Behind the Camera with Mika Mitchell

In All Articles, Next Gen Spotlight, SPOTLIGHTby Tori Santa Cruz

After publishing a Next Gen Spotlight introducing Mika Mitchell, a local freelance videographer, we found ourselves curious. What is it like to be a next generation professional?

Mika is a talented videographer with a lot of heart, but she is also kind and humble. She’s the kind of person who encourages her peers, rather than competing with them. When I asked if I could visit her at work, she was incredible accomodating.

She walked me through her editing process and gave me a tour of her coworking space. We captured photos and video footage of her office. Mika described her latest adventure– traveling to New York for an engagement photo shoot. It was great to be around someone who is passionate about work, active in her talents, and always humble when she succeeds.

Where are you from? I’m from Waco. Actually, I grew up in Lorena but no one knows where that’s at.

What was life like in Lorena? I grew up with two older brothers, a mom and a dad. My mom was passionate about caring for the community in ways that I didn’t understand as a child. We opened our home for kids to sing songs and hear a bible story; she called it Kings Club. She was the one who led me to Christ. That same year she got cancer. I was nine years old.

Three years later, she ended up passing away. My other brothers had moved on to college and so me and my dad got really close. We bonded over basketball and hunting. I loved sports and played all four years of my high school career. My goal was to play college basketball and eventually become a coach.

So, how did you end up pursuing videography?
I was on the court and after about 10-15 seconds, the coach pulled me out. I was really dizzy and my face turned blue. The coaches knew something was wrong. Sure enough, I ended up having open heart surgery. I was 18.

Wow. I can’t believe we almost skipped over that. We had no idea. I kind of forget about it actually, It’s right here, you can see it, but it’s actually pretty invisible. When I chose Dallas Baptist University instead of Baylor University, it was a big statement for me. Back home, I was the girl who lost her mom and the girl who played basketball. I was the girl with open heart surgery. My identity was stuck. I was ready to move on and discover the Lord’s plan for me.

When I arrived at college, I didn’t have a goal. I didn’t have anything. The Lord transitioned my life away from sports. It was one of the hardest years of my life because nobody was there to comfort me. I didn’t have the pity that people gave me back home. I was like “Man, what do I do?”

So I dove really deep into what God had for me. It started with accepting an invitation to church camp. It’s where I felt The Holy Spirit in my heart and all around me. It’s hard to put into words. I had accepted Jesus before…but at church camp I began a much deeper walk with Him. It’s also when I started taking pictures.

I’d always loved photography when I was younger but I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know how to make a living with photography. At that church camp, the camp leaders asked, “Anyone want to become the photographer for the camp?” I said, “I’ll do it!” It sounded kind of fun, you know? People encouraged me and it felt great!

When I got back to DBU, I changed my major to Communications. I became a media intern at the Oaks Baptist Church. I worked side gigs and in marketing. When I graduated, I was offered a position as the athletic video producer for the athletic department at DBU. I stayed for my masters and so I didn’t leave until 2016.

It’s kind of funny that I got into video sports. That’s how I got into videography. I thought I’d go to college to be a coach but ended up behind the camera.

What is life like post-college?
I’m a freelance videographer/photographer. I’ve gotten to work with Stonegate Church in Midlothian, TX. I traveled with Kelly and Jimmy Needham to pick up their son Ben in India and capture their story on video. Then I was invited to China to video my college roommate’s wedding.

I had no idea at the beginning of this year that I would go anywhere. I was just needing a job! It feels kind of weird…it’s too fun to be a job. At the same time, it seems like the Lord is making it very clear that this is where I’m supposed to be. As long as I keep working hard and give him all the glory then things seem to keep opening up.

What’s next for you?
Continue to build my business…and then I don’t really know! I love capturing moments and events, even conferences and art installations. I’m filming B-roll for an event at the Gaylord where 10,000 people are going to be playing on computers. I love getting a glimpse into the worlds that people live in.

What’s it like to be a Next Gen freelance professional? Where do you office?
I office in a coworking space over in Oak Cliff and Deep Ellum. It’s where freelancers manage their businesses. It’s where I’ve gotten a lot of connections. Plus they have mail service, kitchen equipment and a free coffee bar.

How’d you end up officing there? Choosing the coworking route?
I was working at home and I couldn’t get out of my head. I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s really hard to work by yourself. I was waking up, sleeping, eating and all working in the same place. I tried to go to coffee shops and the wifi wouldn’t work. I felt like I was constantly running into walls.

What’s surprised you about working there?
When I first joined, I struggled because I hadn’t made any friends. The other members were older, successful and competent. I fumbled all over my words when I would talk to people. I just felt like a young girl right out of college. I didn’t even have a website.

There was a woman, about 55, that constantly stuck out to me. I decided to go talk to her. I went upstairs – which for me is like a really big deal. I said, “Hey what do you do?”

Whenever I saw her I tried to be a friend. We had lunch together and got to know each other. It wasn’t what I expected. It’s not like social media; I didn’t meet the cool hipster people. Instead, the Lord told me, “This is really who I want you to invest in right now.” I ended up connecting with a mature woman who worked as a graphic designer and it was really neat.

Last thoughts on pursuing your dream to be a videographer?
It’s terrifying at times but it’s worth diving into.

At the end of the day we walked around the corner to visit a cool coffee shop. It’s Mika’s favorite place to go when she needs a break. The second we walked in, Ryan (the man behind the counter), lit up and greeted her. While we didn’t end up ordering anything (due to us leaving our wallets in the car), we did get to connect with Mika’s community. She knew each person by name and they knew her. They asked how Mika’s family was doing and listened to her talk. Everyone was so kind!

As a young Next Gen myself, it made me smile to know that Mika had found a place where she could do life and impact the lives of others while working. Next Gen or not, we all long to find that.

Tori Santa Cruz