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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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My Walk to Work when I Interned at Marvel

It’s easy to feel reflective when you’re sitting on a train on your way to work, watching houses and streets whizz by. In California, there’s a sort of homogeneity along the major transportation ways, a blur of sand colored buildings and red Spanish tile roofs broken up by the occasional strip mall with their standard regiment of Pho restaurants, bike shops and $2.99 cleaners. Unless you’re stuck in traffic, listening to the prerequisite NPR story about gray fog settling in some valley or about the realities of string theory that’s almost expected of you when it comes up during lunchtime conversations, the truth of the matter is that the morning/night commute in the Bay Area can be rather…well, routine.

When I was an intern at Marvel, getting to work was a little different.

It started with the 10 minute walk to the subway station at Borough Hall in Brooklyn Heights, but to be more specific, it was a 10 minute walk to the often-closed and always-flooded Montague street entrance to the R train. Didn’t matter the time of year, there was always a puddle of dirty water you had to tiptoe around that meant either some pipe was leaking questionable water or the hobo that slept in the stairwell had an incredibly large bladder. In the summer, the humid sticky heat brought with it the pungent rotten fish smell from the Chinese restaurant on the corner of Henry and Montague while the winter highlight was the gale force wind so cold that it felt like needles on your skin, regardless of how many layers you wore.

Once underground, the heat from the subway tunnel rushed up through the stairwell, either a welcome respite from the cold or a urine-tinged slap in the face depending on the season. I made my way down the dark, dank and narrow staircases covered in graffiti where the homeless man slept, usually sans pants, and hoped that the rumbling I heard from the distant tunnel below wasn’t my train leaving the station.

A mad scramble down the rest of the stairs, a mad leap through the closing train doors and I found a seat among the rare empty ones that all shared the same scratched up yellow color that Burger Kings had in the mid 80s. The thing about the New York subway system is that you can tell which lines service the affluent and/or tourist infested areas of the city by the level of cleanliness and the cars’ general state of repair. Trains that service the Upper East and Upper West side? Super nice. Ironic given that residents of those areas rarely set foot in a subway. Trains coming out of Brooklyn and Queens generally require a tetanus shot after you ride them, so when I transferred to the 4 train at City Hall, a train that services Union Square, Grand Central and the Upper East Side, it was like traveling through time and social strata just by crossing a train platform.

Things would start to get a little crowded by 14th street. The boundaries of personal space (and my patience) were tested by loudmouth Yankee fans talking trash to each other, glaringly out of place in a subway car full of people, who were often in suits, on their way to their respective offices. The day of the Yankee Parade after they won the World Series – for the 26th time mind you – was the closest I have ever been to murdering a fellow human being by punching them in the neck.

Unfortunately, this never actually happened.

By the time we reached Grand Central, I had been crammed into some guys armpit, nearly had coffee spilled on me by oblivious workaholics clicking away on their Blackberry’s and had at least one troubled drug addict tell me their life story before moving onto the next train to start their story over again with the next unsuspecting rube. Keep in mind, this is the good train. At Grand Central, the doors would open and a flood of people would rush out, bottle-necking at the staircase that led up to the main concourse. There is no place that is more of a sensory overload than Grand Central Station at rush hour – the wall of elbows all jockeying for position, the screeching from the train across the way as it pulls into the station, the unintelligible garbled radio voice of the conductor, the smell of astringent body odor and the general roar of shuffling feat and muddled voices lost amid the din of the train station will turn even the most gregarious of personalities into an agoraphobe.

But the view when I finally made it out from the rat race – damn. Stepping out into the coral colored corridors of the main concourse of Grand Central, with it’s soft gold lighting and reflective polished tile is an odd sensation. It may be different for someone who has grown up in NYC their entire life, but even after months of the same commute, I always felt like I was stepping into an embodiment of the the old notion of what New York was meant to be, from a time back when the city was flourishing with the spirits of Art Deco and the New Deal and the overwhelming sense of human potential manifested itself in the incorrigible attitudes of its people and the lofty, monolithic buildings they created to reach up and prod the gods with concrete reminders of their determination. The astrologically themed ceiling in the main terminal was testament to that perhaps overly poetic feeling, and there was hardly a day that I didn’t stand slack-jawed, if only for a moment, staring up at the ceiling like the dozens of dumbstruck tourists who I so often chastised for being in the goddamn way.

