“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost
This new series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.
I’ve been a little MIA on this series, but I am back on schedule, and this week I am keeping it in the family. I am seriously so excited to introduce you to my cousin Max. Our grandma’s are sisters and I have a lot of memories growing up with Max and his brother Lucas, and me and my sister Janci. Unfortunately as we got older, life got in the way and I haven’t seen either of them in at least 10 years. But Facebook is a wonderful thing for reconnecting to people. I have always thought Max and I had a lot of similarities and now as adults I think we would be great friends. Max is a storyteller. He is creative, inquisitive and thoughtful, and it only takes a few minutes looking at his work to understand the fierce passion he has for his career and more importantly the people he is working with, and to help. He’ll share a lot about his experiences, but I would really encourage you to take the time to look at some of his work on his website, www.maxwellmoser.com, and view the videos that I will link to below. In addition to his day job(s), Max is always looking for freelance opportunities. If you are in need of a promotional video or a fab wedding videographer, I encourage you to contact him through his website.
I think we all can learn a bit from Max’s story and I’m pretty sure by the end of this post you’ll agree with me that he’s a pretty swell guy.
Name: Max Moser
Hometown: Boise, Idaho
College: Northwest Nazarene University
Degree(s): Mass Communication, English Literature
Current Location: Seattle, Washington
Current Job: Video Producer, World Vision International
I grew up in Boise, Idaho with my parents and younger brother, Lucas, who’s now 18. I ran the gamut of schooling options growing up—public school, private school, home school, online school—but ended up spending the majority of my pre-collegiate years behind a desk in our living room, turning off the movies and picking up my calculator whenever my mom walked in. I was always fascinated with writing and photography and films and when I was 12 years old, I sold my dog to buy a video camera. After that, my career path was essentially set. Despite my mom’s worries that I “wouldn’t be able to make a career out of making movies,” here I am, making almost minimum wage, eating top Ramen out of paper cups (lest it sound otherwise, my mom was and is incredibly supportive and her worries were legitimate and loving—hi mom, I know you’re probably reading this).
How did you choose your college and your major?
After I was homeschooled in high school and took online classes, I ended up doing a jump start program at Northwest Nazarene University during my senior year so that I could get some gen ed credits out of the way and see how I liked their film program. After that year, I’d formed good relationships with a few professors at NNU and had really enjoyed the classes and program. I got the scholarships I needed to be able to attend financially, which made it an easy choice.
The mass communication department at NNU is essentially a film school with some communication classes thrown in, so my interest in film careers drove me there. I’ve also always loved reading and literary analysis and particularly fell in love with the teaching of Dr. Ben Fischer at NNU. I decided to take every class he offered, and by the time junior year rolled around, I only needed a few more credits to pick up an English Literature major.
What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I was involved in both the communication and English honor societies and was able to attend a couple of conferences with the English honor society (Sigma Tau Delta): one in Portland, OR to present on a panel featuring John Steinbeck’s short stories, and one in Savannah, GA, to present a piece of creative nonfiction I’d written.
I did an internship with the NNU marketing department during my junior year, filming and editing videos for their website and writing pieces for the alumni magazine. And during the following summer, I did an internship with the video team at Northwest Lineman College, helping to produce training and promotional pieces.
I was also fortunate to be a TA for my film professor, Dr. Arnie Ytreeide, during all four years at NNU, which kept me busy helping to manage the program’s equipment, labs, and projects, and which also led to a number of freelance work opportunities during school, including jobs on shoots for The Travel Channel, SyFy, E! Entertainment, and Showtime.
Probably my most influential extracurricular experience, though, was studying abroad in Jerusalem during the first semester of my sophomore year. That remains one of the most cherished times of my life; it was my first time out of the country, and I’m trying my hardest to back.
What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
To be honest, I think I came into college with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, and viewed it as a 4-year obstacle preventing me from doing what I really wanted to do. I learned a lot and lost a bit of that edge over the years I was there, but if I could go back, I’d probably try to enjoy the social aspects of school more. It’s certainly a more lonely world post-college, which as an introvert I enjoy for the most part, but it’s also made me appreciate and miss things about those four years.
What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Chillax. I thought senior year was this seminal point in my life and that I’d end up homeless and unfulfilled if I failed to take full advantage of it. It’s certainly an important year and it’s very important to finish well, but all life is life, and things haven’t changed after graduation nearly as dramatically as I thought they would.
Tell us about your career so far?
During my senior year, I applied to a number of internships and was rejected for all of them. On a whim, I replied to an email my film professor sent out in April of that year regarding a position doing film work for a nonprofit called World Vision. Next thing you know I was offered a year-long fellowship with World Vision International, working as the video producer for their youth marketing team. At that point, I had no idea what World Vision was, and I think I somehow mixed it up with St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, imagining commercials with Susan Sarandon barking out sponsorship pleas in her raspy, smoker’s voice. Turns out World Vision is one of the biggest NGO relief agencies in the world with 40,000 staff in almost 100 countries. During that first year, I was able to travel to El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Kenya and South Sudan, documenting a number of World Vision’s different causes and projects. To go to South Sudan, I had to do a week-long kidnapping simulation training, which was pretty surreal and intense. It was an amazing year and definitely not one I saw coming.
I liked the job so much, and apparently vice versa, that I applied and was accepted to the same fellowship again this year. I’ve been working particularly on a new campaign World Vision is running called HungerFree, which advocates for a shift in hunger relief programs from the typical practice of food distribution to more sustainable relief efforts. What this means is that in communities that are food insecure, instead of handing out food, World Vision is helping to create farms and other small business opportunities that allow families to be secure in the long-term. That sounds like common sense, but it’s a much more complicated and difficult form of relief, and is fairly innovative within the NGO space. We just did a big fundraiser for World Food Day and are working to continue that momentum through the next year.
