I still have roughly a week or two left at my internship, but this will be my last post.
This internship has been helpful to me in a lot of ways, not least of which is financially. Although I was only being paid minimum wage, the money made it possible for me to actually take part. Internships are too often unpaid, making them inaccessible to anyone that does not already have the financial security to work for free. It is a classist system that disproportionately affects the poor and disenfranchised and thus, like legacy admissions, ensures domination in each field by well off white males. I am eternally grateful to Songbird for their decision to pay their interns and am heartened to know that there are companies out there willing to make their internships available to those that could not afford to perform one otherwise.
I have also been grateful to work on the Chevrolet Indiana Prep Zone, a program that has gone out of its way, despite being made with very little money, to showcase the talents of high school students that overcome disabilities and come from lower class backgrounds. Although colleges are already scouting many of these students, the fact they now have the backing of a program on Fox Sports can only help them.
Finally, I am of course grateful for the skills I have acquired and the amount of time I have been allowed on sets of varying sizes. It is an unfortunate reality these days that many companies are not offering entry-level positions, instead expecting the worker to develop skills on their own time either through unpaid internships or on their own. Being able to take part in this paid internship has allowed me to expand my knowledge and skills with cameras, lighting, editing, and producing.
Photo taken during the filming of my interview.
Most importantly, it has also provided me some additional stories from my conversational arsenal.
One of the final requirements of my internship is that I produce my own segment for the Chevrolet Indiana Prep Zone. The process involves finding a subject, creating a schedule, performing the interview, and then editing together and color correcting the footage. Today I will be heading to the library at Ball State to perform my editing since it’s a lot more convenient than driving all the way to Indy.
I found my subject through an article in the Muncie Star Press. The article covered a high school gymnast that maintained a 4.0 GPA while also practicing gymnastics each day and feeding the animals on her family’s farm each morning at 5am and again before bed.
However, it turned out that the “each morning” part appears to have been exaggerated. During the interview I was informed that she has a sister that she takes turns with performing the chores.
The interview was performed in her school’s gym, a structure that turned out to be roughly the same size as the space that held the classrooms. It was a charter school that serves grades K-12, located roughly half a mile down the road from the area’s public high school. Both schools are located roughly two hours outside of Indianapolis in an area so remote that we could only pick up roughly five FM radio stations.
Google Street View of the school.
The gym was dimly lit and rather bleak looking, but the coach and girls would light up whenever the camera turned on them. The only issue they had was they felt uncomfortable having to stare at me and not the cameras. I don’t blame them.
Now all that is left is the editing. Normally I would edit at their building, but because it is so far and because no one is ever really there to supervise they suggested I take the footage with me. But, because I don’t have Premier CC on my computer I will be taking off to the library in the next couple of hours.
An aspect of film production that might not be regularly considered by outsiders is the amount of travel involved. Unless you’re working at a studio down the street from you, there is going to be a lot of travel.
On an average shoot there is generally more for me than others at Songbird. Since this is their job and they are able to live their lives more or less the way they wish, they all live relatively nearby. For me it is more than an hour commute each way just to get to the office. When I was first offered the internship one of the owners made the joke that he could do the drive from Ball State to their office “in my sleep, in reverse.”
I laughed at the time, but I understand what he means now. This is one of the simplest routes you can take in the needlessly complex Circle City. It’s a straight shot down McGalliard, a left onto I-69 North, and then you just follow that, continuing straight all the way up to the first left you can legally make off Fall Creek road, and then follow that until you make a slight left at the fork. It almost drives itself.
Just don’t rely on Google Maps. When you make that left from Fall Creek it will tell you to, “Use the right lane to make a left turn.”
On my drives I usually plug my phone into my car’s auxiliary input and listen to podcasts. Once I get there I have to jump into one of the big white vans where I am then subjected to Top 40 radio for between ten minutes to two hours.
Before my internship I could not pick out a single pop artist by voice. I still barely can, but if I hear a new Taylor Swift song I can likely pick it out by form alone. It helps that every verse of her new one sounds like it’s about to launch into the chorus of Shake it Off before launching into the sonic equivalent of Foghorn Leghorn attempting to flex his arm.
Basically, I’ve probably spent more time on the road and have learned more about pop music than anything else.
One of the most exciting and sometimes strangest parts of freelance film work is the wide array of places you need to shoot in. My current internship has taken me to several high schools, the Indianapolis International Airport, a locker room in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and professional athletes homes.
Without offering too much information, it is interesting to see how young people that are suddenly given millions of dollars settle down with their family. It should hardly come as a surprise that with so little life experience before being thrust into that position that one would simply move into a ticky-tacky housing development and fill it with however many display room replicas. Of course there also has to be little touches of unique indulgence, though these are primarily marked by nostalgia. Seeing these items it’s impossible not to imagine them as a child exclaiming, “When I grow up I am going to have my own soda fountain!”
Jokes aside, everyone I have met has been lovely.
That said, one of the interesting things about working at the airport, sports venues, and high schools is the access to places you normally would not be allowed to go. In the airport we were ushered through hallways that had multiple doors requiring keycards and at another point waved through security. At Bankers Life Fieldhouse we entered through the area the venders use and then walked through the entrance way to the court and then back into a small locker room area. At the high schools we essentially roam free, being sent through hallways, classrooms, gyms, locker rooms, and etc.
