8 Tips For Breaking Into Film & Television, According To College Emmy-Winner Katie Maraghy

In the world of college broadcasting, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call Katie Maraghy a visionary. The co-founder and executive producer of ELN Morning, the first morning show to debut at her alma mater, Elon College, Maraghy and her team took a risk with early news programming. At the time, it was an emerging medium among campus television networks, and the risk that paid off: In 2014, ELN Morning placed second in the alternative category at the College Television Awards, a prestigious honor from the Emmy Foundation.

And Maraghy more than managed to keep up her momentum post-graduation, landing an internship at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in her year before graduation, following several production internships at CNBC, MTV, and more. After graduating from Elon, she went on to return to The Daily Show, now with Trevor Noah, as a full-time production assistant and now executive assistant at the show.

Yet surprisingly (and refreshingly), when you ask Maraghy what her ultimate career goal is, she's quick to reply, "I don't know!" She may be in a state of career zen due to the dynamic nature of the film and television production industry, but this also feels like a wise way to approach one's career.

Maraghy explained to Bustle how she went from a freshman at Elon with no prior broadcasting experience to a rising talent in late-night television production. Here's what she learned: 

Realize It's Possible 

It seems obvious, but it’s necessary to realize that a career in television not only exists, but is more accessible than you think. Maraghy grew up with a strong love for television, finding particular value in how it brought her family together. But despite her appreciation for the medium, the realization that she could work behind the scenes didn’t hit her until she arrived at university. 

“Well sure, someone had to make the TV you grew up watching, but it genuinely didn’t really hit me until touring Elon,” she said. After just one look at Elon’s TV studios, she knew that’s where she needed to be, a decision that led her to acceptance into Elon’s Communication Fellows program and beyond.

Get Hands-On Experience 

Maraghy stresses the importance of using any resources available to you to get hands-on experience as soon as you can. Often, smaller programs and projects often lend you more opportunities to get the experience you need than larger programs.  

"One thing that was great about [Elon] is because it’s smaller, you get to jump in there and run a camera right off the bat," she says. "They encourage it." 

She notes that larger universities, particularly those with prestigious journalism programs, often have better equipment, a wider network, and an expanded curriculum; the downside is that “you can’t get involved until later" because the programs are so popular.  

 But no matter what environment you're currently in, Maraghy insists that "a certain boldness is rewarded when you say, 'Here’s what I want to do and here’s what I want to help with.'"  

Be Honest About Your Abilities And Preferences

In her initial years at Elon, Maraghy, like many of her fellow communications students, worked in the news broadcast division of her school's television network. But after a couple of years, she realized that she didn't share the same fire that she feels is necessary to sustain a career in hard news.  

"I wasn’t cut out for news," she  To really excel for news you have to burn for it in a way that I didn’t. You had these juniors and seniors in the news department who ate, drank, and slept the news, and that just wasn't me." 

And that's when the idea of a morning show was born. She had always loved comedy, so she became determined to combine that passion with her work in news. Eventually, she and her colleagues decided to "just do it instead of talking about it." With some set pieces from local thrift stores and four test episodes under their belt, a new campus medium — and show — became reality. 

Accept And Embrace A Non-Linear Career Path 

Unlike fields that boast more formulaic career paths such as law or medicine, the film and television industry is full of surprises. Many production professionals have no idea when and where their next gig might be. With this in mind, Maraghy says it's important to avoid getting discouraged if your projects don't always fall within your preferred genre.  

Maraghy, for example, has a variety of internships and projects on her resume that were not related to her true passions of live television and late night. 

"Say, for example, that you want to work in political news," she says. "You can’t sit there and say, 'Oh, I’m going to have six political news internships.' They might not exist." 

Maraghy says she's proud of her diverse resume — which includes internships at CNBC, a British short film company, MTV, and more — and the contacts she's made along the way. 

"You never know where someone might end up in the future and how they can help you down the road," she explains. 

Don't Underestimate The Power of Relationships

"Yes, you’re competing and you’re in the same field, but it's vital to help people and lift them along the way," says Maraghy. "Don't underutilize your friendships with fellow interns since these are people who will be in the same industry as you for years to come." 

She also advises those aspiring to work in the industry to “take people at face value, and don’t be afraid to ask for help." Likewise, you should also aspire to make yourself equally accessible.

"Make it okay for people to ask questions," she says. "And when you say, 'keep in touch,' mean it." 

Now that she's a full-time employee of The Daily Show, she's on the other side of the internship program. In this role, she hopes to ensure the quality of their internships and be "a positive force," giving them the same experience that she had during her time as an intern. After all, who knows where her class of interns will be down the road? 

Always Have An Elevator Pitch 

Navigating the film and television industry requires networking, and this is particularly true in the beginning of your career. Maraghy advises those aspiring to work in entertainment to be ready to pitch their goals to anyone who might be able to help them, even if they’re not exactly sure what those goals are. 

"Especially in NYC and LA, you need to always be ready to tell people what you want to do," she says. "Even if you aren't entirely sure, have an elevator pitch ready, regardless of how vague. Even if you're just out at a bar, you'd be surprised how many people know a guy or know somebody who knows somebody. Sure, most leads will be dead ends, but at the very least, you'll learn something or meet someone you wouldn't have otherwise." 

Hard Work Is The Bottom Line 

In the end, no matter how plentiful your connections may be, hard work speaks for itself. Maraghy stresses the importance of staying open to assisting her colleagues, which means tackling tasks both big and small. 

For example, when she was between her internship at The Daily Show and her role as a production assistant, she would occasionally spend late nights at the studio transcribing interviews. 

"I'm a little weird in that I actually love to transcribe," she says. "Plus, just being in the building is great, as it buzzes with energy."

In the end, being known as someone who's willing to pitch in and maintain connections with former coworkers, even after a project is finished, is remembered and valued in the industry. 

When asked for any final words of advice she’d give to college students or recent graduates who are interested in television production, she sums it up with: “I'd say meet as many people as possible, be ready to work hard during long hours, realize that no job is beneath you (especially when first starting out), lift other people up, have a succinct sentence or two ready for when people ask you what it is you want to do (even if you aren't entirely sure), read trade publications, and utilize your resources.” 

It’s as simple as that!

Photos: Courtesy of Katie Maraghy; Design: Caroline Wurtzel / Bustle

Click here for more information about Bustle's 2016 Upstart Awards!

Must Reads