2020 Lance Clem Internship Awards
Three Student Awardees Share Their Internship Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Every year, three students in the MFJS department receive awards to help fund their summer internships through the Lance Clem Program. Lance Clem (BA '72), a Media, Film & Journalism Studies alumnus and longtime public policy advocate, established this internship program for future MFJS students through his estate upon his passing in 2016. The 2020 Lance Clem awardees shared their summer internship experiences with us below.
Olivia Myrtue, Junior Strategic Communication Major
Working as an intern this summer during the COVID-19 pandemic is something I never could have imagined. As I began submitting my applications for summer internships, the pandemic hit and changed the entire trajectory of the summer. In some ways, I was upset knowing that my internship would not be the normal one I was hoping for, but I quickly adapted and decided to make the most of my summer internship experience no matter the format.
Fortunately, my internship going virtual did nothing to hinder the amazing opportunities of learning and growth that I experienced this summer. I became an intern for ID PR, a leading public relations firm based in Los Angeles. ID is a fully integrated entertainment agency representing many of the world's leading actors, films and filmmakers, musicians, brands and technologies. As a teenager I had always been obsessed with the idea of working in the entertainment industry, and through my first two years of college I realized that I wanted to be a publicist. The internship at ID provided me with pivotal experience and networking opportunities to help make that dream come true.
My experience this summer changed constantly. Rather than having just one set job as an intern, I was able to cycle through the different departments at ID to complete different tasks. ID represents clients in talent, brands, content (TV & film), digital and music. Being able to jump around to different departments on any given day and find out where I could best use my skills was very beneficial. For example, I was able to see the difference between pitching a brands client versus pitching a music client to various publications firsthand. I also got experience with creating press kits, assisting in pitches, clipping press breaks, monitoring social media and organizing talent schedules.
While my summer internship ended up not being the Hollywood, red-carpet intern experience I initially envisioned, my day-to-day life was always full of excitement. As I logged on to the company’s virtual system each morning I had the opportunity to connect with other interns and publicists to complete various tasks. We had daily enrichment sessions from talent publicists and guest speakers to help us learn more about the industry. At the end of the summer the interns put our new skills to use and collaborated to present a fully fleshed out PR campaign on an upcoming film to the entire company. These experiences taught me how to think strategically as well as creatively when pitching media.
As I was experiencing a difficult shift into the virtual world in my own life this summer, so was Hollywood. Much of the media and content being pitched was also altered to fit our new normal. While everything I experienced this summer was obviously new to me, it was also completely new to all of the seasoned publicists I was learning from, which is something that I think will always be very special. I could not be more grateful to have received the Lance Clem scholarship this summer, which allowed me to realize this unforgettable opportunity in addition to earning university credit towards my major.
Lanie Cohen, Senior Strategic Communication and Gender & Women Studies Major
My internship this past summer was for Girls Incorporated of Metro Denver (GIMD), a nonprofit organization designed to cultivate the “inherent strengths” young girls need to successfully navigate our society. This can involve education, activities, extra meals, art, mentorship or even yoga. I was hired as an Advocacy Intern, and I assisted GIMD in their various initiatives to engage with the Denver community and its leaders in spearheading grassroots change. My goal for this internship was not only to advance my career, but to continue feeding my passion for social justice.
My advocacy internship allowed me to work on projects integral to rolling out GIMD’s new Advocacy Platform. One of my favorite projects involved using information from the Colorado General Assembly to develop an important resource for GIMD. Through examining the 600 bills introduced in the Colorado General Assembly, I made a judgement on the top legislation GIMD should focus on. I then ascertained which legislators were the best fit for GIMD’s interests and organized a document that sorted this information. By filtering legislation topics, bills and legislators into a comprehensive spreadsheet, I created a document that can be used to easily access information needed to advance the Advocacy Platform. Additionally, I created a flyer to advertise GIMD’s new Advocacy Platform in hopes of garnering support for the new program which will hopefully be seen by Colorado’s Senators and Representatives.
Over the course of my internship I have gained social media skills, graphic design skills, policy literacy, presentation abilities, Zoom facilitation methods and so much more. Most importantly, I have confirmed my goal to work for a nonprofit organization. The workplace environment at GIMD went so much deeper than being a professional space. There was a deeply rooted culture of kindness and empathy unique to any job I have ever had. Before meetings started there were check-ins to communicate feelings and everyday struggles. Members of GIMD were invested in their coworker’s wellbeing, not just ability to do their job. Because nonprofits are focused on improving society there is a baseline of above-average kindness, which I believe encourages people to show that kindness even more.
