Myths and advice when applying for an internship in film and video.
It’s spring, so we’ll soon start hearing from students who would like a summer internship with us. I love that. I love the new energy and new perspectives and I want to say “yes” to them all. But I can’t, and there are two main reasons why – two persistent myths about internships. And there are some actions you can take to make me want to invest in you.
First, the myths about internships:
Myth 1. “Hey, I’m willing to work for free/credit (or cheap) so XYZ Company should be grateful for my help.” You are not working for free. You are working for experience, access and school credit. Your paycheck may not reflect it, but the company DOES invest a great deal in having you around – in teaching you more about your craft.
The team or supervisor you work under will take time to communicate processes and expectations to you. You will need to learn new software, or at least new aspects of software you are already familiar with. (And this touches on a pet peeve of mine about overselling your “proficiencies,” but more on that in Myth 2.)
And in business, time is money. So if you expect a to learn anything new in a video internship (and we hope you do), that knowledge will come through interactions with the production team, at client meetings, during reviews, while receiving peer feedback, etc. Appreciate the time we take with you, the access you have to technology, to processes and people who know more than you and may be instrumental in getting you a job after graduation, and please show a little humility.
Myth 2. You need to present yourself as really, really good at everything in order to be selected for an internship. Let’s be honest; you do not know as much as you think you know. I mean no disrespect to you, your teachers, your work ethic or your experience so far. But after talking with dozens of prospective interns and accepting a select few, I have concluded that phrases like “proficient in,” “expert with” and “specialties include” are a red flag.
My senior producers have been with us an average of 3 years, won us many awards and are amazing in Premiere Pro, After Effects and more. And even they would hesitate to say they are “proficient” in a piece of software that has so many options, tricks, methods and uses. They still explore tutorials, forums and articles about plug-ins, workflows, output optimizations, etc. because there is always more to learn.
So know what you know, but know what you don’t know. It won’t help either one of us if you don’t give an honest assessment of your skills, accomplishments and areas for further learning.
Now, on to the recommendations for what you should ask about and consider when approaching a video production company for an internship:
1. Video production is fast paced and we want to know what you can do for them. Honestly identify your strengths and make them known – do you know your way around a camera? Are you good at editing? Are you good at lighting? Can you write for video? Can you database or assist with researching and pulling clips? Remember, don’t overblow it – I’m going to ask for samples, so I’m going to know the truth. It will be better for both of us to start off in reality.
2. We will ask for a resume and demo reel, so if you don’t have one, create one. Create a commercial for a product (real or fake). Do a humorous product demo. Interview someone, as if for a news story. Write a script or sketch a storyboard. We want to see how you think about production and how you execute production. And yes, spelling and packaging count.
3. Offer referrals or letters of recommendation from teachers or coaches who talk about what kind of person you are and describe your personality. Skills can be taught, a good attitude toward learning and teamwork needs to come with you.
4. Be prepared to follow up 2 or 3 times before you get an interview. Our best folks don’t let me overlook how good they are, keeping in touch once a week or so with a nudge about the benefits to my company until we have an interview. This also shows me how persistent you will be when dealing with clients, researching images or tracking down that technical bug.
5. Once you get an interview, ask about a typical day to find out what you might be expected to do. Can you see yourself simultaneously learning from and contributing to the team?
6. Ask about establishing a semester project that you can work on in-between the tasks assigned to you. An “umbrella” project would then become your default assignment if there isn’t a bigger priority in front of you that day. This makes your time really productive, shows you can self-motivate and stay on task, and gives you something significant to add to your portfolio.
We hope these tips are helpful in searching for, preparing for and landing a solid internship for you.
Digital Bard is very committed to helping students learn relevant work experience and qualify for college credit. Our interns do way more than get coffee and file paperwork. As much as possible, we get them involved with in-house projects and client work. We are frequently able to identify a project the intern can “own” from start to finish, creating a useful portfolio piece by the time they finish with us.
If you are interested in applying to Digital Bard and joining us at our Frederick offices, you’ve now got the inside scoop on what we look for and we hope to hear from you.