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Doing It Right: An LA Semester

Doing It Right: An LA Semester

Tips, tricks, and tribulations from a Cinema and Photography student's semester in Los Angeles

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Written by Colleen Cunha      Add a comment

How To Live In LA, driving out of the Oakwood Apartments

As someone who comes from somewhere that is absolutely not a city, whose town doesn't even have one single traffic light, I was a bit nervous about moving to and working in Los Angeles. So, being a nervous person, I did hours upon hours of research on how to live in LA. (Yes, you can google that.) Here are some things I learned about city livin' from the internet and from my first three weeks of experience!


Los Angeles is a city built for cars. The public transportation leaves something to be desired and the Oakwood Apartments where we live are closer to Burbank than Hollywood, so places are only in walking distance if you have a couple hours, usually. Lucky for me, my internship is located only three miles away from the Oakwoods through a residential area (which I found out through Google Maps and Street View) so I decided that my transportation this semester would be a bicycle -- and it has been awesome. I use it for work four days a week but I'm also lucky that my roommates all have cars and are very generous when it comes to giving me rides to go food shopping and the like. I am saving a lot of money by having a bike instead of a car, and it was only possible because I researched my route to my internship before I got to LA!

Transportation Part Two- The Commute

Something to do soon after arriving in LA is to get in touch with people who have internships in the same areas as you, carpooling is a fantastic thing out here! (There is usually an ICLA facebook group which can help you coordinate with others.) Carpooling saves everyone money and make the rides to places like Santa Monica not feel like ninety minutes while you're in rush hour traffic. Research where you'll be interning and be acquainted with the area if you're going to ask someone for a ride. (Gas also costs A LOT out here, so research which gas stations on your way are the cheapest (there's an app for that called Gas Buddy that shows nearby stations and prices) and be sure to pay the driver if carpooling.)

Carpooling is imperative with gas prices right around $4.65.

School Stuff

While in LA you'll likely have two classes, each once a week, at the Pendleton Center. The center is right across the street from one of the entrances to the Oakwoods and if you can stand it, walk to class! It's probably about 15 minutes, depending on what apartment you're in but parking at the building costs money and can sometimes take more time than it would have taken to walk there. Also, while you're in the Pendleton Center, take advantage of the teachers -- they are there to help you in every way. If you have internship issues or need help just choosing an internship, the professors there want to make your experience as good as it can possibly be. (Take advantage of the media library too, there are tons of DVDs and scripts that you can check out any time the building is open.)

The Pendleton Center's building is right across the street from the Oakwoods and it's impossible to miss!


This is a big one for me, as I have a lot of special dietary needs, but it's always a good idea to figure out a food plan with your roommates. My roommates and I decided (after we arrived in LA) that Ralph's would be a good grocery store -- they have relatively low prices and you can save a BUNCH of money if you sign up for a Ralph's card, which I absolutely recommend. There is also a Trader Joe's a couple miles away from the Oakwoods which is good for a few special items a week, and a Whole Foods which, although expensive, is absolutely heavenly.

Go to Ralph's, carpool there, and make a schedule of who's going when in your apartment.

Fun Activities

As someone who comes from the beach, going swimming and to the coast were at the top of my list, and I was able to go the first weekend I was here! We went in a big group which was great and carpooled to save money on parking. Make a plan before you go out somewhere, or you'll end up just burning through gas. Do careful research on nightlife too, taxis and parking can be expensive so again, carpool and be sure to have a designated driver if you aren't going to take a cab! There's also two pools at the Oakwoods if you're looking for some cheap fun. And go to Sunday brunch! Every Sunday free brunch food is served at the clubhouse (but don't go if you can't eat wheat like me -- literally everything there is a carb.) Also keep an eye out for show tapings, anything from late night shows to talk shows to sitcoms need people in the audience and it's generally free!

A friend and I saw The Avett Brothers for free at a Jimmy Kimmel concert.

Hopefully those first-hand tips about living in the city are helpful... overall, be prepared!


Written by Colleen Cunha      Add a comment

HDFilms office logo

Getting experience at an internship is one of the main reasons Ithaca College put together the LA program. Every semester students intern at all kinds of companies, from the TV talk show Ellen, to Morgan Freeman's production company, Revelations, in order to get a taste of the industry. But the most nerve-wracking part of the whole ordeal is finding, applying for, and choosing the right internship.

(as you can see by this behind the scenes picture, I have been enjoying the office shenanigans at the place I finally chose to intern with... you can check out what our shenanigans turn into on our Hulu page!)

I have been in LA and interning for just three weeks but I can already say with complete certainty that I am at the right internship for me. I started looking for positions as soon as I got accepted into the LA program and by the time June rolled around (which is when companies generally begin considering positions for fall interns) I knew exactly what I wanted- I wanted an internship in television comedy writing, as close to the writers as possible. I applied to 10 places, 7 from the database, 2 from other websites, and one that came recommended by a recent alum. The application process can feel tedious, but no matter what, take a lot of care in each cover letter and version of your resume- the more specific your application is to the company you're applying to, the better. Along those same lines, apply to the places you're interested in. It's better to have to choose between your top 3 internship offers than to only be offered a position that you aren't truly interested in.

The internship that ended up being perfect for me is at HDFilms' webseries, The Morning After, which was recommended to me by a friend and IC alum, Bryant Francis ('12) who had interned with the show a few semesters earlier. His personal thought that I would do well there made me very confident when talking to his contact person about what kind of internship duties I would have- Bryant knew what I was looking for and he knew that HDFilms could give it to me. But before I made my final decision I made sure to interview any where I could and get as much information about all potential positions as possible so as to make an educated decision. 

The most important thing of all is not to get discouraged during the application process. You won't hear back from every place (I got 5 replies out of the 10 applications I sent out) but the places that are right for you should be able to tell from your resume, cover letter, and possible interview- there is some company out there that you can have a fantastic mutual relationship with, you just have to find them!



Written by Colleen Cunha      Add a comment

View driving through Independence Pass on our way to Los Angeles

Once I found out I was accepted into the ICLA 2012 program, I immediately began making plans for my first semester away from Ithaca. Step one was finding a way to get across the country, from Cape Cod, MA all the way to the Oakwood Apartments in Los Angeles. What I did, and what I highly recommend, is to travel with others. When else are you going to have the opportunity to drive across the country with your closest college friends?




I found two friends, Julie Winograd (Cinema and Photography '13) and Garrett Thoen (Cinema and Photography '13) who were willing to drive and over the summer we mapped out our route. We found family along the way, including Garrett's aunt and uncle in Des Moines who let us crash and Julie's mother in Colorado Springs who let us stay and recuperate for a full day. To keep from going stir crazy, when we were stopped in Colorado we spent the day exploring, and ended up at a zoo and eventually left town via the scenic route- through Independence Pass at the continental divide.




Although the day from Colorado to Nevada should have felt long (it was about 13 hours) it was our quickest leg because we were able to really appreciate the difference between where we were each from and the incredible mountains and canyons that we drove through in Utah. It was the only leg of our trip that crossed states that none of us had ever been to which made it very exciting!




But driving with friends isn't just fun, it's cost effective, can be quite stress-free, and helped prepare me personally for being so far away from home. The whole country is incredibly beautiful and diverse in people, weather, landscapes, gas prices, you name it. Driving across country was an incredible once in a lifetime experience (unless of course I can convince my friends to drive home at the end of the semester too!)


Map of the drive to LA




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