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Internships are the way to get your foot in the entertainment industry’s door

Someone recently asked me advice on how I “made it” in the entertainment industry. After a slight verbal lashing about how I haven’t yet “made it” – I’m a little bitter, so what? – I imparted the only advice that worked for me: Do internships.

If the entertainment/media industry is where you want to build a career, take it from me: being an intern is the only way to get your grubby little recent graduate foot in the otherwise closed and fastened door. Doing internships will not only get you the experience you need on your resumé, they encourage some serious personal growth.

If the Bank of Dad allows it, and you have a killer immune system, do as many internships as you can. Do them in varying aspects of the wide world of media and do them all at the same time if you have to.

While interning you will learn that interns make the media world go round. Whether it’s filling an audience, doing coffee runs, studio running for a live television show or simply delivering scripts to impatient actors, interns are an integral cog in the wheel of entertainment. Because of this simple fact, I will never ever treat any intern (or co-worker for that matter, since they were probably once an intern themselves) with anything but hardened respect.

Unfortunately, not everyone in the industry shares my empathy for those lower on the food chain, so it was really nice to meet someone who, like me has done a lot with her time as a recent grad, and who shares in my philosophy of “do unto interns as you would have them do unto you.”

Meet Linda Chep: a young woman who has been a model scout, a music publicist for mega Canadian bands such as Metric, Arcade Fire and Sum 41, and is now manager of the hot new modeling agency Coco Model Management in Yorkville, Toronto.

I met Linda recently and got to pick her brain about how she has made it so far up the entertainment industry ladder in such a short time.

Chep graduated two years ago from Brock University with a major in Popular Culture and a minor in Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse, and she said she knew early on that she would end up in the entertainment industry. Two days after commencement, she was at an interview with Joanne Setterington, founder of Indoor Recess, who was quick to take Chep under her wing and give her a position with the company, as a music publicist.

After working with Indoor Recess for a while, Chep took some time off and realized a switch out of music and into the modeling industry would suit her best. Chep thought back to a previous internship she did with Elite Model Management in Toronto in 2006, and what she learnt from her mentor (and boss) Alicia Bell.

The most important thing that Chep learned, and coincidentally what moved her up the entertainment industry ladder, was that building relationships with interns is an important piece of the puzzle. She was lucky to have employers who allowed her to jump right into the thick of things and take on aspects of the job she was most interested in. Chep told me, “You have to know what you want to do. Time is money and if you’re working for someone, especially if it’s for free, it better have something to do with whatever you’re interested in.”

Chep said she thinks it’s because she had such great role models while completing her own internships that she is motivated to make the most out of the interning experience for others. Whether it’s styling photo shoots or helping with interviews, the interns at Coco are treated as equals and, as a result, the team there ends up feeling a lot more like a family than a work place.

Along with Chep, I am very enthusiastic about internships. They are a great way to figure out not only if you have what it takes to do the job, but if you enjoy what the job entails. Internships are a great way to find out something different about yourself, allow for a lot of personal growth and give you the experience you will need to “make it” in this industry.

Please note the following corrections were made to this article July 3, 2009: Chep was offered the position of music publicist with Indoor Recess, not an internship, and her internship with Elite Model Management was completed in 2006, before she graduated.

Written by

Kate Morawetz is a recent Media, Information and Technoculture graduate from the University of Western Ontario. She interned at various media gigs in Toronto and LA, before landing her current job at MTV Canada in the Series & Developments department and continues to write about life experiences, the ever present media and generally about things that interest her via her blog One Curly Fry in a Box Full of Regulars. A self proclaimed connoisseur of man-ponies slash creativity junkie, Kate has an eclectic musical taste and enjoys reading, long walks in wooded areas, photography, writing, dry white wines and a good spinach & strawberry salad.

3 comments

  1. Marissa
    September 8, 2009 at 4:14 am

    entertainment industry is just like fashion, both full of shallow people

  2. September 23, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    if you’ve gotta slave an internship, get in and know when to get out — if you’re dynamic, creative and intelligent enough to secure a position, you deserve to be paid for it.

