and Your Production Career
By Sandra Gordon
On Monday I was speaking to a class of students at Chicagos
Kennedy-King College, when one student asked a question I
had not anticipated. We were talking about internships and
how they can not only prepare you for a job outside of school,
but how they can introduce you to important people, and how
they can be the first step toward starting your career.
Before we opened it up for questions, I gave my two-cents
about internships in the viewpoint of both the intern, and
the employer. At this point in my career, I have had the opportunity
to play this role from both sides. As a college student, I
held a number of internships. First as a college Sophomore,
I was an intern at the Chicago ABC affiliate WLS-TV in the
creative services department where my duties varied between
writing cue-cards for in-house promos, writing copy for late-night-movie
ads, and answering crazy phone calls from housewives who watch
way too many soap operas, or Jeopardy! fanatics who missed
the final question. As a Junior studying in London, I worked
on a weekly series for the then new World League of American
Football, starring the London Monarchs. At the same time,
I was placed at a documentary company and worked on documentaries
as well as an up-and-coming British sit-com. That same year,
I spent a summer in Chicago in the Locations Department for
the Columbia Pictures feature Mo Money while
holding a job as a waitress at Bennigans.
In my professional life, I have hired both production assistants
and interns for almost every company Ive worked for.
Ive seen some rise to the top, and Ive seen some
fail miserably. I shared stories with the class at Kennedy-King
College to site examples of what not to do, to keep your status
and to give yourself the opportunity to turn the internship
into a future job. Ive recently written a book on establishing
production careers and used stories from my experience as
well as stories that other experts have shared with me during
my research. After all of this discussion, the question asked
by this student still took me by surprise.
She explained that some of the students have the opportunity
to work at a local cable station as employees, not just as
interns. Her question was If we work in this type of
situation, isnt this good for our resumes too? Doesnt
this mean that we wont need to start at entry-level?.
Of course the first part of her question is entirely true.
If you work in production, your experience is worth something
whether you are paid or not. The fact is, you are working
in your field and learning by experience. However, working
on a low-budget cable station, or even on a big-budget production
for that matter, does not automatically promote you to Producer.
It seems to me that everyone is in a hurry to move to the
final step, without experiencing life in the beginning and
the middle. How are we to learn the intricate details of our
jobs if we skip right to the end? When I was interviewing
co-workers and friends for my book, one Producer summed it
all up for me. She said A film major thinking that he
will get a job as a director right out of college is like
a business major thinking he will get a job as a CEO of a
company as soon as he graduates. The biggest mistake
that I see recent graduates make, is in being know-it-alls
on the job before they really, truly know it all.
The bottom line is to take advantage of your internship opportunities.
Use the internship for what it is--
1) A place for you to get your foot in the door
2) A place for you to test the waters to see what it is you
want to do with your career
3) A place for you to learn proper protocol and to see how
the business works
4) A place for you to network and to meet the people who will
help you to grow
5) A place for you to mature and to work not as a student,
but as an employee for the first time.
The bottom line is to slow down and enjoy the moments. Show
your employer that you have what it takes to succeed. You
may be only a coffee-getter, just make sure that youre
the best coffee-getter that they have ever seen so that they
will think of you whenever they drink coffee. Youll
leave them wondering, If he was THAT good at getting
coffee, what else might he be capable of? Youll
leave your mark and enter the next phase of your career.
About the Author
For a copy of Sandras book ACTION! Establishing Your
Career in Film & Television Production, visit your local
bookseller and ask for it by name. Or buy online at amazon.com
or barnesandnoble.com. Publisher is Applause Cinema &
Sandra Gordon is an EMMY Award winner with a background spanning
work in Locations, Production Coordinating, Production Managing
and Producing for feature films, television documentaries
and dramas, as well as industrials and live international
events. Miss Gordon is currently a producer at the Whitehouse,
a post production facility in Chicago. For more information