Published on September 6th, 2014 | by Palette Magazine0
Wadooah Wali – Digital Media Strategist, Producer, Director
By Palette Magazine
As a Digital Media Executive, PR professional and former SF Bay Area dot com veteran, Wadooah has worked with many emerging and established companies, leading strategic communications activities and working closely with executive teams to establish businesses and sometimes take them public. For more than 15 years she’s worked with and launched many brands and organizations ranging from, the American Cancer Society, Ask Jeeves, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Ocean Pacific, Z. Cavarrici, HP Procurve, Hitachi Data Systems, Facebook, Demand Media and Fullscreen.
Wadooah founded Parking Meter Productions in April of 2010 – an independent production company. Her first feature-length documentary, Gaze of the Beholder written, directed and produced by Wadooah, was awarded ‘Third Place’ in the feature documentary category at the Capital City Black Film Festival in late 2013. In 2014, the indie doc was also accepted into the Women’s International Film Festival, Imperfectu: International Film & Gender Studies Festival and the St. Tropez International Film Festival, where the film was nominated for five categories and took home the award for “Best Editing of a Documentary Feature.”
Q: What career did you have in mind when you entered college? What was your major?
A: I don’t really think I had a clear vision in my mind of what my post college career would be. I knew that I was creative and smart, while being curious, yet driven. I was a big daydreamer and I knew that I was going to graduate with a degree in Mass Communications, emphasis Public Relations from the University of South Florida.
I just wanted to use my degree as the piece of paper that would say that I know how to do some things; that I’d put in my time at an institution of higher learning and that I would now have access to an entirely different set of employment opportunity doors than most people in my family. I enjoyed my education, both the book-learning and the non. Education is the true ‘opportunity to access’ that also feeds the curious. I am, and shall continue to be a N-E-R-D.
Q: What was your first job out of school? Did you have an internship?
A: I tried on a few internships. I interned at the American Cancer Society, WUSF FM radio -an internship & work-study program that turned into a job-job. I began as a pure PR intern whose main job consisted of assisting the PR-lady by highlighting (by hand) stacks of press releases. After highlighting, I then folded and stuffed the releases into envelopes and then stamped and sealed the envelopes. Aaaahhhh, the days before the interwebs…I dug in deeper with the NPR-affiliated public radio station, joining the membership team, before becoming the volunteer coordinator. I also picked up extra cash some nights and weekends “sitting on the board” – basically, teeing up pre-recording programming and music and making sure that all ran smoothly. I also checked out local television behind-the-scenes, took an internship at The Gainesville Sun in the advertising department and did an externship at the Tampa Hill & Knowlton office – Thank you Harry Costello! I sampled everything I could get into.
Q: How did you get this position?
A: I got it the good, ole-fashioned, ole-timey way…I saw the position in the paper and I MAILED (via USPS) a cover letter and resume to the HR department of the Tampa Tribune and waited with bated breath and crossed fingers for the phone to ring.
Q: How did it lead to your career as a Digital Media Strategist?
A: Being adaptable helps. PR people, the good ones, always try to stay on their toes. I think we learn to instinctively think about the short-view and the long-view…The macro and the micro in the way that we see the world. At the end of the day, we’re all people and, as people, we’re all driven and ruled by different motivations. Learn to understand and honor them (as you hope others do of you) and you’re golden.
Understanding this at the essence helps a lot when negotiating deals between two parties and understanding the consumer experience vs. the brand experience and the importance for both to play out well before, during and after events.
I arrived in SF in 1998 and I didn’t know I’d fallen into the dot com scene at the height of the scene at that. I got my first true PR job at an agency that specialized in launching tech startups. It was a machine and I had to play a bit of catch up since it was a completely different world. Everything moved and moved ‘at the speed of the internet.’ The business of PR itself was also in transition. We were starting to work emails to journalists into our busy faxing, phoning and mailing schedules. Then came the evolution into social and all things digital.
Q: What does a Digital Media Strategist do?
A: I feel that we play an important role to the growth and overall health of businesses/clients. We understand the world of media and determine the best way to have impact. Digital media has tentacles and touches everything these days. Our job is to be strategic adviser, guide, explorer, bouncer, ‘dust-buster’ to help take brands, organizations and individuals on to greener/bluer pastures by creating awareness, leveraging relationships, providing counsel & making magic happen. #NerdAlert
Q: Have you always wanted to produce film? What made you start your own production company?
I’ve wanted to write, direct and produce films since I was a little girl. As soon as I learned how to draw and write, I began telling my own stories. I think regardless of PR/Digital Media Strategy and personal narratives, I’ve always seen myself as a storyteller. By day I am a ‘corporate storyteller.’ I learned some valuable lessons about having vision, being practical, being scrappy, relating to people, being human, being a smart and being a survivor that have played out well in the business world. I think that that lends itself well to being a producer. They’re the ones who hustle to get things done, bring people together and make magic happen.
I started Parking Meter Productions, with the thinking that Gaze of the Beholder was the first of many more stories to come out of the company. I wanted people, to take PMP seriously, especially myself (the ole ‘fake til you make it’ trick). #mulletbrainatwork And since no one was banging down my door to grant me a film, I decided to make the company that would make the stories that I wanted to make. Even though I could devote ‘passion project’ time and money to the filmmaking process, I ‘acted as if’ and made my title, my company and my movie something real.
Q: What skills and experience from your career in the media world did you use in producing your first documentary? How was it different?
A: I think the three biggest skills are:
1.) Ability to tell a story and engage audiences around a conversation or topic
2.) Having “mullet brain” – business in the front, party in the real (practical side and creative side)
3.) Knowledge of how to tell a story visually. I’ve shot a lot of Broll/VNR (video news packages that accompany news segments) that have been seen by millions of people all over the world through the years. Maybe it started with an anti-spam company in the late 90s/early 00s, but I never gave it up or completely put the desire to create the video pieces away.
Through the years, I’ve done a lot of video shoots for companies and spokesfolk. Working with them, whether it was CEOs like Richard Rosenblatt, or Sunil Paul or public figures like Lance Armstrong, Tyra Banks or everyday people like my sister and mother, I learned what to look for as well as what to listen for in interviews. Another important part of my job was helping folks on camera be more comfortable so that they could naturally deliver compelling sound bites. This was the same for the PR business as it is for documentary film. Telling a good story with heart always means striving to get as close to, while providing for the human experience.
Q: What projects do you see tackling in the future?
A: As many as I can get my hands on! I’m in love with the way some Viners own the short-short video medium. I want to play around with this space, but I’ll never be a true, ride-or-die Viner. I definitely foresee some webisotic, some tv-ish (think regular TV, think streaming TV), movie – from the writer/director seat and yes, more docs to follow!