September 05, 2006

Students make most of internship opportunities

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The famous, towering bright-white letters nestled on a hillside in a swanky California enclave beckoned seven Southern Illinois University Carbondale students to the capital of the American film industry this summer, where they received valuable experience in making movies and television specials, and occasionally rubbed elbows with celebrities.

The students took part in the Hollywood Studies Program, offered by the SIUC College of Mass Communication and Media Arts every summer since 1995. Hollywood Studies is one of four similar internship programs the college runs that give students first-hand experience in the music industry, advertising business and others.

Hollywood Studies matches qualified students with various film and television industry companies for a six-credit-hour experience of a lifetime. Students work, learn, make contacts and occasionally find permanent jobs in their chosen field.

This summer the SIUC students, all studying in the Department of Cinema & Photography, interned at the prestigious American Film Institute. The AFI is a national institute that leads in screen education and recognizing and celebrating excellence in film, television and digital media.

Krissi Geary-Boehm, coordinator of internship and placement for the college, said SIUC students have great reputations among the entertainment companies and organizations on the West Coast.

"They're young, enthusiastic and passionate about making their dreams come true," she said. "Our students take it very seriously. Their technical skills are above others. They are known for working hard, making the most of the investment while they're there. And they're known for having a good attitude, always having a smile on their faces."

For Josh Green, a graduate student from central Illinois, it was difficult not to smile when he met celebrities such as Brittany Murphy and others. But grinding away at the unending list of behind-the-scenes tasks involved in making a short film or television special also gave the film buff reason to grin.

"Meeting Brittney and working with and around other celebrities was great, but I lucked out because I'm a behind-the-scenes guy," said Green, from Rochester. "Everybody tends to think Hollywood is all glitz and glamour. I knew it was also going to be a lot of hard work. I'm interested in everything, from being a production assistant to running grip. It was a great experience."

The son of Billy and Judy Green (9203 Swigert Road), he was assigned to work on a short drama film as part of the AFI's Directing Workshop for Women. The intern, however, soon found himself promoted to producer when necessity dictated.

"When I got on the project, there was no crew, no producer," Green said. "The director had me start working as the producer right away, taking care of many of the business issues."

Once a producer came onboard, Green became an assistant producer, tasked with such things as negotiating locations, casting and securing production permits. He later would serve on the audio crew and in other roles as needed.

His yeoman's effort earned him a glowing recommendation letter from the director and filled him with confidence about his future in the movie industry.

"Ultimately I'd like to be a director and I figured that means I need to know something about everything on the set. So I was glad to get all that experience," Green said. "The internship is definitely going to help me. AFI is really prestigious, plus all the contacts I built while I was out there, both in AFI and professionally, I'm keeping in touch."

In addition to working on films, all students helped in the production of AFI's Life Achievement Award television program for actor Sean Connery. The event was awash with movie stars and the SIUC interns were right in the thick of it, before, during and after the show.

Brandon Clayton, a May 2006 graduate, said he served as a greeter at the end of the famed red carpet stretching from the limousine drop zone to the Kodak Theatre. He welcomed such moguls as George Lucas, James Earl Jones, Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford and Mike Myers.

"The most exciting part was when a fellow intern and I had to run several gift bags to Hugh

Hefner's limousine parked at the end of the red carpet on Hollywood Boulevard," said Clayton, son of Vikki Clayton (415 W. Maple), Taylorville. "We walked on the red carpet to the limos in our tuxedos and everyone was snapping pictures like we were celebrities. I bet the day they got them developed they said, ‘who was that?'"

Andrea White, a senior in film and theater, also got the star treatment, acting as a self-described "trophy girl" whose job was to carry the award presented to Connery.

"All interns got to sit and watch the ceremony, " said White, daughter of Linda and John Moore of Newburgh, Ind. (5244 Kenwood Drive) and Tim White of Evansville, Ind. (1908 Audubon St.). "Mike Myers opened with a bunch of bagpipes. It was amazing. "

But it wasn't all bright lights and celebrity. White said the run-up to the show was hard work and required long hours.

Clayton also worked as a temporary employee at AFI. His days there involved menial tasks such as moving filing cabinets and shuffling films into vaults around the campus. Clayton also worked on three films through AFI and credited SIUC with instilling a strong work ethic that paid off on the sets before he returned to Illinois.

"I still plan to return to Los Angeles one day, but for now I am playing my life by ear, " Clayton said.

Other cinema & photography students in this year's Hollywood Studies Program included:


Jordan Gzesh, junior, son of Marla and Irwin Gzesh (274 Bristol Court).


Jarred Thorpe, 2006 graduate, son of Greg and Donna Thorpe (7808 Northgate Road)


Juan Ley Vega, senior, son of Juan Ley-Pozo and Maria Eugenia Vega-Gomez, Madrid.

Elisa Lleras De Frutos, senior, daughter of Siro Lleras, Valladolid.

Developing University-industry partnerships and increasing the number of internship opportunities are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.