How many college students can say they spoke on the same stage as Vice President Joe Biden? At least one Tisch freshman can! Emma Demuth delivered a speech at the Social Good Summit on Sunday alongside an impressive list of speakers that included ambassadors, actors, activists and members of the UN. Demuth was speaking as a representative of the Taco Bell Live Mas scholarship, a program that provides scholarships to students eager to change the world through nontraditional pathways. WSN sat down with Demuth before she hit the stage.
WSN: Can you summarize your speech for us in less than a minute?
Emma Demuth: Our speech is about the Live Mas Scholarship winners and why it’s important to believe in kids like us who are taking nontraditional career paths. We’re focusing on why it’s important to recognize ambition and drive, and not just standardized test scores and GPAs, because sometimes that’s not really relevant in many careers, especially a lot of careers that are important in changing the world and beyond.
WSN: Can you tell me more about the process of getting the scholarship?
ED: I first learned about the Live Mas Scholarship when I saw a commercial for it during the college football championships. The scholarship appealed to me because you just had to make a two minute video about your passion. No recommendations, essays or GPA were necessary. I did not learn that I won it until a few months later when the CEO of Taco Bell personally Skyped me to tell me, which was pretty crazy. A few weeks later I got a call from a production company in LA who wanted to feature me in a mini-documentary series that they were working on. A week later, they flew to my hometown and followed me around school and work for a few days to essentially document my life, which was a unique experience to say the least. A few months after that I got a call to come up to Chicago for a creative workshop which resulted in making a commercial for the VMAs. A month after that I was invited by Taco Bell and MTV to photograph the VMA pre-party and to attend the show, which was an incredible opportunity.
WSN: So you’re a director, right?
ED: Yes, I’m a director and a photographer.
WSN: So how are you going to use that to change the world?
ED: I’m really interested in documentary filmmaking, and photojournalism, so hopefully, I want to spend the next twenty years traveling and finding things that inspire me to create
WSN: When did you start?
ED: I started probably in the fourth or fifth grade, so when I was 11-ish?
WSN: And what got you into photography?
ED: I started out, actually in fashion design, and I was taking pictures of my friends wearing the clothes that I made, so I kinda got into photography through that and after playing around with the camera I got into moving pictures which for me became filmmaking, and now that’s my main focus.
WSN: What do you think your biggest impediment is going to be in pursuing your passions?
ED: People will always tell me that what I’m doing is not financially stable, so I definitely lose some sleep over that; but I think it’s really important to do what you want to be doing and follow your passion, even if it’s not necessarily the “safest” move.
WSN: Would you tell anything to the 10 year old you, knowing what you know now?
ED: I would tell her to just keep making things. Even if it’s just little arts and crafts, keep your mind working. Keep doing creative things. Keep your passion. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing anything crazy, because you’re not.
WSN: How do you think being at NYU is helping you or will help you achieve what you want to achieve?
ED: I applied to NYU ED1. I’ve wanted to live in NYC and go to NYU film school since I was in fifth grade. When I found out that I was accepted, I was insanely excited. Going to school here still feels like a dream to me. I think it’s helped me in a lot of ways. The people are amazing, they’re all very creative, they motivate me everyday. The teachers are all amazing and they inspire me every day. Honestly just being in Greenwich Village is very inspiring with all the creative energies here.
WSN: What’s the one, overarching message you would want our readers to take away from reading this interview?
ED: Keep doing what you’re doing. Follow your dreams. Follow your passion. Don’t let anyone else tell you you’re wrong because ultimately you know what’s best for you, and know that there are other people out there that believe in you. You have something to give the world.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 19 print edition. Email Yorai Vardi at [email protected]