Shooting in a locker room at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
However, I am still being paid a whole lot less than any of those professional athletes and various executives. So, while it is nice to get access to areas generally barred from the public, I imagine it is preferable in some ways to be one of the people working in those areas.
One of the most interesting elements of working freelance is the variety of people you meet. This is likely the reason why Ricky Gervais, hot off the Office, shifted focus to the work and lives of background actors. In each episode would land him on a new set where he would encounter various celebrities and a whole new cast of characters with wildly different backgrounds.
During lunch on a recent shoot another crewmember told me he is the relative of a disgraced politician, specifically one I had taken a great interest in. It was fascinating to watch as the crewmember rationalized his relative’s actions as anything but corruption, though still describing a textbook definition of corruption.
As an intern it can also be interesting to see how much weight that word holds with different people. One person may not trust me to focus a camera or even hit the record button, but another will ask my opinion on framing.
Although this could serve as a reflection of my actions and proven abilities under different directors, but it also perfectly reflects their personalities. One is generally more conscious of his presentation—meticulously well dressed, has clearly thought out each story he tells, and it seems obvious that he knows exactly how his end product will look after editing. The other dresses down a little more, is generally more intense, has a darker edge to his jokes, and asks everyone around him for opinions.
Also of interest is how, like in most situations, acting with confidence will cause people to listen to you. At one point I noticed the boom mic and one of our lights were peaking into frame. I told the director and then I immediately walked out from behind the monitor and called out, “This light needs to move back and the mic needs to come up.” I was rushing to take on another issue, but it seemed as though people did it without question.
I’m considering focusing on settings for my next post. Settings like this insane looking high school in Bloomington, IN.
However, I will finish!
I have not had the opportunity to work many days during these past couple of weeks, but I did get another chance to assist taping the Indiana Prep Zone host segments.
I wrote at length about the experience on the Songbird Media blog a couple of months back, but I did not touch on the content of the host segments.
The point of the host segments is to whittle down each segment to a one to two minute sound bite. These sound bites usually take a few different forms—they will reference how inspiring the team or player is, they will use a pun involving the subject, or they will just reference how great the subject is.
One pun that has stuck with me was in reference to a player named Jimmy King. The joke was, “It’s good to be king. Jimmy King, that is.” Because the host’s reading is limited to traditional news speak, it was impossible to decipher whether the line was referencing the Tom Petty song or whether it was incorrectly quoting Mel Brooks in the History of the World Part 1.
Although these segments are essentially a formality meant to offer an identifiable face for the program, they occupy an interesting narrative space. The sound bite offers just enough info to whet the audience’s appetite for the story, but it is curious why the audience would need their appetites whet since they have already decided to watch. Also, the lead in sound bite offers no additional information. So, are these host segments really necessary from a narrative perspective? In all honesty, they are probably not.
However, they do become necessary from a standpoint of audience engagement when considering the interview format on the show. The interviewer is never seen nor heard and the subject is always looking off camera when speaking. On occasion the host of the show will speak to the audience, offering further narration if enough material was not collected in the interviews, but the interviews generally offer an extremely impersonal view of their subjects. The audience is encouraged to cheer or sympathize with the subject but not necessarily identify with them. In this case, the host fills the narrative function of an audience surrogate.
For this post I interviewed Charlotte, one of the co-executive producers on Indiana Prep Zone. We had some downtime after we finished setting up and while Earl was still shooting b-roll of the girls practicing, so it seemed like as good a time as any.
I will also be using this interview as a reference for a series of profiles I will be writing on the Songbird Media blog. Zach, one of the main guys at Songbird, had found this blog after my first or second post and suggested I provide them with material for their own blog as a part of my internship. I started with an introductory post and then wrote one about the process of shooting the host segments for Indiana Prep Zone, but after those I was out of ideas.
Well, except for the hockey hair post. But I’m not sure that took long enough to warrant payment.
The blog isn’t an integral part of my internship—it’s mostly an afterthought, something for when I have time—but it could prove to be a valuable addition to my resume. Looking through job ads one is expected to wear many hats, and having a background in blogging about the happenings and environment of a company I’m working for could offer a needed boost.
Recently I have begun to experience the downside of freelance work—downtime. The only job I have been invited onto in the past two weeks coincided with me waking up violently ill. So, I have not actually worked on a set since March 10th.
However, I have continued my other duties. During this time I have continued my research into potential stories for Indiana Prep Zone. One story idea features the baseball team at the Indiana School for the Deaf (or, “Deaf Hoosiers”). Their baseball and softball teams compete each year in the “Annual Hoy Tournament.” The tournament is named after the mostly forgotten major league player, “Dummy” Hoy. Hoy was deaf and thus had to teach his teammates American Sign Language. He is also widely credited for introducing the hand signals that umpires still use today.
The other story would feature a high school gymnast in Muncie. She wakes up each morning at 5am to work on her parents’ farm, goes to school, practices, does more work on the farm, and maintains a 4.0 GPA.