Not three months after graduation, a Bearcat alum scored her dream job — all because she reached out first.
This spring, Victoria Obermeyer joined her fellow classmates at commencement ceremony and wrapped up her undergraduate degree. She was Seattle-bound and ready to begin her career as a freelancing photojournalist, taking up any work she could find. Although freelancing becomes a reality for most journalism grads, dreams of scoring a cool magazine job or working on groundbreaking, impactful stories often remain in the hopeful, hazy distance for every green journalist.
Instead waiting for an opportunity to present itself, she reached out to a production company that was preparing to film its inaugural documentary.
“This is going to sound silly and unprofessional, but originally, I first saw them on Instagram,” Obermeyer said. She quickly contacted the two female directors of "Coextinction," an independent documentary team filming the plight of Southern Resident killer whales and Chinook salmon in the Salish Sea.
Victoria has an affinity for the ocean and the conservation of marine life. She minored in environmental studies as she worked toward her photojournalism degree. Last summer, she worked for Soundwatch, a boater education program off the coast of Washington, where she collected data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
She saw struggling species from a firsthand perspective while she lived on the San Juan Islands, which only fueled her passion to direct her journalism career toward environmentalism and conservation. Despite graduating just three months prior, Obermeyer took a leap of faith and contacted the directors of "Coextinction."
“It’s about reaching out and not being afraid to hear ‘no,’” she said.
But she didn’t hear no. She heard yes. So, she packed up and joined the film crew on their journey to shed light on the struggling whale population off the West Coast.
She was originally hired as part of the audio team, but it wasn’t long before she earned the title of production manager and was entrusted to film full interviews and grab corresponding B-roll.
“Some of us have experience making documentaries, some of us have just graduated journalism school; some of us have totally unrelated backgrounds,” Victoria said.
All had a common passion for marine conservation and different skills to bring to the table. It made for an extremely passionate and driven team of 20-somethings.
Speaking from experience, becoming a documentarian is on the dream-job shortlist of many journalists. Most anyone would stop their life in its tracks to work on a doc team — especially if it means covering a topic of personal significance.
But living and working so close to the problem quickly becomes emotionally draining. Since Victoria’s internship in Washington last summer, two southern resident whales have died, leaving the population at a dismal 76 — nearly 20 less than the total population two decades ago.
“And it just keeps going,” Victoria said. “[Whales] are an incredibly social species with such an important family structure, and it’s hard to watch them decline one by one.”
Two whales have recently grabbed international attention for the adversities they are facing. A 20-year-old female, Tahlequah, mourned the loss of her calf by carrying its corpse for more than 1,000 miles in 17 days. At the same time, scientists have expressed concern for another female orca whose genetic makeup is integral in the perpetuation of her species. She’s currently being treated for malnourishment with live salmon and dart-injected antibiotics.
“If we do nothing, she will die,” said Michael Weiss of the Center for Whale Research, in an interview with a Seattle Fox News affiliate.
The doc crew is in the midst of its shooting schedule and hopes to finish the bulk of filming by the first week of September. With the killer whale population steadily declining, the story is increasingly time sensitive. The whales can’t wait for all the Ts to be crossed on this documentary, but there’s pressure for "Coextinction" to hit this series out of the park on their first try. Positive reception is bound to help secure funding for more environmental documentaries in the future.
Because it is an independent documentary team and runs on the generous support of conservation organizations in British Columbia, the placement of the finished product onto a streaming service is still largely up in the air. The tentative deadline to wrap up loose ends and release the series is between late spring and early summer of next year — just in time for Orca Awareness Month, which takes place in June.
While telling this story is imperative to bring awareness and education to the masses, it cuts deep into the hearts of the "Coextinction" team. Passion moves dreams and meets goals, but it doesn’t come without the price of emotional attachment. But for Obermeyer, that’s a small price to pay to pursue a dream job fresh out of her undergraduate career.
What if she had played it safe and stuck with the original plan? She’d probably be doing what she initially intended: freelancing full time, side hustling part-time and living in Seattle. But because she took a chance, believed in her abilities and chased her passion for the environment, Obermeyer is working the first of many dream gigs.
Her ambition is inspirational, and the faith she finds in herself is rare. It landed her a documentary job right out of college, which will pave the way for endless career opportunities in the future, allowing her to channel her passions into action.
And it’s all because she was brave enough to reach out first. Thank goodness that the directors of "Coextinction" recognized the potential of our fellow Bearcat and welcomed her to their team. Obermeyer gives the rest of us hope that our dream jobs could be waiting for us right after graduation. As students, we just have to know our worth, follow our passions, apply our skills and take some chances.