Welcome to Take Five! An interview series where I explore how real women are balancing their career, health, and life. This week on Take Five, I had the pleasure of interviewing a long time friend who works in the intense, fast-paced world of live television. Meet, Elena Cirillo!
Elena, did you always know you wanted to be a Video Engineer?
I wanted to be a TV actor and chose TV/ Film as an undergraduate major so I could at least work in the industry. After graduation, I started auditioning in New York City while doing freelance and temporary work here and there.
How did you get your first career break?
I happened to be babysitting my neighbors while their grandma was present and she had asked so bluntly:
“ Why don’t you have a big girl job?”
She was right. I was approaching 23 years old and still did not have a stable career. During our chat, I mentioned how I graduated with a TV degree and she responded with, “oh, my nephew is a Manager at Saturday Night Live.” She ended up making an introduction.
I had been through these conversations enough times to doubt my chances. This time, I decided to go into this meeting truly being my authentic self. In prior job interviews I had always tried to present myself in a way I thought the interviewer would like: quiet and reserved.
You can imagine my shock when he sat me down to tell me he would give me an opportunity to observe and if his colleagues believed I had potential they would give me a trial run.
I responded as my true self: “ I will bust my ass for you if you give me this opportunity.”
Thankfully he laughed and told me my high energy and assertiveness would work well in this environment. Boy was he right.
As a Video Engineer, what are you responsible for?
I work in a control room that focuses on color correcting and adjusting each camera in use for live shows. Any adjustments I make are seen instantly and once it happens there’s no changing it. My job is to make what you see on TV look as good as possible. My favorite part is the skin detail effect. I isolate skin, blur it out reasonably, and give people 20 years back on their faces. Shh, don’t tell.
What do you love most about your job?
Working with highly technical equipment keeps me evolving, and the on-the-road experiences bring me deep fulfillment. But the most basic reason why I love my job is that it’s casual. A lot of us are doing manual labor, building TV sets, and maneuvering around studios. We are allowed to wear casual clothes, so you know damn well I’m always in fitness attire and sneakers.
Do you have advice for anyone trying to break into your industry?
I’d say be yourself, that’s how I got to where I am today. Also, if you don’t have thick skin and hesitate often, you’re not cut out for this business. It’ll spit you right out.
How do you spend your time on your commute to work?
I don’t watch TV or movies at home. I download and watch them on the bus or spend my commute time socializing and catching up with my friends.
What do you aspire to do and how are you working towards that goal?
I aspire to be on-air talent. I stopped waiting and relying on someone else to hand me my dream. Recently, I decided to spend my extra time working with a producer to make my own comedy skits and we’ll see where that goes.
How do you support your health in between work?
I try to work out 4-5 times a week. I take vitamins all day long as directed by a nutritionist and follow a diet specifically for my body type. Mentally, I read books to aid in anxiety issues but found my diet adjustments really sorted out a lot of imbalances for me.
How do you start your mornings?
Ideally, I enjoy working out first thing before work to set the tone for the rest of the day. I love my work gym. I rather work out there first then go into work but I’ll work out on a break if need be. For me, it’s easier to stay focused and determined in a gym environment
On shifts where I have work later in the day, I ease and relish in a lavish breakfast. I spend quality time with my dog and am a big planner/control freak (whatever you like to call it) so I get my work bag together, and any meals if I have cooked.
Favorite fitness regimens?
I love high-intensity weight lifting, circuit training, and mobility exercises. I want to be strong and functional forever.
A book that has had the biggest impact on your life? Why?
Spirit junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein. Recommend by you! I was going through a tough point in my life with romantic relationship disappointments, the pressure to settle down at my age, and general anxiety. That book sorted me out, and once I got my diet organized, things have fallen into a better place.
Favorite place to vacation? Why?
Near water. I love being in the ocean.
Do you have hobbies, activities, or creative outlets that keep you balanced? How do you spend your downtime?
Fitness is important. I paint and make art which I find therapeutic and gives me a sense of pride. I’ll paint when I’m in the mood but that’s not something that can be forced. I like directing and writing scripts.
Connecting to nature. I have the Battleground State Park by my house. It’s over 1800 acres so plenty of space to get lost in. And a good movie cuddled with my dog really feels good to me.
What does work-life balance mean to you?
I happen to love my job but even so, I’ll never make it my life. There was a time in my early 20’s where I had to sacrifice my weekends and social life to put in my dues as the rookie. Now I do what is asked of me and never give my job a second thought after I walk out the door. You want to do a good job of course, but don’t take life so seriously. We aren’t saving lives!
How do you take five?
If I ever need a moment, I’ll lay back in a chair and close my eyes, maybe put on some soft music, and try to focus on positive mantras.
To connect with Elena: