What is an Extern?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that given the economy today, the job market has become extremely competitive. Never could this be more true than in the already-competitive film industry, where new filmmakers are finding it ever more challenging to stand out among their peers. It takes more than talent and a basic education to make it in the film industry today; it also takes a solid network of inside connections. This is a very relationship-based profession, and WHO YOU KNOW matters every bit as much as WHAT YOU KNOW.
While many people assume that the way to be competitive in film is to go to an expensive film school and earn a four-year degree, the fact is that degrees and diplomas matter very little to the film industry. You need to get educated, but that education alone will not be enough to get you where you want to go. You also need on-the-job experience, working in a real film production company, where you can learn the ropes as well as form valuable working relationships that can help advance your career. This is easier said than done, and most film schools do not provide these kinds of opportunities. As a result, many film students end up taking unpaid internships after college just to get the experience they need.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN INTERN AND AN EXTERN
Having a film internship definitely looks good on your resume, because it says (at the very least) that you have worked in a professional film environment, and interacted with people who are currently in the business. And certainly an internship gives you valuable exposure to people who could one day hire you. However, being an intern in the film industry is not all it’s cracked up to be, either, and does not help you to take full advantage of your surroundings. In many cases, internship is little more than errand running, as opposed to on-the-job training. As an intern, you may be asked to get the coffee and the dry cleaning, run the copier, do data entry, mop the floors—basically all the things that the film professionals either don’t want to do, or don’t have the time to do. Interning in a film studio gets you close to the action, but it often keeps you so busy with other tasks that you don’t get much opportunity to demonstrate your abilities to people. You might shake the hands of a few influential people, but then you’ll hand them their coffee, and that will be that.
The philosophy behind the Film Connection approach is that even being an intern is not enough to get you connected to the industry. This is why, as a Film Connection student, you are NOT an intern; you are an EXTERN. What is the difference?
An INTERN gets to fetch coffee and hang out near the filmmakers; an EXTERN is taught by the filmmakers.
An INTERN gets the chance to get his/her foot in the door; an EXTERN is escorted through the door.
An INTERN gets to add “internship” to his/her resume, and possibly have that resume put near the top of the pile of job applications; an EXTERN is the first person considered for the job.
Simply put, there is no better way to learn the skills of filmmaking than by externship; the mentor-extern relationship is the most time-tested way to learn a trade, proven by centuries of history. That’s why, as a Film Connection student, you are not just taught by an instructor; you are paired, one-on-one, with a MENTOR, a working professional who is an expert in his/her field. Our mentors don’t make their living teaching film students; they make ther living making movies, and they are eager to pass that knowledge on to you, the extern—hands-on, and one-on-one.
YOU’RE “IN CLASS” IN THE STUDIO AND ON THE SET
While an intern is simply there to do the chores, an extern enters the film studio with the express understanding that he/she is there to be TAUGHT FILMMAKING by the mentor. You will be “in class” each time you come to the studio, or go on the set, following a prescribed, structured curriculum. Your mentor will be there every step of the way to ensure you complete all of the Film Connection’s requirements in order to be certified. You will progress at your own pace, as determined by you and your mentor. You will receive hands-on training on your mentor’s equipment, and you will have the freedom to ask questions and get clarity along the way. While there may be a few errands to run here and there as a natural part of being in the film environment, as an extern, you are there to get an education, not do chores, and your mentor is there to make sure you learn everything you need to know. By the time you finish the six-month course, you will possess not only the knowledge and skills to work in film, but you will also have received vital work experience and formed valuable connections that will greatly increase your odds for success.
YOUR MENTOR: AN INDUSTRY ALLY
Perhaps the most important difference between a mentor and an extern is the strength of the relationship you will form with your mentor. With this externship opportunity, you will have the responsibility of earning your mentor’s trust through hard work, commitment, and integrity. Once you have earned that trust, you will likely form a bond that will last well beyond the six-month program. Many externs end up working with their mentors for years, because the mentors are deeply invested in seeing their externs succeed. By contrast, an intern is barely remembered when he/she leaves the studio, because no one has a vested interest in his/her success. Your mentor, then, has the potential to become your greatest ally in a very competitive industry.
While you are externing, you will have the opportunity to meet a number of people in the production company who will be able to affect your future career in positive ways. Forming a positive relationship with your mentor can only enhance this process, because his/her recommendation can open doors for you in this industry that the most expensive college degree cannot. As we mentioned before, the film industry is very relationship-based, and one positive relationship can lead to many others.
There’s no getting around it: breaking into the film business is going to take a great deal of determination and effort. The key is in focusing your hard work and making it count. Education alone won’t open doors for you, and internships often involve spending your energy doing mindless tasks that won’t do anything to further your career. You need to work smartly, and you need someone in your corner if you want to succeed in this business. The externship program offered by the Film Connection gives you not only unprecedented access to the film community, but it also gives you the chance to learn a trade, make connections and gain experience all at once. What’s more, it gives you the opportunity to receive one-on-one training from a seasoned film professional, a mentor whose influence will likely benefit you long after graduation. That’s the power of externship, and that’s what the Film Connection offers you.
Success Stories from Our Students
“The Film Connection gavee me the means to pursue screenwriting as a career. I learned from professionals, but I would say that in their own way, they were teachers because they were trying to elevate you.”
“I was nervous! I knew that getting my foot in the door would take a lot of hard work, but wasn’t impossible! It gave me the opportunity to really push myself, and I was really excited to work with my mentors. I remember my first day driving up the… studio, I was not expecting to be working with a group of grown men! But they told me if I wanted to do this, then I was going to! They got me right to work the first day editing my first piece with them, doing pull ups, unloading and loading camera equipment, and even cleaning my mentor’s car. It didn’t matter what I had to do to show them the dedication and passion I had for film. I told them I was going to do whatever it took, and they really took that to heart…I was in the studio full time, every day all day. I was excited to see what was going to happen next. Every day there was a surprise, and I was learning so many new things from them! I started to build strong relationships with each of them, and my nerves started to ease. I asked them a lot of questions, bugged them about when they would be taking me out on set next, and worked side by side with the editor everyday. I didn’t have just one mentor, but many! Everyone there was willing to share their knowledge about film, editing, directing, marketing, and even photography. I was so thankful to be surrounded by such a talented group of people, and I found myself grasping onto any opportunity I had to learn from them.”
“When I first started going to the studio, my personal life was in a tricky place, I was in between living situations, and life seemed pretty stressful. Going to the studio really was a great escape for me and was what I needed to keep my head high in tough situations. The stressful situations worked themselves out in time, and I could not be happier with what I was currently doing. Studio life was everything I had anticipated and more. When I first arrived at the studio, I learned that the company I was with was also in a temporary studio situation. But this really showed me that even in a very small location, great quality videos and work can be accomplished with the skills and devotion of a hard working team.”