This is a guest blog post written by Cindy Kaplan and Angela Silak from Hollywood Resumes.
An internship can be a great way to break into Hollywood, but it will only count if you make the most of it by learning the skills that will help you land your first Hollywood assistant job. During your internship, make sure to focus on the following five areas, and highlight your new knowledge in your resume, cover letter, and interview responses.
Covering a Desk
Your first job in Hollywood is likely to be an assistant to an agent, manager, or executive, but there’s a catch-22 here -- most employers don’t want to hire someone who hasn’t had assistant experience before. One thing you can do to avoid this problem is to learn assistant skills like rolling calls and managing a calendar while you intern, and add these responsibilities to your resume. Let the assistants you work with know that you’re serious about your career and that you want to learn how to do their jobs. Ask if you can shadow them for a day or two and offer to cover their desks when they’re at lunch or out sick. Most assistants will be happy for the break. Just make sure you perform better than your best -- you don’t want the assistant to get in trouble for a call you dropped!
Most film and TV internships revolve around writing script coverage -- essentially book reports about scripts. If yours does, great! This is an important skill to list on your resume. The entertainment industry is centered on storytelling, so it’s crucial to demonstrate that you’ve had experience evaluating and critiquing scripts. If script coverage isn’t one of your main duties, ask the assistant if he or she has any scripts you can cover when you’re in between projects, even if it’s just for practice. Your internship supervisors will be impressed by your willingness to learn, and if you end up turning in strong notes, they may even start asking for your opinion more often! And if you’re interning at a place where scripts aren’t readily available, like a reality TV production company, your opportunity to give notes isn’t lost -- express an interest in the company’s development slate and ask if you can watch some sizzles and write feedback. Most supervisors will be grateful for the second set of eyes, and you’ll get some extra experience with story development in the process.
There’s a definite vocabulary learning curve in Hollywood, and it can be overwhelming to feel like you don’t speak English when you’re nearing completion of your BA. How are you supposed to know that “Prexy ankles Mouse House” means “The president of Disney left the company?” Even simpler terms like development, pilot season, spec script, sizzle reel, and agency grids can be confusing...there’s so much lingo to understand! You should use your internship to boost your vocabulary. Ask when you don’t know what something means. Spend your downtime reading the trades and books about the industry. Then, use what you’ve learned as you start to craft your resume. While you can’t put “understands what words mean” on your resume, you can use the appropriate terminology to describe your tasks -- “compiled competitive development reports” sounds better than “made a list of projects other companies were working on and logged it in Excel.” Plus, using the right words will help you lay out your goals more clearly in your cover letter and sound intelligent in informational interviews and at networking events.
Who’s Who and What’s What
When you’re an intern, you may feel far removed from the people and projects at your company, especially if you’re working for a small department within a larger network or studio. But one thing that will set you apart from the pack is memorizing the names and roles of the people at your company and the company’s primary external partners. Imagine you have an interview and the interviewer says, “Oh, you worked at [mid-size production company]? Do you know Beth in production?” You can either say, “No, I only worked in development, I’m not sure who Beth is,” or you can say “I didn’t work closely with her, but I know who she is -- she was often on set producing X movie” and show you really know your stuff. Make flashcards. Memorize people’s names. Oh, and while you’re at it, pay attention to the projects your company is working on and who they work with. The worst thing you can do on your resume is list a project incorrectly.
Your internship is likely your first foray into the adult working world, specifically the office environment. While there are many office cultures, one thing they all have in common is an adherence to professional etiquette. It’s important that you learn how to behave in an office (or on a set). Dress appropriately, show up on time, keep chattiness (and on-set snacking) to a minimum, and take an 8-hour break from social media/texting. When you’re not sure about company policy, ask. Find out at the start of your internship what the protocol is for calling in sick or taking time off. Respect your bosses and peers. If you exude professionalism, you’ll be given more opportunities to grow. And more opportunities to grow means more assignments that will fill out your resume, warrant stronger recommendations, and ultimately, help you land your first real job.
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