Internships in LA offer opportunities

Kira Lerner

Before graduating in June, Communication senior Ben Friedmann will know numerous talent agents and producers at companies like NBC and The Gersh Agency. He will also have met some big-name entertainers, including Jimmy Kimmel and the writers of the ABC drama “Brothers and Sisters.” He has met many of these people during the two Los Angeles internships he obtained through Northwestern during his sophomore and senior years.

Communication students like Friedmann are given the chance to intern in Los Angeles, New York or Chicago through a program run by the school’s new department, External Programs, Internships, and Career Services. Though internships have been available in the past, the School of Communication added career services to its program this fall and expanded its internship program, which has tripled in size in the last four years.

Kate Neal, director of the EPICS program, said students are encouraged to have internships to prepare for their future careers.

“It really helps them get a foot in the door if they want to go into the entertainment industry,” she said. “It helps them make connections and start building their network.”

For students like Friedmann, a RTVF major, who know they want to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment after graduation, internships provide a chance to gain experience in the industry.

“It’s a good way to get a feel for Los Angeles and New York and get a mini sample of what it’s like to live there,” he said.

Communication senior James Belfer, who worked as a creative intern at an independent production company in Los Angeles last winter, said his internship connected him to other job opportunities, including a potential job after graduation.

“That internship got me my internship for the summer and the job I’m currently working now,” he said. “The internship really opened the door for everything else.”

Last year, more than 200 students participated in the internship program. Though most participants are juniors or seniors, Neal said she has seen a trend of students starting early and getting more than one internship before they graduate.

Communication junior Chelsea Bruck chose to intern in New York this quarter at an art auction house.

“I see myself ending up here, and I wanted to see what it would be like to live in the city,” Bruck said. “Seeing how the high-pressure, large-scale auction house or any business in the art world functions is really cool.”

Internship director and former NU professor David Downs organizes speakers and trips for students. Past events included a tour on the set of “Scrubs” with ’97 Communication alum Zach Braff and a trip backstage at the “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” show.

“We have lots of guest speakers and people to come to class to talk about what life is here,” Downs said. “They talk to people who have found happiness on paths that they didn’t even know existed.”

Belfer said he appreciated the chance to connect with established professionals in the industry.

More students are deciding to leave Evanston and find a place in Los Angeles each year, Downs said. His internship classes have expanded since he started teaching two years ago.

“The new dean wanted to expand the internship program and she thought one of the ways to do that was to get me to teach,” he said. “I have lots of good connections and know lots of people.”

Belfer, who speaks about his experience at internship information sessions, said interest in the program is growing.

“It seems like it’s picking up speed and really getting a lot bigger,” he said.

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