Last week was great. I received three emails from students who are enjoying their summer. They weren't relaxing by the pool or hanging out with friends. Instead, they were working long hours at their internships in the entertainment industry in Hollywood, California.
For the last two years, I've spent my spring break in Los Angeles, California helping small groups of students do the impossible - catch the attention of recruiters who are responsible for hiring college students in highly competitive internships. My efforts have been successful. I can now boast students have a 50-50 chance of receiving an internship. Sounds like a gamble, but really, it's quite impressive considering the complexities of internships in Hollywood. Some of the more popular companies with internships, such as MTV and Universal Studios, have thousands of applicants and are often unpaid. Still others with great opportunities pay students, such as the Warner Bros. STARS Leadership Development Program and Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation, but are very competitive, have extension application processes and only except elite students. So, if it's so competitive, the question is how did my students get there?
I think there are five very important things to consider. First, there's a lot of groundwork done to prepare for the trip. It usually takes me about four months to get everything together from travel logistics to booking companies. There are a lot of cold calls, email pitches and just good old fashion hustling to make things happen. Second, I must find those special people who understand what I want to do and are willing to open their doors to a few dedicated students with dreams of "making it" in Hollywood. Below is a video from Doug Ellin, Creator and Executive Producer of HBO's Entourage, discussing what it means to "make it."
Despite what some might think, I've found a few of them, a ratio of about 10 solicitations to every one positive response. Representatives from Disney, Warner Bros. and Cashmere Agency are just a few who welcomed us in the past. Third, tapping into alumni is key. I've met some very enthusiastic Howard alumni in entertainment and public relations companies who want nothing more than to see other Howardites making their way in Hollywood, including Nikita Adams, Christopher Cathcart, Deirdre Dix and Tiffany Smith-Anoa'i. Four, you must take students who have "it." You know "it" is hard to define, but you know "it" when you see it. If I had to define it, I'd say "it" means those who are dedicated, passionate, responsible and have a stellar resume that rivals any of their competition. Those are the ones who find success, but it's not the only thing they need. Finally, you have to take students who have supportive parents willing to make the investment to send them to Los Angeles for their internships.
Having diverse students in Hollywood internships is important, and I'm planning another blog to really explain why. For now, it's important to say that we can only change things from the inside. We need access, and it doesn't come easy. Someone must open the door, and we must be ready, willing and able to go through it. My students are doing it and finding much success networking and finding others who are, too.
They are also following my other advice, which is "work hard and play hard." They found time to hang out at the beach, and I'm happy they did. For now, I'll wait for the next email asking for advice, telling a new tale of the famous person they met or just one saying thank you. I'll be happy to get any one.