A Worthwhile Internship?
Sunday, June 08 2008 @ 11:16 PM EDT
Contributed by: Jimbo
Contributed by: Jimbo
Just recently I was able to pry a "how I broke into the business" story out of the hands of Ashley Michael Karitis. Ashley is currently a student at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and her script "Saving Tulips" was just named a finalist in the 480 competition. For those of you that have not lived under the yoke of the 480 process, it's a "competition" that USC runs to see which students will actually get to make a final thesis film. Only a few thesis films are shot each year, which means there are numerous students at USC that spend $35,000 a year to not make a final film. I know, it boggles the mind. Now do you see why your parents were pushing for Free Film School? Here's Ashley's account of how she broke into the business with an internship at an independent film production company:
- I worked in my office two days a week, 10 hours a day. It was a 35 minute commute to the office from USC and I would have loved to have been reimbursed for gasoline and lunches--which doesn't add up to very much if you ask me.
The "intern training" was...well, there really wasn't any training at all! Our intern supervisor, an assistant to a creative executive, was a fundamentalist on "learning by doing," and if you do it wrong, then you'll get a reprimand and you'll do it right next time! Honestly though, to skip the embarrassment of "not doing it right" or the humiliation of being scolded by a 23 year-old assistant, I would have preferred any training, even if it was brief or incomprehensive. Instead, we were handed an 11 page "Intern Guide" which was supposed to have everything that we needed to know from AIM screennames, to greeting guests, answering phones, and doing coverage. However, it was put together inefficiently and was not very comprehensive. So, it was a go-to guide for some things, or, it might help you get started on a project/task so that you'll figure it out in the end.
It took a while to orient myself to the office and a general tour, with "here's our new intern" introductions to the executives and the other staff, would have been nice.
The assistants certainly weren't impressive individuals, something that is both discouraging and encouraging (either "I went to USC to become an entry level assistant, something that anyone can do?" or "YES, I can do this!"), but they were my superiors so I respected their requests and jobs assigned. When I say "the assistants weren't impressive individuals", I refer to their overall character, not their ability to do their job. They were all seasoned assistants and their experience ranged from brutal time at an agency to time at other production companies. I'm more referring to their tastes, their standards, their outlooks on life, and whether their moral intergrity had been able to stand up to the industry at all (i.e. they just weren't shining examples of the human spirit). All were amiable and I was very appreciative of their help and insight when needed! After our days were over, we'd often chat for 10 or 20 minutes about the hellish work they had done at agencies, among other anecdotes that scared the crap out of me and the other interns.
The assistants certainly looked out for us, not necessarily on a personal level, they've got more important things going on to worry about if us interns are in the office by 9am sharp. But when interns fumbled over extensions or the phones or where the DVD jewel cases were, they were always there to help us. They were keen on developing "the intern program" at the office and so they set up mixers for us and an intern-executive pizza lunch with awesome food where we got to sit with the executives, all to ourselves, eat pizza, and ask as many questions as we want about job hunting, etc. That was awesome.
I was at a independent film production company, so there were only three executives and the president of the company who presided over the creative department. While each was busy and in and out of the office all of the time, they were as mentioned, extremely accessible and laid back when it came to us interns. Sometimes, they would go terrifyingly apeshit on their assistants, but would cool down within the hour. They constantly welcomed the interns into their offices for job advice or any questions. Our feedback on their projects in development was very seriously considered. They expressed their openess to our opinions and any projects that we thought were worth developing. While they are busy individuals, I truly think that they did care about making our internship a worthwhile experience--we were all pulled into one CE's office to announce this dynamic they were trying to create. They wanted us to trust them and vice versa so that each party could benefit from our work and creative contributions.
Lastly, I cannot express how awesome my fellow interns were! We were all quite diligent but there were moments when we would sneak in an inside joke or a, "Guess who just got yelled at!!" Or, "Just come check this trailer / YouTube clip!" Whenever someone was lost or confused about a project, we would always support and help one another. Only toward the end of the semester when we realized getting scolded wasn't all that bad did we point fingers, and if the fingers were pointed, it was always done in a benign, noncompetitive manner. Lunch together, exploring the studio lots, talking about scripts, it was all great and significant bonding as college students entering this crazy thing called the entertainment industry. As interns, we had drinks outside of the office, going away parties; we're all friends on Facebook, and I will be going to some housewarming parties in the fall for those who will be permanently residing in LA.
The executives, the assistants, and the interns all joked about making and "The Office" version of our production company. There were soooo many quirks, from the YouTube obsessed marketing assistant downstairs, to the "assistant" that was Gmail-chatting, on Facebook, or playing online Scrabble, to the Distribution executive who would give us free candy. And then there are those fond memories trying to fix the damn printer in the back that has jammed AGAIN for the 30th time that day, while the assistant is demanding 5 more copies of the new romantic comedy that has come in, here, rip apart this book and scan it for weekend read, and oh, here is another piece of shit script just sent from over from the agency (and it's 6.30pm), which needs to be scanned, logged, and 5 copies upstairs asap. Haha, unbelievable!
My internship was definitely worthwhile...