“It’s because of The Learning Web that I’m able to say that for someone under the age of 40, I’ve been working in the industry for 20 years.” That industry is Broadcast Media and the comment came from a recent interview with Learning Web alumni, Eric Clark. Clark’s career has led him all over the country, given him access to music and screen stars, and allowed him to create media content that millions of people enjoy. Producing a piece (that spanned 24-hours )for ABC that welcomed in the new millennium with Peter Jennings at Times Square and producing content for a Michael Jackson retrospective on the weekend of his death are just a taste of the breadth of Eric’s work. “I knew what I wanted to do ever since I was 10 or 11 years old,” Eric said in an interview with us last summer, “I loved the Cosby show when I was kid – I wanted to understand what happened behind the scenes.” And for Eric, the move from watching TV to producing TV all started with a Learning Web apprenticeship.
When Eric moved to Ithaca from the Bronx for high school, he was introduced to The Learning Web by his uncle, who worked at the Cornell University Hotel School. Eric’s uncle knew that Eric had an interest in TV, media arts and music production. His uncle said that The Learning Web could give Eric opportunities where he could learn one-on-one. Eric apprenticed learning video production in The Learning Web’s “Young Visionaries.” Learning Web Apprenticeship Coordinator and videographer, Jorge Cuevas, mentored a small group of apprentices, including Eric, in video production through Public Access Cable 13/Pegasys. With Jorge’s help, the apprentices learned to shoot with a camera and basic editing. After passing the skills test at the station, Eric could sign out equipment and he began producing shows that aired on the station.
“Jorge taught and instilled in us how to make a plan and execute it. He would say, You have a great idea, that’s great – how are you gonna do it?” Eric said, “This is something I still do today -working on details and the best way to execute a plan/produce a show/film.” Eric told us that producing projects for friends soon followed: “I produced fashion design videos, a senior class video for high school, videos for student organizations, as much as I could with anyone. I just fell in love with video production and wanted to do as much as I could. I enjoyed everything about it – structure, deadline, doing a whole day of school and rushing down to the studio. It was exciting to me. To build something, create something— realize something that was in my head— that was always very exciting to me.” Eric spoke about his outlook on learning, “When I had an opportunity, it just felt right, I jumped in, I fell in love, I can’t imagine anything else.”
From high school, Eric went on to study at the college level. He attended SUNY Brockport and told us that he soon learned that he was more skilled than all of the other video production students. “I gained a strong foundation [from my apprenticeship] to be able to use more advanced technology.”
The most surprising part of his apprenticeship didn’t hit him until many years later. Specialization was stressed when he was in college but since he’d been exposed to everything in his apprenticeship, he continued to make sure he got experience in all aspects of production work. In 2003, MTV started moving away from specialization and Eric was ready. Eric was one of the first MTV producers who could also edit. “This was due to the imprinting of learning video production with Jorge – learn everything.” said Eric. “My love is producing and directing but I can communicate with the DP [Director of Photography] and editing people because of that first imprinting from The Learning Web.”
Eric has always been a freelancer and has worked for NY1, ABC News, VH1, MTV, Fuse, Hachette Book Group, and VMAs. Early in his career, he said, “On the way home from work, I would think, wow, I just produced something that is going to be seen by millions of people –before Youtube –this was a thing that was amazing to me – I was one of these content providers.”
What’s coming up next on Eric’s journey? “I might want to teach at the college level in the next 10-15 years . . . It’s great to consider teaching the next generation.” Eric’s advice to young people: “Don’t knock any job because you never know where it will lead. If you have an idea and just go for it, just do it.” And he adds, “Don’t be star struck by brand names— it’s about the skills and experience. I hope some younger readers and parents will see this and any words that I say, and be like, yes! You can make it happen. I started in Ithaca, NY of all places and worked at networks all over the country. You don’t have to go to the best schools. Look at the opportunities where you are, take note of them, make use of them.”