Internships -- they're about more than just filing papers!
It's coming upon that time of year when college students start having to worry about the summer. We have to worry about auditions for summer productions, looking for summer job openings, and, of course, applications for summer internships.
When I first heard people espousing the merits of internships when I got to college, I dismissed it as not necessary for someone who wants to pursue acting. I figured it's only for people who want to do things other than perform, and it would only benefit me to keep auditioning and "working on my craft." But as I've learned over the past few years, I couldn't have been more wrong!
What internships really do for theater students is get us out into the field meeting people and getting to know the industry. Internships--whether paid, unpaid, or for college credit--give a student incredibly valuable work experience and knowledge of their field. I spoke further with Meghan Laughlin, Internship Coordinator for the USC School of Theatre, about the benefits of internships for theater students.
"Internships are important, especially for theater students, because of the nature of this field and how it operates. Life after graduation often seems scary and uncertain, and having an internship while in school helps to demystify what the 'real work world' experience will be. Regardless of the student's career goals, spending a semester (or more) working in a professional environment is a low risk/high potential process for students to discover their strengths and skills. Particularly for young actors, it is a necessary part of the business to establish relationships through networking and really get a feel for how they are going to function in the field they think they want to join."
So where do you start finding internships? Some schools like USC have people and programs to help you out (that's how I ended up writing for TheaterMania University!) Otherwise, there are some great places online that will really help you out if you put in the time surfing the web. For example, one website is www.summerinternships.com/theatre-arts-internships, which gives you the option of researching internships by city. Also, in Los Angeles is the LA County Arts Internship Program every summer. This program selects a limited number of students for a variety of theater venues and organizations all over Los Angeles County, and all the information can be found online! Many friends of mine have successfully acquired one of these internship positions, and found the experience to be invaluable.
But what is it like to be an intern? How are the hours? What do you do? Here's a slice of an intern's life from senior theater student Kristin Avila, currently interning with KSR talent agency.
"A typical day at my internship usually consists of answering phones (cool people usually call, like Nigel Lythgoe!); filing/updating headshots, resumes, and client paperwork; researching theaters' seasons and looking up reviews; submitting actors both online and in hard copy for roles in productions; creating and sorting the breakdowns for the agents; taking audition appointments; and updating client information files and contact info. I'm taking my internship for 4 units of credit, which means a lot of work hours (16 a week) and 4 total assignments.
"It's a great fit for me because without working at a talent agency, I wouldn't know the first thing about getting myself representation after college. I get a first-hand, insider's look on what goes on between agents and clients, and agents and casting directors. I get to see what goes into choosing an actor to submit for a role, what the actors who work a lot are doing right, and what some of the current trends in casting are. Plus, the connections I'm making are going to be incredibly valuable post-graduation.
"Internships are beneficial to everyone, but especially acting students. Acting sometimes gets a little one-sided in terms of knowledge of the industry. Internships are a fantastic way to break into an industry that is extremely hard to crack. Plus, having a well-rounded knowledge of how the industry works, particularly in casting, is invaluable to a young actor just starting out.
"As helpful and practical as internships are, they're also super fun! In a nutshell: Internships. DO IT."
As you plan your rapidly approaching summer (it's already March, people!), don't leave out investigating internships! The people you meet, knowledge you gain, and connections you make via interning could very well make or break your career.