Speaking from my own personal experience, I will say that I learned more in my few months as a production company intern than in multiple years of film school. Internships might not seem glamorous or exciting, but if you’re looking to learn the skills and get introduced to all facets of the industry, it's one of the best ways available.
If you’re curious, here are the ways an internship helped me and things it exposed me to, along with several pieces of advice to make sure you maximize your internship to be ready to jump into a career in film and video production.
There are many things you need to learn in the industry that they don't always teach you in school.
1. Professional Standards
When you take an internship, it's important to treat it as if you're taking a full-time job, paid or not. You'll learn many things very quickly about what it means to be in a professional film and video environment. Pay attention and follow your co-workers leads on how they dress and interact with each other and clients—and I mean especially clients.
There are many things you need to learn in the industry that they don't always teach you in school. Things like how to write and reply to emails, how to read calendars and schedules, how to go over video revisions with clients and quality control supervisors and in general how each person should act on set.
2. Production Workflow
If you've never been in the industry or worked in a full-time position, it can be a little bit of a transition to get used to the pace and workflow. Yes, it's important to show up on time, but it's also just as important to learn how people work in film and video.
In my experience, there are two types of days the in film and video production world. There are shoot days, then there are off days. On shoot days, you learn how to get up and arrive early, grind hard to get things set up and through production, which can often go late into the night. On off days, things may be more relaxed, but you still have to get things done. Editors lock themselves into edit bays and grind away on coffee and snacks, meetings are held and brainstorming/scripting session can happen over lunch.
For a typical script-to-screen production, a project usually starts with a client meeting. It goes through several stages of pitches and concepting before it becomes a realized project. From then, a script, shot list and production schedule are put together. This may take several weeks to several months before actual production launches. Once it does, it goes fast. You'll usually have full days lined up, stacked to maximize things like camera rentals, location fees and freelancers brought on.
From there, it goes into post, which usually takes between two and six weeks (although it can often be rushed). The post process involves someone to compile all the footage, back it up and quality control it. A pre-edit can be put together for before a senior editor jumps onto it. From there, he or she puts together a draft which is reviewed internally by producers, directors and others. Once it's reviewed and sent off to clients, they usually have revisions as well. Ideally, this is done before it's sent for coloring and more in-depth motion graphics.
Unfortunately, it's not atypical for many clients to have last minute revisions as well, usually pushing edits to the very last hour until they're due or needed. If you're not used to this type of high-stakes workflow, you may be in for a surprise—but stay calm, it usually always works out.
3. Best Practices on Set
Once you're on set as intern, you'll usually be in a PA role. This can be anything as simple as getting snacks and running messages to manning boom mics and running cables. If you don't have all these skills to begin with, ask for help early and often (and also read up online!). It's an internship—you're supposed to learn something. Just make sure you ask politely and not in the heat of the moment.
You'll learn how a set operates, from the director through the assistant director to your director of photography and the teams of sound and lighting technicians and gaffers. You'll see producers and clients in production villages watching the shots in real time and sometimes giving immediate feedback. It can be stressful at first, but find your role and focus squarely on that for the time being.
You'll meet lots of people and make lots of connections. Try your best to maximize this exposure.
4. Industry Exposure
Even if you're internship is only a few months, you'll still get plenty of industry exposure to soak up. It may seem like too much to take in, but believe me, you'll learn and remember more than you think you can. Along with an up-close understanding of the industry, you'll also get to meet lots of people and make lots of connections. Try your best to maximize this exposure.
If you don't already, create a Linkedin and add everyone you meet. Also, grab business cards when you can (even consider making some yourself). Don't ever interrupt people at work, but if you get a chance to chat after work or if your internship has any mixers, absolutely make the most of those opportunities. If you're interning in the area where you want to stay and build your career, these can easily be the people you work with for years to come.
5. Building Your Resume
As boring as it sounds, taking the time to build out a professional resume is well worth the investment. Internships show a lot of things; not just knowledge-wise, but it also shows that you were able to successfully contribute to a team. If you can, ask your internship coordinator, supervisor or work buddy if you can use them as a professional reference in the future. You can even ask them to write you a recommendation for your Linkedin or resume as well.
Taking on an internship can truly be a career-changing opportunity. If you have a good attitude and truly want to make a career for yourself in film and video production industry, it can be more than a foot in the door, it can be a way in.
Header Photo: Andy Bardon