Edge sat down for a talk with the newest professor at Gannon’s School of Communications and the Arts Dr. Matthew McKeague to ask him about his experience teaching at Gannon so far and his take on making it in the media field.
What brought you here, teaching at Gannon?
I wanted to be closer to my family. Both members are a little sick, so at the time I moved a little closer from Los Angeles and at the same time I saw a job in Pennsylvania that was very late. I thought it was a great fit to get back into teaching full time and still be within a day’s driving distance to my family as opposed to a 12 hour flight.
What are your general impressions of Gannon and the Erie area so far?
So far Gannon University has been overwhelmingly nice, and I couldn’t have asked for a smoother transition, especially with such a quick turnaround. It is a very positive experience thus far.
What the expectation vs. reality getting into the journalism field?
I think a lot of people get into journalism because they want to challenge the system. They want to fight the status quo and try to bring about more justice to the world. People have the best intentions or they might be an idealist, but then when they get the job they realize that the media exists because of the money. It’s a business; you have to make a profit. I think you have to lower your expectations as to how much you can challenge the system and how far you can go with some stories, because you need a paycheck every once and a while. However, I still think there is a lot of strong journalism today; you just have to look in the right spots for it.
I also think that many future journalists might have a romanticized idea of journalism thinking that they will be uncovering corruption every day, and getting those juicy stories but in reality you will have to write soft news pieces like grandmas with hat collections, or a puppy walking into a town square. You get hit with a bolt of reality when you take a job in journalism.
How does teaching media compare with different jobs in media?
There a lot of similarities between teaching the media and actually working in the media because you have to know what you are talking about. You have to have practical skills. There still deadlines, you still have homework. You take home stress. There are a lot of similarities. If you’ve studied media, you have a great set of skills to bring to teaching media.
One big difference is when you are in a classroom you are the boss of that classroom. You act as that classroom’s editor or director. You have more autonomy and control in the classroom as opposed to working for say, a newspaper. But there are still many overlaps.
What medium do you like working with the most in media?
I love video production the most, especially the whole process of it; Taking those stupid ideas in my head and turning them into a 200 page movie script. I love that entire process and then getting to shoot it and hire the actors or even acting myself and being embarrassed about it later. Especially if I can tie in comedy. But the medium doesn’t really matter as long as I get to let those somewhat demented thoughts out of my brain. I love storytelling.
What is the most fun project you’ve ever worked on?
It’s a project I’m currently working on. It’s a documentary I can’t even tell you a lot about it because I’m under an NDA with the company I’m working for. But, I can give you a little tease: It’s a comedic, kind of dark documentary on how scientists are trying to solve that pesky thing called dying, as a human species. So I’m editing the mini documentary for a website out in Los Angeles, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
Since we were talking about scripts earlier, do you have any tips or advice for students who are writing scripts or are just getting into it?
(Laughing) Well, the best thing students can do is take my screenwriting class that will be offered next semester. But seriously, I have two tips. The first suggestion I can offer is that you have to write to learn how to write. You have to force yourself to pour your heart and emotions out into those plastic keyboards every day. You have to continuously write. You have to do that to build a story. You have to watch a lot of film. You have to watch a lot of TV. You need to be that media addict. You have to know the style and watching media is the best way to do that.
Another suggestion is to work hardest on developing that character. You might want to spend your time developing that epic battle, or plot. But people don’t tune in for that plot they tune in for that character that they can relate to. They tune in for that character that can make them cry or can relate to. You need to really work on that character to give them emotions, to give them contradictions, because humans are contradictive, hypocritical who lie and don’t know how to make sense of their own thoughts. Humans are weird and you need to make you characters just as weird. Make them deep.
What is a current piece of media you would recommend? Something you think other people should be experiencing or paying attention to.
One artist who I very much enjoy and never seems to grow outdate is Weird Al Yankovic. The last album he released, Mandatory Fun was the most successful album he ever released. He had a genius marketing campaign where he released a new video every day. I adore Weird Al. I think he influenced my comedic style as an artist.
A smaller more niche artist I listen to is Julia Nunes. She started out on YouTube. She’s a YouTube sensation. She started in 2006 and is still making videos. She this adorable Ukelele player who sings songs and makes very cute YouTube videos.
You mentioned Weird Al as a comedic influence. Any other major influences?
I have a long list. When I was two years old I started watching Benny Hill and Monty Python. Those are shows you should watch as a two year old. They helped shape my altered perspective. But pleasantly altered. I also like Saturday Night Live, John Candy, Chris Farley, and Norm MacDonald. I love Norm MacDonald, he’s so dry.