“People washed their hair in Evian water and there was a lot of pomposity in the trailers,” says Dr. Costello, as she reflects back on her time working in the film industry. Before Dr. Costello became a biology teacher at TAS, she spent some time in Hollywood and on the sets of big-budget movies. However, a lot of wasted money started getting to her and she started to feel removed from what was important at the time.
She started interning at MTV in New York when it was just getting off the ground. By forming a relationship with those working there and through hard work, she quickly landed a job as floor producer and post-production supervisor of the Top 20 Video Countdown show.
Dr. Costello performed a range of activities, from prepping the studio and working in the editing suite, to feeding information to the DJ’s ear. “What was so great about working at MTV was the energy. Everyone was young, in their early 20s, and I was always doing something,” she recalls.
But Dr. Costello started to feel a little bored, so she put her feelers out and contacted a freelance producer she met at MTV to transition to the film industry. It turned out that Ridley Scott, an English film director and producer, famous for Gladiator, Hannibal, and Prometheus was in town.
Dr. Costello became his personal assistant, which meant performing some rather humdrum tasks such as finding an apartment for him. “It wasn’t a glamorous job, but he was a lovely man, someone you would aspire to be like,” she says.
After a while, Dr. Costello realized she wasn’t a good fit for the film industry. “I ended up working with a couple of filmmakers I didn’t really admire and on set, there was a lot of downtime. You have to be the kind of personality that likes small talk and hanging around all day.”
One fateful afternoon, Dr. Costello read a life-changing National Geographic article about French botanists studying the canopy in French Giana, and suddenly decided to switch to science. She says, “I thought that was a really cool job. Someone had warned me, ‘That’s science!’ and I thought, ‘Really? Oh well.’”
After taking some requisite science courses at NYU, Dr. Costello scored an internship and then a job at the New York Botanical Garden to sequence DNA, before getting her PhD.
Dr. Costello says, “I’m making it sound really easy, but I actually did a lot of work.”
“Be prepared and if you’re in the right place at the right time, you can snatch up an opportunity. Sometimes you’ll have to work really hard and not for a lot of money, but if you’re doing something you love, you’ll hopefully be able to parlay that into a job.”