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A major change

Joanna Paxton | Friday, September 3, 2004

I am a film and television major. Again.

I never wanted to be one of those people. Those flaky, fickle people who change majors like Jennifer Aniston changes her hair. But I was. Sort of.

I started out as an FTT major. I loved it.

I was fascinated by the material and excited by the prospect of working in such a dynamic, high-profile, high adrenaline industry. I was amazed by the combination of art, psychology, technology and marketing.

I could go on to create movies or TV shows that make complete strangers cry, or have nightmares, or laugh out loud when no one else is even in the room. I could make documentaries or work in television news and help inform people of events all over the world or within their single-stoplight communities.

I could touch people’s lives.

But not a lot of other people saw the potential that I saw.

They saw an easy work load: “Labs” that are really just going to watch a movie, papers about TV shows, playing with cameras and computer programs.

That’s not work. Engineering is work. Orgo is work. Finance is work. Even anthropology is work. Film and television is just a glorified study break.

My friends and my boyfriend made jabs at me about it all the time. What does Joanna say when she needs help with her homework? “Pass the popcorn.”

My parents seemed unimpressed, too.

They had always told me that college was not job training. It was about becoming an educated person. It was about studying what interested me.

I was also surprised because a lot of my family works in the industry. Sort of. I’m not a Barrymore or a Coppola; my father runs a family-owned media company. One portion of the company is the local NBC affiliate in my hometown.

But I decided sort of wasn’t good enough. I wanted to impress people, not amuse or disappoint them.

I added an English major last fall as a kind of compromise. But by spring my doubts had taken over and I dropped FTT and picked up a history major. Only God knows why, but I swear it made sense at the time.

I still went ahead with the internship my dad had arranged for me at our local TV station. I really had no idea what to expect.

It turned out to be the most incredible summer job I could imagine. I worked in Creative Services writing, voicing, appearing in and helping to produce commercials. Sometimes I just carried lights and rolled a tripod around. But I got to hear my scripts or my own voice on TV. I got to see myself on TV. I was usually facing away from the camera pretending to buy cds, getting advice on a mortgage or tying my shoes. But that was me up there.

Anyway, my family and friends were excited for me and encouraging. I realized that my friends would make fun of me no matter what. My parents had never really disapproved. They were surprised at first, but my dad wouldn’t have gotten me that internship if he wanted to discourage me. So, I got my confidence back.

And as of yesterday, I am a film and television major, again. Pass the popcorn.