In almost every aspect of production from writing to camera work to producing, there is an internship program. Internship programs in a typical production company are used for two purposes: 1) the production company gets free (or very cheap) labor; and 2) an internship program allows them to identify potential candidates for current or future positions.
The benefits you derive from an internship program are: 1) you get the hands on experience you can't get unless you're actually working on the job; 2) you meet the individuals who will be responsible for hiring you should you end up working out.
Being an intern also has advantages that might not even be available to most full time employees of a given company. First off, you have the ability to explore a wide variety of other avenues. You're not necessarily bound to doing one particular job. In fact you're often encouraged to talk with other departments and ask more questions than if you were just a typical staffer.
Whereas the typical production employee is often just "thrown into the fire," interns are usually provided ample training and given the leeway to make mistakes as it is assumed they are completely green.
Where to Look for Internship Programs in Entertainment
Production internships can include working in various departments such as make up, camera or lighting. Or, you might find yourself as an office intern working with a major media corporation.
To find these internship programs, there are a few places you can look:
- Career Center: If you're still in school, your career center is a potentially valuable resource. Many career centers are provided with lists of a available opportunities within a given sector. Find out if your career center has any available information on entertainment internships, or use your career center's counselors to locate this information on your behalf.
- Corporate Websites: Almost every major media company now offers a wide variety of internship programs in just about any capacity you can think of. Often, these opportunities are posted on their websites. If you have trouble locating an internship program, try looking for the "About Us" or "Corporate Info" links on their sites which should take you to their job boards and internship program information.
- Daily Trades: In both The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, you'll find weekly lists of every television and film production that is being shot. Many of these lists will include phone numbers that allow you to contact the production office. Simply call these numbers and ask for a production coordinator. Once that person is on the line, explain that you're looking for any internshp opportunities they might have available. More often than not, they'll direct you right where you need to go.
Things to Remember
It's important that you realize how big of an opportunity an internship really is. This is your chance to shine. Most internships are unpaid (although sometimes school credit or a "stipend" of a few hundred or thousand dollars is offered), but it's still crucial that you treat it like a full time job. Remember, these are the people that might one day give you your first entertainment job and you want them to see you in the best light possible.
What about a "deferred pay" internship program? These have become a bit more popular lately, especially with smaller production companies who will often pay their employees after a movie or television show is produced so that they can put any extra money directly into the production. Just be sure that if you agree to a "deferred pay" arrangement, that it's likely you won't ever be paid. It's more important (and ultimately much more valuable) that you learn while you work.
Remember, your only responsibilites as an intern are to listen and learn. Sure, you might be given a few seemingly lowly duties, such as fetching coffee, or running someone's personal errands, but the more respect you give the intern opportunity, the more you'll get out of it in the long run. The education you receive while in an internship program could quickly prove to be thousands of times more valuable than a paycheck.