(Pictured: JPCatholic grad Maria Mitchell with Fr. Mike Schmitz on the set of an Ascension Press “Caffeinated Conversation” video).
Name: Maria Mitchell
Position: Producer at Ascension Press
Year of Graduation: 2013
Degree: MBA in Film Producing
Could you describe what your job entails? What is the most rewarding part of it?
I am the producer for our YouTube channel, Ascension Presents and one of our producers for our video based sacramental prep and Bible studies that we sell to parishes and schools. I am in charge of seeing a video product through from beginning to end across departments. My daily tasks vary from maintaining budgets to securing locations and coordinating logistics, to identifying video opportunities with talent and maintaining a content schedule. As a team we visualize how we can convey the content of our scripts as well as the scope of a product. Other days I can be caught hosting my APresents series, Caffeinated Conversations, working with Fr. Mike Schmitz to produce his weekly videos for us or working with artists to spotlight their craft. The most rewarding part is definitely the feedback we get from our subscribers and customers. It’s amazing how often we hear someone decided to convert to Catholicism after engaging with our work or that our content came to them at just the right time in their life. This kind of feedback really makes all the sacrifice that goes into making each product worth it. We do our best everyday but it’s always humbling to see our two fish be pleasing to the Holy Spirit and see Him work in people’s hearts through our simple offerings.
How did you find that job?
Funny story. I caught up with a friend over the phone that I hadn’t talked to in ages. He was working for Ascension Press and picked my brain about my passions and career aspirations. I told him I aspired to be a producer for a small, Catholic company producing catechetical content that was clever and engaging. He said, “Well, we don’t have anything like that at Ascension right now but I’ll let you know if that ever changes.” Three days later he calls me back, says he just got out of a meeting where the company announced they were creating a producer position, hiring immediately, and that any recommendations from current employees would go to the top of the pile.
I applied, was flown out for an interview and offered the job two hours later. God is good. Keep in touch with your old friends.
How did JPCatholic prepare you for your job?
Our program was broken into two years at the time. The first year we took classes. The second year we didn’t take any classes but had the year to produce a short film from scratch.
Among many other tasks in that second year, we had to go to L.A. and host a casting call, hire actors, work out contracts with those actors, scout locations, secure permits for the locations, cater our shoot, execute the shoot, work through post and not least of these, finance the whole project! I worked on two projects that year and in total helped crowd source $20,000. It was a lot of work but I think taking our classes from lecture to execution really gave me the experience I needed to solidify what I learned in the classroom.
This gave me the confidence I needed to believe I could be a producer and to see myself as a producer. I’m now able to draw from the mistakes I made as well as from what worked well to help make the decisions necessary to be a producer for Ascension.
I’ve also been able to weigh in on our company product development process based on what I learned at my time at JP and make suggestions for how we could improve our workflow across departments. I initially suggested these changes for my department and it was so successful it’s been adopted company wide. These changes have greatly improved our productivity, sense of comradery and most of all inter-department communications.
Do you feel you are impacting culture for Christ through your work?
Absolutely, and that is a true privilege. I think it was Fulton Sheen who said, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” We work every day to break past those perceptions and find ways to communicate the faith that are not only palatable but authentic. We strive to boldly communicate Truth while also meeting people where they are at and rebuilding that foundation. It’s amazing to see how thirsty and open to Truth individuals can be when it’s presented in a loving, clear and accessible way.
Why did you choose JPCatholic?
I knew I wanted a graduate degree in communications from a Catholic school to follow up on my undergraduate degree in journalism from Franciscan University of Steubenville, and I knew I wanted it to be very hands on. Other than in Rome, I wasn’t able to find a program of that description. So, ultimately, it was a lot of time in adoration, and a lot of chats with my buddy, St. John Paul II, that let me know without a shadow of a doubt that I was being called to attend JPCatholic. I gave up my ambitions to live in Rome and moved to San Diego a week later.
What did you enjoy most about your time at JPCatholic?
My favorite part about JPCatholic was hands down the professors. Not only are they incredibly knowledgeable but they care about you personally. Their approach to teaching is very engaging which makes the content stick. Classroom time was never dull in fact, each class was always a privilege to attend. Even courses I initially thought would be dry were brought to life beyond my imagination by the professor’s approach. Each one of them were making sacrifices to be on campus to teach us because they believed in the mission so profoundly. Their intentionality of presence really commanded a very mutual respect between student and teacher.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give a prospective student interested in media?
Have a chat with my friend, St. John Paul II. Truly, sit yourself down in adoration, bring a journal with you and a copy of any of John Paul II’s World Communications Day addresses. It’s a killer combination and the Lord will speak.
It’s no small thing that you’re a young person, interested in pursuing media, potentially at a solidly Catholic school in Southern California, which is at the heart of the entertainment industry worldwide no less. John Paul had such a deep desire and hope that we the youth would use the media effectively to ultimately bring others to meet Christ’s penetrating gaze. He’s the pope of the youth. He’s the pope of the media. He wants to help you. He can help you. He will help you. Ask for his friendly intercession. He will twinkle his eyes and bring your intentions close to the heart of the Christ child.