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11 Facets of a Great Video Production Intern

COW Blogs : Kylee Peña's Blog : 11 Facets of a Great Video Production Intern
If you want to be in video production, chances are pretty good that you're going to need to complete at least one internship before you find a job. The best part is that almost all video production internships are unpaid. In return for your free labor, a company agrees to help you along, teaching you and giving you valuable work experience. It should be a pretty fair trade on both sides, but it can start to slip occasionally. As an intern, it's important that you stay on top of your work, while holding the company accountable for their end of the bargain.

In college, I completed three internships that ranged anywhere from 10 to 20 hours per week. This was a challenge to balance with school and a part-time job, so getting the most out of my internship time was a huge priority. I worked on museum exhibit videos, local events, conference slideshows, and television, digitized tapes, prepared graphics and laid a-roll. I also swept floors, answered phones, organized music libraries, and even cleaned out offices when half the staff were laid off (but that's a separate post for another day.) Interning isn't always fun or glamorous or even interesting, but it gives you essentially building blocks for your career. Here's my eleven most important facets of a video production intern.

Let's face the facts. First of all: no matter what kind of college program you might be working through, or how innocent and passionate you might be, or how dedicated to video production you say you are, you're probably going to be doing some pretty menial work as an intern.The sooner you realize that you are an INTERN, the sooner you can really start to make the best of the situation.

Alright. Now that I've said that, I want to stress that just because you are an intern, doesn't mean you're the company play-thing. You (probably) won't be working on high dollar edits, but you shouldn't sell yourself short and start scrubbing floors and vacuuming spiderwebs out of dark corners. At least not all the time. If your internship resembles more of a janitor or secretary position than a low level assistant, there might be something wrong. There also might be something wrong if you're working 50 hours a week on client work without pay, too.

If you're in an edit suite shadowing an edit, ask the editor questions (but be careful not to interrupt them). If you're sitting on a couch with an in-house producer, ask them questions. If you're going to lunch with some associates, ask them questions. What kind of questions? Ask how they got to where they are, what school they attended, what their major was, what internships they did, what other jobs they've had, what the turning point in their career so far has been, what they like, what they don't like, the work they'd like to do, how they deal with clients, how they determine their freelance rates, what that little button on the Avid does, why they made a creative choice. In other words, ask anything and everything you can think of asking. And take notes.

Speaking from a technical perspective. If you're shown something, you should take notes. If someone demonstrates how to set up a capture in Avid, write it down. Don't ask for someone to show you every time. If you don't understand, it's fine to keep asking questions about the same thing. But there's a difference between "Can you show me how to set up a tape capture?" and "I'm working on setting up this tape capture and I think I've missed something, can you check it out?" One shows that you're on the road to learning it, and the other shows you probably don't care.

You might be taking on some tasks as an intern that aren't so great or enriching - organizing tape libraries, for example. But in almost any task, there is something you can take away from it. Instead of grumbling your way through something, ask yourself what you're learning. If you're doing too many menial tasks and not getting anything out of it, and you're unpaid? Go to the person coordinating your internship, and let them know. Which leads me to--

In your (probably) unpaid internship, you should be taking something away every day you're working. If you aren't getting what you want, talk it out. Be polite, explain your goals, and ask if some changes can be made within reason. Any company you intern for that's worth ever working for full-time will understand and help push you back into the right direction. Open the lines of communication right away. Meet up with whoever you report to as a supervisor at the beginning of your internship, and establish your goals. That way, they know what you want and can try to shape your experience.

Ask to get hands on with equipment as much as possible. In my past internships, I would take tutorials and manuals into empty suites and work away. Never waste any downtime. You're in a prime situation to better your skills in a way you might not be able to otherwise. Plus, if you get stuck, you have a staff of well-trained individuals to help you.

