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Finding Your Niche: Q&A with a Graduating Media Arts Student

Music and the arts have always been a huge part of Marina Polonsky's life. She was was born to a family of singers in Zaporozhye, Ukraine. Polonsky's brother is a singer and composer and her parents are singers who used to travel all over the USSR on live tours before they opened their own restaurant business. The family's artistic influence led Polonsky to be passionate about stories, hoping that one day she would be able to inspire others with her creative talents.

This week Polonsky will graduate in Media Arts from the BYU College of Fine Arts and Communications in the Department of Theatre and Media Arts. Though it's been hard living so far from family with the current tension going on between the Russian and Ukrainian government, she has enjoyed her time here at BYU and has appreciated the change she has seen in herself. BYU News' Holly Kendall spoke with this artistic grad to get her story.

Q: What was it like coming to BYU? Did anything surprise you?

Marina Polonsky: Coming to BYU (BYU-Idaho actually, I transferred after a year) was one of the most positive life-changing events for me. First of all, it was my first time out of the country, first time on an airplane, and I definitely never thought I'd have to study in a different language.

By the time I arrived in the states, I could understand around 70 percent of what the people were saying, but I had to take some time before responding since I had to translate my thoughts and try to put them into grammatically correct sentences.

At first, the main struggle was seeing the differences in how people view their life; seeing how much people have. I feel like a lot of people here don't realize how much they have, most people don't take advantage of all these opportunities. I am able to do so many things here that I would never be able to afford on my own in Ukraine no matter how hard I would work.

Q: How did you come to the decision to major in Media Arts?

MP: Growing up I've always been into arts, at first I wanted to become a writer, then a painter, but my father always told me I'd be poor and unhappy if I did those things. I was always focusing on finding something else that I was talented in, that would bring me money and something I would enjoy.

Eventually, I started studying 3-D modeling and animation, and that's how I came to BYU. Everything started while I was at BYU-Idaho though, when I got an email from BYU-Idaho Broadcasting and their supervisor told me that I'm the only person on campus that they know of who can do 3-D animation. So they invited me in for an interview.

I was hired on the spot, but after doing it for money, I quickly realized that it was last thing I wanted to do. And so did my boss. He saw that, to put it lightly, I wasn't motivated. And to my big surprise, instead of letting me go, he put me on one of the cameras for the upcoming show. I have never operated a camera before but it has always been one of my dreams.

When I was behind the camera for that BYU-Idaho show, I realized that it felt more right than anything I did before that. I felt like I belonged, and that was the moment when I realized that I could study that and do it for living. Nothing made me happier career-thinking wise. I knew BYU had a good film program, so after transferring, instead of applying for 3D animation program, I applied for Media Arts. It's been my second home since then.

Q: Why were cameras of such interest to you?

MP: To be honest, since I was little, the world of cinema was one of the most mysterious and magical things to me. I never even thought one day I could be running one of those incredible machines called cameras. I mean, think about it, you can capture a moment and then 50-60 years later you can watch it! How neat is that? The career of a filmmaker has always been something I could never even consider seriously. I thought of other filmmakers as some chosen people in a secret society. 

Q: What is your main focus in Media Arts?

MP: My main official focus is narrative directing, but I've been studying and practicing everything from writing to post-production and about all the main areas of the craft. I don't want to be limited in my ability to create art that affects people's lives.

Q: What led you to have a love for the arts?

MP: The reason I love arts, especially film, so much is because I love stories. Storytelling is incredible. It's so powerful. Movies and all kinds of arts have always been inspiring to humanity. A film can let you observe and see something for yourself from a new perspective. It can teach you something, make you think, inform you, make you laugh, cry, etc. Movies impact who we become.

So that's what I want to do, I want to help people all over the world to become better people, to become more connected, understanding, inspired, more aware and informed. We have a saying in Ukraine "informed means armed." I think the world would be a much better place if more people would be simply aware of more things about each other.

Q: How would you describe your journey in achieving your degree?

MP: I would describe it as a journey of finding myself and as a re-realization of everything I knew before. Every day, I learn or re-learn something about the craft and the human nature. Everything is interconnected. It's amazing.

There has also been a lot of pain and struggle in my journey, which is exactly what brought all the great realizations and happy moments. I can definitely say I'm a very different person now compared to the person who came to the United States, daring greatly to try her luck and see what comes out of it.

Q: What are some of your fondest memories from the time you've been at BYU?

MP: The best memories were the moments of mutual vulnerability. In other words, the best memories were when I was understood in my hardest moments, instead of being judged by people who barely knew anything about me and my struggles. The moments when people really did care and showed it. The moments when people truly wanted to hear me out with an open heart. The moments when I would get support unexpectedly from some of my teachers. I can't thank them enough for their caring, their kindness, and their wisdom.

Q: What do you want to do after graduation? 

MP: I want to make movies, whether fiction or non-fiction, that will drive people to tears of happiness and many realizations. I hope to shift someone's paradigm. I hope that when people walk out of my movies (whether I write them, direct them, or edit them) they call their old friend, their parents, someone they haven't talked to in a while and tell them that they love them. I want them to be willing to be more vulnerable, to be willing to get uncomfortable sometimes, to be willing to say sorry first, to reach out first.

I hope I can convince them that life is beautiful and worth it. The world just needs more kindness and I feel like if the sky were the limit, I would like to reach out to as many as possible worldwide. But even if I succeed in changing one person's life for the better - it would be just as meaningful.

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