What to Expect as a Film Intern

This was published on Dream Row’s website on July 17, 2012.

What to Expect as a Film Intern

By Nicole LaChance

Breaking into the movie industry is not an easy task. Thousands of students flock to the profession seeking glitzy jobs in a high-profile setting.  Fortunately, for those students willing to work hard and take lots of directions, there are several opportunities to get started with an internship.

Why Intern?

Being an intern is a great way to get your foot in the door in the film industry. While it tends to be one of the less glamorous jobs on a movie set, interns have the perfect opportunity to learn the basics of many different jobs (which helps determine career goals) while not having the high expectations of a salaried employee. Additionally, internships are often a great way to make important connections in the industry, which often come in useful down the line.

An internship provides a different, more hands-on learning experience than the classroom. Being on a set helps students put things they learned in the classroom into practice and adjust them as needed, according to the internship handbook for the Minnesota State University Film Studies Department. Internships teach practical skills and help interns get a better idea of what skills are needed in their desired profession. Not to mention, it looks good to a potential employer.

Who Gets Internships?

As with internships in most disciplines, the easiest way to get an internship is by being a student. Because of recent legal controversies involving the workload and compensation of interns, such as this one involving a former Black Swan production intern, most major companies require interns to either be paid or receiving college credit, often choosing the latter. However, those unable to receive college credit may be able to find an internship with a smaller production.

A quick search on EntertainmentCareers.Net shows that many non-major productions are looking for students with basic communication and administrative skills. Many first-time interns do not need a lot of on-set experience, but having some does not hurt. Major studios tend to have more competitive programs and generally those with on-experience or previous internships have an advantage.

How Do You Get Them?

The most important thing is to have a resume detailing your movie experience. It may also be helpful to list office and administrative experience as many interns will be doing office and assistant duties. If your resume is a little light, being an assistant on a student film can help beef up a resume and give a little glimpse of life on a movie set.

A simple Google search for film internships will lead to lots of results. Most major film studios have internship programs and list information about them on the job or internship pages of their website. Databases such as EntertainmentCareers.net  and Mandy.com are also helpful tools for those seeking internships.

What Should You Expect?

Since all studios and productions are different, each internship will offer a different experience and will require varying tasks. There are always the horror stories of interns spending hours photocopying hundreds of documents and running around bringing everyone on the set coffee, but internships offer invaluable experience for those who are ready and willing to learn.

Internship programs at big name studios usually offer a wider variety of more specialized tracks. For example, Pixar offers internships in almost all aspects of their studio, including production, animation, art and more administrative areas like finance. These interns get to shadow current employees, attend meetings and work with the Pixar team. Universal Pictures offers internships working at the studio in various stages of the production process as well as internships specializing in production and post-production and editing. Interns are given various tasks assisting in the department they are assigned and are also given the opportunity to attend professional development seminars and interact with managers.  Interns can also choose between focuses in physical production and post-production. Both include mostly administrative tasks related to the operation of the studio.

Internships with smaller studios are usually less specialized and require more all-around work, but with a smaller intern pool there is more of a chance to stand out and make a personal connection. One documentary is seeking an intern to do administrative tasks as well as editing and production assistance. Another is seeking an intern to work as an editing and production assistant. Small studios and productions can often be short on money and staff, so interns get more of a chance for hands-on production and post-production work.

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