A few days after I uploaded a post about having a bit of a quarter life crisis, wondering how to go about preparing for life after university, I heard back from an application I’d sent off – one of many positions I had applied for despite having absolutely no qualifications for – for an (unpaid) internship at a film production company in London.
I got the email on the morning of Thursday 19th July. I had a phone call with someone from the company that afternoon. The following morning I met the same person for a coffee in London. Later that day, I got a call: I’d secured the internship!
I started on Monday 23rd July. Safe to say it was a quick turnover!
The ironic thing was that I’d planned this entire summer with the belief that my applications would go nowhere; I had made a huge summer to do list (it was colour coded with 7 categories) so that my time at home wouldn’t be wasted. And to cap it off, I was supposed to be visiting Brighton for the first time on the 23rd-24th July. Instead, I woke up on the Monday morning, packed a bag, and hopped on a train to London!
The internship lasted four weeks, two of which I spent working in the office, and two of which I spent working from home. And in this post, I’m going to tell you what I did, what I learned, and how I view the experience now it’s over – so sit tight, it’ll be a long one!
I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous to start. I felt totally like an imposter, because it’s only fairly recently that I decided to actively try to pursue a career in film. I wasn’t in any sort of film club at school, I’ve never really made short films, I’m not great at managing to get to the cinema very often. But I was determined to get started somewhere.
As it was my first day, I was asked to come in an hour or so earlier than the usual start time in order to get my bearings and be set up before everybody else arrived – an actress was coming in promptly at the start of the day to discuss her new film that’s in the works. So, I arrived about twenty minutes early for my early start time and got lost, then tried to open the door the wrong way, and when I got up to the office, I opened my bottle of lemonade and it fizzed everywhere. Off to a great start. A little later, I met the man in charge of the company, and actually didn’t realise who it was at first – it was a brief encounter during which I didn’t catch his name. It was about an hour later that I actually came to realise who he was!
The week got off to a bit of a slow start; they didn’t quite dump me in at the deep end as I was expecting (the approach I’m used to!), instead my workload slowly increased as the days went on. I made a couple of trips to the post office and the local shops for some food for the office. Set up trays for meetings. Some of the stranger tasks I was asked to do included Barclaycard research for the owner and shredder research.
The more exciting tasks I was given in this first week included script coverage – something I’d not heard of before: you’re given a script to read, then you write up ‘coverage’, which includes the important stuff like who it’s by, how long it is, the genre, whether a producer/director is already attached, and a synopsis and evaluation. This was great for me, because it gave me the exposure to scripts I’ve been dying for – and I was completely allowed to run free, essentially, and give my opinions and critique.
In my first week, I also did a little bit of invoice logging, which involved a very complex-looking Google document buried in Google Drive, lots of numbers, and much scrolling. I formatted a production diary for the film in development. On the Friday I was tasked with researching possible rehearsal locations. Oh, and at some point I walked backwards into a table while greeting a guest.
In my second week, my supervisor was away for the first few days – and somehow, I was to fill her shoes around the office! After only five days there, I really did feel thrown in at the deep end. This meant that I was supposed to get trays ready for all the meetings, greet all the guests, make sure people had what they needed… and do all the other stuff I was given for my internship role!
On the Monday, I was tasked with merging dozens of PDF contracts with another document – which, it turns out, is a rather difficult process when you don’t have Adobe Pro. I ended up screenshotting and pasting a LOT. It wasn’t the most thrilling part of the internship, sitting there exporting things into PDFs and renaming them and replacing their old counterparts in the Drive file, but what’ll you do. Part of the internship deal, I guess!
On the Tuesday, the owner actually gave me his debit card and pin and asked me to get a load of cash out for him. This felt particularly “am I actually in a film?”. Oh, and the dishwasher was broken at this point and nobody knew how to fix it – the others in the office didn’t have dishwashers themselves, and so they had to call someone in to fix it. Only thing was, he had to semi-flood the kitchen to get it fixed, so when the owner came out of his meeting with the actress, I had to explain to them both why there was a load of water all over the floor… That was fun.
The rest of the second week involved more script reading and coverage, a couple of PRET runs, restocking the kitchen… I also did some contract formatting, film location research (for a part of the film involving wedding in either France or Spain, and a quirky house in residential London) and, more excitingly, I delivered a film to a distribution company! This literally meant that I was given a big, bubble-wrapped package, hopped on the tube, went across London, had to get buzzed in to a company building, and handed it over. Despite the fact this was the middle of the heatwave in central London and the tube journeys meant I was really sweating, it was a good moment.
Weeks Three and Four
The final two weeks, as I said, I was working from home – production was starting on the new film, and it was a very small office and lots of people were coming in. I was given a new email address, research-specific, because they’d been impressed with my research abilities so far. Some tasks I was given included finding contacts for certain people in the industry, including a high profile makeup artist who worked on Harry Potter. I had to look up where to buy personalised director’s chairs, I did more location research, research for a product placement and into branded gazebos for the filming, and research into street performers to be in a particular scene on the south bank. I also had further opportunity to read more scripts and complete coverage on them – one of which was on a bit of a tight deadline as the owner of the company was about to head into a meeting with its writers!
So, what did I learn?
After the end of the four weeks, I was definitely happy with how much I’d learned – I’d known going in that to work in a production company in this manner, being involved with the pre-filming stages of films, wasn’t going to be where I want to end up, but it gave me some really valuable knowledge. I left the experience with an idea of how films come into being from conception; I got the opportunity to read and critique professional scripts – which may or may not become films in the future – and work with people who had been in the industry for a while. I got contacts, and most importantly, I got my foot in the door.
It’s a well-known idea that the hardest part of forging any career is when you’re starting from the bottom, so I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity – and to have something to talk about and to use when I try to get positions in the future. My ideal positions would involve working on-set (I still want to write scripts too, though!), and that’s where I think I should focus next.
For now though, it’s back to university for my third and final year – which I aim to make the most of! There’s been a chat going on on Facebook for a good few months now, set up by a guy trying to revive the film society at Liverpool, and it’s looking really good, so that’s definitely something I’m excited for this year. I’ve also got my eye on an online course about the business of filmmaking, too – I’m hoping it’ll be on over the Christmas/New Year period, because seeing as I’ve got no exams for my third year, I’ve basically got 6 weeks off at that point!
Feel free to let me know what your career aspirations are – and let me know whether you’ve had any luck with getting your foot in the door yet! Internships, work experience, an actual paid position – anything.
Until next time!