An Intern’s Perspective: My First Shoot and Three Notes-To-Self

Post by Phenomenon, June 4, 2017

by Mike Jubas

A couple of weeks ago, I began my internship here at Phenomenon Post.  After a welcoming first-day of orientation, I was booked on my first pro video shoot with Phenomenon.  The location: beautiful Soldiers and Sailors Hall in Pittsburgh.  The production: Covering and producing content related to the upcoming 2018 race for Governor of Pennsylvania.

Our crew was assigned to cover the candidate’s announcement that he’d be running for Governor.  With our call time of 3pm, we arrived at the office 2 hours earlier to ensure that our equipment was well prepared.  We also provided enough time for travel from our offices on Mt. Washington to Pittsburgh’s Oakland area and The Hall.

During the shoot prep, I was tagged with the responsibility of packing up the camera and some grip equipment and making sure all of our camera batteries (for TWO CANON 5D packages and our RED EPIC DRAGON) were charged and ready for swapping at any given time.  I have to admit, I had some butterflies in my gut leading up to this day.  My first week on the job.  The new intern in the organization.  A lack of experience on large professional sets.  However, I found it best to approach the day with a level head and all ears.  Despite being the new guy, I watched and noted the importance of the team dynamic within Phenomenon.  I believed was in good hands for this first shoot.  And, I was.

When we arrived on location, the equipment was unloaded and I was ready for my role on the crew and shoot.  My job was to ensure that both Director/DP Mark Fallone and second camera-operator Jeff Zoet (“Zoot”), who were behind the cameras all evening, were able to keep both of their cameras powered and loaded with fresh media.  Both cameras used different batteries, charging methods, and media cards but through proper time management and communication, I was able to support both cameras and operators successfully.

I spent most of the evening in awe, studying and noting the behind-the-scenes dynamics at work.  I had imagined this production was going to be straight forward, simple; a candidate speaking behind a podium to a crowd of 100+.  Despite the fast-paced environment, I felt comfortable on set.  I was part of the production crew and the entire production continued to feed the flame of my desire to be in this field.

I’ve heard about all the stereotypical duties of an intern: getting coffee, grabbing lunch, cleaning up and grunt work.  I lived out my days in college expecting to gain little from an internship other than adding that line-item to my resume.  My “summer internship” in Pittsburgh was…”

Much to my surprise, this shoot made feel as if I had a place on this production team and my assignments during the shoot have proved to be beneficial.  When working in a field that’s heavily based on technology, equipment innovation and user skills, I know it’s important to know the basics of all the production tools and support equipment.  I watched all of those criteria unfold before me on set that evening.  It’s easy to feel bad for yourself and think your only purpose is just to carry and pack things, however, seeing first-hand the planning of logistics, gear and people, I’ll someday soon be better prepared for operating a lot of different field production equipment without too many struggles.  You can’t use technology and production tools unless you fully understand their functions.

During my time in college, I never truly experienced a day on a professional set and my mind was racing trying to fill in the gaps of what I thought a pro shoot would be.  When the day finally came and went, I was relieved to know that I had been capable of surviving a challenging shoot keeping three notes-to-self in mind.

If you’re going to be a production intern, I hope these practices will help you as well.

  1. Show up early. It’s easy to picture an active set with everything set up, but the truth is everything needs to get there somehow.  Not only does the equipment need packed up, but there are several processes that go into the packing process. Batteries must be charged, cameras have to be packed up correctly, and you will need to learn the significance of each case and its purpose.  Cases are the most important thing to keep an eye on during this process because they determine the simplicity of your setup and teardown.  If everything is exactly where it should be then you will be able to quickly identify what you need and get it to exactly who needs it.  This also assists the team during the tear down phase simply because each item has an assigned location.  Because of this there is no confusion and inventory can be taken quickly which will have everyone on their way in no time.  No-matter how your production company sets up and tears down or what equipment they have, be sure to learn each item’s location and its purpose before a shoot.
  2. Stay busy and off your cell unless it’s an emergency or you’ve been asked to make a call or send a text. There is always someone who needs help.  Earlier, I referenced the chaos of an active set.  What I meant by that is that there are always multiple things going on at once.  There are multiple assignments to complete and those assignments will morph randomly throughout the day.  As an intern, you are there to assist and assist you will.  The most important thing to understand during this process is the importance of communication.  Professionals in this field communicate with each other a lot and as an intern it’s important that you stay a part of that.  By staying in the loop, you will know exactly when and where to assist.  Learn.  Anticipate.  Important note to self:  Make sure you’re always attentive and engaged in the communication on set.  Make sure everyone has your cell phone number and that everyone on your team knows where you are.  As an intern you will be on your feet a lot, moving in different directions and often supporting the full team.  The only way to do this effectively and successfully is to be easy to track down- available and accessible.  Be vigilant and remember- stay off of your cell phone in front of your clients.  It makes you look unapproachable and feeds into millennial stereotypes.  Everyone on set has an important purpose.  Make sure you focus on and maintain yours.  You will secure your place and be able to show your worth.  Nobody needs a roadblock on set.  The job is tough enough.
  3. Stay Calm and Carry On. Keep in mind that while operating in this fast-paced environment things go wrong.  They WILL go wrong.  Like everything else, mistakes are made and that’s understandable.  It’s important on set that problems get attention, are thought out and solved quickly.  This is creative thinking when the money is on the line and the job has to get done right.  Acting as a creative thinker will push you forward in this industry because the difference between good and great in this field is your ability to solve problems.  Approaching these problems with a level head will assure that they are reasonably and quickly solved.  This approach to problem-solving and problem-anticipating reaffirms my earlier note about proving your worth in this environment.  Production companies don’t bring crew to the set they don’t need.  Being a problem solver is definitely in your best interest and helps you stand out as a dependable and smart member of the crew- despite your intern status.  Add to the mix “staying calm and poised”, this persona sets you up for a smoother and less stressful day.  Stress helps nothing and it’s best kept out of your mind-set.  You will make mistakes and that’s alright just be certain to learn from them and to always keep those lessons with you.  You will only improve from that point forward.

Keeping these “notes to self” in mind, I’m greatly looking forward to my next day on set and applying my newfound perspective to the action.  While it won’t be a perfect performance it will be a continuation of all the valuable lessons to be learned within this internship.  There is value in every mistake made, questions asked, safety rules followed, job assignment and so on. As an intern it is your job to keep notes, ask questions and learn everything you can from the pro’s you’ll be surrounded by during your internship.

Mike Jubas will graduate the end of this summer 2017 from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP).  Mike is a musician and sound engineer and focused on television production during his four years at IUP.

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