Senior capstone leads to launch of creative content career for IYA alumnus

A young man standing in shallow water and holding a camera faces away, looking over a verdant landscape beyond

September 1, 2021 | Erica Hur

Imagine traveling to Seychelles, Africa to cruise on a catamaran and fly down the coast on a helicopter during sunset. Now imagine doing all of this for work. This is exactly what IYA alumnus Justin Bishop experienced recently, and more, as a freelance content creator.

After working as a lifeguard in Laguna Beach for multiple summers, Bishop realized that a conventional 9-to-5 job wasn’t for him. So he took his career into his own hands by launching a content creation and media company called Emerald Media House, an idea which was born during his senior capstone course called the Garage Experience (Gx). 

“The structure and the rules and the authority … didn't click in my mind,” Bishop said. “I kind of compared the lifeguard structure … to what a corporate job would be. I just don’t like being told what I can and can’t do and that’s the biggest thing for me. I want to be the controller of my own fate and my every day.”

Male in hat and scarf holding up a camera lens and tripod

While his Gx capstone initially focused on real estate content, Bishop’s company has branched out and expanded to other content categories such as travel and adventure since graduating. He shared that he can take on new and unique opportunities that fit his goals and interests due to the freelance nature of his job. 

“I’ll go work at Live Nation for like five or six weeks and then I’ll go work at a different agency,” Bishop said. “So I still have the opportunity to go and work on teams and be a part of something bigger than myself when I want to be. But having the opportunity to dip out … has been personally really good for me.” 

One of Bishop’s recent projects included working with adventure YouTubers Sam and Colby on 25x25, a video series where they face 25 challenges, fears or adventures before they turn 25 years old. Some of the moments Bishop got to experience through this opportunity included traveling to Alaska to see the Northern Lights, drifting on salt flats in Utah and scuba diving out of San Diego to find an old army shipwreck.

“The things on that job and that project were some of the coolest things I've ever done as a human being, let alone done for work,” he shared. 

While Bishop’s job allows him to have a flexible lifestyle, he shared that freelancing and entrepreneurship also came with challenges such as figuring out how to balance work and play.

“Straight out of college, I think the hardest thing for me was just you are 100% accountable for yourself,” he said. “Every day, if you wake up and don’t want to work, you’re not going to work.”

Smiling male seated at helicopter cockpit
Male wearing hawaiian shirt standing on edge of sailboat

Bishop explained that finding the right motivation and creating a daily schedule to maintain a sense of structure has helped him get over this hurdle. For example, he incorporates outdoor activities such as surfing, paddle boarding and kayaking into his morning routine to get him moving and motivated for the rest of the workday. 

The Iovine and Young Academy’s Gx capstone course offers students hands-on entrepreneurship experience ranging from the ideation and development of a product to the pitching process. Bishop’s project was inspired by his years of experience in filming and photography. As a junior at USC, Bishop worked at Do LaB, a company that offers innovative experiences. Through this experience, he got to attend Coachella, a renowned music festival starring popular artists, to film and edit content. 

“When we had to start assessing what our Garage project and experience was going to be, I kind of took what I had as a passion and a hobby and realized that there was an actual career potential opportunity,” he shared.

Two young men, one in a USC hat, position audiovisual equipment to film

For all Academy students and graduates, Bishop recommends taking advantage of the opportunities and communities at USC and challenging oneself to try and start new things. 

“Don't be afraid to start,” he shared. “I think the best thing for any problem or any solution that you're trying to find is just start it. If you think about it too much, then you'll start to doubt yourself and then put roadblocks up that might not even necessarily exist. But if you start something and you're persistent and have patience and faith that it will work it, it will in the long run.”