This summer I juggled two internships during my time in L.A. I say “juggled” quite consciously, because the practice of actually handling two internships (one, a production-heavy, time-intensive venture into the brave new world of premium-funded, branded YouTube channels; the other, a low-key gig requiring–and the office was so understated that using the word “require” feels like a strenuously overtaxing term compared with my daily routine there–only standard feature-film script coverage), became a tricky mix of pseudo-corporate integration with delight with fatigue, and the list could go on and on.
I was (and, to this point in time, am) very lucky to have the pair of internships that I landed. I wasn’t at the glorious studios or talent agencies that I had hoped to land at (HBO, CAA, Disney, Paramount…), but I was working for Stan Lee Tuesday through Friday, and the production company that made Black Swan and The Ides of March on Mondays. Two very awesome jobs, and two spots that I was totally happy with. The Stan Lee business was fascinating. That was the YouTube channel. What Google (the parent of YouTube, as I became painfully aware of the Google grid this summer) did was earmark roughly 100 million dollars to be parceled out to various companies, studios, and brands to make what are formally called “premium-funded YouTube channels.” Stan Lee’s World of Heroes was one of them; that’s where I worked.
The channel was the joint effort of Vuguru, a studio creating original online content (the company I originally applied to for an internship), and POW!, or Purveyors Of Wonder(!), Stan Lee’s entertainment company. Yes, while Marvel is the house that Stan built, he no longer works for them, and Marvel itself has become a perversion (or ghost) of its former self: Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion in 2009. They’re more about movies than comics these days. It was weird, because Stan holds Marvel at an arms-length away, but he still holds it. It’s hard not to talk about Spider-Man, the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man when you created them. Especially when The Avengers just made $1.5 billion. Oh yeah, and a Spider-Man reboot came in July.
Anyway, the mechanics of operating a YouTube channel are interesting–to put it blandly. The blueprint for how to do well on YouTube is fairly new, and rather tenuous. But a few common factors can be found among those YouTubers that do well: sensationalism, conciseness, and consistency. An absurd mix, but undeniably logical for the formula of internet success. Or viral success. (“Viral” became a sick joke of a word to my bosses, who constantly, annoyingly heard it from their bosses; by the end of the summer, it was a fury-inducing word devoid of any true meaning.) Sensationalism ensures that a video is seen and shared. Conciseness–more to the point of economy, not length–ensures that a video won’t lose its audience at a lull. Nearly every second of a YouTube video should be entertaining or engaging in some way. Consistency ensures that the audience will come back regularly once interesting. So we had at least one video shoot a week. It was great for learning how professional sets are run. (While these generally weren’t high-profile sets, make no mistake, these sets were professional. Even if they were for the internet.) Because our content was necessarily a bit wacky to fill the criteria of “sensationalism,” and “consistency” was our greatest strength, we had a lot to shoot week in and week out. We had three different sets during one week.
(A small detail that should be mentioned is that we had our official launch at Comic-Con. It was the definitive fever pitch for the company and the channel itself that summer. It brought our staff, interns, and companies together. It was a singular experience, and reminded me that I love the run-and-gun action of live events, especially festivals. While it was taxing, I know I will remember it fondly.)
I can’t think of the opposite phrase for “run-and-gun,” but that was my other internship. A wry, cheeky young man might say the counter-phrase is “stand-and-sword.” Oddly enough, such phrasing does represent my other internship at Cross Creek Pictures. While the company is new (it was formed with the birth of Black Swan), it is a standard motion picture production company. They represent the old guard. They have released three films to date, and the first two were awards-season fare. They were what one hopes for Hollywood to be. And, somehow–perhaps because of its infant status–it was a stable company. Not too innovative, but, again they grabbed attention with their solid, steadfast delivery. They stood tall, proud, and silent.
At this internship, I covered scripts. I covered one script every Monday, except one week: my boss often complained about our website, so I tried my hand at web design. It was a fruitless venture, but I learned that I don’t know very much about web design. The most valuable part of this internship was my relationship to my boss. Every day when I would come in, we’d chat and catch up on the weekend and our lives. I would often prompt him to give me work, but I was happy about that. I felt the bond we were forming distracted him from giving me assignments. Or maybe he just liked our sneaky form of hooky. Or maybe the company was just that slow. Regardless, I felt he was not only a connection, but a lucky thing to have–in Hollywood and in life–a friend.
About the NU Intern Blogger Program
This summer, over 50 Northwestern University students will be sharing stories about what they are experiencing at their internships from across the country and internationally. Each week new students will share an inside look at what it means to be an intern. Please contact Betsy Gill, Assistant Director, Internship Services if you have any questions.