J-1 IWT Visa Program Participant Thrives in Film Industry

Colm Mooney working on set.
Colm Mooney working on set.

Colm Mooney began his career with a degree in film, an uncle in Boston, and a connection with the Irish International Immigrant Center. He had always planned on coming to America so when he heard about the J-1 Irish Work and Travel Program, he jumped at the chance: “I scrounged up my money… went to the US Embassy in Dublin for my interview and before I knew it I was on a plane across the Atlantic.”

Mooney had 90 days from his arrival in the United States to find a job in his field – a daunting task perhaps, but with the help of the Irish International Immigrant Center, he was given all the support he needed. “I met with Megan Carroll and started working with her on my resume. I wasn’t too familiar with the best layout and I had relatively little experience to put down but she helped me get the best out of it. I started applying for jobs and quite quickly got a response from a place in New York looking for interns.” From there he made the move to NYC and after getting a position as a boom operator (part of the sound team), began working in a difficult but ultimately rewarding position: “[I] learned more than I ever did studying film in college. The great thing about my position in this film was that I was on the set at all times, watching and learning all the procedures and the different roles… I also made some good friends on the set [who] gave me some invaluable advice about the industry.”

Based on his new experiences, Mooney began to get a clearer picture of what he was really interested in doing with his life – and it did not include sound work. He wanted to be an Assistant Director; organizing and running the set and all its myriad parts.

His next job offer came dramatically, like a scene right out of a movie. He was offered a position as 2nd Assistant Director for a film in the Hamptons which was floundering due to conflict in the crew, and after only a few hours notice he was jumping in a car and on his way to the set. The film pulled together and gave Mooney a chance to show his diligence and professionalism: “I worked hard and finished the film with several recommendations for upcoming projects and the confidence that I had what it takes to make it as an AD in this industry.”

For Mooney, now a successful filmmaker, the next months just flew by. “I got work [on] feature films back to back with barely a chance to catch my breath.” Soon, it was time to start wrapping up his time in the United States. Mooney reflected on his time with the Irish International Immigrant Center and the J-1 IWT Program as enlightening and instructive.

“My visa is now running close [to] an end and although I am really going to miss New York and all of the friends I have made here I am just about ready go home… and start working in the film industry in Ireland, which I believe should be achievable with the experience I have now. I have learned so much about the film industry and about myself and what I am capable of. I now have a much clearer vision of what I want to do with my life, and the confidence that I can achieve it.”

Thanks to the J-1 Irish Work and Travel Program, the Irish International Immigrant Center, and the hard work and determination of Colm Mooney, Ireland has one more experienced professional in their film industry.


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