I’ve also been working to grow my freelance film production business, and over the summer, I was able to film and produce commercials for the Seattle Sounders mid-season campaign. Soccer’s still not a major sport in America, but in Seattle, the Sounders are a big deal (they have an average home game attendance of almost 45,000), and it’s been awesome to see and hear the commercials I made on the TV and radio.
How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
The experiences I was able to have in college were really invaluable, particularly the opportunities to work on a number of professional video shoots. These helped to reinforce the concepts I was learning in the classroom and to network with people in the industry. The relationships I formed with professors there also helped me in more intangible ways, helping to prepare me emotionally and spiritually for life outside of the college bubble.
On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I wish there had been a Life 101 class that combined concepts from home ec, personal finance and personal fitness. I’m slowly picking everything up, but for the most part, the number of small life details that need be remembered and accounted for can be overwhelming. Thankfully, I have Google and my mom on speed dial when I need to know how to refill a prescription or what to feed myself.
What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
My job is technology-driven, so I use a wide variety of gear.
My go-to everyday computer is a Macbook Pro that’s a few years old and still going strong, but I recently just purchased a Mac Pro workstation that I use when I’m working from home and need to get some serious work done. I use the Adobe Creative Suite for pretty much everything: video editing in Premiere Pro, animations in After Effects, photo editing in Lightroom.
The Sony a7s is my go-to camera for video. It’s a crazy camera that can shoot in the dark, which has proven invaluable in dimly-lit huts and other less than ideal lighting conditions that I encounter in the field. I have a number of lenses that I rotate between, and I usually take a tripod, monopod, and recently, my movi m5, which is an incredible electronic camera stabilizer. I take a lot more gear with me and end up checking a lot of bags, but that’s the main stuff.
It’s easy to get caught up in tech specs, but more and more I’m appreciating equipment that gets out of my way and just works. Ultimately, storytelling is key, and whatever gear you’re using is just a means to that end.
At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I recently took the strength finders test and was not shocked to find that four of my five strengths happen completely inside of my head. As the adage goes, this is “both my strength and my weakness.” I analyze and deliberate cyclically and continually. On the strength side of things, this means that I occasionally have a few good ideas and demand a lot of myself in the way of perfectionism. On the weakness side of things, I can analyze myself into the ground and become overwhelmed easily.
I also struggle with consistent productivity. I can get things done when they need to get done, but the in between times when there aren’t any pressing deadlines are difficult for me.
How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
To be honest, I thrive under those conditions. I need quick deadlines and high pressure to stay focused, and I’ve done some of my best work in those environments. I think the key is to focus on the end goal of the project, whatever that may be. In my world, that often takes the form of a feeling that I want to give the audience in a particular video. I’m obsessed with tone and on how a viewer will emotionally react to the different beats in a piece. Keeping that end goal in the back of my mind helps to inform all of the smaller, seemingly mundane decisions that need to be made.
Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I live with three guys in a house in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. Moving in with them has significantly grown my appreciation for board games; they’re a great way to relax after a long day and it feels like a more constructive activity than just crashing in front of the TV.
And for the really long days, there’s Kate’s Pub down the street. Food is half off with the purchase of any drink during happy hour. It’s a great deal.
What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
We share a parking lot with a fast food restaurant called Dick’s. In the four months I’ve lived in this house, I have yet to eat there. I know if I start, I won’t be able to stop. I’m proud of those small moments of self-awareness and self-control.
What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?.
I try to always have a book I’m reading, and I love going to movies and to shows. Right now, I’m reading Lila by Marilynne Robinson. She’s amazing. Her novel Gilead is one of my all-time favorites. And I recently saw probably my favorite musical artist—Josh Ritter—while in Pittsburgh visiting a friend. We went to an Alt-J show recently as well, which was a blast. Seattle is definitely an upgrade from Boise as far as music tours go. I’m trying to take full advantage of that.
Just for Fun
What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
On good days, I get up early and get a bit of reading done before I head to work. Those days happen about once a month, but I’m working on increasing that ratio.
Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your work space?
I have a coffee mug that’s shaped like a pair of pants. I keep it around because my boss hates it, and because it’s as ugly as World Vision’s coffee is bad. They’re a match made in heaven.
On day’s I’m working from home, I make my coffee in a French press and pour it into a mug that has the artwork from U2’s Joshua Tree album printed on the side. It’s a classier mug for classier coffee.
If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
I’ve always thought being a park ranger would be awesome, but I think I’ve romanticized the job a bit. Ultimately, when it comes down to the kind of work I want to slog through and sweat and bleed and be stressed out of my mind for, there’s nothing else I’d want to do than film making. For my senior project at NNU, I directed and wrote a short film. We shot it with a crew of 10 at my aunt and uncle’s farm over a long weekend. I had laryngitis, and we were working from early in the morning to even earlier in the morning. It was objectively the worst time in my life, but I loved every minute of it. I distinctly remember laying my head on the pillow at 3 am after directing a crew for the past 20 hours straight, my throat feeling like the gates of hell, and my sinuses almost completely blocked, but having the realization that there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.
Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss the people a lot. I keep up with a number of people from college, but I miss seeing them and the professors every day.
I also miss the cafeteria’s cookies.
Max, thank you so much for sharing your story with me and others. I always say that all it takes is to hear someone else’s honesty to give you a little perspective and validation in knowing that others share in your struggles and joys of “figuring it all out.” In particular, your work and your outlook on life is inspiring and genuinely refreshing.
As always, thanks for reading friends!
Linking up with these blogs today!