Lot 48: what it's really like to be an intern in LA

January 13, 2015

what it's really like to be an intern in LA


i love to write.  and i love television.  so naturally, i moved to los angeles my senior year of college for a semester to do an internship at two production agencies.  i wanted (and honestly, still do) want(ed) to be a sitcom writer.   i wanted to be tina fey, mindy kaling, a strong female sitcom writer.  that is what i wanted to be, and still do.

i spent 4 months working in the trenches of hollywood, and boy do i have some stories to share with you!! so let's begin!! 

i love bringing up the devil wear's prada while talking about my internship in LA is very accurate.  the thing is, andy would not have done anything that she did in the movie.  an intern does those things.  it would have bee an intern who drove the car, picked up the dog, got the coffee, etc.  an assistant does not have time for that.  they pass off allllll those tasks to an intern.   i can't even tell you how many times i went to whole foods, trader joes, ralphs, etc.  

in fact, every single monday at one production company, all us interns would take turns going to the grocery store.  and we would go to ralph's and trader joe's because there were very specific things we had to get.  we would spend usually about $600 and then have to load all the food from the parking garage into the small, small, tiny tiny kitchen in the office.  doesn't that sound like something andy would do?? NO!!! the interns do it!! 

there was a cafe downstairs from that company, so i can't even tell you how many times i was sent down there to get coffee.  also, if a producer wanted lunch from somewhere, anywhere, i was sent to go get it.  it didn't matter if it was down the street or 30 miles away, i was sent to get it.  thank goodness that we got reimbursed for gas, but as it turned out, when i was finished with my internship, i was never sent a check as i guess i filled out the sheet wrong?????? 


one of the biggest parts of being an intern, besides running errands was being a "reader."  you might have heard this term before.  what that means is an intern is the very first person to read a script when it comes through the door.  isn't that interesting?? you would think that the producer's would be the first to read it, but they don't have time to read hundreds of really crappy scripts, so the first person to read is an intern.  if we think it is any good, then we pass it along to the producer's assistant.  then if they think it is any good, then it goes to the producer.  then maybe maybe maybe if you are suuuper lucky, the produdcer likes it.  then it goes to the head of  the company.  then maybe a studio buys it.  then it sits on a shelf for 10 years and nothing every happens. 99% of the time.

it is a fun and cool responsibility, to get to read the scripts first.  it's cool!! don't let the power go to your head. because it really is a lot of responsibility.  when reading a script and deciding whether or not to pass it on, us interns came up with a rule: if you wouldn't put your own blood, sweat and tears  and your own money into making the movie, then don't pass it along.  only pass it along if you are that passionate about it.  i didn't pass along many scripts.  a lot were books as well.  books that they wanted to know if they should turn into a movie.  i read so much bad crap. HORRIBLE scripts, HORRIBLE books, horrible writing.  

in order to be qualified to do such important things, you had to do a test where you "covered" (technically, the act of reading a script and writing a report on it with your feedback is called "script coverage" or "coverage") a dummy script and then gave your feedback before they hired you.  if they liked your taste, if you could show that you knew what made a good movie/show, you got in with the company. 


when an assistant was sick, you had to take over their desk for the day.  this was the most terrifying and most terrifying thing of my life.  literally, i have never been more scared than when i had to do that. it is called "covering a desk."  the first thing that makes it so terrifying was that the phones were so complicated.   i dropped calls more than i would like to admit.  it was also very scary and intimating work because you would answer the phone and you hear “martin scorsese calling for ------“and you’re thinking holy s**** but you try to keep your cool anyway.  then you pray to the heavens that you don’t drop the call again and that you don’t mess up.  then the producer says “get me ------!!” and then you have to go through the very complicated program to find the number for said person.  and the person who answers when you call for ----- is the agent.  so you say “i have --- for -----“ and then the other assistant says “one minute” and then you wait and wait hoping the producer doesn’t yell “what’s taking so long!!” TERRIFYING!!

most of the producers were nice, but there was one guy who was the devil.  he was absolutely the meanest, scariest man i have ever met.  i had to cover his desk one day and i left in tears.  when i started working for the company, everyone said “stay away from ----- he is so mean pray you never have to cover his desk.”  this is so not helpful!! why would you tell me that??!?! that just makes me more terrified!! then when the assistant was walking me through how to do her job before she left for the day because she had a fever she kept saying “i am so scared for you, oh boy, oh boy” and i’m like why are you people saying these things!! this is the opposite of what you should be saying!!! i felt like i was set up to fail.  i did an absolutely horrible job.  it was one of the most horrible days of my life.   i was so scared all day, i did a horrible job.  i  did a much better job for the producers who were nice.  in fact, i rocked it for those who were nice.  being nice goes such a long way!! i was angry at all the people who said “stay away from ----“ because they set me up to fail!! it was so not helpful!!




9 comments:

  1. What an experience this must have been....and I think your dream of being a sitcom writer is awesome. Go for it!

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  2. That sounds like a crazy and awesome experience. Except when you had to cover that one guy's desk because yikes. But otherwise, what a great experience for you! I hope you get to do some sitcom writing one day soon!

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  3. This is the coolest post I have read in such a long time!!! How fun is it that you did that!?!? And oh my goodness that job sounds like madness, but so much fun! I am at a point where I want to move to California and experience life out there, any thoughts? Was the internship better than you had imagined…or worse lol? Also, SO unbelievably cool that you want to brome a sitcom writer…go for it!!!

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  4. I loved this post! It was such an interesting take on behind the scenes! I never knew interns read scripts before everyone else! that's a huge responsibility!!

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  5. Sounds so, so interesting - thanks for sharing! Of those scripts you read, any of them ever "make it"?

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  6. What an exciting post!!! I'm sure you learned a lot from it... can't believe you would have to run all those errands! Did they give you a company credit card?!

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  7. Sounds like a crazy experience! I also interned in L.A. in the entertainment business. It's just like you said. Some days were s qry and some were amazing! One of my best friends is an associate producer for a production company out there and she has some crazy stories too! Thanks for sharing!

    Trish
    www.thetrishlist.com

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  8. Wow, I actually found this really interesting... The fact you get to read the scripts first is pretty cool.. But I'm also not surprised you had to do all the rest of the terrible things :(

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Hearing from you makes my day!!