By Daniel Blair, Guest Blogger
I had my internships with Silver Pictures and Threshold Entertainment, but it wasn’t all I planned to accomplish during my time with the Ladder Program. I was in Hollywood! How could I make the best of my time there? I decided to do as many informational interviews as I could and attend as many events as possible outside of the Ladder Program curriculum.
I emailed the company that did motion capture for “Avatar” and asked if they had any internship positions. Unfortunately, they don’t have internships, but recommended some other locations. I asked if they were available for an informational interview.
“Sure! Come on down!” they said.
So I did.
I got a tour of “Pandora” and a walkthrough of their studio. After the tour, the Head of Business Development talked with me about how to get into the motion capture field, the skills they were looking for in production assistants, where the future of CG is headed, and how their business model works. The most important trait they look for is reliability—showing up on time, and working, not hanging out, when you were on set.
I met with the owner of one of Hollywood’s top Previsualization companies, thanks to Heidi Banks. I didn’t want to waste the owner’s time, so when I met with him I asked the questions I had prepared and got ready to leave.
“That’s it?” he said. “I scheduled more time than this! You better have some more questions for me.”
I put my notes away and grilled him on absolutely everything I could think of, from how the company got its name to how their role in Hollywood is changing. It was awesome and has fundamentally changed how I view the future of the entertainment industry.
I also attended the Visual Effects Society monthly meeting and met many of the special effects artists who make Hollywood movies possible. They talked with me about how to get into their side of the business, especially what workshops to attend to brush up my skills and network. If you are looking at getting into special effects The Gnomon School was recommended very highly because they place most of their students in jobs by the time they graduate. I met comic book artists and writers at a ‘speed story pitching’ event, which was like business speed dating. I met the producer of “I Robot” and the producer of “Breaking Bad” at a networking breakfast. They were both very approachable and the opposite of what I expected to find in Hollywood.
I went to a question and answer session with Robert Zemeckis, thanks to a theater newsletter I subscribed to, and listened to him describe in detail what he looks for in a project when reading a script. I even got the chance to talk with the artist who made the new superman costume for “Man of Steel” at a low-budget weekend film that I helped shoot.
Finding these events depended on a lot of Internet searches, social networking, and talking with people. I searched meetup.com groups, I volunteered to help coworkers with events, I subscribed to Los Angeles event lists, I searched for society meetings online, and I made sure to ask my roommates and coworkers about any event that sounded interesting. If my commute to work had been shorter I would have attended Screenwriter Guild and Directors Guild events. I plan to do this when I go back to L.A.
Doing two internships gave me a diverse range of experiences and showed me the creative and business side of the entertainment industry. Yet, the most important thing I think I learned during my semester in Hollywood was how to contact people. Hopefully, I will be able to leverage what I learned into a career in the entertainment industry after I graduate.
Finally, one of the greatest things about my experience as an intern was working with Heidi Banks, executive director of the Ladder Program. She introduced us to top Hollywood screenwriters like Steven McFeely, who wrote “Captain America” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Steven actually attended our weekly class as a guest lecturer. I know how to get internships and navigate Hollywood now, but I would never have gained this knowledge without Heidi’s instruction and dedicated work on my behalf.
No matter what internship you decide to do, I hope you have a similarly amazing experience.
If you’re interested in The Ladder Program and want more information, click here.