Q&A with Maria Luisa Frasson-Nori ’18, Freelance Video Editor

The following interview is from the August newsletter of the alumni network DukeJournos.

As a recent graduate, two years out of college, with degrees in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Arabic, and Documentary Studies, you have been pursuing a career in the media production industry. What sparked your interest in this field and how have all your various degrees informed the work you do?

Looking back, I notice that I didn’t go into Arabic or video production knowing that I wanted to do those things. I’ve learned that I don’t really know what I enjoy until I do it. I studied Arabic and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies suspecting that it wouldn’t be the center of my work going forward but that it would enrich my experience and my curiosity about the world. It was also a really fun program and I loved learning the language, which I think gave me the freedom to reduce my stress from schoolwork and pursue other projects in college.

After college, I was looking for any job in media production, even if it didn’t align with my specific interests. I wanted to produce audio documentaries, and my first job was at a video marketing company. But it was in the industry, and I ended up finding video editing to be something that I really liked and was good at, even though it was only slightly related to my interests at the time of graduation.

While you were at Duke, you were Co-Founder and Executive Producer of “Hear at Duke.” Could you tell us a bit about this passion project and what you took away from it?

Hear at Duke was our second attempt at audio work on campus. We didn’t get it right the first time. It took us two and half years to figure out what we wanted to make. At first, we just wanted to create content. In the process, we realized that what we really loved was talking to people about podcasts, encouraging them to make their own podcasts, and watching other people listen to stories together. We still produced episodes and enjoyed that, but we wanted more than just the research, production, and editing process. We liked the community of it. So Hear at Duke also became a series of live storytelling shows, an Instagram storytelling project, and a resource for other students interested in starting their own show.

The project taught me how hard it is to do something if you don’t care about it. The quality of what we put out there directly reflects the amount of passion we had for each project. It was extremely rewarding to see our idea reach students beyond our circle of friends.

Do you feel your ability to speak so many languages — English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Arabic — has been a skillset that has helped you succeed in the competitive field of journalism or capture perspectives that you might not have otherwise captured?

I think new languages expand your ability to have common ground with others, which is incredibly important for trust-building in journalism and documentary work. Not only are you literally better able to communicate with people who speak other languages, but you can also relate to them as someone who is learning a language and therefore a minority in a group of native speakers. Most of learning a language is accepting how much you don’t know, so it’s a great exercise in humility and curiosity. It also indicates to others that you are interested in others’ experiences.

In your time at StoryDriven, Inc., you moved from Junior Brand Journalist to Editor and Production Assistant in under a year. What advice do you have for fellow DukeJournos newly out of college and looking to make the same kind of career moves?

Similarly to speaking a new language, I think a big part of breaking into an industry is to come from a posture of humility and curiosity. I mostly listened in my first year of working at StoryDriven. I copied a lot of what my coworkers were doing until I figured out what worked for me. I believed my boss when he told me I was good at something, and I jumped on opportunities he gave me to continue investing in those skills. It’s important to take your work one project at a time and take everything you’re given seriously. The small company structure was fantastic for me because I was able to absorb so much in my loosely defined role. I also brought the work home and applied it to everything. I love googling more about the editors and the colorists of every show that I watch for fun and researching the other work they’ve done. I recommend “In the Blink of an Eye” by Walter Murch for editors who are interested in the mechanics behind cutting.

Where do you see yourself in 10 year? 20?

In ten years, I would love to have had the experience of editing long-form work — full-length documentaries or feature films. I’ve only done short form until now. I also am itching to get back into producing storytelling events, in addition to behind-the-scenes editing work.

In twenty years, I want to have built something from the ground up. My experiences with both Hear at Duke and StoryDriven have confirmed that I love seeing an exciting concept grow into something real, that people recognize, invest in, and feel connected to.