|Jesi hangin' with Micky and Pluto at C-Spot!|
What role did you have during the DCP, and where did you work?I worked as a PhotoPass Photographer at Epcot for the Spring 2013 term.
What was a typical day like at work?
I had to take the bus about an hour and fifteen minutes before work. I was NEVER late to work during my program, despite how unreliable the bus system allegedly is. If I played in the parks before work, I would take the monorail or walk to my locker to change into my costume!
Work was so much fun! I would cheerily say hello to all my coworkers, managers, and coordinators once I came in and put together my camera gear. Normally I worked afternoon to closing hours, I liked it that way. Each day I picked up CDS silently praying to the deployment gods that I would get to work with a character. I would mentally happy-dance when I got to spend a few hours with Minnie, Mickey, or Pluto at Character Spot or cringe when I had to spend a few hours at the backside of Spaceship Earth (my least favorite position).
PhotoPass is the best role--hands down. I got to capture and add magic to families' memories by doing what I love: photography. Disney was paying me to capture guests' reactions to meeting Mickey Mouse and their other favorite characters for the first time. Who else could say that? It was something I never grew tired of.
Shooting icons is fun, too! I loved giving guests' magic shots, making couples take cute kissing photos, and coming up with creative poses rather than the standard "stand and smile awkwardly" pose that is done over and over again. Shooting icons is when I got to have real conversations with guests and learn about how much fun they were having on vacation or where they were from. I met people from all over the world. It was great having so much guest interaction. I also gave out tons of Mickey stickers and compliments. You don't get that kind of interaction in a fast-paced character setting.
One little-spoken aspect of PhotoPass is that you get LOTS of guest interaction, but you do not get much contact with your fellow coworkers unless you are in the view station where there are 2 to 6 of you in one room. While shooting, photographers are pretty much alone. They are spread apart so that they do not see each other or cannot really speak to each other without shouting. Consequently, you end up talking to guests to pass the time.
I loved my job and I felt like the luckiest Cast Member in the world to be in PhotoPass!
Is this the role you originally wanted? If not, are you happy you got it?
PhotoPass was my top choice, and I got it! I heard that there were only 70 College Program Photographers total for Spring/Spring Advantage (there are several THOUSAND students in the DCP), but I don't know the validity of this statement. I definitely felt lucky!
What are your favorite and least favorite parts about your job?
My favorite part was being able to combine my passion for photography and Disney into a job that I sincerely loved. I won Photo of the Week twice at Epcot, and it made me so happy! I would say my favorite part is giving fun families giant photo shoots and capturing those crying/big smiles/hugging photos with characters.
My least favorite was working in Backside. It was the hottest and coldest part of the park, and it gets slow at some points. In the beginning, I didn't like having so much weight from the spare batteries, PDA, baracoda, rain gear pack, water bottle, and camera all hanging off my body, but I got used to it. It doesn't faze me now.
Any specific magical moment you want to share?
One night, I was having some personal problems that escalated to me crying on the phone at 2 in the morning. That day, coming into work was the last thing I wanted to do and I was on the verge of tears all day. To make matters worse, I was put in my least favorite World Showcase location for the whole day.
I faked happiness pretty well. A little Princess dressed in an Aurora gown and sporting a pink parasol from the China pavilion and her family came up to me for a photo. I told the girl how beautiful she looked and how she needed to have her own photo shoot. She gave me her sassiest and most elegant poses, and afterwards, came running over to me to give me a big squishy hug. She truly felt like a Princess. Then, she gave me a sticker another Cast Member had given her, saying that was her gift to me for being so kind to her. Her family loved that I took the time to give them a personal photo shoot. If only that family knew what I had been going through before work; that hug did more for me than they know.
I go in for my break, and my manager had told me that a manager from the Character department had walked into the base JUST to tell them that they wanted to recognize me for being a great Cast Member, having a great outlook on my career, and that there should be more Cast Members like me out in the field. Suddenly, my terrible day had turned into one of my best days at work.
That evening, a family of Annual Passholders stopped by--not to take a photo--but to say hello. They told me that they have seen me work on a few separate occasions, and started to look for me every time they visited Epcot because I was their favorite photographer. You have NO idea how happy that made me. I thanked them a million times over and gave them a few tips on some other good photo locations and characters to check out in return.
That day was magical not just for the guests, but for me as well! It was almost like a dream and the best day I had at work during my entire program. A week later, one of the photos I took of the little Princess won me Photo of the Week for Epcot.
I was told this, and trust me, it is true! "The day you don't want to come in to work is the day you make the most magic!"
What made you want to do the DCP?
I am obsessed with Disney Parks. I was a Passholder and grew up going to Disneyland, so it was on my bucket list to work for Disney Parks at some point in my life. I loved Disney, but I figured working for the company was just a "one and done" thing, but the program would be a testing ground to see if I would want to make a life-long career with The Walt Disney Company. Well, I fell in love with Disney in a way that I did not before. I fell in love with the company, what it stood for, and the whole business and management side of it. You can bet I plan on working for WDP&R as a life-long career, now. I hope to combine all my passions (Disney, photography, and communications) into a career with Parks and Resorts. :)
Is there something you wish you would have known before doing your program?
How to cook. Blah. I was tired of eating out, frozen food, and making quick fixes like pancakes, pasta, and chicken.
What advice would you give to those who are going to be participating in your role?
Have some kind of photography knowledge. It isn't necessarily required to get the role, but you can tell who has some know-how. By having some basic knowledge, you'll know how to compose a good photograph (COMPOSITION IS EVERYTHING), why the exposure settings are what they are, and have more fun coming up with creative shots.
Also, be outgoing and engage guests! I asked during my phone interview what qualities they look for in PhotoPass Photographer, and Disney looks for outgoing and talkative people. Us photographers can be invisible sometimes, so we have to initiate guest contact (without hawking photos) and not be afraid to greet or start conversations with guests just so they have a good time and at least are aware of what the service is.
What advice would you give to people who are interested in doing the DCP?
Take a lesson from Splash Mountain: "You can't run away from trouble--ain't no place that far." You may be at Disney, but not everything will always be perfect. It has its highs and lows.
Also, don't come into the program with too many expectations. People come into the program expecting to complete their 50-item bucket lists, find true love, and have fun every day. These kinds of unattainable expectations only lead to disappointment.
Stalking the DCP tag on tumblr can help build your excitement, which is great, but it also has a downside of making you compare your experience to others'. Try not to compare yourself to other people. It never ends well, and the program is different for everyone. Also, reading up TOO MUCH on the program ruined some surprises for me. I didn't like that, but it is a personal choice.
Finally, if you are planning on blogging your DCP experience, best of luck to you! It is crazy to see how many people make DCP blogs and vow to vlog and write every day or every week. Yes, a handful of people do it (mad respect, because it is hard!), but from what I've seen, 80% of those blogs end up being abandoned within a few weeks or a month.
If you have any more further questions about Photopass or Jesi's experience, you can contact her on her blog right here!
If you're a current or past college program cast member and would like to share your experience, email your name and role to firstname.lastname@example.org to participate!
Have a magical day!