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Cross-Post: An Internship in L.A.: How One Job Changed my Life

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Cross-Post: An Internship in L.A.: How One Job Changed my Life

The following has been reposted from agnes films with the author’s permission.

Written by Olivia York
Developmentally Edited by Alexandra Hidalgo
Copy Edited and Posted by Sophie Schmidt

Do you ever take a moment to think back to where you were a year ago? Your mental state, your hopes, fears, and dreams… who you had in your life, who you didn’t… what you thought of yourself and how you’d like that to change or stay the same… how if you made one decision differently, your entire year — or better yet, your life — could have been different? If you can’t tell, I’m a bit of an overthinker. Nonetheless, I write all of this with great intention: to showcase the immeasurable impact this past year had on me, and most importantly, how saying “yes” to new opportunities landed me my dream job.

 At the beginning of 2019, I was filled with fear and self-doubt. I had no idea what the hell I was going to do with my life, and I figured that I was a failure for not figuring it out by now (spoiler alert: if a 20-something thinks they have life figured out, they most definitely do not, so this was probably for the best).  I was lost, scared, and confused, and I had no sense of hope or direction. I think a part of me hoped some magical epiphany would dawn on me at just the right moment, as if I were a detective connecting the dots in the last five minutes of a Law & Order episode. I certainly never expected a 9 to 5 to save me from my troubles — but it did. It really  did. One internship changed my life, and because of the experiences I had during this time, I found direction, hope, and most importantly, I found myself.

I really enjoyed getting to capture LA’s magic with my camera while there.

It all started when I was accepted into a week-long program for Michigan State University College of Arts and Letters students that explored the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, California.The trip primarily involved networking with Spartan alumni who have made a name for themselves within L.A. I was blown away by all of the different routes you could take within the industry — we met with producers, set designers, writers, directors, show creators, CEO’s, actors, you name it — but one stop in particular really impressed me: our visit with a company called MOCEAN, an entertainment marketing company owned and created by Spartan alumnus Craig Murray. MOCEAN creates promotional content and campaigns for a few small companies that you’ve probably never heard of, like Disney, FOX, Marvel, Netflix, FX, CNN, and Warner Brothers, to name a few. I was amazed by all of the hard and creative work they produced each day. Before visiting their office, I had no idea that trailer companies even existed; I just figured the editor of a film pieced together clips from their content and called it a day. Not so much. MOCEAN employees answered my many eager and pressing questions about their work, and in doing so, I learned that there are many layers and tireless hours put into selling shows and films. One thirty-second trailer can take months, sometimes years, to create. I loved the idea of that — the challenge of fitting all of the excitement, pain, love, action, and drama of a piece into half a minute, and having those few seconds move people enough to want to spend their time and money on this new work of art. Needless to say, I was immediately obsessed with this company and their work, and spent the entire evening applying to all of their internship openings. After a few months (and by the grace of God), I was asked to interview for their Writing Intern position and was hired a week later. I couldn’t believe it — I had never even been to L.A. before that week-long trip, and two months later, I was hired by my dream company and packing my bags to spend the next 12 weeks in the City of Angels. 

The internship began at the start of June, and on the first day, all nine interns were welcomed into the company with open arms. I had never met any of these students before, but would come to find out that many of them would become life-long friends of mine. We were given a tour of our Santa Monica office (we have another office in Burbank), and started work immediately the next day. The writing team in our Santa Monica branch consisted of five incredible, experienced writers — and then there was me. I’m not going to lie to you, I was a bit out of my comfort zone, and I had no idea what I was doing. Fortunately, my boss and the other writers took me under their wing and helped me quite often.

