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Currents: communications interns

Summer Internships in TV and Film

by Marc LeBourdais '07

Summer is usually a time for students to recharge their batteries, but for many Colby-Sawyer students, it is an opportunity to gain real-world work experience. Colby-Sawyer requires that students complete at least one internship before graduating, and the internships are arranged through the Harrington Center for Career Development and Community Service with approval and evaluation by faculty sponsors.

While some students fulfill their internship requirements during the school year, others prefer to do so over the summer when unencumbered by class schedules and assignments. While Colby-Sawyer students participate in a wide range of internships, those majoring in Communication Studies often work behind the scenes in television and film studios.

TV is Glamorous...Right?

Molly Dunholter '08 and Ashley Goulter '08 were both production interns at WMUR-TV in Manchester, N.H., this past summer. Dunholter '08, who is majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Arts, said her long-time interest in working in television drew her to WMUR, plus she wanted be close to home for the summer.

Goulter, who is also majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Theatre, credits her academic advisor Donna Berghorn, an associate professor in the Humanities Department, with bringing WMUR to her attention.

Working in television may sound glamorous, but Dunholter's day typically started at 4 a.m., when she checked for burnt out light bulbs in the studio, wiped down the news desk, positioned the cameras for shooting, and waited for the anchors, referred to as “the talent,” to arrive. The news would stop for “Good Morning America,” but cut in every half-hour with local updates before a short afternoon show. According to Dunholter, the work was often stressful.

“If you make a mistake,” she said, “they can't cut it since it's live television.”

As a fellow production intern, Goulter had many of the same duties as Dunholter, and similarly found every morning behind the scenes filled to the brim.

“I first observed how the studio works - how the cameras are set up, what the studio workers do, what goes on in the production rooms," says Dunholter. "After I observed the different aspects of the morning news, I was able to play the tapes, run the prompter, do sound checks, and set up the various sets for the different segments in the morning newscasts.”

Dunholter was often surprised by the amount of control she had, and at times felt more like a freelancer than an intern, though she wasn't getting paid.

"Reel Talk" = Real World Experience

When asked which courses or programs were the most helpful in preparing for her duties at WMUR, Dunholter named Video I and II, and her photography classes. She also cited her time working behind the camera at “Reel Talk,” a movie-review show filmed in Colby-Sawyer's Colgate Hall, where her duties involved many of the same tasks she did at WMUR.

Goulter also cited Video I and II as the biggest help in preparing for her summer internship because the courses provided basic knowledge of how to use wireless microphones, though she also found her work in stagecraft useful.

“Video I and II made me more familiar with how the cameras operate. And 'Reel Talk' is set up very similarly to WMUR's segment 'Close Up New Hampshire,'” she added.

Having worked behind the scenes at WMUR, Dunholter and Goulter seem to have a new appreciation for, or at least a new outlook on, the local news.

“I absolutely see the news differently,” said Goulter. “It's fun now to watch the news and know how they do the things they do, and to realize how much work goes into the organization and management of the newscasts.”

Dunholter felt the same way, but also found that she was able to see the humor in the broadcasts based on her personal experiences.

“It looks a bit sillier to me now,” she said. “When you see the weather man walking around in his slippers, he loses the celebrity feel a little bit.”

Dunholter is supportive of Colby-Sawyer's internship requirement, emphasizing that the process was not only useful but also enjoyable. “It helps you make contacts in the field you're interested in, and helps you decide if it's something you want to do or not,” she said. “Plus, it's fun.”

New Frontiers: Adventures in Film

Madeleine Lenox '08 interned as a production assistant at the Chedd-Angier-Lewis Production Company in Watertown, Mass., over the summer. While it was largely her experience as a Communication Studies major that drew her to the company, it was one of the company's former productions that really caught her eye.

“Chedd-Angier-Lewis produced a show called 'Scientific American Frontiers' hosted by Alan Alda,” she said. “I'm a huge 'M*A*S*H' fan so I was immediately drawn to CAL because of that connection, even though 'SAF' ended a few years ago.”

Lenox primarily worked in the office doing photo research for up to four hours a day in the first two months, though she also worked on-set, moving lights and equipment and running errands. For her most unusual assignment, Lenox had to locate a pregnant woman who would permit the company to film her giving birth.

“The production courses helped me prepare for my internship because I understood the different roles of a production team and knew that as an intern, I had to be willing to do any assignment the producers gave me,” Lenox said.

Much like Dunholter and Goulter, Lenox found her classes at Colby-Sawyer helpful, especially Video I and II, and said, “My classes did help me prepare for the application process because I knew that I needed to have confidence in myself, and at least pretend that I knew what I was doing so I could convince everyone at Chedd-Angier-Lewis that I was professional, even though I was actually nervous about entering such a professional environment.”

About the internship program at Colby-Sawyer, Lenox remains largely positive, and said, “The internship experience is incredibly important because it gives you real-world experience, and it can help a student determine what to do after graduation.”

While Lenox did enjoy her experience at Chedd-Angier-Lewis, it also made her re-think her career interests. “My internship helped me realize that I want to be involved with video production. Multimedia production was interesting, but I wanted to go on video shoots constantly, and that wasn't as big a part of CAL as I would have liked,” she said. “Going into my internship, I thought I wanted to work at Chedd-Angier-Lewis after graduation. I loved the environment, but through my experience, I realized that I want to be more involved with video production. I never would have figured that out if I hadn't done an internship.”


Marc LeBourdais is an English major and currently works as an intern in College Communications at Colby-Sawyer College.