Aug 31 2012
As the second half of junior year starts for college students, the search for an internship can occupy a lot of time and worrying. Filling out applications and going for interviews gives students a first look at how things will be after graduating, and the experience serves as a solid foundation both in skills necessary on the job and meeting people who do the work every day.
Like everyone else in college, I dutifully made phone calls and emails, wrote and re-wrote my resume, and attended several interviews in an attempt to secure an internship. What I learned just from going through that process could probably provide enough content for another post entirely.
By summer, despite interviewing at several places, I had come up empty handed. After turning to Craigslist and exploring some smaller options, I came up with a small website called Brazen Kitchen. Leah, the person in charge there, was looking for a student videographer/editor to help make some short videos for her website. The position paid a small amount of money and was advertised as an internship. I decided not to go through the school’s paperwork (I don’t actually need the credits to graduate), but did get hired and was excited to start.
The first video I was in charge of producing was a short piece about Wigle Whiskey, an independent distillery in downtown Pittsburgh. I came in to shoot footage on two separate days, including interviews and a tour with Meredith Grelli, one of the distillery’s owners. About a week after this, we also filmed Nigel Tudor, a farmer who supplies Wigle with some of its grain.
After handling the duties of production, I was in charge of all post production as well. I organized everything and gave Leah a rough cut to look at. Due to unforeseen circumstances, editing for the video got delayed a month; following that, there were several issues that had to be worked out between myself and the client, mostly involving creative differences and what I was going to gain from the experience as an intern.
I ended up creating one final end product for her, and one for my portfolio. You can see my final draft embedded above. Rather than give a detailed play by play of what happened that led to this conclusion, I’m just going to tell what I learned from the experience, even if these lessons aren’t what I was expecting going in.
1. Pre planning with the client is essential.
During our original interview, Leah and I talked about going into the production with a clear idea of what the story was, how she wanted to frame it, and her ultimate vision for the end product. The problem became that these plans never materialized (and I didn’t insist on them) and I just went in blind.
While shooting B-roll and an interview (especially with her asking the questions) is fairly straight forward, the editing process and what she expected to see from it were ultimately what complicated things. After giving a rough cut of the video based on what I saw as the story from the footage, we went nearly back to square one for the next cut as she took the time to review everything that was shot.
These changes ultimately made the video MUCH stronger, but they also came at the price of wasted time and unhappiness on both our parts. Usually while on a shoot I can see the storyline developing and think about different ways to edit the content together. While this held true for this video, the fact is that what I was thinking of didn’t line up with what the client was thinking of. Planning would have eliminated this unnecessary stress altogether.
2. Communication on both ends must be crystal clear.
One of the main differences that we came to odds about involved the motion graphics I incorporated into the piece in the opening and title slides. I included versions of these into my original rough cut that I sent for review, but due to later circumstances, Leah was unable to get back to me about changes until a month after I sent the original cut.
In her return notes, she called for slides that said the same things that were in the current graphics, with one additional piece; I then took the time to add this portion, only to find out after showing her the next iteration that she wanted only plain slides. She had forgotten about the motion graphic from the first cut, and her notes were meant to simply be for plain slides; since she didn’t remember about the motion title, she forgot to mention this large change to the title structure.
This put me a bit on edge, especially after she had ordered changes, I had done the work, and then was told that she wanted the entire thing scrapped. This is what led to me separating the piece for final delivery to her, and the one for my portfolio. Since I was making the same basic changes to both, I could keep the work I had already done in my own copy.
At the end of the day, this is a big aspect for working with clients. Sure, she could have been clearer in her notes, but I also could have asked for clarification instead of just doing what I thought she wanted/what I thought was best.
3. Make sure you are being compensated fairly.
This lesson wasn’t a big concern of mine going in. I was slated to receive $250 per video, with an expectation of completing 2-3 videos over the course of the summer. Due to time constraints we only ended up with one video.
The reason I wasn’t initially concerned about this is because it was advertised as an internship opportunity; most internships are unpaid, so I was happy to receive some compensation. As I went through the experience, however, I realized more and more how it wasn’t so much an internship as it was a freelancing gig.
As I’ve come to think of it in that light, obviously the compensation pales a bit compared to what a professional would charge, especially considering that I spent 3 days shooting (the farm shoot was 1.5 hours away), plus all the additional time editing.
When starting out, many people have to accept rates that may be a bit lower than the standard; this is the very definition of working your way up the chain. However, it’s important to not sell yourself short continually, time after time, and it’s a lesson I want to keep in mind going forward.
4. Make sure both parties agree and sign a contract.
While this is probably a no-brainer to anyone who’s ever worked for someone else at this type of gig, it was conventional wisdom that I chose to ignore.
As things began to drag on throughout the process, with large lists of edits coming back each time I showed a new cut, I eventually put my foot down and say that there was only one more round of changes remaining, upon which I would expect payment and deliver the final product.
Again, this is part of the planning stage that I overlooked. Having something drawn up and signed beforehand would have helped establish boundaries and expectations, both in a legal and professional sense.
5. Always remain professional.
This is the big one that must always be remembered during interactions with anyone. One of my professors at Clarion reminded me of this throughout the process as I told him about the various blunders and pitfalls of the project.
I’ve found it’s often most difficult to maintain this attitude when your personal ego is being threatened. There will be times when you think something is better a certain way, and there is a disagreement because of it. This is when it’s most critical to maintain this attitude of professionalism, because it’s really what separates you from the people who give in.
There are always challenges to maintaining this attitude, and it’s tempting to get emotional and give into it. I certainly gave into this to some extent, but I regained composure and we worked our way to a compromise that worked for both sides of the argument. Without regaining and retaining this attitude of professionalism, the situation would have only gotten worse and become unsolvable.
At the end of the day, the mistakes I made and lessons learned are somewhat basic, things that most people would look at and say, “Of course, that all makes perfect sense. Who needs advice this basic?” Honestly, if I saw a similar list somewhere else, I would likely say the exact same thing.
These are all things that, in my mind, I knew before I began this experience. However, sometimes even the basic lessons like these can be forgotten as we go from day to day and get caught up in various situations, so it does remain important to pay mind to them and remember them. This forgetfulness hammers home one additional lesson: sometimes you can’t just learn second-hand or from reading; you really need to experience something and make mistakes to truly grasp the lessons.
I’d like to thank Leah at Brazen Kitchen for the opportunity, and the people at Wigle Whiskey and Weatherbury Farms for allowing us to come shoot their workplaces and submitting to interviews. You can visit their websites at the links below.
Roles Performed: Videographer, Editor, Motion Graphics, Audio Sweetening, Colorist
Equipment Used: Sony NX5, Manfrotto Tripod, Sennheiser EW 100 G3 Wireless Microphone
Software Used: Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Audition, Photoshop, Illustrator