Having an internship on an indie film that never sees the light of day may be terrific real world experience, but it’s not as good a resume builder as summer intern at Paramount, or office intern for the next JJ Abrams film. In the beginning, you want to have the most recognizable companies or projects on your resume. Even if it’s subconscious, a future employer will think, “Well, I’m sure a big studio like Paramount really vets their employees, so this candidate would be a good bet for us, too.” It gives you instant credibility and makes you stand out from a pack.
Student loans are real. So, depending on your situation, you might need to take something for the money. I’d like to think we live in a world that values experience over a dollar, but we have to be realistic.
Some internships are just places to learn. But one day, it could be a place for you to earn. So, ask the question—as one opportunity might have better long term potential than another.
Every situation is different and you need to make sure that you can keep your grades up and also give the required time and effort to an internship. Be realistic with yourself about how much you can handle. A CAA internship is a regular 40 hour work week, while an entertainment finance company might have you come in once a week for an afternoon.
Most internships are spent doing work that nobody else wants to do. A few years ago, I had an intern working on other side of my desk. Literally. I said, “If this is uncomfortable to be this close, I totally get it, but we don’t have the space for you, and I don’t mind at all.” He was doing data entry, had a great personality, and was easy to be around. He would engage me in conversation and was interested in the stories of where I worked and with whom. He was an excellent intern. When he completed his internship, I told him I’d be happy to be a reference for him anytime. Well, a few months later, he wanted a job at Ben Silverman’s company, Electus. Because of our conversations over the summer, he knew that I knew Ben. Without hesitation I emailed Ben, telling him about this fantastic intern. Ben responded, and my intern was hired by Electus! Take the internship that will give you the best access to some of the executives who could eventually help you.
If you love reality TV, working for Evolution Media, producers of The Real Housewives of OC and BH would be ideal for you. This is where you can really shine. If you’re asked to cover the phones when the receptionist has a doctor’s appointment, you’ll look like a star when all of those hours of TV watching actually help your career. A woman on the phone named Lisa calls for the Head of the Company, you intuitively know to ask, “Is this Ms. Vanderpump or Ms. Rinna?” It shows that you’re really invested in what the company does and that you’d make a great future employee. Let your natural interest be your guide.
Will it be easy for you to get to and from the internship and still make your classes? Will it make sense for you to drive everyday from your apartment downtown LA to Canoga Park to work for 2 hours? The answer to that one is a definite no; it will be more hassle than it’s worth. If it were a full-time job, I’d feel differently. But if you’re deciding between two internships, then accounting for traffic and distance is essential.