It is important to be proactive and to do things even if you fail the first time. It’s necessary to learn from your mistakes so that you can cultivate new methods that help you overcome your obstacles.
Adele Schmidt, Co-Founder of Zeitgeist Media LLC, production company in Washington, DC.
She also works for the U.S. Department of State producing Media Co-Ops
and teaches Film and Video Production at American University in Washington DC.
A story of a Femigrant from Germany who spent 10 years in Mexico City but later resided in Washington, DC.
A native German to the city of Bonn, Adele had never imagined that she would spend most of her life in a totally different continent. She graduated from the University of Bonn where she received her Master’s Degree in Political Science, German and Spanish Philology in 1988. Prior to her university years she had imagined herself going into politics and later working at a government institution. However, as she was taught more about the Spanish culture in her undergraduate years, she decided to leave Germany and spend a year abroad to study at the University of Madrid in Spain and further explore her developing interest for Latin America. That year in Spain was pivotal in how the rest of her life would proceed.
In that year she discovered that instead of being stuck in bureaucracy, she wanted to begin working with the arts. After reading heavy loads of literature originating from Latin American countries, she became hooked on exploring life in the rest of Latin America. When she returned to Germany to finish her Master’s degree in Political Science, she decided that she “desperately wanted to live in a Latin American country.” To her luck, she was offered an opportunity in 1989 to work on a media exposition about the women’s movement in Mexico City. She took the opportunity without hesitation. This assignment allowed her to realize that she wanted to express herself visually instead of simply joining the workforce. On this trip, she came across the film school Center for Cinematographic Studies which happened to align perfectly with what she wanted to do in the future. It also happened to be one of the two renowned film schools in Mexico City which she saw as a bit of a challenge. She applied to the school but was not sure of if she would get accepted because the school only accepted two foreigners per cohort at the time. Fortunately, she was accepted and started to study film production which she said was “one of the best decisions of [her] life”. After graduating from the film school with a new degree in filmmaking her life made a huge turn. From that point forward her life would be full of producing, directing, editing, and everything in between.
Adele finished her first film in 1998. The film was about a 17-year-old young woman who lived in the streets of Mexico City as a homeless person peddling between the streets and her parent’s home. The young woman was already a mother of a 2-year-old daughter and the film ultimately confronts the conflicts of being homeless while having a child in a developing country like Mexico. It became an award winning film and gave Adele “a complete entrance into the film industry”.
Soon after, Adele and her husband decided that it was time to move with their two young daughters to the United States. Adele saw the U.S. as a great place to expand her filmmaking career while her husband studied towards his MBA at the University of Maryland. Adele along with the rest of her family immigrated to the state of Maryland and a suburb of Washington, D.C. in 2001.
Upon arriving it became clear to her that it would be very difficult to combine her professional life with being a mother. She had to learn to balance her work with raising her young children since her husband was also busy in school. She worked as a producer at Journey Films, based in Alexandria, Virginia for the first eight years. In that time, she produced and edited five feature lengths award winning PBS documentaries. While she knew that she was fortunate to work as a producer, she was still working full time and could not see her children until the evenings in her first years of living and in the U.S. Her experience at Journey films helped her to “understand the film and video production industry in the U.S.” and inspired her to start her own production company called Zeitgeist Media LLC in 2008. Her company focuses on video production and video post-production but she also works as an independent documentary consultant for clients looking for assistance on beginning, improving, or completing their films.
As she started laying the foundation for her own company, she also worked eagerly to cofound a non-profit organization called Docs In Progress. When she first moved to the U.S. with a fresh degree in filmmaking, she noticed that independent documentary filmmakers in the Washington, D.C. area were working in isolation. This non-profit was designed to create community through documentary filmmaking and has now developed into an important organization in the DC metro area for this reason. By providing workshops, consultations, discussions, and screenings, Docs In Progress has helped the filmmaking community in the DC Metro area to become better connected and advance independent films so that they can thrive. Adele had a strong role in the organization in giving educational workshops in documentary storytelling and production. This also paved a way for Adele to become an adjunct professorial lecturer for Film and Video production at the American University in Washington, D.C. Since 2016 she also works for the U.S. Department of State producing Media Co-Ops.
Since 2010, Adele has been coproducing a documentary series on progressive rock called Romantic Warriors: A Progressive Music Saga, and as of 2017 is working on the fourth film of the series, Romantic Warriors IV – Krautrock. After 15 years of living as woman immigrant in the U.S. with her family, Adele is grateful to see her daughters flourish, and having an abundance of resources to find what they’re passionate about and also get their degrees.
Adele believes that it is absolutely crucial to establish a strong network of friends and colleagues so that you have a foundation when in need of help and support. It was important for her to build her own business so that she could work independently on her films and build a clientele for her consulting and producing work while taking care of her family, and she advises the rest of the Femigrant community to find what drives them and start a business around it. Her favorite quote is: “Get it done”. As a result of being very practice oriented, she thinks it’s important to be proactive and to do things even if you fail the first time. It’s important to reattempt a second or third time, because it’s necessary to learn from your mistakes so that you can cultivate new methods that help you overcome your obstacles. From what Adele has learned: If you don’t do it, it’s just an idea.
Editor: Paloma Zegarra Schmidt, Adele’s daughter