For Film Students, Opportunity Knocks Outside the Classroom: An Intern's View


The Film and Media Studies program (FMS), residing within the Department of English, is devoted to providing students with opportunities to gain film industry experience and real world expertise during their time in academia. The opportunities granted to students through the FMS internship program are unmatched, thanks to the efforts of Internship Coordinator Kevin Sandler. For example, FMS students have been placed with The Daily Show and Magnolia Pictures in New York City, Fox and Ryan Seacrest Productions in Los Angeles, and with several local production companies and media entertainment marketing firms here in Phoenix.

I am one of the students fortunate enough to have taken part in the internships accessible through the FMS program. Initially, I was placed with a local marketing firm, Allied Integrated Marketing, where I took part in the PR operations for Summit Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, and The Weinstein Company. As an assistant to a studio publicist, I generated ideas and customized promotions for feature films and major studios as well as took part in the execution of cross-platform campaigns in Phoenix. I also worked closely with actors, screenwriters, and directors who came to Phoenix to promote their personal projects. Talent included director Stephen Chbosky from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Dave Franco from Warm Bodies, and the cast of The Hunger Games.

This past January, I received the opportunity of a lifetime through the FMS internship program. Along with eight other FMS students, I was chosen to serve as a student volunteer for the 2013 Sundance International Film Festival, the largest and most recognized festival in the United States. Our week-long trip to Park City was at no cost to any of the interns, thanks to the generosity of the ASU Parents Association and the Department of English. As college students on a tight budget, this support was something we all deeply valued, as we would otherwise have been unable to manage the expense.

At Sundance, we were all quickly and entirely immersed in the full film festival experience of this cinematic community. Our accommodations were beautiful, a cozy cabin located in the heart of Park City that granted us easy access to the festival activities. As soon as we settled in, we met with two industry professionals who came and spoke with us about the ins and outs of the film industry. This was only the beginning of what would be a week devoted to networking, learning, and screenings.

On our first night in Park City, we walked for miles in the wintry temperatures to see firsthand what the festival could offer. We ran directly into actor Amanda Seyfried at the premiere of her film Lovelace! Following our night of exploration, we arrived at the cabin to catch at the least a few hours of sleep before what would be a very busy few days. The next morning, the majority of us woke up at the crack of dawn to catch the second screening of Lovelace, which was then followed by a discussion with the entire cast including Seyfried herself. At Sundance, every screening is followed by a discussion with the cast and filmmakers, which we took advantage of as often as possible. When we were not trying to see every film imaginable, our time was spent volunteering at festival screenings. My tasks consisted primarily of ticketing, ushering lines, and handling talent. What I loved about the volunteer community at Sundance was that the other volunteers were as equally passionate and driven about film as the nine of us from FMS, as they also had their own careers in the industry.

I also blogged for the Festival as a part of their “Through the Student Lens” series, which showcased my point of view via Sundance’s several social media pages. Using the picture taking social media app Instagram, I visually showcased my experience at the screenings, the filmmaker sponsored events and student workshops, as well as my time volunteering.

A month after I arrived back in Phoenix, still in Sundance mode, I began an internship for the Sedona Film Festival. This too was an experience I, and the other FMS interns on the trip, greatly appreciated, and our accommodations were taken care of once again. What was most gratifying to me was the work we accomplished while there. I led a team of three FMS students to work on a Festival campaign to bring in a younger demographic. We were given complete control of the Sedona Film Festival’s social media and web pages, and we created video content for their YouTube page which showcased the filmmakers and their projects. Our interviews included legendary actress Joan Collins and actor David Strathairn, as well as younger filmmakers with a passion to have their projects seen.

What I learned after interning in both Sundance and Sedona is that these significant opportunities have enabled me to utilize the skills gained in the FMS program in a real world setting. This outside experience is vital to success after graduation. In one month I will cap my collegiate career by attending the Cannes Film Festival with a local production company, which in itself, is nearly unreal. Cannes, like the other internships I’ve had, can be accessed through the FMS program; it’s just simply up to the student to take advantage of them. The FMS program also has scholarships and funding for students who may be otherwise unable to afford a three-month stay in expensive cities like Los Angeles or New York City.

The FMS program is remarkably student driven, and this is demonstrated through the internship placements it provides for its students. I have greatly benefited from the experiences received through the program, and without these particular industry placements, I would not be nearly as prepared for my upcoming post-graduate life. My hope is that current students take advantage of these internships, as they too will find how important they can be in shaping one’s overall academic experience and future.

—Holly Vandevoorde

Pictured, left to right: Sundance interns Michelle Dew, Holly Vandevoorde, Jayro Giron, and Ayo Owolabi. Photo courtesy Holly Vandevoorde.

Field of daffodils background image from A. M. Kirby, Daffodils, Narcissus, and How to Grow Them as Hardy Plants and for Cut Flowers, with a Guide to the Best Varieties (1907). After Wordsworth.