Exploring New Documentary Topics at VOA

By Dean’s Intern Vanessa Montalbano at Voice of America

Vanessa MontalbanoAs a returning intern to the Documentary and Special Projects Unit at Voice of America, I jumped right back into my position. Since day one, my supervisor, Beth Mendelson, and I have been juggling multiple tasks. She and I work together dynamically at a one-on-one level, so I have had the unique opportunity to learn the ropes of being an effective producer and director firsthand. What I particularly like about this internship is that I am learning the behind the scenes inner-workings of this job that I likely wouldn’t have learned in the classroom. A lot more goes into making a documentary than just telling a really great story—though that is a critical part.

Most of my work thus far has been research-oriented, as we are exploring new film ideas. Once we pick a potential topic, we brainstorm different angles and write up a film proposal based on what we found to be the most interesting. Right now we have around four possible documentary topics which we are planning to develop before sending them off for pre-production approval. This, in particular, has been a really fulfilling experience for me because I am able to see the research that I have done come to fruition, as it is certainly driving forward the process of creating a complete film treatment. In addition to this, my supervisor and I also are working on the final touches of the documentary the unit and I made last year called Turkey: Breaking the Silence, which was officially released in January. We have been coordinating with the public relations office at VOA to set up broadcast or panel events to share it with a broader audience. This is an especially big deal for me because my supervisor surprised me by including my name in the credits of the Turkey film. As a young journalist, seeing my name listed there for the first time was incredibly fulfilling! That said, I cannot wait to begin writing a new documentary and see what more we can achieve!