After four years as a middle school teacher, CJ Ferroni noticed his students would often have laser focus when watching a documentary on a subject he was teaching. His fascination with documentaries and the production process that goes into each project grew exponentially until the point where decided to pursue the field as a potential career. His passion led him to study at the Documentary Program at the New York Film Academy and he is now an alumnus of the program working as an Associate Producer at NBC.
As Associate Producer, Ferroni has worked on season 8 of the true crime doc-series, “Disappeared”; a 6 hour documentary pilot series called “Reasonable Doubt” about current wrongfully convicted people in the process of exoneration; and a 4 hour doc series called “SEAL Team 6,” chronicling the history of the now infamous SEAL team.
We caught up with the former school teacher to find out more about his career change and his current position at NBC!
Once you decided on pursuing documentary filmmaking, what made you chose the Documentary Program at NYFA?
I chose the documentary program at NYFA after spending four years as a middle school teacher. As a teacher, I often used documentaries to supplement lessons. Students had laser focus when watching a documentary on whatever subject we were learning about, and I found them to be great tools in the classroom. Prior to teaching, I was always amazed at how many names were in the credit reels of films and just how much man (and woman) power went into making a 90 minute piece of content. I was fascinated by the filmmaking process, specifically documentaries, but didn’t have any hands on experience. I had stories I wanted to tell and believed that the visual medium is the most effective form of story telling today, so I needed to put some tools in my tool box. That’s where NYFA came in. They stood out to me among various film schools around the country because of their intensive hands on curriculum, a faculty of real filmmakers, and a strong network of employed alumni.
How did the Associate Producer position at NBC come about?
This position came about like most do in my experience, good timing and word of mouth. Your reputation and the networks you create as you climb the production ladder are everything. This is a big city but nonfiction filmmaking is a small world. Work hard, show up early, be nice, and be fun to work with and you are already more hire-able than most people.
Was NYFA’s Doc program useful in terms of getting the job?
NYFA’s Doc program was definitely useful in getting hired by NBC. If I look back at the path that I took from graduation to right now, everything stemmed from the bridges built at NYFA. Also, through classmates’ critiques and my successes and failures at NYFA, I have a foundation of experience and confidence in my abilities as a storyteller that I use every day.
Was NYFA useful in terms of what you’re currently working on at NBC?
NYFA gave me technical skills with editing software, cameras, lighting, and sound that directly apply to every job I’ve had since graduation, including my current job. Obviously, I don’t do all of those things at NBC, however, the knowledge of those areas helps me understand the needs of those departments, and helps me communicate, write, and plan shoots efficiently and accurately. Anyone who has been through the doc program at NYFA has also been taught the importance of having a good story. The ability to structure and portray a compelling story is everything in this line of work. The last thing I want to mention is planning. NYFA taught me how to plan my own shoot, figure out what gear I want to use, what crew I want to work with, and how to effectively write a call sheet. I had no idea how often I would be writing call sheets after graduation…
Which specific projects at NBC are you most proud to have worked on?
I think the project that I’m most proud to have worked on at NBC is a 90-minute documentary on Alexander Hamilton. It was a great experience in the field. We shot at different museums and historical houses around NYC with a crew of 75 people, and an additional 17 actors. I also had the chance to do some camera work and meet and interview some incredible authors, CEOs, politicians, and popular journalists. I had a big role in planning every aspect of those shoots and it was a lot of fun… plus, we didn’t break anything in the museums.
Is there a specific project that you’re currently working on that you’d like to share?
Currently, I’m working as an Associate Producer for season 5 of the doc-series “Deadline Crime” with Tamron Hall. We are investigating the unsolved murder of a 12-year-old boy, Garrett Phillips, that made national headlines from 2011-2016.