The Hollywood Hustle: CAM’s Hollywood Internship Program Gives Students Experience in a Competitive Industry
Whether they want to produce, design sets, edit, or work with cameras, students gain a valuable network by interning in Hollywood for a summer.Megan Briggs | College of Arts & Media Aug 1, 2022
Seven Film & Television (FiTV) students from the College of Arts & Media (CAM) are currently working jobs and gaining some real-life experience in Hollywood. Or, as Assistant Professor Eric Jewett likes to put it, they are learning how to “hustle” in Hollywood.
“It requires hustle all the time,” Jewett says about pursuing a career in Hollywood. “You can’t be shy. You need to step up and put yourself out there…which is emotionally difficult. Not many people can do it,” he adds. Whether you want to produce, be a cinematographer, direct, edit, act, design sets, etc., in a tight-knit industry such as filmmaking, it all requires putting yourself out there and networking.
Networking, Freelancing, Taking Multiple Jobs
A network is something Jewett felt like he could provide the FiTV students at CU Denver. After 40 years working in Los Angeles as an assistant director on projects like Dexter and Weeds, plus film credits including Lost Boys and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Jewett has connections in both the film and television sides of Hollywood. Each summer, Jewett travels with CU Denver students to the Los Angeles area to help them land jobs and show them around the industry and the city. With the help of Selise Eiseman, an internship consultant for various colleges and universities, the students have housing (this year it’s two two-bedroom condos the seven of them share in Burbank) and a few curated activities to participate in.
But it’s not all fun and games in Hollywood. For one thing, the students’ summer jobs are not simply handed to them. One student, Katie Baker, wasn’t entirely sure she would secure employment before leaving Colorado. Despite working with Eiseman in the spring semester to apply to numerous positions, it wasn’t until the day before she was scheduled to leave that she learned she landed a position at Mad Muse, a recording studio. And it wasn’t until she was on the road that she finally (thankfully!) got a call from Broken Road Productions, who hired Baker to do something called script coverage––a job reviewing scripts that the company receives. Baker’s situation of working more than one job is not atypical in Hollywood. As Jewett explains, filmmakers rarely know where their next job will come from, and they need to be comfortable with freelancing.
Student Emilee Blakely is comfortable with the freelancing and multi-gigging lifestyle. A dual major pursuing degrees in Film & Television and Marketing, Blakely is also working a remote marketing internship while she is in Hollywood. Her summer job with AbelCine, a film equipment rental company, allows her to gain experience with all kinds of specialized cameras she doesn’t have access to at CU Denver. Really, really nice and new cameras—the kind filmmakers with seemingly unlimited budgets use. Blakely, an aspiring cinematographer, has her eyes set on the New Mexico film scene, which she explains is growing by the day as Netflix just built 10 sound stages there—in addition to the ones they already have. Soon Blakely will secure her marketing degree (she completed her film degree just before traveling to California this summer), and she has hopes to start her own production company after gaining more camera work experience.
Rubbing Elbows With Professional Filmmakers
When the students are not working, they are participating in a handful of carefully crafted activities Jewett has arranged. Early in the summer, the students helped with the Produced By Conference, geared for those interested in producing films. Jewett’s role with the conference is to manage the talent; this year’s special guests included Viola Davis and her husband, Julius Tennon. One lucky CU Denver student, Sean Wada, was assigned the task of escorting the couple around the conference. In addition to fortuitous assignments such as these, the students had many opportunities to rub elbows with producers.
Another activity Jewett calls “Pizza and a Guest”—an evening in which the students have the opportunity to chat with professionals in the industry while lingering over a slice of pizza. This year, Jewett reached out to his network to ask young professionals, specifically, if they could spare a couple hours to speak to the students. Despite his not having met the people who showed up, Jewett says the evening turned out to be “magical.” Not only did the group close down the restaurant, they stood outside on the sidewalk talking for another 40 minutes.
For student Ashley Vaughn, who aspires to work in editing and post production, Pizza and a Guest was especially beneficial. Vaughn met Hilary Wills, an editor for the TV series The Orville. “It was amazing to talk with her and get her thoughts on what I should do for my future,” Vaughn shares. “[Wills] even gave me the opportunity to go to a networking event with assistant editors which was extremely helpful and eye-opening meeting so many people with a passion for editing.” Vaughn appreciated Jewett’s efforts to put the students in contact with women in particular, as the editing sphere can often be male-dominated.
Jewett lends his 40-year experience in LA in more informal ways as well. He gives the students recommendations for good places to eat and things they can do and see on their own. Trying to make the most of being in Hollywood, Baker signed up with Central Casting and landed a spot as a background extra at Warner Bros. Studio on a major show. “It was super fun and exciting to learn what goes on behind the scenes on a major production like that,” she says. Of course, there are other, less pleasant experiences to be had as well. Although it wasn’t a planned line-item on their summer schedule, the students experienced a California-style fire evacuation, which thankfully only displaced them for one evening. Plus, there was the traffic to get used to—something the students learned to plan around in order to make it to work on time.
Even with the hard work and traffic, though, the students are invigorated by their experiences. “After I graduate, I plan on moving back to LA. My internship has given me the confidence that I can make a living out here, and it filled in some gaps about the film industry that I did not learn while in a classroom setting,” Vaughn says.