I grew up reading Marvel Comics. I can remember the first issue my dad brought home for me and as I would read it on the floor of the living room, I knew it was something special. These were fantastic characters set against the backdrop of the world’s greatest city and as I pushed open the heavy iron doors onto 5th Avenue, to the streams of yellow taxi cabs and the canyons of gray office buildings, I have to admit that on more than one occasion I imagined Spider-Man swinging from building to building or the Fantasticar jetting off to the next adventure.  My conception of New York was largely defined by the Marvel Universe and though I never actually saw the web-slinger, that walk up 5th avenue toward Bryant Park from Grand Central did little to assuage the idea that I might actually catch a glimpse of red and blue.

What it must feel like to be a superhero in NY

Landmarks are a huge part of New York’s appeal and on my walk to work at Marvel (which has since moved offices), I saw the Chrysler Building with it’s mercurial silver curves and Bryant Park with the New York Public Library (of Ghostbusters fame) from across the street. These weren’t just buildings, these were monuments to a better time in our history. After turning left down 5th, passing some stern looking business women, the occasional crazy person and a weird, out of place liquid nitrogen tank that had pipes going down into a manhole, eventually the quintessential New York landmark came into view: The Empire State Building. Every morning, the rising sun hit the windows of the eastern facing side of the building and man, if it didn’t just glow.

By the time I made it to the office to work on comic books filled with the world’s most polychromatic collection of characters, it was no mystery where Stan Lee and all the other writers and artists from the last 70 years of Marvel found their inspiration. The City was – and is – such an incredible living organism that from the grimiest, lowest part of the subway to the lofty, heaven scratching point at the top of the Empire State Building there is literally nothing else like it in the world…not even the red tile roofs and beige strip malls of California.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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20 Things I Don’t Understand About Comic Books

I’ve read a lot of comic books in my day. If you know me at all, you may have picked up on that. There are certain questions that have popped up over the years which I find are for the most part glossed over. These are things as readers we’re supposed to take at face value and not really worry about. These are also the things that keep me up at night. Let me know if anything else out there strikes you as odd, true believers.

  1. When does Batman sleep? He’s a playboy industrialist by day and a crime-fighter by night. Unless he never sleeps, I feel like the corporate world wouldn’t tolerate someone who shirks his responsibilities as head of Wayne Enterprises. Either that or he does massive amounts of cocaine to stay awake.
  2. If Lois Lane is the world’s best investigative reporter, how come she never figured out Superman’s identity was until he told her? Doesn’t really bode well for her credibility as a journalist. Also, Metropolis – are you really so stupid that you can’t figure out a disguise that consists of a pair of classes and an ill-fitting suit? There must be a lot of stupid people in that city.
  3. What happens when the unstoppable Juggernaut meets the immovable Blob?
  4. What do superheroes do on weekends? Do they get time off? Sick days? Maternity leave?
  5. How are Wolverine and Spider-Man on so many different super teams? I guess the obvious answer is cloning. The even more obvious answer is money.
  6. Why does Superman wear a cape? There is absolutely no aerodynamic reason why Kal-El should wear a cape. He doesn’t need it to fly and it just gets torn up whenever he gets in a fight. If you ask me, it’s a nuisance.
  7. Who makes the costumes? If they’re damaged, who repairs them? Why don’t they wear clothes that are as resilient as they are? Who designs their costumes? Are fashion designers such amazing confidants that they can be trusted with secret identities? Yes, Edna Mode might just be the most powerful figure in all of comic lore.
  8. Do superheroes have any racial prejudices? For the most part, the heroes of the Marvel U live in NY and deal with people from all over the world (presumably). But would someone like Clark Kent be as open minded and tolerant of non-Midwesterners?
  9. Why don’t they don’t age like we do? Spider-Man debuted in 1963. He was a freshman in highschool, making him 15. That would make him 63 if every year were equally matched with the real world. I know it’s all supposed to be based on a sliding scale, but I would love to see what it’s like to live as geriatric superhero. Would they have super-arthritis? Super-incontinence?
  10. Why are they able to keep coming back from the dead? Killing off characters is a mainstay of modern comics. They die, they come back to life. It’s very cyclical. I don’t even know why they bother grieving.
  11. Is the Thing completely made of rock? Apparently, Stan Lee actually answered that in a recent deposition. Yes ladies, the Thing’s thing is also made out of rock.
  12. Unstable molecules? If they’re unstable, presumably that means that they are constantly in motion. Fast molecular motion means heat. Wouldn’t that create massive molecular problems for anything touching them (ie. would your skin melt off?)
  13. If someone smashes the Green Lantern’, would he be out of a power source? Can he get a replacement at the lantern store? If the charge only lasts 24 hours and he’s on a camping trip, wouldn’t people notice that he’s carrying around a giant glowing green lantern.
  14. How do they go to the bathroom? There are no zippers on all that spandex. Also, do they have to stop fighting if they have to go?
  15. Why are female characters either derivatives of male characters (I’m looking at you She-Hulk) or flagrant sex symbols? I can count very few off the top of my head that don’t fall into either category.
  16. Just how old is Aunt May? And why won’t she ever die?
  17. Why don’t bad guys live in the suburbs? Or better yet, why don’t they live in the Midwest? All the good guys don’t tend to venture out of the city.
  18. How much money do superheroes make? Do they have retirement plans? Who does their taxes? I know crime doesn’t pay, but does fighting crime pay?
  19. Is there anyone in either the Marvel U or DCU that doesn’t believe in Aliens? Because I’m pretty sure they’ve been invaded at least every other Tuesday.
  20. Where does the Hulk get so many purple pants? And why don’t they rip all the way? I’m pretty sure that even if he was super pissed off, no one would point out that he’s not wearing pants…because he’s the HULK. Also, if I saw a guy who was wearing purple pants, I’d give him a wide berth.