Don't skate by at your internship. Come in early, stay a little late. Don't simply exist. Why the hell are you there if you aren't doing anything? Certainly not for the pay. Do your very best work and be enthusiastic. People take notice of happy people who want to do good work, and you have a much better chance of being hired full-time if people genuinely like you.You could prove yourself to be a really valuable member of the team and a perfect choice for an editor role but if you're a jerk face, you're going to get passed over. If you're a little black rain cloud that just complains about everything, you definitely will be shown the door.

You're inexperienced, you're going to make errors. It's part of the company's hazard. If you make an error, apologize and fix it right away. No need to dwell on it or get emotional. Just fix it (or ask for help) and move on. Don't try to cover your mistake. And if you accidentally deleted the company's Unity? Welp, you're on your own with that one.

Get a status report. Are you meeting the company's expectations? Are they meeting yours? What improvements can be made on both sides, if any? By setting a date to speak, you'll guarantee you get some quality discussion that can really help you out. And you'll definitely be on the calendar for a meeting with a potentially very busy producer or manager.

Not Stereotypical
Don't get into personal relationships with anyone, or do anything that could damage your reputation. Be respectful and positive, and stay out of trouble. And be careful on social media.

What's missing from my list? Skillfulness or intelligence or technical aptitude? Nope, not necessary for an intern, at least not specific to video production. Companies want bright, curious, and enthusiastic people who are eager to move up and learn new things. They don't want someone with a cocky attitude who thinks they already know everything. Sure, some facilities may ask for applicants that have a basic understanding, but they aren't looking for an expert. When you approach a facility to inquire about internships, keep these facets in mind, and maybe you'll find yourself behind the camera or in the edit bay.

Posted by: Kylee Peña on Jul 9, 2012 at 5:47:18 pmComments (4) video production, internship


Re: 11 Facets of a Great Video Production Intern
by Sean Bode

Thanks for the great posting. Any chance you might bestow more great advice for the interviewing process?

Working as a production assistant (paid intern) I would have benefited from this posting lots had I seen it 3 years ago. My experience was great and the people there taught me a lot. I had to sweep floors, grab bagels, bottled waters at 72 degrees, and blank tapes. Unfortunately with my bipolar it took me a number of years. Unfortunately while I was there I was looking at the job as leaping point for a production job and got swept up in cutbacks before a fruitful job could come from it. Now I'm hunting for internship positions.

Sean Bode
Long Island City, NY 11106
(Mobile) 405-245-8504
@Sean Bode
by Kylee Peña
Actually, Walter posted some good tips about the hiring process today.

As for the interview itself? Be on time (not ungodly early), smell okay, follow instructions, dress appropriately, ask thoughtful questions, and don't be a poophead. You'll either be what they're looking for, or you won't.

twitter: @kyl33t
Re: 11 Facets of a Great Video Production Intern
by Mike Cohen
All great points. Let's hope that young people in the 2010's have some humility and appreciation for these opportunities.

My experiences have been documented in my very early blog entries, so here are some highlights:

Internship 1 - WCVB Boston

Responsible for putting together VO and VOSOT edits for the mid day newscast 3 days per week. I would pick the shots and direct an editor to make the cuts. There was a single Beta deck with my name on it for reviewing stock footage. Otherwise I was to touch nothing but the copy machine and printer.

I also was to order Chyrons, fill out a cue sheet for each SOT, and make sure there was adequate pad at the end of each segment of video. I took the initiative to make some forms to organize my daily work, incorporating the station logo for good measure.

It was rarely boring because I had 3 hours to get everything ready. Then I would sit in the control room and watch the show play out. On the rare occasion where I made a mistake, I heard about it and made sure to not let it happen again. I was a bit timid at 19 and it took me a while to get the confidence I needed. But by the end of the Summer I figured things out and then used what I learned back at school as we were starting up a live newscast on campus.

