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Issue: July 1, 2008

HIGHER LEARNING: INTERNSHIPS

By: Marc Loftus
For those aspiring to break into the  industry, an internship can play an important role. It's also a way to see how a studio operates from the inside, as well as an opportunity to ask questions and learn from veteran talent.

Many facilities are opening their doors to students, giving them hands-on experience that goes beyond what can be learned in a classroom. And those who show aptitude and desire are often rewarded with paid positions down the road, when openings become available. Here's a look at a cross section of post facilities that host internships — not just in the summer, but all year round.

ALL ARE WELCOME

According to Rachelle Way, executive producer at edit house Company X (www. companyx.tv) and its sister company Sugarbox, which provides original music, supervision, searches and recording services, the two studios make use of interns throughout the year. Being in New York, Way says they are able to tap the local colleges as well find interested parties on sites such as mandy.com.

"We get a pretty big variety — students, post college people, even older people looking for a career change," she says.

Company X and Sugarbox have been hosting an intern program for about three years and structure it around the semesters of the school year. At any time, there might be four or five interns working at the facilities. "They come in a couple of days a week — we have a schedule," says Way.

Candidates range in skill level and experience from those who have little knowledge of the post industry, but are studying communications and want to try to understand it, to those that know a lot, including composing and how to operate a Pro Tools system. 

"Some create their own tracks and are musicians who really want to get a foot in the door. They are trying to figure out how to make a real career out of it," reports Way.

Depending on their skill level, their time at the studio could include helping composers and engineers with mixes or recording. Those with editing experience can help with digitizing and creating QuickTimes. "They are really able to get hands-on experience if they have some experience," says Way. If they don't have experience, they will be given a chance to sit with editors, composers and engineers to learn more about the tools. "We try to get them involved in projects like reorganizing the music library just to give them an idea of the type of stuff we do."

The staff reports back to Way. "If an intern has been really helpful, they let me know. And when it comes time to fill an entry-level position, we think of our interns first."

STUDENTS ONLY

Sony Pictures Imageworks (www.sony pictures.com/imageworks) in Culver City, CA, has an internship program that runs throughout the year, says executive director of training & artist development Sande Scoredos. The company's IPAX program connects teaching faculty at 18 educational institutions with industry pros that can offer direction in animation and VFX trends. This can be passed on at the classroom level to help develop future talent. Teachers involved in fellowships can recommend students for an internship and those who are selected — as many as 15 in the summer — begin the eight-week program by taking an in-house training course that details the technology, vocabulary and positions at the studio.

"They do a week of that," Scoredos explains. "They get assigned a workspace, email and computer, so they are pretty immersed. We are looking at their skills and we have classes the whole eight weeks that they can take — whether it's in animation or effects or different areas. Some come in and don't know the particular software that we use, and some come in and they do know, so they have different levels."
All of the interns are active students who are enrolled and registered to return to school. They are not looking for graduates, says Scoredos. "We're looking for people who will benefit the most from an internship experience and take that back to the classroom, learn more and hopefully we will hire them. We've hired a lot of interns, but they have to finish school."

The program is a chance for participants to get exposure to many different disciplines. "They may have come in thinking that they want to be an animator, but did not know there was matte painting or texture painting or Inferno work," she notes. "They get the chance to take a class with the actual artist who explains what they do and how they got into it, and show their work. It can be very enlightening, and they might go back to school with a little bit different of a focus."

GRADUATES WANTED

PostWorks' Midtown Manhattan location (www.postworks.com) prefers candidates who are ready to embrace post production as their career, rather than those on college break. According to Bill Ivie, VP of PostWorks' Sound Group, the studio often receives resumes from graduates of The School of Audio Engineering (SAE), the Institute of Audio Research, (IAR) and Full Sail University. Clients and friends also make recommendations. The studio interviews a half-dozen candidates every three months or so, and has two or three interns on hand at any time.

"The intern's primary responsibilities are to run packages between the midtown office to clients and especially to our main facility in Soho," Ivie explains. "They also need to be able to answer phones, cover the reception desk, run errands, change an occasional light bulb and be sure the studios are well stocked. They don't clean bathrooms, mop floors or get asked to keep long hours."

In addition to their regular duties, interns have a chance to learn the basics of duplication, signal flow and patch bays, and how to operate the numerous SD and HD decks. They are also encouraged to observe sessions and ask questions.

"If our intern survives three months of scrutiny and he or she displays plenty of potential, we do our best to find an entry-level position somewhere in the company," says Ivie. "We advise them to put aside preferences and accept whatever opening becomes available because once they're in, they will gravitate toward the right specialty or even discover an area they hadn't even known of that might be more appealing."

TREAT IT LIKE A REAL JOB

Robert Feist is the owner of Venice, CA-based audio post house Ravenswork (www.ravenswork. com) and the co-chair of the Venice Media District (www.venicemediadistrict.org), a local collective that works to share and promote its community resources. The Venice Media District has a relationship with Venice Arts, a local nonprofit that works with at-risk youths in this area, offering them instruction through programs that include photography and digital filmmaking. These participants have a chance to intern at some of the District's member studios. "Until this time, there really hasn't been any way for them to move forward," says Feist of the kids in the Venice Arts program.

Ravenswork regularly has one or two interns working at the studio at any point during the year. The facility has three Fairlight DREAM Constellation suites and posts spots for the likes of Ford, GM, Toyota, Nike and Sony PlayStation, as well as the occasional indie film.

Interns have a chance to learn the workflow of the facility, see how the machine room operates, and get an understanding of the in-house post tools. "We don't have anyone sweeping up," says Feist. "They get some hands-on experience. They hang out with other workers and assistants, and pretty much learn what the assistants do. It gives them more of a direct hands-on experience in a real working environment."

Ravenswork also works with local colleges. Those seeking internship opportunities have to show more than just a casual interest, says Feist. "There is a certain amount of work for a company to have interns. It takes effort to manage them, give them experience and train them."

Feist has a few simple rules that interns need to follow: "They have to treat it like a job. They have to be on time. If they are going to be late, they have to call, and if they don't I'll let them go. I want them to have a feel for what it's like to have a real job."