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The “For Credit” Crowd: Tips on Being an Intern

Internships have been on my mind lately, partly due to the fact that four new interns started this week in my department. It wasn’t so long ago that I was in their shoes, walking into DreamWorks on my first day. At the risk of sounding like a cranky old man, let me tell you something about being an intern –  it sure as hell ain’t easy.

Internships, particularly in the entertainment industry, can be a thankless job. It’s easy to fall to the wayside because the reality is that as an intern you’re only going to be there for a brief period of time. There are so many people trying to break in, to get their foot in the door, that companies in the industry can take their pick of the little. Internships are a valuable step in entering the film industry if not just for the work experience but for the connections that could potentially lead to the full time gig, so taking advantage of the opportunity is key. Since I’m now on the other side of the internship equation, I wanted to share a few things I learned while serving in the “for credit” crowd.

1.) Be gracious. I was lucky enough to have interned at two of the coolest places in the business – Marvel and DreamWorks Animation – as well as some smaller companies. At the very least, I got to see how the sausage was made and at Marvel, I actually got to write the recap pages that were printed in issues of The Incredible Hulk. Make sure to stay thankful for the incredible opportunity to contribute, no matter how small the contribution.

2.) Be assertive, not obnoxious. At the end of the day, your boss at your internship is either going to be your biggest proponent or the person who’s going to tell HR to not hire you in a million years. It’s good to have your own opinions and to share them, but know the boundaries of the workplace. Don’t be insistent,  but if someone asks for your thoughts, make sure to keep those great ideas handy.

3.) Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. With so many interns rotating through the office, unless you really go out of your way to meet people, you will be forgotten. Don’t be rude when you do it, and make sure you’re not interrupting some super important meeting, but don’t be shy about saying hello. When I was at Marvel, I walked into Axel Alonso’s office (now the editor in chief) and made sure to tell him how much I enjoyed X-Statix, a series he worked on years ago. Later on, I met him at a convention and he remembered who I was. Simple as that.

4.) Make friends with the other interns. You never know where they’re going to end up and if they’re going to be the gatekeepers to your next job. Not everyone gets hired at the company at which they intern, so by making friends, you’re casting a wide net when you start searching the job market.

5.) Don’t burn bridges. The easiest way to get canned is to complain to everyone who will listen about how you aren’t going to get hired at the company. It’s a sort of self fulfilling prophecy. You’re there to establish relationships, so don’t leave people with a sour taste in their mouths.

6.) Keep in touch. After your internship is over, make sure to keep in touch with the people you met during your time there. If it wasn’t for the fact that I kept in contact with my supervisor at DreamWorks, I would not have gotten a recommendation, much less an interview, to come back for a full-time position. Don’t use facebook as a means of keeping in touch. If you want to establish a professional relationship with someone, use LinkedIn instead. No one needs to see any “red cup” pictures.

6.) Be curious. Ask a lot of questions. Do a little digging. After all, you’re there to learn. Use the resources at your fingertips to learn as much as you can. The best way of going about it is to have a goal in mind for what you want out of the internship and investigate every means of accomplishing that goal.

7.) Keep an eye out for exploitation. This one’s a little hard to accurately gauge. Admittedly, I have been lucky and have not experienced this firsthand but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t the potential for exploitative labor in this industry. If you feel like you’re not getting anything out of the experience and the company is just using your for free labor, then you need to reevaluate if the internship is worth it.

8.) Enjoy the perks. You may not be a full time employee (yet), but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the perks of the job. Special screenings, events and food are all frosting and you should take advantage of them to their fullest. I walked away from my Marvel internship with crazy amounts of free comics and at DreamWorks I got to go to an advanced screening of a movie that wasn’t even out yet.

I hope that for those of you who are still busting your butts in the ‘for-credit’ crowd, this has been at least somewhat useful. It’s easy to feel discouraged sometimes but when it comes down to it, your work ethic and demeanor are what will get you ahead. Good luck, and good interning!

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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Things I realized while watching Harry Potter 7: Part 1

The end of an era is upon us. The penultimate Harry Potter movie was released recently (thank you Warner Bros. for prolonging the inevitable by splitting it into two movies) and there were a few things that struck me while I was watching.

1. I am too old to go to midnight showings anymore. Thank you Stanford freshman for being chipper and – above all – awake at 3am.

