Alumni Spotlight: Emily Ventker
In early February, I had the chance to speak with Pratt Alumna Emily Ventker. Emily graduated in 2011 with a BFA in Writing for Performance, Publication, and Media and is now working as Manager of Motion Graphics at NBC Sports. We had the opportunity to really focus on her personal professional development and how she handled the transition out of Pratt and into the workplace as a creative. A sports fanatic myself, it was thrilling to speak to someone with the same enthusiasm and knowledge of the sports world, and to consider all the career possibilities that await. Her advice is insightful and invaluable. I hope you all enjoy.
Tell us a little about yourself and your time at Pratt.
I am originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia. On campus, I was involved with the Theta Phi Alpha Fraternity for 4 years. I was a member of the Inter-Greek Council and Program Board, worked at the Library, and was on Orientation Staff, even serving as the coordinator in the fall of 2010.
How do you think your experience at Pratt helped shape you as the artist/creative professional you are now?
At Pratt, I think the creative critiquing process was a massive help. Learning how to cope and deal with other people's thoughts, how to learn from critiques quickly and how to manage your time. It means that all nighters aren't scary - and I deal with a lot of those at my job now. But nothing can really prepare you for the real world, you just go out and use what you learned.
What were some of the challenges you faced while at Pratt and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I faced was the isolation within the majors. I constantly saw the same people, was in classes with the same people. It was hard to find new inspiration when I was consistently around similar people. I think you need to see outside yourself in order to grow as an artist. So I joined Greek Life, got involved on campus, and through that I was able to meet people from other majors and reach outside that bubble to gain different perspectives.
Did you have any internships while at Pratt? How did this influence or shape your career path?
During my Senior year, I was a Nickelodeon production intern from 2010 to 2011. It was a fantastic experience, I learned so much and actually got experience as a scriptwriter. I didn’t go run errands or get coffee, but I got to sit at the writers table and bounce ideas off of the showrunners and other, older writers. During my internship, I began to write and doctor animated shows for preschool age kids. From that, I was asked by a head showrunner to write for The Wix, they just took a chance on me and it was amazing. It’s an example of how a cold application can work. I applied to that first internship online without knowing anybody in the company, so no inside connections, but my resume was strong and I got called. There is hope!
Can you tell us how you began working at your current job?
Right now I am working as a Producing Manager of Motion Graphics for NBC Sports. It was another cold application process. After working with Nickelodeon, I worked with MTV and VH1, producing the 100 greatest shows and short sketch comedies until they laid off the entire production team. So from there I floated around and worked in politics and other things, really anywhere I could find a job. But my dream was to work in sports television. And this was all about timing, because a few years ago NBC got the rights to the Barclays Premier League and, again, I did a cold application. But for this one, I wrote a complete love letter about how much it would mean to have the opportunity to work with soccer. I wanted to show that I was one of the people who actually understood sports and especially soccer, which isn’t huge in the States. It took four months to hear back, I had applied in May and didn't get the job until September. And it's still a baby network; it has only been around for about three years, but it is protected under the parent company.
What does a normal day look like at NBC Sports?
There isn’t really a normal day at work. Because I do Sunday Night Football, I work Monday through Friday and Sundays. Like with the Super Bowl, there is a constant need to pay attention to the athletes, who is injured, and to the producer of the brand. It is my job to see the promotion created from start to finish, and be knowledgeable on the brand. Some of my projects are the new promotions for the NHL, the major push to Rio for the 2016 Olympics, and I did the promotions for the Sochi Olympics in 2014. That experience was 18 days of living at the office. It’s a 24 hour network, so if the Kings win a game at 10 pacific time, I have to go in at 1 in the morning to create the promotions that are shown on the morning news. We have four creative directors who we have to get approval from and who decide what the tone of the spot will be. Then we have a team of maybe 12 designers whose job it is to figure out how to translate and create spots within the vision of the brand and the directors. We have to think about what face NBC wants to have. And there is so much that goes into this process, and so much that I have learned from it. I studied design theory and typography, I learned about software color correction and the differences between paper color and digital color. Those were all basic things that were completely out of my major at Pratt but I was willing to learn and I did quickly. Design is a different type of story telling, and I had to learn in order to navigate what creative directors wanted and how to handle all the different creative ideas. Now, I know how to write and create presentations for the designers, how to articulate storyboards, and how to work in short form for under-30 seconds promotion spots. And the content I get to work with is a dream come true.
How did you transition from attending an art school to being in a professional workplace?
Well the benefit of being in television is that it’s professional to an extent. We like to joke that we are all like Liz Lemon, wearing jeans and sweatshirts. Of course, all the people in administration show up in their suits, but the kids in production are creating all the work and we like to be comfortable. I go to work at 10 in the morning, but I usually work late into the night. The only really big change I experienced was having the client in the building. That is the boss; the client that is paying for a service that I am creating. It’s a good mentality to have. There is a difference in working for yourself versus working for a client. You have to learn to serve the purpose of the client, regardless of what your personal creative opinion is. You have to fulfill the need of the client.
Where do you hope to see your career in ten years?
I have two places I would hope to see myself in ten years. Either I would be working in promotional design and marketing still, but as the Creative Director. I would be able to dictate the mass idea and control the project. And I would still be focused in sports. Or, my other hope would be to work as a feature story producer within the soccer team.
Do you have any advice for current Pratt students?
Don’t be afraid to defend your work. It is deflating when you get told that your work isn’t the best, but you need to have the guts to defend your work and the vision you have for it. If you can justify why you make certain creative choices, then you will gain respect from the teachers. Have the conviction to stand up for yourself, while still being open to ideas on how to improve. Two separate approaches to creative visions with an open creative dialogue will produce the best work.
Written by: Taylor Rasnick