In a March 25, 2019 email interview, Milcarek, a Flemington, NJ native and a 2018 graduate, provided us with her backstory about her time here at WKUPJ.
Is there an interesting story that brought you to WKUPJ or photojournalism in general?
Prior to attending WKU, I was at Wesley College in Dover, DE working towards a degree in Exercise Science. I had become very sick with an autoimmune disease that kept taking me out of school for a semester at a time. I found myself in a position where I had to relearn to walk every time I got sick and I needed to find a way to push myself. During this time I picked up a camera I had not used since I was a photography student in high school and I loved it. I then went back to school at Wesley, changed my major to Media, realized I needed a school that was more specialized and enrolled at the New York Film academy. While there discovered that I loved what I was learning, but not what I was doing. I was creating scripts and storylines when I was truly passionate about sharing stories that already existed in the world. I started going to workshops and talking with professionals in the field who spoke highly of WKU and how it would be a great fit for me. They were right.
Immediately after graduation I …
… started working for NC2 Media in Franklin, Tenn. working for their Lonely Planet Digital Platform team, making text-led videos for social media.
Who do you currently work for?
I am still employed by Lonely Planet, but have expanded my responsibilities within the digital platform team. As the demand for all things visual got greater, we started creating videos for clients and partnering with other countries as well. I’ve since taken assignments on all levels of platform videos and assignments as a camera operator and assistant producer.
Since graduation, tell us about some of the more interesting places you may have visited as part of your work being a visual storyteller?
The most interesting place I’ve been so far has been Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. I traveled there in August for the Beluga whale migration and then again in November for the polar bear migration onto the ice. Both trips felt like I had traveled to two different locations because of how drastic the seasons were. The stories behind this town, which is so tiny and remote, and their lives co-existing with these incredible animals was truly life changing. I want to go back because there are so many more stories to be told.
In hindsight, is there anything you learned while in a PJ class at Western that has resonated with you now?
Keeping to deadlines and never having excuses are the reasons I keep being offered more opportunities. I’ve proven myself to be a very reliable employee in every aspect and that is something that was instilled in us as WKUPJ’s. Never miss a deadline, no excuses.
What has changed in your professional plans from the time you enrolled at WKU until now? Did you ever expect to be where you are today?
Honestly, I always saw myself primarily as a photojournalist and particularly in sports. As I finished out my senior year I realized how much I cared about storytelling and truly connecting with people. Now, my job most of the time is editing. My favorite thing to edit has been videos called “Just Back Fro.” It’s an interview with the writers of Lonely Planet and using their mobile phone content. Being able to listen to them and figure out what they’re really trying to say through their on camera interviews (as they’re not on camera personalities) is great and really rewarding to me. I never thought I would love the process of editing, this came as a surprise to me. It just goes to show that life plans can change.
Do you have any immediate future plans for work? What awaits you for 2019?
My plans for 2019? I plan on staying with this company as long as they’ll have me and hopefully keep advancing in the company. I have decided to start giving back with my skills and donating my time making videos for non-profits that cannot afford it.
If you could have any “dream” freelance assignment what would that be?
My dream freelance assignment would be to produce, shoot, and edit a series of short docs.
What is your favorite memory from WKUPJ?
My first year as a participant at the Mountain Workshops in Franklin, Ky. I was the only time-lapse participant with Grant Kaye as my coach. Years later I still talk about that experience. It was the first time I really pushed myself to tell a story in a medium that doesn’t usually do that. I pushed myself as hard as ever in every possible way. I remind myself of that feeling whenever I feel I’ve hit a wall with my projects.
Where can we find you?
LinkedIn: Emilie Milcarek