Ashton Word, Senior Film Studies & Production and International Studies Major
"COVID19 is ruining my life," said every person on the planet this year. Loneliness, rage, sadness, canceled plans, missed opportunities, distance and job loss are all side effects from the ongoing pandemic that is drastically changing our everyday lives and forcing us to evolve our understanding of normal.
Early this year I was accepted into a program that pairs overseas companies with U.S. students based on their chosen location and field of interest. I was going to Spain to intern for a film/TV production company: a dream come true! I would be practicing my Spanish, immersed in a new culture, living in a country I've always wanted to visit, and working in my future career field. In mid-spring I was informed that the program would be canceled. On top of that, I wouldn't be receiving a refund on my deposit. Now, I want to be clear: I realize my privileged position compared to many others in the world right now. I'm not a nurse fighting COVID on the frontlines; no one in my family has lost their job or been diagnosed with COVID. I remind myself of these facts when I'm tempted to give in to self-pity. But I was bummed, to put it mildly. This was my last summer before I graduated. I NEEDED an impressive internship if I wanted to be a competitive candidate for jobs upon graduation. I needed real-world experience. I have goals! I have plans! But COVID and the World Health Organization and the Spanish border don't care about my plans or goals (nor should they).
I had almost come to terms with spending the summer nannying instead of working at something I am passionate about, and as a result facing inevitable unemployment after graduation (I'm kidding. Sort of.) when Kweighbaye Kotee, founder and CEO of the Bushwick Film Festival (BFF) and Bushwick Film Institute (BFI), gave a guest lecture via Zoom as part of Professor Lauren J. DeCarvalho's optional lecture series for her students. Kotee talked about the film festival she started 13 years ago. She also spoke of BFI, a non-profit organization she created that is "committed to elevating community through the power of film, empowering underrepresented storytellers, increasing diversity in film and TV, and sharing unique stories with local and global audiences." It was incredible to hear from a woman in the industry who shared similar beliefs about the power and influence of the cinematic medium and had similar aspirations to me. Kotee recollected her time being on a festival panel in Liberia in summer 2019 as part of the culmination of a year-long filmmaking project funded by the UN Peacemaking Fund and the Accountability Lab. She said she wanted to create a similar program through BFI. When I heard this my ears perked up. I am an International Studies and Film double major, and whenever I tell people this, they ask, "What are you going to do with that?" or "How do those two go together?" Here was someone who saw how they fit together, who saw how film can empower individuals and how more diverse, inclusive, international storytelling can increase cross-cultural understanding.
I reached out to Kotee through LinkedIn shortly after her lecture. I expressed my admiration for BFF and BFI and my interest in possibly interning for her organization over the summer. We set up a Zoom meeting and by June I was interning at BFF as a Grant Researcher. My duties included helping to manage the master grant application list and identify upcoming deadlines, working with the BFF team to research international grant funding projects in West Africa, proofreading documents and writing clear and concise drafts, and submitting grant applications. Kotee and I had weekly video meetings to review my work for that week, and then new tasks were assigned for the following week. It has been a great learning experience and a supportive work environment. Before starting the internship, I had never written a grant application before, so many of our meetings were dedicated to rewriting and perfecting my answers. I felt guilty, as if I was doing my job incorrectly. After all, wasn't I hired to make the workload lighter? However, Kotee was quick to reassure me that I was doing good work and that nobody starts out knowing how to do something perfectly.
I am still interning with BFF as a Grant Researcher, although now I’m helping move the annual film festival online (yet another side-effect of COVID). I am learning different skills and becoming more familiar with what goes into putting on a film festival. Instead of grant writing, I’m sending marketing emails and entering the necessary information about the films onto the virtual screening platform.
My takeaway is that even in a crisis like a global pandemic, opportunities are created that you might not have had otherwise. And don't be afraid to reach out and pitch yourself. The worst people can say is "no." Lastly, don't be shy about asking for help or not immediately being excellent or knowing how to do something. That's the point of engaging in real-world experience: not only to learn but to become a problem solver. While I still might not have a job awaiting me after graduation, I've embraced an “open to and for anything” mentality. I feel more prepared and confident for my future career, thanks to the many skills I learned and am continuing to learn from my internship with the Bushwick Film Festival.