Maria Brenner

Where do you work?

As a freelance film and video editor, I contract with different production companies and advertising agencies on a project-to-project basis. This means that I work in a variety of post production houses, as well as at my editing studio at home. This is my “day job.” I am also a screenwriter, but as yet “undiscovered.”

What is your job title?

I am a freelance film and video editor slash wannabe screenwriter.

How long have you had this position?

2 years

What are your key duties at work?

I edit documentaries, short films, and commercials so that they have maximum emotional impact. In other words, I cut out all of the “boring” footage, and contribute to creative decisions regarding music, special effects, and sound mixing.

What kind of additional training does this job require besides your degree?

After receiving my Philosophy degree from WVU, I went to graduate school at the University of Southern California for Film and Television Production. This was my training, although many editors simply train through “apprenticeships” with others in the field. Either way, it is almost guaranteed that beginning editors will cut at least a handful of projects before they are actually paid to edit. This is an “unofficial” training, but it seems to be the pattern. Producers want to see a reel from prospective editors, and it is unlikely they would hire someone who had never edited anything else before. That is why so many editors start out editing for free. As with any job in the film/TV world, it requires a huge amount of tenacity and flexibility.

What is a typical day like?

Because I work freelance, there is no typical day. Some days I crawl out of bed in my PJ’s and sit down at my computer, and voila—I’m at work. Other days, I wake up early and brave horrendous LA traffic on my way to a post production facility where I will make edits on a larger and more expensive computer than mine. When I’m not busy editing, I work on my screenwriting career by taking meetings with agents and producers, and submitting my screenplays to festivals and agents.

Does your job involve travel?

No. But it could, I suppose? if I started editing feature films. Some producers like to have an editor on-site.

What do you like most about your job?

That ultimately, I work whatever hours I want on projects I like, I don’t have “a boss,” and most of the time I can work in my pajamas! Because of the flexibility, it affords me time to nurture my career as a screenwriter, while also paying the rent (bonus!).

What do you like least?

Because it is freelance, there is no guarantee that I will always have paid work.

How do you feel Philosophy has prepared you for this job?
Earning a degree in Philosophy prepared me for adult life in that it encouraged me to think critically, and never to accept anything blindly. Because it taught me to “think outside the box,” I took career risks after WVU that people don’t traditionally take. Had I not taken those risks, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I am today! So in that way, it prepared me. As a writer, a degree in Philosophy has been indispensable. It has taught me to look at the world in different ways, and encouraged an empathetic and creative mindset.

Do you think philosophy has prepared you better than other majors might have?

Both English and Journalism would have been strong majors leading to a career in film/TV. However, the graduate film program at USC actively seeks students from diverse backgrounds, and I believe a degree in Philosophy was a strength on my application. So had I majored in something else, I might not have gotten into film school, moved to Los Angeles, and become an editor/struggling screenwriter.

Is there anything philosophical about what you do?

In my writing, definitely. I often incorporate themes/debates that I began studying in Philosophy classes at WVU. I suppose there are some ethics involved in my editing work, as I must choose on which projects I will work. For instance, I am an animal rights activist, and I recently had to decide whether to work for an advertising agency that represents a company known for its animal rights violations. My background in Philosophy helped me work though that personal dilemma!

When did you graduate WVU and with what Degrees (if more than one, or minors)?

1998, BS Philosophy with a Concentration in Creative Writing

What attracted you to Philosopy/Why did you choose to major in Philosophy?

I was first attracted to Philosophy because in college I was a total slacker. I took my first Philosophy class and couldn’t believe that I could get a grade for talking. For TALKING! I was completely sold. Later, I found great value in the mind-opening theories we would discuss, and was empowered to question all of my previously held beliefs. It was very liberating, and I enjoyed it—so I stayed with it.

What advice would you give to an up and coming student considering majoring in Philosophy?

Just do it!

What would you say to someone who was worried about the job prospects of Philosophy majors?

That is a legitimate concern, but I don’t think many people actually know what they really want to do and who they really are when they are just starting out in college (or ever—but that’s a different philosophical problem!). I know so many people who took the “safe” major, only to discover later that they were leading incredibly boring and unfulfilling lives as a consequence. Sometimes you just have to leap, and the net will appear.

Do you consider yourself a philosopher?


What is the number one thing you learned from your experiences as an undergraduate Philosophy major at WVU?

Always question.

What are your current hobbies/interests?

Animal Rights, Environmentalism, Knitting

Anything else you would like to say?

I guess this is where I should include a shameless plug about my movie. I recently finished (writing, directing, editing) a short film that won a Genesis Award and screened on Animal Planet, as well as in a few festivals. The film was shot in WV and PA, and featured WV actors.

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