The Film Business

Become a Production Intern

Film Production Interns

Photo by: Max Chang

The internship opportunities offered by major colleges, universities, and corporations are well known. Lesser known, however, are the internship opportunities available with most major film and television production companies. Without fail, internship programs are repeatedly available in almost every facet of TV production. And even though production interns acquire vast reserves of experience and credibility, production companies offer these opportunities by the boatload for two distinct, self-serving purposes. First, they benefit from the inexpensive or free manpower. Second, they are able to scout talent for future projects or positions within the company. Overall, this is mostly a win-win situation for everyone involved.

The downside, of course, is that production internships are typically unpaid positions. Yet the experience gleaned and the opportunity to meet the movers and shakers who could end up hiring you one day are well worth the gratis servitude. Some industry players even advance the notion that being a production intern comes with certain privileges or perks few paid employees enjoy. Primarily, an intern has a considerable degree of workplace flexibility and will often float from one department to another while simultaneously soaking up precious experience.

Simply put, I’ve met very few bored production interns. Furthermore, novice producers without the background as production interns often find themselves drowning in a new world of unfamiliar responsibilities and red tape common to working full time at a network or production company. Contrary to what you might have heard, production interns are treated surprisingly well—at least in most cases—and afforded the patience and guidance to acquire the necessary training for their future careers.

Most auspiciously, if you screw up at first, you’re “just a production intern.” Gaffes are expected of you. But if you make the same rookie mistakes as a full-time producer or employee, such errors will typically not be dealt with in such a nurturing manner. Needless to say, if you know your stuff as a production intern and shine through like a pro, your skills will be amplified that much more.

If you’re sold on the obvious advantages inherent in starting your career off as a production intern, there are a number of places to search for the myriad opportunities awaiting your inquiry. As a longtime subscriber to both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, I have never noticed a shortage of ripe opportunities in either of these very important trade publications. If an actual internship position isn’t outwardly posted, you can deduce from the comprehensive published lists of television shows starting production where opportunities might be available.

Best of all, you don’t have to call your friends at the FBI to track down phone numbers for the appropriate production offices. Variety and The Hollywood Reporter typically include direct phone numbers to the production offices of new or returning TV programs. You can immediately get on the horn to personally inquire about available openings. If there are none, there’s a great possibility that the person you get on the phone will know someplace or someone who might need you.

Excerpt from Reality Check: The Business and Art of Producing Reality TV by Michael Essany. Copyright © 2008. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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2 Comments
   Ashton said on May 11, 2011 at 5:46 pm

There are tons and tons and tons of unpaid internships:
entertainmentcareers.net, mandy.com, craigslist to name a few. Not to mention you can often find contact info for your favorite production companies on IMDB pro, and with enough class and persistence they usually take on free work. Also every major studio has internship positions listed on their career websites. There is no shortage of free labor opportunities in the industry. Getting an actual job is the real trick. :) Bon Voyage!

   Kabelo George Mathedimosa said on November 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm

I’m not think straight now, but a little bit distressed. I’m currently looking for an internship in the film industry to expose myself to what I have studied. Kindly help

Regards
Kabelo

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