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Why you need a mentor (or five)

May 17, 2013

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Being a super inexperienced tv talk show host, I was eager to learn from those who were willing to teach. During my ten weeks at the tv station, there were five people who taught me about the tv business, but so much more. Here are my thoughts on how to be mentored.

You never know where a mentor might take you
I first met Djuro when he came to Mostar to do some filming for his tv show, Positive Geography. Hearing about my interest in video production, he offered to let me shadow his tv crew for the day. After that day, I hung out with them from time to time and translated some of their projects into English, but never really expected that anything would come out of it. It was interesting to me to see how they worked. It came as a complete surprise when Djuro ended up offering me a position as a tv show host on Bosnian federal tv. I ended up learning a lot more from him than I had ever anticipated.
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Peers can be mentors too
Being a tv show host on a Bosnian show was incredibly challenging for me. I hadn’t even heard of many of the “famous” guests and it was hard for me to get the hang of the conversational interview style. I didn’t know what to ask that wasn’t already too obvious to my Bosnian audience, since nothing was obvious to me! I was pretty lost. Also my pronunciation during my voiceovers was a disaster. I roped my friend Elma, who worked at the tv station, into helping me research the guests and coaching me on my voiceovers. She found a lot of good information about the guests that I would otherwise have missed and literally took me sentence by sentence through all my voiceovers.
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Don’t be shy to ask for more help

One of my favorite things about working for FTV was my elocution lessons. Bosnian elocution lessons… The instructor, Jasminka, is a grand dame who had been a famous news anchorwoman in her day. (Apparently BBC journalists who worked with her during the war in the early 1990s gave her the nickname “the dead queen”– she is still so regal, but truly a force to be reckoned back in the day.)  I tried to emulate her beautiful diction and posture, making some improvement. We also talked a bit about what it means to be a tv show host. At the pilot season was coming to an end, she suggested that she could coach me on hosting and interviewing–I kicked myself for not asking for her help earlier! I had desperately needed help from an experienced tv show host, but it would never have occurred to me to ask if she might have time to coach me. Had I done so, my time at FTV might have been totally different.

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Anyone creative can be a mentor

Aziz taught me a lot about video editing. Somehow he always knew how to add music, cut a few seconds here and there, and turn raw footage into something entertaining. I watched him while he edited and asked him for tips on how to improve the videos I was editing. Good editing is magic.

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Make it a priority to follow up with past mentors

Dzanko helped me a lot during the filming of “Readers’ Club”. He was always encouraging and sympathetic. He invited me to do a short interview for one of his documentary shorts  and then he wrote the voiceover, giving me advice and coaching me all along the way. When I asked for advice, he always told me that I was capable and smart and would be able to figure it out on my own. Even when I felt like a flop, he always told me that he saw how hard I was trying; he was also the only one who was concerned that I wasn’t getting paid.

I talked with Djuro and Dzanko occasionally after leaving the tv station. I was mostly occupied with trying to find a job and stay afloat financially. Later I heard Dzanko was sick and I didn’t want to bother him… Still, I had “Call Dzanko” on my to-do list for months. I was waiting for the perfect moment. I ran into Elma during a work event (I was filming the opening of an environmental center that my organization was opening and she was the FTV journalist covering the same event)– we reminisced and talked about Dzanko; she mentioned that she was planning on visiting him in the hospital. The next time I saw Elma, a short time later, was at Dzanko’s funeral.

He was known as a versatile journalist, able to speak with the mayor of Sarajevo or a man with a fighting rooster with equal composure, intelligence and respect. He was a geography teacher turned tv star, very well known and universally beloved.

He always wore a flannel jacket.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 17, 2013 5:17 pm

    Wow! What an experience! That all sounds fabulous! You got to interact with so many awesome people. 🙂

  2. May 19, 2013 7:44 pm

    I love the line, “I tried to emulate her beautiful diction and posture, making some improvement.” I could totally relate.

    I’m really into this series on elements of your broadcasting experiences! It is so rich and diverse with interesting content. I read your posts and I’m like… “Yep, she’s even that much more amazing than I thought!”

    Is that you painting in the second to last pic? I think we need to see the finished piece… 🙂

    • June 3, 2013 7:24 pm

      hahahah oh dear… that was a joke watercolor. yeah I really wanted to write about my tv experiences! they were funny.

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