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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

Office worker shenenigans

No matter what kind of internship you're looking for, it's likely that you'll be in some kind of office environment at least a couple days a week. If you want to get far in the industry, you'll need to do your best to fill the responsibilities that are given to you as an intern. Here are some tips about how to stay on everyone's good side.

1. Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer.

If you want to be remembered and liked at your internship, when something needs to be done, volunteer to do it. Whether it's getting coffee, sending an email, proof reading something- always offer (unless you really think you're under-qualified, like don't offer to Photoshop something if you've never heard of Adobe.) But the more menial tasks you do without having to be asked, the more likely people are to trust you with bigger responsibilities.

Scheduling whiteboard in the production office

We create a schedule for the week every Sunday and divide up responsibilities- I volunteer for whatever I can!

2. Stand on your own.

If you're not the only intern at your place of internship, be careful to remember that the other interns don't have to be your equals. Your internship isn't a popularity contest, it's about getting work done, learning, and making a good impression on those above you (so I guess it might kind of be a popularity contest...) If other interns are slacking off or not working up to par, don't consider this an invitation to work to a lower standard- volunteer to pick up their slack, be the first to offer to do something that you know other aren't likely to do. Be the most eager! Your superiors will notice!

3. Be professional first.

My first day at my internship I went in dressed well, standing up straight, and referring to people very professionally. I met everyone in the office and I felt like I made a good first impression. The producer I spoke with first told me I could feel free to dress casually and pointed out that the office is a very low-key place. Since then I have taken to referring to people by whatever nickname they prefer, dressing a bit less formally, and participating in office shenanigans (only when I'm asked, of course.) If I had come in my first day assuming that the place was casual or acting too relaxed, I don't think the people I work with would have respected how serious I am about my experience. (Although how serious can you really be, working for a comedy web series, am I right?) I also did not jump right into adding my coworkers on Facebook or Twitter, even though some of them are people who under any other circumstances I might have. Some have since added me on their own accord and I've begun to develop friendships with those around me but as the intern, I didn't feel it was my place to try and initiate a friendship. I would recommend being professional until you get an idea of the office atmosphere, then be sure to be as appropriate as possible.

4. Talk to the people around you.

Everyone I work with knows that I'm new in town and interested in the entertainment industry. I've had movies and restaurants recommended to me from all over the place. And I've taken the recommendations! You want to be on good terms with those around you for sure. And these all came out of me asking their opinions. When someone asks me a question, I'll give them an answer. No one remembers a silent intern... (at least not fondly, unless you're interning at The Milford Academy

the Operation boardgame

Because I can talk to everyone that I work with, I was able to pitch an idea for a recent interview. We ended up using the questions I wrote and playing Operation, which was my idea!

5. Have opinions... but not bad ones.

If you're working in an environment like I am, where pitches are going on all the time for jokes or for projects or sketches, you need to have an opinion, because people will ask for it. Remember this when expressing your thoughts: constructive criticism is your friend and "I like it" is not a helpful critique. Try and point out what you find to be the strongest aspect of the thing and the weakest aspect; someone will thank you later if you point out a serious flaw in a project or plan (if they ask your opinion. Try not to be a brat about it or anything.)

6. Be accessible.

You might only intern three or so days a week but if you're the first to response to an email, phone call, or emergency text from your boss, he will notice! My number was added to a list of contacts when I first arrived and since then I've gotten a couple texts from my coworkers asking about meeting times or other people's phone numbers, and I pride myself on my ability to respond to texts quickly. This is when that talent comes in handy. Same thing with emails, if you have a smart phone, check your email regularly. You might be asked to volunteer for something and (see hint number one) if you can, you should! (If for some reason, like class, you can't help, be sure to reply saying that you're unavailable. It's responsible!) Going along these lines, if you're asked to go in early or stay late, do it. You're at the bottom of the totem pole but stuff like this is what's going to help you climb. Your boss didn't become your boss by ignoring company emails and strolling in late every day.

With all this in mind, still try to have fun at your internship. I am very luck that my work place is exactly my kind of atmosphere and I get along well with those around me. If you can do that, even if the company you intern at goes out of business tomorrow, you've made contacts who know your work ethic and your passion. Impress people and make a difference- if they miss you when you leave, they just might try and hire you some day.



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!



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