From their first year of studies, undergraduate film students in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts work hands-on with the equipment and materials of their art form, applying their theoretical and conceptual learning to the development of their practice.
An internship course for academic credit is an optional but integral part of the program. It gives upper-year students the opportunity to step up their practical training in a real-world setting, working on-site with an organization or individual in the field of film, video, television and related media.
Course director Carol McBride, a seasoned professional with almost two decades of experience in film and television production, is a dedicated believer in the value of experiential education. She did internships in both of the fields in which she works: in addition to teaching in York’s Department of Film, she is a certified career coach. This dual skill set puts her in an ideal position to help students find that “dream placement” that will extend their experience, help them develop professional contacts and facilitate their transition from the academy to industry.
“Internships give students a chance to get a real sense of the employment opportunities available to them,” said McBride. “They are learning about the critical importance of networking and are building their professional reputations for when they embark on their careers in film and media.”
This past summer, film production major Vibhuti Rathod interned with DHX Media Ltd, a children’s television production and distribution company working with popular shows such as Yo Gabba Gabba! and The Doozers. From June to August, Rathod spent three days a week at DHX, where she was kept very busy in the media library doing digital input, organizing and assessing tapes, and tracking tape movement.
“I’m interested in children’s television and this internship was the perfect opportunity,” said Rathod. “I was able to learn about the business of television distribution and the clients DHX services.”
That learning experience turned into a job opportunity for Rathod, as the company offered her part-time employment after she completed her internship. Alongside her fourth-year studies at York, she is working in DHX’s distribution department, with more responsibilities being added to her plate all the time.
“I’m sure that the skills and knowledge I’ve gained and the people I’ve met through this experience will prove to be a great asset in the future,” Rathod said. “I feel I’m in the right place, being involved with children’s animated programming, and I can definitely see a future for me in this particular field of entertainment.”
Fourth-year BA film student Mark Barber spent his summer internship with two respected Canadian film magazines: POV, dedicated to documentary and independent film, and Montage, which covers issues of art and commerce in the international film and television industry. Barber represented the publications at industry events, researched and sourced images to accompany stories, copy-edited articles, uploaded content to the magazines’ websites, and transcribed interviews.
His gift for fast and accurate transcription has paid off: while completing his degree program, he also works freelance for both magazines.“Before my internship, I was questioning what I wanted to do beyond applying for grad school,” said Barber. “As a film studies student, I knew I was interested in writing, so film journalism seemed like a good path.”
The hours he’s spent listening to and transcribing interviews, copy editing and working to deadline make him feel confident he’ll be ready when it comes time for him to write his first feature.
“This internship was essential for me,” said Barber. “Before, I didn’t have any connections or experience outside of York’s Department of Film. Now, I feel like I have a lot more to offer potential employers – not to mention having part-time work in my field while I finish my studies.”
Film production student Holden Mohring started his internship last May, working at Mercury Films three days a week until mid-August on the feature documentary Water. When he finished the hours required for his course credit, the company hired him as an assistant editor for the production, which is helmed by leading Canadian filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky, Nick de Pencier and Daniel Iron.
Now back at York, Mohring continues to work with Mercury Films one to two days a week. His tasks include organizing behind-the-scenes footage, renaming, logging and transcoding footage, transcribing interviews, organizing materials for the editor, and creating backups of all media.
“It’s been a tremendous preparation for life after graduation,” said Mohring. “I feel so much more confident in my craft and my capabilities. Being offered the position of assistant editor after my internship was an even bigger boost. The whole team at Mercury has been nothing but friendly, kind and helpful. They have a passion for what they do and it’s just a great first step for me and my career.”
This semester, a new crop of 17 York film students are pursuing internships with companies like the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, aluCine Film Festival, Mythic Productions and MMG Casting.
“I’ve already received some great preliminary feedback from the students on their placements and from their managers in the field,” said McBride. “I’m thrilled with the win-win partnerships this is building for our program, and seeing what a difference the experience is making for our students. It’s shaping up to be another very exciting year.”