Tips for the modern day film intern

Posted: September 10, 2012 in Career Resources

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“Everyone starts at the bottom.”

This is a handy little verse I told myself over and over during my internship this summer. As I was making copies, carrying 20 coffees from Starbucks at a time, and generally doing everything that everyone else didn’t feel like doing, I comforted myself with the fact that no one just starts at the top of the ladder, everyone has to climb it.

Many of you may be considering internships in the film industry, something I highly recommend to anyone who wants respectable and reliable contacts for their future career. Though every experience is different, I’ll share with you some stuff I learned throughout my time as an intern so you guys can be as prepared as possible when you start interning yourself.

Tip #1: Smile like you mean it

No matter what kind of day you are having, always smile and act as friendly as humanly possible to everyone you come in contact with throughout your work day. No one is going to say ‘oh my gosh, that person smiles way too much, I can’t stand them.’ You’re going to make someone’s day by smiling at them and simply saying ‘good morning! how are you?’ and that person is going to remember you.

Tip #2: Make friends with people low on the totem pole

Though having the owners of the company love you is a plus, the people that are going to be in charge of hiring you are the assistants and secretaries of the film world. Get these people to LOVE you! Their jobs are usually really stressful and if you can make their day better or help them out, than do it. When they progress in their careers they’ll remember you and recommend you for their old positions.

Tip #3: Remember everyone’s name

Remembering everyone’s name in the office is usually not too difficult, seeing as you’re around them all day. However, if your internship gives you a chance to go on set, make sure to try your best to remember the names of the people you come in contact with throughout the day. By calling them by their first names and saying hi to them when they pop in and out of the office on non-set days, you’ll make an good impression on them–it’s not normal for people to remember names, especially on sets where there are so many names to remember!

Tip #4: Ask questions like crazy!

While in the office, its important to ask as many questions as possible, even ones you don’t really care about. Ask the accountants how the budget is allocated for each project or how the secretaries got interested in the business. Even if you don’t care, act like you do! These are people not usually talked to and they’ll appreciate your interest.

On set, do more or less of the same! As an intern, you have a freedom that most people on set don’t– you can talk to the different departments and not be annoying! When you get hired for an actual job, you’ll notice that most departments on set keep to themselves, however, as an intern, you don’t belong to any departments! Ask everyone questions, no matter what department they’re in, even if its not one you’re interested in.

But remember, office or on set, make sure to realize when people are too busy to talk– you don’t want to be that person that slows down operations.

Tip #4: Always carry a  few call-sheets, a pad of paper, pen, business cards, and a walkie-talkie battery around with you on set

Carry extra call-sheets so you can answer questions about what time lunch or wrap is– you’d be surprised how many people are going to ask you. Carry an extra one so you can give it to someone if they ask a question, you’ll seem prepared and helpful! You can also make notes on the call sheets next to the names of the people you meet so you can remember them the next day.

Carry a pad of paper and pen so that you can write down people’s names/departments– you’ll be surprised how many people are going to offer to help you out since you’re new. Also handy for coffee orders you’re probably going to have to get at some point.

Carry business cards — you look legit and people will be impressed!

And finally, carry extra walkie-talkie batteries — someone’s battery is going to go dead during the day and you’ll be that person that saves the scene with your swift replacement! If you hear “I need another ‘Hot Brick'” on the walkie, that’s your cue to give them a new battery.

Tip #5: Look a little above average every day

On set and in the office, you’ll notice that people in the film world dress down most of the time — jeans, shorts, t-shirts, sneakers… you’re not likely to see suits and heels most days. Even though it might be tempting to simply fit in, you have to remember that you don’t want to fit in, you want to stand out! Shower daily, do your hair (or for guys, make it look presentable) and dress a little above average every day, chances are, you’ll get noticed for it.

Tip #6: Always get to work/set 30 minutes before you’re supposed to be there

If you’re just going into the office, the time will give you a moment to relax before walking in and wake up a little.

If you’re going on set, it’ll give you time to eat breakfast and mingle with the rest of the crew, who will be getting to set 30 min early so they can grab a bite as well. Your call-time is when you should be starting to work, not when you’re actually supposed to get to set.

Tip #7: Don’t touch other department’s stuff

You’ll probably be with the production assistants when on set and you’re going to be tempted to help out the different departments. Just don’t.  Though it may seem like a friendly gesture to pick up that cord for the lighting department, or move that apple box for the grips, they’re going to see you as a threat to their jobs (union stuff) and are going to yell at you for it. You can always ask if they need help, but chances are they’ll be much more friendly if you are just asking questions rather than doing their job for them.

and NEVER give a professional on set suggestions on how to do things. You need to play the role of the inexperienced and eager intern; if you start giving advice to different people on set than it’ll make you seem pretentious. and NEVER EVER EVER give tips to the actors/actresses and director– just don’t. That’s dumb.

Tip #8: Do every job like your career depends on it

Chances are you’re not going to be given huge tasks to do as an intern. Instead, you’ll get tasks like helping assistants book flights for their bosses to go to Italy, getting/handing out paperwork, getting lunch, carrying messages between departments on set, and of course, getting coffees. Even if the task doesn’t seem important, act like its the most important thing you’ll ever do. Always finish it correctly and swiftly, and ask questions if you’re confused. You want to be seen as the reliable intern that gets things done right.

Tip #9: For the ladies… don’t get discouraged

Being a girl on set is going to be tough– most of the crew are guys and they’re going to assume they’re better at things than you are. Sounds like a medieval idea, but it still exists in the film world. You’re going to get 10 men a day grabbing equipment out of your hands because they think its too heavy for you and you’re going to have people not include you in tasks because they think you can’t do it. My advice to you is this– don’t let it get to you. They’re not trying to be jerks, its just what happens. Pull your own weight and do your best to be a valuable member of the crew and you’ll make it.

Tip #10: BE REMEMBERED.

Getting an internship is a great accomplishment, but unfortunately, there are usually a lot of interns. You need to be remembered as the friendly, fun (but not too fun), dependable, smart, innovative and interested intern. Sticking out among your fellow interns is your number one priority during your internship– if you call back to ask if there are any job openings when you graduate, you want the person to remember you right away. Always strive to be your best and go above and beyond, no matter what everyone else is doing. When your internship is over, make sure to keep in touch with the contacts you made; friendly hellos every once in a while are a great way to keep the connection alive for the future. Plus it’ll keep you fresh in their mind for upcoming gigs.

And if you’re not remembered, what’s the point of an internship?

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