Tuesday Crew Day: Maria Brenner

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Tuesday Crew Day: Maria Brenner

Where are you from, where are you located now, and what are your ties to WV?

I was born in Ohio, but grew up in Parkersburg and studied Philosophy at WVU. An internship at West Virginia Public Broadcasting in Morgantown convinced me to change course and pursue filmmaking. After graduation, I moved to Los Angeles to study film and television production at the University of Southern California, and I’ve been in LA ever since.

What was your first job in film production and what was the experience like?

Interning at WVPB taught me a lot about piecing together a story, and taking the time to get it right. I followed producers around the state, hung lights, wrapped cables, sat through editing sessions, and even got to pitch-in a few story ideas. Later at USC, I interned for a production company on the Warner Bros. lot and learned more about the development side of the industry. My first paying gig was as an editor for a news magazine-style show on LA public access. It wasn’t exactly high profile, but I got to craft stories for an audience of about half a million more people than I’d ever reached before… and that was really exciting.

What was your last job and what were you responsible for?

My most recent (and current) job is as a writer, producer and editor at “Phelps,” an integrated marketing communications agency. I get to work with Fortune 500 brands /and travel destinations, and I’m responsible for all things video: from strategy and production budgets, all the way to post-production. The thing I love about this agency is that the people I get to work with are wildly creative, and there’s a real emphasis on using storytelling to connect brands to their audiences. One of my favorite recent campaigns was a series of off-kilter, how-to videos I produced and edited for Public Storage.

Of course, like everyone else (who isn’t already launching a tech start-up) in Los Angeles, I’m writing a few feature scripts in my spare time. And West Virginia is high on my list of locations to consider. Every now and then I come back to shoot a short film, and I love how cooperative and enthusiastic everyone is about helping. In that regard, it’s pretty much the opposite of LA, where film crews are more of an annoyance to locals.

What advice would you give someone wanting to work in the film industry?

Don’t be overly optimistic, but don’t get put off by all of the naysayers either. Now, with so many digital distribution channels available, you don’t need to live in California to create videos that can be monetized and seen by millions of people. Read books, attend online seminars, get clear on what you really want to do in this industry and go for it. Above all, be nice — and sooner or later you will succeed.