Brian Newell '05
Editor, National Geographic
Why did you choose to attend Connecticut College?
I was drawn to the smaller, intimate environment of a liberal arts school. It meshed more with my experiences from high school where we had a small graduating class and relatively small class sizes. The potential for more one-on-one relationships with professors and small groups of working students (like I found in the Film Studies Department) was very attractive to me. And what a gorgeous campus!
Film has been a major passion of mine all my life, but when I went to college I didn’t have a specific plan to major in it; I didn’t know what I wanted to major in. We had a couple small film classes at my high school, but I still considered that to be mostly a hobby that was not necessarily going to become my life’s work. However, after taking one or two film classes at Conn, I became hooked -- film was what I wanted to do with my life. Getting my hands dirty with the great combination of theoretical analysis with hands-on filmmaking really inspired me.
What was a defining experience for you as a student at Connecticut College?
There were a lot of defining experiences, but I would have to highlight my early experiences with our two main film Professors - David Tetzlaff and Janis Solomon. Professor Teztlaff was very gracious with his time, teaching us how to edit on Final Cut Pro (version 3, at the time) even when we were just trying to make a silly football video outside of class. His passion for film and teaching film inspired us all. Then there were the epic screenings of German New Wave films with Professor Solomon really taught us how to watch movies like a pro. I can understand and enjoy all types of movies now that I never would have before college. Slow movies? Now I love them.
What happened after Connecticut College and are you up to now?
It was a slow and difficult climb, but it was worth it. I started interning in Washington, DC at a film production company called JWM Productions and made my way onto their radar as someone who wanted to work in editing. I eventually became an assistant editor and then, a few years later, Post Production Supervisor, managing the entire post-production department. These were great jobs, but I really wanted to be on the creative side, that is, I wanted to be an Editor. So I convinced them to start letting me edit TV shows and for the next few years I worked as a freelance editor on TV shows for Discovery, History, Travel, National Geographic, and PBS, among others. Now I work at National Geographic writing and editing documentaries and shorts for the Pristine Seas Team.
How did Film Studies at Connecticut College influence you in choosing your field of work?
Film Studies at Conn was inspiring from the first day of class. Learning about the history of film and delving into film theory - which I never really even considered before - made me think about and love the filmmaking process so much more than I already did. Simply, I knew I had to keep making and learning about film.
I had one experience that really solidified my specific career direction. During one of our classes, we had to pick a specific crew position for a project – shooter, producer, director, or editor. My heart and head both went straight to the job of editor. I walked up to the board and wrote my name next to that title. I can trace where I am today to that moment.
In what ways did being a Film Studies major at Connecticut College prepare you for your career?
Being a Film Studies major at Conn prepared me well with the combination of production and theory that was taught. It was great to learn some of the specific tools, like the film editing software, but you can pick that stuff up anytime. Being exposed to all the film theory and the deep dives into filmmaking craft formed the great foundation for thinking about how I tell every story I work on, whether it is a 2-minute character reel or a 90-minute feature doc.
What is the best piece of advice you were given for succeeding in your current field of work?
The best piece of advice I was given was from an editor who I met early on in one of my internships. He said that the best thing I could do was to make myself useful to people, and to make their lives easier. I’ve found that to be incredibly true and I always try to share that with people trying to break into these industries. If you make yourself helpful and useful to other people, they will want to keep you around, and eventually give you more responsibility.
What are your best memories of being a Film Studies major at Connecticut College?
My best memories are usually from the lab. Being there late at night or on the weekend, just hammering away and solving storytelling problems through editing. Sometimes there were people around to talk things through, and sometimes it was just me and the lab. My other best memories were spending time with my friend (current Film Studies Professor) Ross Morin trying to take the Film Studies Department to the next level, whether that was pushing a new student organization through the college or hosting public screenings of our work.
Do you have any links to a place where we (as current and prospective students) can learn more about you and your work?
My website is the best place to go to see what I’m working on
This is the group I am currently working for at National Geographic.
This is a feature documentary film I am co-editing and co-producing that should be finished at the end of Summer, 2017.