Interned at Mar Vista Entertainment providing input on potential films and at Fox 2000 in development and production, Fall 2014
Watch Laura’s awarding-winning, animated film here.
About Me: I studied in Los Angeles for the fall semester of my senior year! Before you read my responses, I think it’s important to note that I’m a Marketing major with a Film Minor. I chose the Film/Television Los Angeles track to strengthen my experience in that particular field. The reason why I’m a marketing major is because I love to share stories and I felt as though marketing was a way to share a story about a brand or product. However, in Los Angeles I learned an entirely different form of storytelling through my production and development internships that pulled at my heartstrings.
Internship: I had two! I interned at Mar Vista Entertainment, which produces TV movies for networks such as Lifetime, Syfy, Disney Channel, and CW. I did everything from pitching loglines for potential networks to writing coverage on books and scripts. I even was an extra in one of their movies and woke up at 5 in the morning to play “Track Girl 2.” One particular evening I went above and beyond my intern duties and dressed as a purple hippo for the red carpet premiere of a Disney Channel movie. My other internship was a Development and Production internship at Fox 2000 on the Fox Studios lot. I LOVED working there and gained so much experience writing notes on scripts and covering desks for assistants of Vice Presidents. I also spent a lot of afternoons watching movies before their release in the studio theater and roaming around the wardrobe department eyeing Leonardo DiCaprio’s Titanic attire.
I Learned: The only way truly to understand the entertainment industry in Los Angeles is to immerse yourself fully in it. While in Los Angeles, I made sure to make the most of my time there and networked with multiple professionals in the animation industry, a specific passion of mine. I reached out and met with producers, developers, artists, and editors at Walt Disney Animation Studios, DreamWorks, Paramount Animation, Fox Animation, Sony, Nickelodeon, and Warner Brother’s Animation. I learned about a world beyond graduation both professionally and personally.
What Surprised Me: I was surprised by how much I wasn’t homesick and never felt alone when chasing after a dream of mine. I also loved meeting the students who didn’t study at Boston University but were involved in the program. A lot of them had a similar passion and drive, and we bonded over our love of entertainment. I also was shocked by how gorgeous the weather is in Los Angeles. Seriously – it’s unfair to the rest of the world. I think I saw a cloud once in 4 months.
Hardest Part: Returning to Boston. I love the Questrom School of Business, but now I’m anxious to graduate since I’ve had such a wonderful taste of what my life could be like afterwards.
Best Part: There were so many incredible days I’m having a hard time choosing one. My top three are the Walt Disney Animation Open House, volunteering at CTNx, and winning the Grand Prize at the Los Angeles New Filmmakers film festival.
Through my networking I met wonderful people involved in production at Walt Disney Animation Studios and was invited by them to attend a closed event at the studio. The studio was transformed into a massive display of the work behind creating a Disney classic. I was able to watch the Oscar nominated short Feast before release in a Q&A session with the director and told him how much I loved that the main character was a Boston Terrier.
Per recommendation by a Disney employee I signed up to volunteer at CTNx, a weekend long animation exhibition. I met wonderful employees from Pixar, Walt Disney Animation, Blue Sky, and other studios. I cannot even capture in this blog the amount this experience has impacted me.
Before moving to LA, I learned about an opportunity to submit a short to the Los Angeles New Filmmakers Film Festival. I worked for over a month to create a stop-motion animation in my basement. My short was selected as a contestant and I attended an event in downtown Los Angeles. To my surprise, I won the Grand Prize and Category Prize, totaling in over $40,000 toward my next short and $1500 in cash! Throughout the evening I was interviewed and met wonderful creatives who I’m currently in touch with to produce my next short. The following morning I was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times.
My Tips: Bend the rules!! (and I don’t mean party).
Don’t spend every night going to clubs when you can do the same thing in Boston. I went outside the box and fully took advantage of being in LA. This is an experience you have to take; it won’t be delivered on a silver platter for you. My nights were spent watching movies and reaching out to producers to schedule lunch meetings. Despite the no-puppy-policy, I rescued two dogs. A baby Chihuahua I found abandoned on the Hollywood Hills and an Alaskan Husky who was trying to avoid being killed at the shelter. I named the Chihuahua Pancake and took care of her before finding her a loving home with a Fox Studio executive. The Husky was named Doyle, and he went home with a BULA student to Texas.
Hidden Gems: On the nights you do choose to go out, I’d recommend West Hollywood and the Sunset strip. Saddle Ranch was one of my favorite bars, and has a mechanical bull that I completely mastered. Also, go to the beaches as often as you can. Malibu, Manhattan, Santa Monica, and Venice can never steer you wrong.
Internship: For Lionsgate, I did a lot of analytical work. My job was in the home entertainment aspect of distribution, so I had many tasks, such as researching ratings for movies that had aired on television to even picking out which of their films would end up on Hulu Plus.
For TheWrap.com, I worked with their second website, Powergrid.com, and made sure that the data on it was up to date as well as found ways to promote the site to their preferred target markets.
I Learned: What was so great about living in L.A. that I didn’t understand before was just that L.A. is like no city I’ve ever been in. It’s not as big as New York, nor as walkable as Boston. It’s so unique and so entertainment focused; everything in the city is hyper-focused on the entertainment world.
I also learned how important it is to be connected, and how easy it is to be connected. I was able to meet famous executives from big companies who I learned, after speaking to them, had gone to Boston University and was impressed that I was from there as well. The L.A. program really gave me the opportunity to dip my toes into the working world while still having the safety net of being in school.