2. I’m glad to they didn’t release this movie in 3D. I don’t think I could have handled the giant snake lunging at the screen. I nearly pooped myself.

3. Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) is the next Carrot Top – funny, ginger and juiced.

Hello, I'm Ron Weasley. Did you know carrots are filled with steroids?

4. Daniel Radcliffe will find any excuse to be naked. (No, I will not post pictures.)

5. There will undoubtedly be thousands of internet pervs Google-ing “Harry Potter/Hermione naked Deathly Hallows kiss.”

Promise you won't tell Ron that you broke my wand.

6. Part of me wishes I could live a day without a nose – like Voldemort.

7. Emma Watson will one day fight Kiera Knightley to the death.

8. I wish the entire Harry Potter series had been animated.

Awesome. Seriously awesome.

9. Harry Potter can’t dance. But he can make out with his best friend naked. Thanks Horcrux!

Harry Potter and the Uncomfortable Dance Sequence

10. My wife would probably leave me for an underage wizard. On the flipside, I would too.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Back on top – Disney’s ‘Princess and the Frog’

Before you judge me based on the fact that I went to see a Disney “princess” movie, let me say one thing. I don’t care. As a lifelong Disney fan, I’ve seen almost every animated feature in the Disney canon, and yes those include all the princess ones too. They’re great, deal with it. After a lengthy period where it looked like Michael Eisner and computer animation had all but killed traditional hand-drawn animation, I was worried that the recently released “Princess and the Frog” was going to be a false start in the studios’ attempt to resurrect the art form. Someone should have slapped me because boy were my assumptions dead wrong.

I won’t bore you with hyperbolic descriptions about how the animation was spectacular, how the Alan Menken songs hearkened back to Disney’s heyday, or how the characters were simultaneously funny and touching. You could read any review in any magazine for that kind of thing. The thing that I’ve always loved most about cinema is the way that every person will have a different reaction and will engage the film in vastly different ways. A film can mean any number of things depending on the kinds of associative memories the viewer is bringing into the theater.

For me, as someone who loves animation, the film was a love letter to those past traditions that had withered on the vine and had then been left to rot by those in charge. For many of the audience members of the opening night at the Court Street theater in Brooklyn, the film had a vastly different significance.  Why? Well, first a little background on the film – Disney ran into a bit of trouble with “Princess & The Frog” because they not only chose to set the film in New Orleans, but also because the film was going to be the first to to finally induct a black princess into their predominantly monochromatic pantheon of princesses. Considering how sensitive a topic race is in this country, the fact that they managed to avoid most of the potential pitfalls that could have beset the film is a miracle in itself; but it’s a minor miracle when compared to how the film was received at the Court Street theater.

The theater sits on the cusp between Brooklyn Heights and downtown Brooklyn and services a large black community. Feel free to go ahead and give me crap for saying it, but my experiences seeing movies in the Court Street theater have almost always featured some example of the stereotype of black people in movie theaters. Yes, I know stereotypes are wrong, but I happen to think this one makes the moviegoing experience that much more entertaining. There has rarely been a film I have seen in that theater that did not involve some lady yelling, “don’t go in there!” during some horror movie, so the added layer of audience interaction is always a treat.

Maybe it was the film’s protagonist, maybe it was the subject matter or maybe it was the fact that it was so exceptionally well crafted, but for the entirety of the film, no one uttered a word in the packed theater. Not one word. This is unheard of. Once the credits started rolling, people even clapped! In Brooklyn! The chances of this happening are about as slim as finding a politician without a mistress. The little girl with the thick glasses and pigtails sitting in the seat next to me was on the edge of her seat, eyes glued to the screen the whole way through.

For whatever technical achievements “Princess & The Frog” may represent, the ultimate marker of its worth is the message that derives from its story. Tiana is the first Disney princess whose underlying purpose is not to find self-worth by passively waiting for some prince to come and marry her. Rather, her message is that dreams are attainable if you persevere and work hard – a valuable and powerful lesson for kids, little girls especially. While I may have walked out of that theater with an appreciation for the song and visual style of the film, that little girl who sat next to me walked out of there with more than that – she walked out with a positive role model. That alone is worth the ticket price.

Go see this movie. Your inner child will thank you.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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