CREATIVE – This spotlight series features T. Howard Foundation (THF) alumni working in creative roles.
Taylor Henriquez (THF ’10) (THF ’11)
Freelance Video Producer and Writer
Please describe your role
As a freelance video producer and writer, I wear many hats. Through my work, I’ve challenged pizza purists to make viral pies in a new cooking competition show premiering this year on Hulu, wrote jokes for a game show on Nickelodeon, and have helped some of the biggest TikToker’s and YouTubers find love on AwesomenessTV (ViacomCBS) on a dating competition series and podcast. To sum it up, I develop, produce and direct unscripted content for digital and TV.
What do you enjoy most about your company?
I recently began freelancing after years of working as an in-house producer at ViacomCBS. I love the variety that freelancing brings, and the freedom to choose your own projects and time off. A few months out of the year, I could be working on a cooking competition show, followed by months of working on a dating series. I exchanged the security and stability of a full-time job, with the freedom and opportunity to create work that aligns with my values.
In what way did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
In college, I majored in public relations but had always had an interest in pursuing a career in television or broadly, entertainment. A few years out of college, I decided to create a YouTube cooking channel focused on recipes for the novice cook, and I enjoyed every part of the process, from creating scripts and shot lists, to outlines and thumbnails. Being in front (and behind the camera) sparked this creativity that I wasn’t able to achieve while working in PR.
How has your affiliation with the T. Howard Foundation influenced your career?
The T. Howard Foundation was a huge stepping stone in my career working in the entertainment industry. Starting my first internship at A+E Networks has led me down a path where I have continued to work in media, whether for networks, streaming services, digital media companies, etc. My internships showed me a variety of career options that I hadn’t been exposed to. When I interned at ESPN in the communications department, I didn’t know that writing for the company’s blog or working in social media management (remember, this was 2011) could be an actual job.
What personal attributes have been essential to your career success?
Tenacity. Grit. Being kind to people. Following up. Having boundaries. It took me a long time to learn how to not base my self-worth on how far along I was in my career. The saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy” is popular for a reason, and learning to set clear boundaries between my work and my personal life has been instrumental for my mental health, which has made me a better manager, a better employee, and a better leader. It’s not easy, but it’s been the biggest career lesson I’ve learned.
If you were entering this career today, how would you prepare to facilitate entry?
Don’t wait for others (employers, co-workers, managers, gatekeepers, etc) to extend you opportunities. Create your own opportunities and share them with others. Want to start working in production but have zero experience? Create a series on TikTok or your own YouTube channel. Get hired on student film sets and work as a production assistant. Make a low-budget short film and film it on your iPhone. And then share your work. It won’t be perfect, but that’s not the point. The point is that you started and finished something, and soon, that project will snowball into future opportunities.
In one sentence please describe what work/life balance means to you.
Work/life balance means making time for hobbies that purely bring me joy.
Are you an early bird or a night owl? How does this show up in your working habits?
I can wake up early in the morning if I have to (I recently had a 6:30 a.m. call time) but a lot of my creativity comes in the evening when I’ve lived a full day that I can then pull from. Throughout the workday, I take a lot of reading and walking breaks, so that I have the energy and mental clarity to work on my writing at night.
How do you re-charge at work?
It all starts by getting a decent night’s sleep. I aim for 8 hours, and when I’m at work, I take breaks: walking breaks, yoga breaks, reading breaks, lunch breaks, you name it, I take it. When I worked in my 9-5, I always took my lunch break and blocked it off in my calendar. As a freelancer, I’m experimenting with taking Fridays off when I’m not on an active shoot. Living my life outside of my job is what recharges me to go back to it.