Comparing/Contrasting My Work Experiences: In all honesty, there were probably many more similarities than differences. The only big difference I saw between the businesses on the east and west coasts was how casually dressed people were (and at Lionsgate, the dress code was only down to business casual). Other than that, Lionsgate had a very corporate environment. I did not have the opportunity to work in the production department, which might have had a more dissimilar experience to the east coast, but I’ve learned that studios have two sides – the corporate one and the creative one. I was more on corporate. The other major difference between Boston and L.A. was that the sun was shining in January.
For TheWrap, I had never worked anywhere near a newsroom previously, so I was shocked to see how loud and fast paced it was. Apparently, this is true for all newsrooms, not just ones trying to scoop director information from The Hollywood Reporter.
Hardest Parts: The hardest parts of the experience would be two things. One was a school requirement: running back from work and then sitting in class for three hours a day. Granted, I choose to work full time (which many people didn’t), so I didn’t give myself the chance to relax. The other worst part was the commute. Originally I had a car. However, it ended up being too expensive, so I took the bus. If anyone reading this considers taking public transportation, please try to leave a half hour early. Then you might be on time. There was also the traffic in general. Traffic in L.A. is awful – if it should take twenty minutes to go somewhere, it probably really takes an hour. But trying to navigate all of that while taking classes full time AND while trying just to survive in the city was challenging, but when things worked out, it was awesome.
Best Parts: I had a lot of best parts of my experience! I guess just working at Lionsgate was a thrill for me because I got to see a lot of the small behind-the-scenes action that no one really thinks of. (For example, I walked past the mail room and saw the original art piece for the new Mad Men poster). Working at TheWrap got me a great experience because I had the opportunity to work an Oscar Party and meet celebrities and have conversations with them. The celebrities included Jessica Chastain, Chris Tucker, and Kathryn Bigelow. But I guess what was also really a lot of fun was being in Los Angles, a city that is so filled with film experiences. I had the opportunity to check out the Iron Man 3 premiere; go to WonderCon and see directors, actors, showrunners, and writers talk about upcoming projects (like Guillermo del Toro and Pacific Rim); and I got to see tapings of shows like The Voice.
I think the best professional aspect of my study abroad trip was the fact that I have experience working in Hollywood. I had the opportunity to get a summer job at NBCUniversal because I had marketing experience and experience working in distribution, something that would rarely happen on the east coast. I feel that if anyone enjoys the entertainment field and wants to try it, L.A. is the best opportunity. Not only are you in the action, but it gives you experiences and connections in the field that would be potentially unobtainable.
Sydney: Intern in Media and PR at The Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales, Spring 2011
Internship: The Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales is a non-profit governmental organization that puts on the largest set of events in the Southern Hemisphere called the Sydney Royal Competitions. The largest event they put on is called the Sydney Royal Easter show, which is a two week long event in April that took place after my internship had ended, but my supervisor asked me to come back and participate, which I was thrilled about. I worked in the press box on the Sydney Olympic Showground with all the different media outlets. I was able to work one-on-one with radio stations, the local 7 news channel, and the Disney Channel, helping to pitch story ideas they should run. I was also able to make YouTube videos about the different days of the show and host interviews with the show talent to create press releases. To this day I remain very good friends with those I worked for, and even the show talent, including the world’s smallest strong man, “Goliath.”
L.A.: Intern in Publicity for NBCUniversal at Bravo and at Shop Talk Los Angeles, Spring 2012
Internship: I assisted the publicist on site with interviews and live tapings as well as at the NBCUniversal Summer Press Junket. I was also responsible for creating the press book for the series debut of the “Shahs of Sunset.” In addition, I was an intern at a start up called Shop Talk Los Angeles. The founder of the company was a BU alum, and it was such an incredible experience learning from her. I was able to work directly with clients and vendors, creating partnership marketing proposals and recap reports. I also managed pro-bono client Children’s Miracle Network and their Extra Life initiative which is a 24-hour gameathon.
I Learned: Living in another city, whether nationally or internationally, provides tremendous insight on the different backgrounds and cultures of other people. Immersing yourself in a totally new place and living the way other people do is eye opening. Whether you enjoy the experience or not (which I did) at the very least, you learn about different people, you learn about yourself, and you meet people you would never have expected to.
Comparing/Contrasting My Work Experiences: Comparing my two abroad working experiences, given that one was national and one was international, there are a couple differences I have noticed. In Australia, I was able to contribute to the final outcome of significant projects and events. I was pitching story ideas and editorial angels as well as writing full press releases with very little oversight. I enjoyed the creative license I was given. This experience actually was similar to my experience working at the start up company in LA. My boss always encouraged me to participate in contribute ideas during client meetings. While I appreciated the autonomy I was given in Australia, as an intern, it is also important to ask for feedback in order to grow. My business experience in the U.S. may not have had as much autonomy, but the training programs in place provided a great learning opportunity for me. No matter the differences between home and abroad, the one commonality is myself, and what I chose to make of the experience. If given more autonomy, I still need to be proactive and ask for feedback. If given a lot of oversight, I need to feel confident in asking for more responsibility. Unequivocally, Australian and American approaches to work and the respective cultural mind set behind each, are both positive and negative in their own right. With that, no matter what it is that I do or where it is that I work, being proactive and maintaining a balance is key.
Hardest Part: Coming home! I call it “re-culture” shock.
Best Part: All of the adventures we were able to go on. In Australia we went to surf camp, we played with kangaroos and petted koalas. We were also walking distance from some of the most beautiful beaches and nature you will ever see.