I wanna be a producer…

(Originally published in The California Aggie)

If you want to be a big shot someday, you’ve got to start at the bottom.

That’s the mentality every college student or recent graduate who dreams of working in Hollywood needs to adopt when deciding what the heck they’re going to do about that dream job. Whether you fantasize about being the next Sofia Coppola, Roger Ebert or Clive Davis, a sure-fire way to get past that velvet curtain and into the bowels of the entertainment industry is by doing – drumroll, please – internships.

I know, I know. Internships get a bad rap sometimes, on account of many are unpaid and you’re often stuck doing menial tasks like getting coffee and stuffing envelopes. But if film, television or music is your passion, there’s no better way to make valuable connections with professionals in your field and get real experience that will impress future employers than through a sweet internship. Here are just a few possibilities to get you started on your search.

Television Academy Foundation summer internships. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation runs one of the most renowned internship programs in the country. Applicants can apply for 30 different internship sectors, including Production Management, Television Directing, Entertainment News, Casting and more.

“The internships offer students actual hands-on working experience and it exposes you to people in the industry as well as networking opportunities,” said Nancy Robinson, manager of education programs for the Academy. “Internships are all about exposure – getting your feet wet in the area you’re looking to pursue for a career and meeting the right people.”

Internships last eight weeks and include a $4,000 stipend. The deadline for applications is March 15.

Pixar. Be part of the hottest animation studio in the world, located in Emeryville, Calif. Most of the 19 available positions are geared toward those with experience in animation, filmmaking, graphic design and software engineering, so a background in art or animation software is a must. But the non-technical among us can also apply for positions in publicity, story development and post-production. Deadlines vary for each position; most are in March or April.

Sony Music Nashville. If you want to be the man or woman responsible for discovering and cultivating the next great singing sensations, an internship at a record label may be the best place to start. Interns at Sony Music’s Nashville division get hands-on experience in radio promotions, digital business, marketing and media/publicity. Go to jobs-sonymusic.icims.com for more information.

High-profile internships like these are extremely competitive, and you may have to apply multiple years before you even get an interview. You may end up working for pennies in the rundown office of the smallest production company in Los Angeles, and you may struggle for years before your hard work starts to pay off. But when you’re accepting your first Oscar or watching a client zoom to the top of the charts, I have a sneaking suspicion those days at the bottom of the ladder will be the ones you value the most.

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