A storyboard on set of the Food Network shoot

As a writing intern, I worked on a variety of different projects. Typically, I was given a film to watch, and as I was watching it I would take notes of lines of dialogue, the names of characters, overall story ideas, etc. Then we’d have a type of “spot” to write, and would get to work. A “spot” is a term used to describe a specific script we would write with a particular direction and intention guiding it. These spots could vary in length, targeted audience, overall ideas, and so on. Other times, if I was writing for our TV/Streaming department — which was mainly housed in Burbank — I would read the first few episodes of a television series in their original script format, which I completely fangirled over as an aspiring screenwriter — script formats are sexy, and that’s a fact. Then, after getting the gist of what the show entailed, I would come up with a handful of original script ideas for these television trailers that encompassed the overall idea or theme of the show, but in a way that was outside of the show footage itself. I know this might sound complicated, so try to imagine the trailers for American Horror Story: they usually have 30-second promos that are filmed and created outside of the scripted episodes that tease the new season,like an eyeball looking around in someone’s mouth, with lips opening and closing like eyelids…a spot like this would encompass the creepy theme of that season, while not giving too much away. These  are the types of scripts we would write. Coincidentally, my coworkers have actually created many of those AHS spots. MOCEAN was working on one this summer for American Horror Story: 1984 that my friends and I were actually able to be a part of. The editor needed some added sound bites and voices for the spot, so three of my coworkers and I were brought into our office sound booth to record various cheering sounds for the spot, like “woo!”, “yeah,” and “Camp Redwood!”. Before we knew it,  our voices were streamed across the nation in anticipation for the new season. You can watch the spot — the opening with the cheering/laughing sounds of the girls and guys in the truck, those are our voices! Helping with that recording was a blast, but the real fun began with the challenge of a blank page.

It’s funny, I had always considered myself a decent writer — I would write constantly for school, work, and leisure — but I had never written anything like these film trailers before. The technical term for this type of writing is “copywriting,” and in this work, we would write the text you see in movie trailers that stands between the footage of a film. Let me give you an example. Imagine we’re trying to sell a romcom about a prosthetist and his patient. I’d write something like this: “She’s got a problem… He has a solution… On January 1st… True love… Will cost an arm and a leg.” (You’re welcome for that by the way, comedy gold right there.) Although that may seem easy, I can personally attest to the fact that it is hard. It’s really freakin’ hard, at least for me it was. Our other writers would whip out pages upon pages of these examples within a matter of a few hours. I would try to keep up. Being the perfectionist that I am, I wanted so badly to create quality work every time I put words down on a page. I soon realized that I needed to humble myself and recognize that I was very new at this and that learning and perfecting this craft takes a very long time. The same goes for the entertainment industry as a whole. It’s easy to think that instant gratification and success are the norm, especially with social media nowadays, but those rapid success stories are very rare, and are usually based upon a lot of luck. After realizing this, I was able to put a lot of things into perspective and also gained a lot of respect for the people around me that worked their tails off each and every day (within MOCEAN and outside of it). As for the writers I worked with, I was completely captivated by their work. Their writing was witty, creative, and sharp, just like them. I learned a lot from them. I was able to recognize the rhythm and flow of the writing that was necessary for these spots, how to utilize creative thinking, and how to adapt quickly to change. I am so grateful for all of the lessons and love my fellow writers gave me. They helped me to grow in a number of ways, and I’m forever grateful for that.

The 9 interns on our last day where we presented our short film for the company.

As I mentioned earlier, my writing projects on the TV/Streaming side of things were a bit different. Here, we’d write original scripts and conceptual ideas for television trailers, and it was so much fun. I felt a bit more comfortable with this writing style — but I by no means had it all figured out. Just like the film side of writing, I needed a lot of guidance and help with this script style, and luckily I had an incredible teacher. I quickly found solace in Jon, the main writer for the TV/Streaming Department. Jon was so welcoming, kind, and talented. He willingly brought me on as his mentee. He taught me so much about writing, not only for the style in our departments, but within the industry itself, and allowed me to hop on board for a handful of their assignments this summer. With his guidance, and with many many revised drafts of my scripts, I was able to have some of my material in the bucket of scripts pitched to our clients. I couldn’t believe it,and still can’t, in all honesty. The best part about this was seeing everyone’s hard work come together in a final, holistic result — the team was so welcoming that everyone wrote and collaborated on these projects. Producers, directors, coordinators, interns — anyone that was eager and willing to work on a project was able to, and that inclusive atmosphere really made an impression on me. It was a value that was integrated throughout the whole company, from the top-down, and it was something I recognized right away. This company didn’t seem to prioritize individual success. They emphasized collaborative work and mutual respect, and with these values at the forefront of their decision making and creative efforts, they’ve produced amazing, moving, and award-winning work.

A still on set of MOCEAN’s Food Network _Holiday Baking Championship_ shoot, which a few of us interns were able to be a part of.

