She took her passion for pictures in motion and set her own life in motion. Jessica Yochim Taylor is a Managing Partner, Director, and Editor at family-owned business MenajErie Studio, where she not only stimulates and challenges her own creativity, but also aids other creatives in discovering their potentials.
Jessica graduated from the Pennsylvania State University College of Communications in 2012 with a B.A. in Film and Video. There, she worked alongside her now husband Nick Taylor, and won Best Picture in a campus film festival in 2008.
Besides having an extensive photography portfolio of both national and local musicians, Jessica is well-known among local musicians for her unique and professional music videos. She is also a Google Trusted Photographer, taking advantage of the growing popularity of Google Virtual Tours.
Jessica and her husband Nick Taylor launched MenajErie Studio in 2013, a digital media studio that has provided numerous satisfied clients with videos, photos, virtual tours, and more. The Taylors help businesses by providing broadcast commercial and online business video production, as well as product photography and professional headshots, among other things. Recent projects at MenajErie Studio include a Romolo Chocolates Brand Video and the Choose Erie Series Launch video. You can learn more about the company at: www.menajeriestudio.com.
In addition, Jessica worked with other artists, including one of our past guests Maitham Basha-Agha, on Rust Belt New Americans. The film was successful, receiving the following recognition:
• Best Short Documentary - SNOB Film Festival - Concord, NH
• 2nd Place - Mountain Shadow Film Competition - Walnut Creek, CA
• Official Selection - Pittsburgh Shorts Film Festival - Pittsburgh, PA
• Official Selection - STUFF (Film Festival) - Corpus Christi, TX
• Official Selection - Short. Sweet. Film Fest. Cleveland, OH
• Finalist - Hollywood Verge Film Festival - Burbank, CA
Jessica graduated from the Jefferson Educational Society’s Civic Leadership Academy in 2018. Upon graduating, she worked with 22 other graduates on a marketing campaign designed to raise awareness of the regional heroin and opioid epidemic. Together, they produced a series of videos and clips of interviews that they spread over social media with the hashtag #ErieOpioidProject. Jessica compiled the videos for use in the marketing campaign.
I had the privilege of interviewing Jessica, so keep reading to find out what sets her creativity in motion:
Where did your interest in videography begin?
My interest in film making began when I was a kid. My siblings, cousins, and I would “make movies” using my parents camcorder. Our production company was called “Fuzzy Bug Inc. 57.” My youngest brother, Jax, who was 4 years old at the time, came up with the name. One of our first projects included a “documentary” called Planet of the Apeman. We followed my brother Preston around the woods verite-style while he did ape-like things (he even ate a leaf). Another project was a horror parody called The Hair Witch Project about a hairdresser gone mad. It was filmed in the style of the Blair Witch Project - all handheld.
What is your favorite part of the video making process?
I enjoy post-production because it’s the phase in a project where everything comes together. Once we have all the pieces, it’s like putting together a puzzle. It’s very satisfying to see everything come to fruition.
Are you more structured or intuitive with your approach?
We are more intuitive, specifically with documentary style work. It is important to do the research ahead of time to make sure we understand the subject matter, but most of the story comes together as we film and edit it.
Some projects require more pre-production and planning, such as commercials and narrative work. In this case, we put together a script, storyboard, shot list, and shooting schedule. This ensures that we execute the vision efficiently so production runs smoothly.
Do you tend to work more with suggestions or with your own creative liberty? Does the amount of freedom depend on the client?
Mostly with creative liberty, but it depends on the client. Our best work comes when a client allows us the freedom to use our creative vision. It can be restricting if a client micromanages a project. In the case where we don’t agree with the client on something creatively, we will give our recommendation, but ultimately go with what the client envisions.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your film classes? Are there any “rules” that you don’t necessarily agree with?
The most import thing I learned in film class was how to work well with others. Collaboration is key and being able to work as a team takes creativity to the next level.
One teacher said never to work with children or animals, but we have used animals in several projects and haven’t had any problems.
How has your training in video making changed the way you view videos?
I can’t watch movies or TV without analyzing the different pieces (editing, directing, color, sound design, etc.). I am hyper conscious of any continuity errors and mistakes. When things are done well, I highly appreciate the production.
Which project has stretched your creativity the most?
We did a short documentary telling stories of refugees from Erie. (Check out more information about the project at www.RustBeltNewAmericans.com) It took us about a year to complete. It was the first project that we produced independently.
What are some unique challenges associated with creating music videos as opposed to other videos, such as commercials?
Music videos are easier to make than commercials because we don’t have to record audio. We use a pre-recorded mastered song that the artist lip syncs to while filming. Music videos are also some of my favorite projects to edit because I can get really creative with the cuts and transitions. Sometimes musicians have big ideas with very little budgets, so we do what we can within their means. This is where we have to get creative and think outside the box.
What have you learned about yourself through your art?
I learned how to sell my passion for making videos as a service and how to run a business. I never took any business classes in college, so I had to learn everything as I went along. Luckily, I was surrounded by other entrepreneurs who could give me advice. I had to get outside of my comfort zone in order to put myself out there and be ready to take criticism professionally and not personally.
What is your dream project?
My dream is to turn our short documentary about refugees into a 12 episode docuseries, featuring different refugee populations in different cities across the country.
Erin Maloney recently obtained her Associate’s degree in Business Administration Marketing & Management from Fortis Institute. She is a poet and a writer who is passionate about art and helping it reach all who can be touched by it. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.