Career Check: Nic Yulo on Overcoming the Post-Grad Gray Area

Hello! My name is Nic Yulo and I am a writer-director based in New York City. My background is in Fine Arts and Creative Writing so transitioning to filmmaking felt like a natural evolution. I graduated from the Columbia University MFA Film program in May 2018 and am currently a writer on the upcoming AAA video game Ghost Recon: Breakpoint.

THE ADOBE AWARDS

Still from Replica | ADAA Winner 2016 – Fine Art Video Editing and Post Production

I got to attend the Adobe Awards in 2016 with my short film Replica, along with a group of hyper-talented humans that I consider myself fortunate to have met. Since then, some of us have gone on to publish books, embark on award-winning animation careers, and even get hired by Adobe full time.

Replica, which features a moment in the life of a character with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, was inspired by a fascination with silent films and wordless picture books.

The Adobe Awards were life-changing for me. Replica was one of the first films I had ever done, and it was my first experience receiving this level of recognition. The community I gained has everything to do with where I am now.

 

FILM SCHOOL

After the Adobe Awards I made several more short films. Those four years at Columbia were wonderful and extremely difficult. Having to constantly create material that meets expectations is taxing but I am a better filmmaker having gone through the fire.

My thesis film Horizon came together despite near impossible odds. A speculative science short film, it grapples with what it means to be human in a rapidly changing medical and digital landscape, the cost of progress, and the desire to push beyond personal limits.

Still from Horizon

Taking it from development through production really tested everything I thought I knew. I had never done anything like it in scope, scale, or subject matter. In the end, the process taught me a very important lesson: when you push yourself past what is comfortable into the terrifying unknown, only good things come out of it.

Still from Horizon

That being said, the thing about school is that it is built on benchmarks, and benchmarks are convenient. They fall in a straight line. You always have a sense of where you are and where you will be at the end of the year. You have a simple trajectory. I did everything I had set out to do and had a shiny new diploma in my hand.

 

Now what?

 

WELCOME TO THE GRAY AREA

I don’t think there is any way to prepare for what comes next. The idea of establishing myself as a ‘creative’, even a ‘filmmaker’, felt very abstract and elusive. I spoke to as many working professionals as I could, and I never really got a straight answer beyond being told to put myself out there. I had no idea what that meant. I’m still not sure I do. There is plenty of advice on working your first job but never a map on how to get there.

What I did know was that I liked doing all these seemingly disparate things, but the million-dollar question remained: how do I turn everything I enjoy doing into a career?

It is easy to feel worn down in a time of transition. You will feel burnt out. There will be days that you are doing too much but feel like it isn’t enough. Sometimes it’ll feel like you’re churning things out into an abyss, but I promise every step you take is inching you closer to where you want to be.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about rejection. A lot of it is coming. Brace yourself, open yourself up, and walk through it to the other side. Yes, the old adage is sappy and trite, but remains true; each failure is proof you are doing something. Loads of folks don’t even get that far.

It took me a while to realize that the reason I could never get a straight answer was because there isn’t one. Creative careers don’t exist on a straight line and everyone that has found their way and forged their path did so on a mixture of experimentation, hard work, luck, and timing.

Still from The Speed of Light

The good news is your life is entirely in your hands. There are no final projects, grades, or anyone to tell you that you’ve made it. You are limited only by your imagination and drive.

As you find your footing, focus your efforts on projects that excite you, the work you know will make the long and bumpy road worthwhile. Get your work in front of as many eyes as you can. Join contests, publish online, reach out to people you admire.

Be a little more honest and raw than is comfortable. It was only the work that I put a little painful part of myself into that really gained any traction. Don’t feel like you need to pigeonhole yourself into one discipline, medium, or genre. There are no clear delineations in media anymore and everyone is doing everything. You can truly do whatever you want.

Some days will be gray, but you can always outlast the fog. Just keep going.

 

WORDS TO LIVE BY

While writing this blog entry, I reached out to creative professionals much further along in their careers. These are some of the tips they shared:

Still from Curious
  • You might feel you have to alter yourself and your work to fit a role. The only thing that will accomplish is attracting people that are comfortable with your compromise. Learn to stand within yourself. What you truly offer, beyond your talent, is your perspective. Protect it.
  • Network horizontally. It’s awesome if you have industry titans on your side, but more often than not, it’s the people next to you that will prove a gateway to opportunity. Invest your time in fostering a supportive community and be generous with them. Always return the favor and reach out to those that are two steps behind you.
  • It is a competitive world but in the arts your biggest competitor and obstacle is yourself. Pitting yourself against others is a waste of time. Your goal should be to outdo yourself with every new project. Push yourself to be better. Try something new and strange.
  • Most importantly, be kind to yourself. As a creative, you are made to wear many hats and often health and wellness is tossed aside for work efficiency and output. There is only one of you and that is by far the most powerful and precious thing you have to offer.

BIOGRAPHY

Nic Yulo is an Adobe Design Achievement Award winning writer-director based in New York. She has received a Breaking Barriers Grant for Female Filmmakers and a GiGadgets Technology Award for her short film Horizon. A New York Women in Film & Television Scholarship Awardee, her work has advanced to the final rounds of the BlueCat Screenplay Competition, The Film Independent Directing Lab, the Sundance Development Track, and been featured at the Sloan Film Summit.

Her original TV pilot Night Witches was named Faculty Selects at the Columbia University MFA Film Festival, selected for the Athena Film Festival LA TV & Screenwriting Lab, and received an Alfred P. Sloan Screenplay Award. In May 2019, Nic was named a Semi-Finalist for the SeriesFest Women Directing Mentorship in Partnership with Shondaland. Currently, Nic is a writer for AAA game Ghost Recon: Breakpoint developed and published by Ubisoft. The eleventh installment in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon franchise, it premiered online in May 2019 and is set for an October release.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:

Website: www.nicyulo.com

Instagram: @nicyulo

 

Adobe Awards Winners Mentioned Above:

Jola Bankowska (her animations are making the festival circuit rounds)

https://www.jolabankowska.com/

https://www.behance.net/gallery/53321385/summer

 

Rae Congdon (published her ADAA-winning picture book)

http://www.raecongdon.com/

https://create.adobe.com/2018/9/12/learn_your_gaybcs_.html

 

Martin Hoang (works for Adobe)

https://www.martinhoangdesign.com/

https://career.adobeawards.com/?p=687

 

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