The film industry unadulteratedly runs on the willingness of an intern. Just look at the impressive list of interns at Raindance alone; even Edgar Wright and yours truly have passed through the RD doors, running carts through Soho and assembling spreadsheets for the Festival.
As someone who has not only interned in London, but also just completed a 90-day stint in Los Angeles, I’d like to speak further about last week’s ‘Breaking Into Hollywood’ by filmmaker and Raindance tutor Alan Denman. Everything he wrote was right. There are limitless avenues for getting your foot in the door, although interning may be one of the simplest ways.
Rather than payment, you receive university course credit for working at a production company, a studio, or an agency. Technically, you have to be enrolled in school. However, many community colleges will offer the credit for a course fee of under $60 – and you can even play hooky!
The following are five things I’ve learned while in La La Land:
1. Starving Artist? or Starving Servant?
It’s crucial to understand the kind of worker you are. I know – at least for now – I’d much rather disappoint myself than an employer or collaborative team. Intrinsic motivation, albeit a powerful force, doesn’t always get the job done like external pressure can. It’s not the best quality to have, and it’s something to work towards conquering, but it’s important to understand regardless.
If you’re the kind of worker who requires structure, then find something that provides it for you. An internship is certainly not a lifetime commitment, but it’s worth trying. If you decide it’s not for you, politely leave. No harm done.
The truth is, although many of us want to believe that we can rally a group of people to carry out our own vision, very few people have the actual ability to do so. Don’t sell yourself short, but don’t bite off more than you can chew either. No matter how you start off in the biz, you won’t be making money. So decide whether you’re going to be following other people’s orders, or setting and following your own deadlines for your most recent feature script. I will say this, Elliot would be more proud if you create your own work.
2. Traffic is genuinely that bad.
You will resent every inhabitant of LA (even the rattlesnakes) if you let the traffic affect you. Accept the treachery now. The Oxford Street tube stop at rush hour will not even compare to the mayhem that is the 405.
Every day, prepare to not only scream at some idiot driver, but also get ready to be screamed at yourself. You start and end your day on the road; don’t let it set the tone for how you perceive the city.
3. Get cozy at the bottom of the barrel, but always keep looking up and to the sides.
The most immediate difference between LA and everywhere else in the world is that there is a relative overabundancy of entertainment jobs. There are simply so many more options. Jobs you never expected to enjoy can become lifetime careers. You know you love entertaining and pushing boundaries; that’s why you want to be a filmmaker. But have you considered film marketing? Or even finance? How about commercial making? Yes, the goal is to sell a product, but there are so many options for creative and succinct storytelling! Keep an open mind about what the future holds.
As an intern or an assistant, you are required to put your hubris and disposition aside. You’re expected to be enthusiastic, curious, and proactive – but that’s it. We’re all dreamers and artists with stories to tell; although your bosses understand this, they really don’t give a shit. He or she needs coffee and he or she needs it now! If you’re good at following directions, you might be able to treat your superior to a drink at the end of the term. That’s when you impress them – not with your competence – but with your stories. Until then, keep it in the can.
Always look like you’re having a good time. It’s not being fake, it’s just focusing on the positive. Honestly, if you lack genuine enthusiasm, curiosity, and proactivity, then what are you doing in the film realm? Find something else to do because this ain’t for you.
5. Beware the Sell-Out.
Another immediate realization upon entering the city is that people won’t admit to selling out. I was literally at a point this summer where I was open to the idea that TRANSFORMERS 3 had merit beyond pulp entertainment because peers had nearly convinced me so. Fortunately, an airing of TRANSFORMERS 2 just minutes before leaving to see its sequel reminded me how much I didn’t want to contribute $15 to Michael Bay’s $80-$100 million paycheck.
Everybody in the city works in the entertainment industry because they love entertainment. Although there are a lot of different tastes out there, most people do understand and respect solid storytelling. Buuuut, movies aren’t made unless they (at least have the potential to) make money. The only way a lot of execs sleep at night is by convincing themselves that TRANSFORMERS is an example of good storytelling.
Realistically, there are more entertainment jobs in LA than anywhere else. Period. It’s up to you to decide if you’d rather be granted a job, or if you believe in your own stories enough to impress the world with an indie hit. No matter what direction my career takes, I’m proud to say it all started as a Raindance intern and volunteer. Where will you go from here?
I guess you should go and make a film! And then submit it to Raindance Film Festival.