On Set Internship

Amy commented a while back:

If I were to enroll in school to be able to take internships, how would one go about getting an on set internship? I’ve watched a few credits that have “art department intern” and other credits listed but I can never find these through production company websites or other job search engines.

Internships vary from studio to studio. Some studios have them. Others don’t. Your school should have a counseling office or an internship office or an industry relations office that will get the inside scoop on studio internships. If your school doesn’t have that, then you should talk to someone in the administration about getting those resources. They shouldn’t be robbing you of thousands of dollars without offering you some connections to “the biz.”

Keep in mind, an on-set internship is by no means a glamorous position. It could involve a lot of late nights for (as we’ve learned) no pay. Moreover, each department (and department head) will decide how much hands-on experience they want to give their interns. In some cases, you might be down in the trenches with the PAs. In others, you might be sitting on the sidelines, getting coffee and bagels but not really getting your feet wet.

(If “mixing metaphors” were an Olympic sport, I would have all sorts of gold trophies.)

Looking for an internship through production companies or job sites is a complete waste of time. Production companies don’t hire production crews, so they would be of almost no help to you. And job sites (such as the UTA job list) will give you plenty of access to office internships at agencies and the like, they won’t help you get within ten miles of set.

Good luck.
Good luck.
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8 Responses

  1. Securing an internship is for the most part the same as securing a job. Know somebody – this can be through your school or through some other established channel for networking. Here in Atlanta, we have the Atlanta Film Festival, and they have workshops, classes, and networking opportunities year-round. Find out of there’s something like this locally, and get your face out there. Eventually, you’ll find somebody who’s about to start a project… and they will usually be happy to have some free labor. Not sure about other areas, but the person who teaches most of the classes for Atlanta Film Festival sends out regular e-mails when volunteers and interns are needed around town.

    1. Hey Drew, I’m also a PA from Atlanta. And I completely agree, The Atlanta Film Festival and 365 have been invaluable for me, as well as the website. When I first started searching for internships, put out contacts for productions looking for day players. The key PA I worked with then has been so helpful in continuing to call me in for work on a number of sets.

  2. First, I would say enroll in a school with a reputable program and solid illumni. The reputable part will usually guide you into an internship with someone who is an illumni. ( See how that works.) Most college credit internship programs are, in fact, run out of production company offices and/or studio outreach programs. Actually takes a whole other layer of insurance and clearances to even offer the internship. Due to the large amount of paperwork and justifications envolved with hiring college credit interns, it’s just a pain so most low to no budgets don’t even throw their name in the hat.

    What happened on “Black Swan” is actually common practice, but none the less illegal. Internships offered for nothing, not even college credit, can not be, by definition,legal. The minute you require anyone to be anywhere, call times for example, you have to pay them, somehow. So, be aware of the production and understand the job scope. But again, if you are looking for a legit internship then it has to be provided through an insured company and sanctioned by your school.

    I would say, if you have the time and a car that runs, try to fill in a PA position somewhere. This will be your best chance for seeing how a real set is run and you won’t have to worry about any restrictions put on you from a sanctioned internship. Example, most college internship programs require some sort ofa detailed timeline of what was done and when.

  3. Internships are a double-edged sword. If you get a “legitimate” internship on a big show for a major studio, you’re likely to be extremely limited in what you’ll have a chance to do. Contrary to the “Black Swan” situation(?) the Majors tend to obey the rules fairly closely. (A savvy intern will be really observant and will benefit that way.)

    On the other hand, a low-budget show will play fast and loose with the rules, blatantly hiring “interns” to fill actual crew positions. They might hire two “experienced” people in the electric department and then pick up 2 or 3 interns to fill out the department. (The more, the merrier; they aren’t paying these people anything, so why not?) On the low budget show, you’ll get a lot more hands-on exposure — but you’ll be learning from people who may or may not know what the hell they’re doing in the first place. (Hint: Any gaffer who only gets to hire a best boy and then gets stuck with interns doesn’t have much weight to throw around.)

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