All Work No Pay

I work 9 hour days and rarely get more than 10 minutes lunch break (if I get a lunch break at all). I usually have extra work to do at the weekend. And here’s the biggest killer… I don’t get paid. My dad thinks I’m nuts, my mum thinks I should put my price up, but the reality is there are 10 people ready to take my place. I’m not going to sugar coat it… Being an intern in the movie business is like voluntary slave labor. And sometimes it completely SUCKS!

‘Why do you do it?’ I hear you ask. Well the answer to that is surprisingly simple. Being in the place where movies are made fills me with so much excitement, such childlike joy, such inspiration, I am willing to eat beans on toast for two weeks just to afford to work in the industry.

I know what you’re thinking; sometimes being this optimistic is easier said then done. So how do you stay motivated in the ‘all work no pay’ scenario? You might not be getting paid much dollar but doesn’t mean you don’t profit from your internship in other ways…

Here are my top tips to making the most of your experience.

1) Before you start, think about why you are doing the internship. Is it to gain more industry experience? Build up your CV? Will this lead to a job opportunity? Or is this about self exploration? It is important to know why you are giving your time and energy to something you are not being payed for, because when the going gets tough you will need to remind yourself of your overall objective.

2) Now I don’t want to scare potential new interns in the entertainment industry… but at some point or another you are probably going to get yelled at. The most important thing to remember is: THIS IS NOT PERSONAL. You are an intern! And you are not expected to know everything there is to know about the industry. Chill and remember: it’s not success that defines you, it’s how you deal with failure.

3) Being out of your comfort zone is GOOD! I was doing an internship a few weeks back in which I unexpectedly became a receptionist. I will tell you now, being a receptionist is not my forte. If I let you in on a little secret: I hate answering the phone, any phone, not just an office phone. Ugh just gives me the heebie jeebies. In the office, people always talk too fast and expect you to know them on a first name basis… talk about being at a disadvantage! But I had signed up to do the internship and do the internship I would, even though I was completely out of my comfort zone. I was forced to face my fear and I had a major revelation: the only skill you really need when being an intern is the willingness to learn. And you’ll be glad to know, I answered the hell outta that phone! An elastic band only fulfills its purpose when it’s stretched, so don’t be afraid to step into unknown territory.

4) Every office has it’s jargon and it’s a real bitch when you can’t crack in-house office lingo – don’t worry! You are not alone. Can anyone tell me what a gawdamn ‘flimsy’ is? I secretly googled it in the office – nothing. I asked the dude at the stationary store and he thought I was trippin’ on too many soya lattes: ‘a whaaaat?’ In fact to this day I STILL don’t know what the hell a flimsy is? If you do, in-box me. Seriously. Maybe I should have just asked, looked dumb for two seconds and put myself out of my misery.

5) Treat everyone in the office the same. Everyone from a runner to the producer plays an important role in the infrastructure of the company. So when you do a tea run, don’t just ask the big guns, look after your fellow interns too! It all helps build a happy office morale and you’ll be smiling when someone returns the favor.

6) Knowing when to ask questions is almost as important as asking questions. In a busy office there is a lot of stress bouncing about from every angle. Try and read the body language of the people around you. If your superior looks like she’s about to have a nervous breakdown probably not the best idea to ask her what a flimsy is (otherwise you will probably get yelled at).

7) Eat well. I always cook up some spaghetti bolognese or chilli before a week of interning so I don’t have to cook when I get home from work. I also try and carry dried fruit and nuts in my bag so I can munch on the go. Don’t forget breakfast!

8) Wear sensible foot wear. Ditch the heels because you never know when you’ll be called out to do a run, fetch the post or pick up your boss’ lunch.

9) Always carry a notepad and pen in your bag and write EVERYTHING down.

10) Try and be JOYFUL. Sometimes its hard to remain calm when you are in a new and unfamiliar environment, especially when you want to do well. Take a break from time to time even if it’s stepping outside for some fresh air. Find humor in the characters around you and keep conversation with the other office team light and positive.

For many of us, interning brings us one step closer to our dreams and often family and friends outside of the entertainment bubble will find it hard to understand how we can put so much work into a role with no pay. Unfortunately that’s how the industry moves and often it is totally unfair. Have boundaries, but equally have humility.

Interning is not for the faint-hearted. There are big personalities and even bigger egos and you need to be a tough cookie. But don’t worry, just think of interning as a crash course in learning to adapt to a new environment. You might not get many Benjamin’s (totally up for referencing P-Diddy here) but think of your experience as an investment in your future. So long as you end your internship gaining more experience, confidence and skills then you started, that’s all that matters.

Hope this was helpful peeps. And happy interning. x

You can read more from Yazmin Joy Vigus on her blog.

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