to tackle the challenge head-on. There were many long nights, days spent running from interview to interview, and moments when I questioned if this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. But, I quickly learned over this semester that journalism is absolutely my passion. I met amazing people, covered inspiring stories, and pushed myself beyond what I thought was my limit. I’m so thankful that I was able to find the beauty in both success and failure. Each assignment had a purpose, and each assignment had a lesson. Follow along as I look back at my journey over the past few months.
Assignment 1: “Know Your Camera”
This first assignment was a fun one, especially because we were given the creative freedom to photograph anything we wanted. I live in a high-rise apartment building with 24 floors, and I felt inspired to take pictures around my own home. It’s crazy how you can see the beauty in things when you actually stop and truly look around you. While I had experience using this type of camera equipment before, this assignment helped me to become more comfortable with it all. I took almost 200 photos, and I learned very quickly after uploading all of them that I wouldn’t be
able to get away with over-shooting in the future. I had to trust in myself and my abilities, knowing I captured the “money shot.” This would be something I would struggle with for the remainder of the semester, but overall, I was pleased with this assignment. Looking back, I didn’t realize how much I would continue to learn and grow from this point on.
Assignment 2: “Fear and Hope in Gymnastics”
Assignment 2 was challenging in a new way. This time, we were given the task of a photo essay, but with a twist: the project had to capture emotions of fear, afraid, excitement, and hope. I remember feeling worried after hearing Professor Collins’ instructions. How was I going to pick a subject that would encompass all of that? Then, it came to me. As a student-athlete myself, I understand the triumph and failure that goes along with competing. The Illinois Women’s Gymnastics Meet against Penn State was the perfect setting to capture these four emotions. I admire these athletes so much – while the sport is very much team-driven, a lot of it is individual. Before each routine on each event, you could visibly see the fear in the gymnasts’ eyes and the worry of failure. But, you could also see their excitement after nailing their difficult tumbling passes. The hope they had in each other and in themselves was evident, even though I was just a spectator in the stands. I remember the class mentioned how most of my pictures were of the faces of the gymnasts. I definitely wanted the athletes to drive my project, and I hope that shines through in my work.
Assignment 3: “Built Form”
I loved Assignment Three because I felt like could finally interview a subject, and I’m so glad that I picked Shaurya Dhir. Dhir is a student of Architecture at the University of Illinois, and he is also from New Delhi India. While he was very shy and quiet, he was extremely humble and kind during our interview. He took the time out of his busy day to show me his studio, his work, and a bit of his world. While I think I interpreted this assignment differently than what Professor Collins had intended, I think it turned out pretty well. There are a couple of jump cuts here and there, and I’m not crazy about how the microphone picked up Dhir’s soundbites. However, this project was a step in the right direction.
Assignment 4: “A Family Meal”
While I was touched many times throughout the semester, this audio story and assignment impacted me the most. I interviewed Joni Johnson, an employee that works at Varsity Room five
times a week. As a soccer player at the U of I, I am blessed beyond measure. The hardworking, dedicated staff at Varsity Room wakes up before the sun comes out to ensure that we are well-fed and cared for with three home-cooked meals a day. Johnson is a prime example of that. While quiet, Joni Johnson has a heart of gold, doing her job each day with a smile on her face. When I sat down to interview her, she had so much gratitude, to the point where she started crying. I felt so fortunate to learn more about her personal story and to shine a light on her accomplishments. Stories like these remind me of why I love journalism so much. When it comes right down to it, it’s the people. It’s the raw emotions. It’s the humanity in the stories. I will never forget this assignment. It was the first time when someone broke down when I asked them a question. But, Joni’s tears were happy tears, and it was amazing. I hope Joni’s personality shows in my story, and I hope I was able to honor all the hard work she puts in day in and day out.
Assignment 5: “A Fight For Life”
Looking back, Assignment 5 was most definitely the most challenging for me. The most challenging topic, the most challenging interviews, the most challenging story to tell, and the most challenging package to put together. I wanted to push myself past my limits with this
story. I felt as though Professor Collins gave us the tools throughout the semester to succeed in this assignment, and I was determined to put forth my best effort and best work yet. So, I decided to cover 40 Days For Life in Champaign. For 7 hours, 7 days a week, supporters march outside Planned Parenthood praying for an end to abortion. I knew this story had community impact, as well as personal impact, so I went all in. For a week straight, I spent hours outside on the corner of Third and Stoughton Street. Anytime I had free moments after class, I was there. I wanted to talk to as many people as I could and listen to as many stories and perspectives as I could. The things I learned over the course of a few days were deep. These stories were deep. I am so unbeliavably proud of my final product. I’m glad I chose to do a stand-up, I’m glad I added professional looking lower-thirds, and most of all, I’m glad I can look back without regrets. This was my first experience going out by myself and shooting, editing and reporting. This is the kind of work that I am going to have to do for my job in the future, and I couldn’t be more excited by that.
Assignment 6: “EverDAY Should be a Sundae”
Assignment 6 was probably the most fun assignment to plan, shoot, edit and put together. At this point of the semester right before Spring Break, I remember feeling exhausted and overworked, especially after finishing the video package. But, this assignment was perfect in motivating me to finish the semester off strong right before the final project. While my how-to video was simple and straightforward, I think I did a good job in trying to vary my sequencing and shooting. I was able to get a variety of wide, medium, and tight, textured shots. And, the best part? At this point, I could feel myself improving. After creating my shot sheet, I feel like I followed through in my vision. I didn’t overshoot or over edit. I did a better job producing on the spot, and making “game-time” decisions that made putting everything together in the end a whole lot easier. Taking my skills and the lessons I learned throughout the semester back home for the assignment was a treat.
Final Project: “A-Typical is the New Typical”
Wow. Getting to this point in the semester felt like a feat in and of itself. I was in a group with Zack Barakat and Demi Ramirez, and to put it simply, I loved my group. I felt like we worked really well together. Like I mentioned in class, we didn’t want to split up tasks or delegate anything when it came right down to it. Collaboration and teamwork were important to us, and in the end, while it may have taken more time this way, we did everything together. We were each there for every interview, every photograph, every soundbite, and every edit. I think we thought outside of the box – coming up with an idea that we knew would be challenging and time-consuming. We sought to capture and showcase what it means to be an “a-typical” student on campus. We believe that everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has something unique to them that makes them who they are, and on a campus this big, their stories are sometimes forgotten about. I am most proud of our Humans of UIUC page. We chose to deviate from the traditional photo essay, and I’m so glad we did. The photographs were beautiful, but the stories people shared with us were even better. Putting this project together was rewarding. It was clear that we had learned so much throughout the semester, and I hope you enjoy our final project as much as we enjoyed putting it together.
Well, that’s a wrap!
It’s really hard to summarize almost 16 weeks of hard work. What an amazing semester full of success, failure, triumph, frustration, and pure joy. I’m so thankful for Professor Collins’ guidance throughout the year. She challenged us to be our best version of ourselves each day, and that’s a lesson I will take with me for the rest of my life. I’m relived knowing I was able to finish the class off strong, but most of all, I’m thankful for the things I learned and the people I met.
-Olivia Isabel Schmitt