By: Andrew Schaffer
My birthday happens to fall in December, which many might tell you is a double-edged sword due to it’s close proximity to Christmas. But when I was twelve years old, I used it to my advantage and somehow convinced my parents to forgo Christmas presents in place of one large birthday present: a video camera. That Panasonic DV cam accompanied me everywhere for years and created such classics as: Bounceball, Intro to Andrew, RC car POV (don’t tell my mom I duct taped my camera on top of an RC car), a Stephen Lynch music video, a faux-infomercial about flatulence-filtering underpants (those are a thing now, by the way), and a parody of “Ellen” in which I drew a beard on myself and sang a Toby Keith song.
Eventually high school came and went, and after trying and failing at college (twice), I found myself suddenly in my sixth year of delivering pizza. I needed a plan. I’d found in six years at a corporate pizza joint that I was actually really good at making myself needed and climbing the corporate ladder – the only problem was, the corporate pizza ladder was not the ladder I wanted to climb.
So, I enrolled in school yet again and found that suddenly, at 25, I was good at it. After breezing through my core classes, I enrolled in a video production program, climbing that first rung in the ladder to the top.
I’m a pretty determined dude, though, and I wasn’t going to wait until I received my degree to get started in the video production industry. I was really enjoying school and learning a lot, but after a few terms, I was getting antsy to really take that jump into the business. So, I took the quick and dirty approach – I typed “video production portland” into the magical Google box and I sent an email to every single company in the area looking for an internship, a volunteer opportunity, or even a chance to sit in on a shoot – anything to get me close to where the magic happens. Lucky for me, it proved effective, and Funnelbox responded. I interviewed and was brought on as an intern in April of 2014.
I made myself a list of goals (I’m a sucker for lists), which proved to work pretty well. So, if you find yourself entering into an internship (in any field, really), here’s my advice. Take it or leave it.
Make yourself useful. Say yes.
My first few weeks were spent organizing bookshelves and closets, making runs to the store, and generally being a gofer. I was prepared for this, of course, and I was happy just being in the general vicinity of people who were where I wanted to be. (Side note – done with a task? Don’t pull out your iPhone and start playing Candy Crush. Don’t take a nap. Yes, I’ve seen interns do both these things. Find another task). Eventually, these tasks will begin to steer in the right direction – once the people around you pick up on the talents you have to offer, they’ll gradually start handing you larger jobs. Take on every project as if it’s a career-maker. Because you never know, it could be. You just might be lucky enough to make an impression on the right person – and in the video business (as in many other businesses) it’s all about connections. More on that later.
Listen up – knowledge is happening all around you.
I was surprised at how helpful it was to simply be around people working in the field. Being present for creative conversations, pre-production planning, on-set discussions, and post-production debates built upon what I’d read and learned about, and provided the context I needed to start succeeding in my chosen field. I began to notice improvements in my personal projects. I started thinking about my work in a different way. I became more organized, my process more streamlined (I’m still nowhere near professional when it comes to passion projects, but I’ve got a jump-start now).
Ask questions. Ask lots of questions.
This is important not only in the professional world but in life in general, and it seems the place where I see too many people fail. I’m not sure why people often seem so afraid to ask questions – but if you don’t ask, you’ll never get an answer. If you don’t get an answer, you’ll do your job poorly. If you do your job poorly, you won’t be asked to do anything important ever again for the rest of your life, and you’ll probably end up delivering pizza until you die. No one who tasks you with anything important is ever going to be upset at you for clarifying your responsibilities – it saves time and money, in the long run, to do it right the first time (or at least the second time, maybe the third).
Likewise, ask questions when you want to learn something. See a coworker using software or equipment you’ve never used? Ask to observe, even if just for a few moments. Inquire about their process (as long as you’re not in the way). Hear someone talking about a process you want to know more about? Listen up; then follow up with questions about the process. What you learn is up to you.
Make an impression; make a connection.
The creative world is a giant web with no clear center. Freelancers, contractors, production houses, creative agencies – you’ll nearly always find yourself working alongside (or working for) people you’ve never met. Don’t let this deter you; instead use it to your advantage. Make sure to introduce yourself, remember everyone’s name (even though I’m the first to admit that I am the worst at remembering names), and do your best to make a good impression. Once you can prove your value, you’re much more likely to be called upon for more work.
Stay positive and professional.
This one’s obvious but seemingly hard for some people. I’ll be honest, it’s hard for me sometimes. Luckily the people at Funnelbox make it really easy – everyone here is so easy to work with. I look forward to coming here every single day.
By no means am I a pro when it comes to internships, so take my advice as you wish. But the last day of my internship was over a year ago and they’ve kept me around. So I assume I’m doing something right.