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TFA Students Intern with NYC Entertainment Companies

TFA Students Intern with NYC Entertainment Companies

Posted: February 25, 2014

Five students in the television and film arts (TFA) program have landed internships with entertainment companies in New York City this semester.

Benjamin Duguay, Chris Erickson, and Michael Esposito are interning at Viacom’s Nickelodeon network, while Brian Gerlach and James Wright are working at Engel Entertainment, a production company that produces documentary and non-fiction films. All five students are enrolled in TFA’s Semester in New York City, now in its second year, which pairs juniors and seniors with renowned entertainment enterprises for six course credits. The students interning at Nickelodeon also enjoy the added bonus of a paycheck this year.

“While in the past, students did internships for free, bigger entertainment companies are now paying students $10 an hour, which ends up being about $3,500 in gross earnings for a semester,” said Jeffrey Hirschberg, TFA director and associate professor who created the Semester in NYC program. “This makes a big difference for students.”

It also means the internships are that much more competitive.

“Students really work for these internships,” Hirschberg said. “They are doing phone interviews, Skype interviews, taking the train to New York City on their own, and interviewing multiple times.”

Esposito (pictured left), a senior at Buffalo State, is one student whose perseverance paid off. After a phone and in-person interview, he was hired in his current role interning in Nickelodeon’s on-air promotions department. He collaborates weekly with producers and production assistants on a variety of the network’s cartoons.

“The duties I am responsible for are much more than I had expected—and I mean that in the best way possible,” Esposito said. “This internship has truly presented many amazing opportunities for me.”

Since 2009, TFA students have landed 33 spring and summer internships—an impressive number considering the program only admits 15 students each year.

“I would say the high number of internships is our best recruitment and retention tool,” Hirschberg said. “The first question from potential students and their parents is, 'How do you help them get internships and jobs?'”

One form of help comes from successful alumni working in the field. This spring, Marcia Mulé, ’81, who co-created Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List and is an executive producer of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, helped students connect with executives at Engel Entertainment. Last year, Tom Calderone, ’86, who is the general manager of VH1, helped start a relationship with Viacom, which Hirschberg said led to the TFA Semester in NYC program.

Still, students have to be assertive. Esposito said he would advise new film majors seeking an internship to apply everywhere and anywhere.

“The small internships you might start your academic career with will bring bigger opportunities later on,” he said. “At an internship you can be asked to do almost anything. They are not expecting you to know it all, but if you don’t try it you will never learn it.”

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