    “Every day, there are more and more Craigs List posts seeking “interns” for everything from auto graphics to comic books to corporate logo designs. More people are finding themselves in need of some form of creative service. But what they’re NOT doing, unfortunately, is realizing how rare someone with these particular talents can be. To those who are “seeking artists”, let me ask you; How many people do you know, personally, with the talent and skill to perform the services you need? A dozen? Five? One? …none? More than likely, you don’t know any. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be posting on craigslist to find them. And this is not really a surprise. In this country, there are almost twice as many neurosurgeons as there are professional illustrators. There are eleven times as many certified mechanics. There are SEVENTY times as many people in the IT field. So, given that they are less rare, and therefore less in demand, would it make sense to ask your mechanic to work on your car for free? Would you look him in the eye, with a straight face, and tell him that his compensation would be the ability to have his work shown to others as you drive down the street? Would you offer a neurosurgeon the “opportunity” to add your name to his resume as payment for removing that pesky tumor? (Maybe you could offer him “a few bucks” for “materials”. What a deal!) Would you be able to seriously even CONSIDER offering your web hosting service the chance to have people see their work, by viewing your website, as their payment for hosting you?

    If you answered “yes” to ANY of the above, you’re obviously insane.

    If you answered “no”, then kudos to you for living in the real world.

    But then tell me… why would you think it is okay to live out the same, delusional, ridiculous fantasy when seeking someone whose abilities are even less in supply than these folks? Trained and talented graphic artists, illustrators, painters, etc., are skilled tradesmen. As such, to consider them as, or deal with them as, anything less than professionals fully deserving of your respect is both insulting and a bad reflection on you as a sane, reasonable person.

    In short, it makes you look like a twit.

    A few things you need to know;

    1. It is not a “great opportunity” for an artist to have his work seen on your car/’zine/website/bedroom wall, etc. It IS a “great opportunity” for YOU to have their work there.

    2. It is not clever to seek a “student” or “beginner” in an attempt to get work for free. It’s ignorant and insulting. They may be “students”, but that does not mean they don’t deserve to be paid for their hard work. You were a “student” once, too. Would you have taken that job at McDonalds with no pay, because you were learning essential job skills for the real world? Yes, your proposition it JUST as stupid.

    3. The chance to have their name on something that is going to be seen by other people, whether it’s one or one million, is NOT a valid enticement. Neither is the right to add that work to their “portfolio”. They get to do those things ANYWAY, after being paid as they should. It’s not compensation. It’s their right, and it’s a given.

    4. Stop thinking that you’re giving them some great chance to work. Once they skip over your silly ad, as they should, the next ad is usually for someone who lives in the real world, and as such, will pay them. There are far more jobs needing these skills than there are people who possess these skills.

    5. Students DO need “experience”. But they do NOT need to get it by giving their work away. In fact, this does not even offer them the experience they need. Anyone who will not/can not pay them is obviously the type of person or business they should be ashamed to have on their resume anyway. Do you think professional contractors list the “experience” they got while nailing down a loose step at their grandmother’s house when they were seventeen? If you your company or gig was worth listing as desired experience, it would be able to pay for the services it received. The only experience they will get doing free work for you is a lesson learned in what kinds of scrubs they should not lower themselves to deal with.

    6. (This one is FOR the artists out there, please pay attention.) Some will ask you to “submit work for consideration”. They may even be posing as some sort of “contest”. These are almost always scams. They will take the work submitted by many artists seeking to win the “contest”, or be “chosen” for the gig, and find what they like most. They will then usually have someone who works for them, or someone who works incredibly cheap because they have no originality or talent of their own, reproduce that same work, or even just make slight modifications to it, and claim it as their own. You will NOT be paid, you will NOT win the contest. The only people who win, here, are the underhanded folks who run these ads. This is speculative, or “spec”, work. It’s risky at best, and a complete scam at worst. I urge you to avoid it, completely. For more information on this subject, please visit http://www.no-spec.com.

    So to artists/designers/illustrators looking for work, do everyone a favor, ESPECIALLY yourselves, and avoid people who do not intend to pay you. Whether they are “spec” gigs, or just some guy who wants a free mural on his living room walls.

    They need you.

    You do NOT need them.

    And for those who are looking for someone to do work for free… please wake up and join the real world. The only thing you’re accomplishing is to insult those with the skills you need.
    Get a clue.”

  3. SL
    September 30, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    @internshit

    Great response and many valid points!

    I’m currently in IT and worked in video games design in the past. I actually worked for free once doing level design on a game. However, it was my own suggestion to the company, not theirs after not getting the initial full time job I applied for. My reward for 3 months of work was getting my name in the credits. To me that was worth it.

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