#2 - WFSB Hartford - Assignment Desk Intern

This one was in fact kind of boring. Daily phone calls to state police looking for stories, taking calls from local wingnuts with conspiracy theories and in this heavily union shop, touch absolutely nothing. I took advantage of free time to wander the station meeting people like the paintbox artist and the weather guy. I also went out in the field to watch reporters in action. I would generally hold the microphone or walkie talkie sized cell phone and say little. I did get to meet Jessie Jackson, Barbara Bush and Dr Henry Lee, as well as work with young reporters Mika Brysinski, Gayle King and David Usery before they were nationally known. By the end of my stay I was actually gathering news and my last day there wrote part of a VO story that made the 6pm news. I almost felt like doing another semester.

#3 - Cox Cable advertising

This had its moments, and taught me that cable advertising is not for everyone. We made weekly donuts for local businesses then updated the U-Matic tapes and delivered them to the head end at the end of the day.

#4 - Visual Concepts Media

This high end corporate video company taught me the most about shooting interviews and b-roll, some tricks for field production and the need to be a professional. There were mundane moments such as duping tapes and cleaning bird crap off of BNC cables, but sometimes you have to do grunt work. Overall I learned a lot. They also had the first Avid in Connecticut, so I spent some time watching the editor edit. By the end, I was hired for a few days of PA work with an actual paycheck, just before I accepted my job at Cine-Med where I have been ever since.

Do your best, even if it is in an area where you may not spend your career. Be humble and thankful.

Mike Cohen
@Mike Cohen
by Kylee Peña
Thanks for your reply! It's great to show what kinds of internships you've had to illustrate that not everything you do as an intern will be glamorous or even what you'll end up doing in life.

You certainly got a lot of responsibility for a 19 year old intern!

This is a post for a different day, but I thought I'd throw in my internship duties as well in case someone is researching and stumbles across this post.

#1 - Pathway Productions, a relatively large (at one time anyway) production house. I split time between going into the field with videographers or sitting in edit suites watching cuts. I did the usual stuff - dubs, organizing footage, ingesting tapes, etc. And I did a whole lot of grunt work, like organizing for parties, covering the receptionist desk, sorting the music library, or cleaning out offices when half the place was laid off (for real). Obviously it wasn't a great time for their business, and I was often sent off to do menial time-wasting tasks, which really sucked. I spent a lot of time talking to people about their careers, and learning Avid for the first time. And actually, after people were laid off, I got the opportunity to do a LOT more hands on work since there were like 2 staff members left. Most of all, I made a lot of connections that ended up lasting, even when the company dissolved. And it showed me the importance of always being prepared for your job to end - watching talented people just let go without warning.

#2 - State Museum - This one was kind of weird and it could have been a lot more if I had pushed harder. Basically, I was a preditor intern for exhibit and web video for the museum, a department which housed only one other individual. And the other individual was relatively new to the industry, so I found it hard to talk about her past and how she got into the business since she was still learning. However, since it was just me I got free reign of the museum, and I got to make stuff that I saw used in the exhibits. And I got to do this massive sound editing project that was used in some young kid's workshops and freaked them out. I wish I had pushed harder to produce more things on my own, but I was still timid and not overly interested in the museum subject-matter, which is funny because now, I would kill to produce stuff for museums. It's interesting how your interests change as you grow.

#3 - Alternative magazine - This was the kind of internship I discourage people from choosing. Basically my job was to go to local events, shoot some video, edit it quickly, and post it to the magazine's website within 2-3 days after the event. It was a web video marketing grab, basically. Though the magazine has a good reputation, it felt weird to produce these because I didn't have a mentor or access to any equipment. So it felt like I was just producing low level content for them constantly for search engine rankings. I didn't really feel like I was getting a lot of value from it in the sense of feedback or being helped along and learning new things from a seasoned pro. I had to make my own learning experience from it. And learn I did - it gave me a lot of diverse stuff for my reel. But the fact I had to use my own editing and camera equipment combined with the fact every video I turned in was replied with a terse "good job" made it feel like I was just an unpaid freelancer in a situation where quantity was valued over quality.

Lots of learning experiences, lots of diverse experience, and a little bit of being taken advantage of...ah, internships.

twitter: @kyl33t

Focusing on post-production, from editing and motion graphics to personal experiences and the psychology of being an editor.


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