Tales of a Grad School Nothing
When I went back to grad school for a career change I needed experience in my new field. Today I’m going to discuss my personal experiences as a 28 year old Hollywood intern. The entertainment industry is rough and when you’re a low ball coffee-fetcher, you better check your ego at the door.
So, long story short I gave up a lot to go back to school. I had a good job and made good money in the wake the global economy taking the biggest, dirtiest, dump of it’s adult life. But it wasn’t really an issue. I wanted to pursue a career in entertainment and I’d be damned if I didn’t give it my best shot.
So in an industry where there are FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, more people scrambling for jobs than their are actually available I found myself trying to differentiate myself from the pack by locking down a couple solid internships. My first one was at a major production company that produces movies you have definitely heard of. I’m not going to talk shit about the people there because, truly they were great. The “job” of intern in Hollywood however…not so great. Let’s take a look at a few of my favorite tasks.
1. Moving S@*t Around
From storage units to office furniture if you’re a male intern you’re going move stuff around. The location you place those things (i.e. where they told you) will likely change often and you’ll continue to move furniture, posters and boxes for the duration of your time at the internship.
2. Filing S%!t
The perfect career path for an anal retentive bean counter OR an OCD high functioning autistic the Hollywood intern will often find themselves filing files. The trick is to put on a good face and make sure there is a place for everything and EVERYTHING IN IT’S PLACE!!!
3. Dropping S$#t off and picking s@*t up.
Welcome to LA, new intern! We want you to get to know the lay of the land…as such we’re going to have you drive all over town and battle the worst traffic in America so Bob Smith can read the King’s Speech 2 spec tonight rather than tomorrow. But hey, aren’t you glad you know where 3 Arts is now? Don’t you feel like a big shot with your Warner Bros. drive-on?
But Now on the Realsies
So in case you can’t tell I was being a little sarcastic. There are a LOT of fantastic things you get exposed to at these internships. You get to read fresh new scripts and books no one else has access to, on rare occasions you get to pick the executives brains, you also get to deliver mail…(I think that last one belongs in the top section…)
Anyway, the system is the way it is because they need a way to filter out the bottom feeders. There is a ROBUST pool of delusional/misguided/ridiculous/entitled (pick an adjective) job hunters that need the intern experience either to: show them they need to pick another career path or blackball them from the industry.
So, how is it different for a 28-year old intern. Well, for one, I’m pretty much the oldest intern in the entire class. I downplay this fact in an effort to make the executives, some of which are my age, not feel awkward telling me to fetch them coffee or spend an afternoon filing their receipts from their on set visit to North Dakota last week.
As a 28-year old intern you are more mature than most other interns and have real life experience you can apply to business situations. E.g. managing a client budget in my last job is a little more complex than Steve Thompson managing his frat’s social/beer fund. I feel like situations like this as well as the way I presented myself helped to make some of the execs feel better about giving me more important things to do rather than the basic intern duties. I say this yet still I was constantly doing filing etc. as any good intern should.
Overall, however, despite my 5 years of professional experience, my MBA, my cheerful disposition, my winning smile, I was still expected to do the basic shit all interns do. And I was expected to be glad to do it. And I am. The recent Fox intern lawsuit has raised questions about how the industry internship programs operate.
Questions need to be asked but mostly people/interns just need to stop bitching and get with the program. It’s economics. Supply and demand. There is a large supply of qualified interns and a low demand for them. Thus the industry is set up to “cut the fat’ so to speak and make sure only the best make it. Do the best make it? For the most part yes. The smart, driven & ambitious do make it. There are also a lot of bullshitting hustlers that make it through too which you probably already knew.
The moral of the story is that regardless of work experience, and though you may be treated a little differently, EVERYONE starts at the bottom in the entertainment industry. The grad school interns are viewed EXACTLY THE SAME as the undergrad interns. You are competing for the same job as the 21 y/o sorority president. The studio head’s kid may get a better internship than you BUT she’s still doing an internship and fetching the same coffee you are.
Keep your heads up interns, persevere and make sure to stay humble. You don’t get to claim your ego back until the interns are working for you.