There's at least one person who's overdue on rent in this mess. Also, at least one person who has expired milk in his/her fridge. Nobody is perfect.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Convergence of nerd – “Avengers” Assemble

*Note* I don’t usually post about things that will happen in the future, but this one is too near to my heart to pass up. I apologize if I geek out too hard.

One thing I missed while on my honeymoon was what could possibly be the most incredible, amazing, astounding, spectacular, nerd-tastic convergence of awesome in the history of western civilization. At San Diego Comic Con 2010, the mecca of all things geek, the cast of the culmination of Marvel Studios’ years of planning was announced – the “Avengers” movie.

So what’s so special about this one movie? To start with it, it features every major superhero that Marvel has been spotlighting in its feature films starting with “Iron Man”. These are characters that have been part of the American popular landscape for the greater part of the last 70 years and they’re finally all getting a single moment to shine. And take a look at who they’ve wrangled for the job –

Captain America (Chris Evans)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth)

Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.)

The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)

The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)

Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)

War Machine (Don Cheadle)

Why should you, the average filmgoer, care? Because, if it’s done right, it will blow your mind. And director Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly, Glee) is very good at blowing minds, just ask any nerd in that conference hall in San Diego.

In non-nerd terms, imagine if every winner of American Idol were singing “We are the World” while the planets were aligned and you’ve got a fraction of how amazing this movie can be…hold on, this movie comes out in 2012, doesn’t it? Maybe the Mayans were right – this much awesome surely must be a sign of the pending apocalypse. As long as I make it through the end credits before the huge world-ending volcano erupts, I’ll be happy.

Check out the announcement here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8YN-UqCTJ0

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Big Apple Comic Con – Part III – The Forgotten

Nothing's quite as adorable as an ex-pro wrestler in a tie-dye shirt

Nothing's quite as adorable as an ex-pro wrestler in a tie-dye shirt hugging a girl who doesn't know who he is.

I’ve always had a bit of a troubled relationship with the celebrities that show up at Cons. While on one hand, it’s undeniably exciting to meet some of the idols of my childhood (Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca and Ernie Hudson, the least appreciated Ghostbuster), there’s a distasteful air of tragedy in seeing the once mighty pantheon of film & tv heroes trudge through the legions of slobbering fanboys.

To me it’s an interesting phenomenon why these talented individuals would submit themselves to the unfettered judgment and occasional adulation of a fan base that is at once fiercely loyal and unabashedly fickle. Nothing at the whole convention stood out as so bittersweet as seeing those that had once captured the imaginations of millions sit alone at a booth with people glancing down at the name tag and continuing on without hardly recognizing the human being behind it. These were once gods of the screen (some quite literally in their roles) and now they were ignored in favor of the latest, hippest and most teen friendly fads.  “Twilight” has usurped the “Twilight Zone” in the hearts and minds of the American viewing audience and by golly if it doesn’t break my heart.

The feeling of being excited to see Adam West, only to see some octogenarian from the old “Lost In Space” TV show disregarded in the adjacent booth makes the whole thing a tragic spectacle in my eyes. It’s hard not to feel a twinge of pity for those once-famous and those hardly-famous as they did nothing but provide a facet of entertainment for many viewers young and old.

Cleverly disguised as an old man, Adam West (Batman) patiently awaits his chance to strike.

Cleverly disguised as an old man, Adam West (Batman) patiently awaits his chance to strike.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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