By the end of the summer, I was in tears leaving the company. I was so sad to say goodbye. I met so many incredible, talented people, and am now lucky enough to call many of them my friends. Their inclusion, guidance, and encouragement stretched far beyond any hopes or expectations I had going into the summer. I had been extremely excited to have this opportunity, but also a little afraid. We’ve all heard the many horror stories about the entertainment industry, and while these unfortunate realities have occurred for some, I can gratefully say that I, personally, didn’t experience any of these issues during my time at MOCEAN. I was amazed by all of the efforts they made to include us interns and was inspired by the accomplishments of every woman I met at the office. Women worked in all positions and ranks throughout the company, and their leadership, creativity, and vision set an incredibly high bar for how I want to work and for who I want to be as a professional and as a human being. I realized that confidence and humility go hand-in-hand and that you have something to learn from each and every person you come into contact with. I like to believe that I approached each day with a hunger to learn and improve and that no one can make it in this industry or in life alone. Collaboration leads to incredible creativity and success, and the amount of talent and kindness that each employee at this company upheld moved me in inexplicable ways. 

Now, I understand that a few of you skeptic readers out there may be questioning the authenticity of this experience. How can someone love work this much? How can a few short weeks at a company make this much of an impact on little ole Liv? 

Fear not, pessimist: I have answers. 

(I wrote that sentence and decided it should have its own paragraph. I also left it here as potential inspiration for a lower back tattoo. Again, you’re welcome.)

A photo with some of the other office Spartans at MOCEAN

Remember my opening paragraph, of how one year ago you were completely different, and that one small experience could have changed the course of your life forever? Well that’s exactly what happened to me. One year ago, at the start of 2019, I was struggling. A lot. Mentally, emotionally, the whole shabang. I was honestly in one of the darkest places I’ve ever been in and felt like things were definitely not looking up. I felt like I wasn’t good enough, that I’d never make it in this field that I dreamed to be a part of, and that I wasn’t moving forward because of my fear of failure. I had so much self-doubt that it was crippling my ability to see straight. Chances are, I would have stayed in that mindset if I hadn’t signed up for that week-long networking trip. That decision alone changed my life. The classmates I had with me on that experience soon became some of my best friends, and they brought me out of my comfort zone in ways I didn’t know were possible. If I never went on that trip, I never would have met them, and I never would have been exposed to MOCEAN. If I hadn’t seen that company, I never would have applied for the internship. I wouldn’t have met all of the incredible people and friends I made this summer. I never would have learned the tricks of the trade. Hell, I never would have made it out of Michigan. I would be a completely different person than I am today, and it’s all because of one decision — to say “yes” to an experience I knew nothing about. I went from being the saddest I’ve ever been to now experiencing true happiness and joy consistently. I allowed myself to be open and vulnerable and ready for change, and with that, I was introduced to the most amazing people I have ever met. The fact that each and every person I’ve met this year has been so open and accepting has completely changed my mindset, not just about myself, but on the industry as a whole. Because of this experience, I’m not afraid anymore. That doesn’t mean that I’m confident things will always work out — I know that won’t happen, especially within an industry that thrives on competition — but, I’m confident that no matter what, things will be okay, and that good people will be there to guide me through the tough times.

I’ve said it a thousand times, and I’ll say it again. I’m so grateful for every opportunity I’ve had this year, and for the people that have been a part of it every step of the way. I now know how I want to work, create, and live: I’m no longer afraid of saying “yes” to the unknown — in fact, I welcome it, because holding onto fear keeps us from being the people we were meant to be, and we deserve better than that, don’t you think?

You can view the MOCEAN intern project on Vimeo, and view the American Horror Story trailer and Holiday Baking Championship on MOCEAN’s website. Learn more about Olivia through her profile.

About the Writer

Olivia is a senior majoring in Film Studies at Michigan State University. Her concentration is in filmmaking and media production, as she is minoring in documentary production and graphic design. Olivia currently maintains her responsibilities as an entrepreneur with her freelance photography business, Photolivia’s Photography. Beyond her photography work, Olivia has worked on pre-production work for short and feature films, which have inspired her to create her own screenplays and short films. She thoroughly enjoys her freelance work as a writer for MOCEAN, a marketing and promotional company for film and television, where she writes original copy, concept material and A/V scripts for trailers of studio films and original streaming and network series. She is eager to be a part of the media production/entertainment industry post-graduation, where she hopes to create personal stories for worldwide audiences.

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