Internships: the art of making yourself indispensable

Internships can provide invaluable work experience and networking opportunities, sometimes leading to prospective careers or clearer professional paths. At the USC School of Dramatic Arts, the Professional Development Center’s internship program has been a vital support for both.

For Lauren Cole BA ’20, Isabella Dake BA ’20 and Anastasia Zavodnick BA ’21, their college internships led to permanent positions at the same companies; now, they oversee their own intern populations.

“In the way that my classes at SDA and [the USC School of Cinematic Arts] prepared me for the creative side of the industry, my internships prepared me for the business side,” says Zavodnick, who is a creative executive at Intuition Productions.

Staying close to their roots, the three alumnae also often look to the School to hire fellow Trojans because they know firsthand about the caliber of students that come from USC.

“The Trojan Family is real! I want USC students to succeed and I trust that they are smart, driven and hardworking,” says Dake, who is chief of staff at Invisible Narratives. She shares that her USC degree helps her in her work every day—including the confidence she has in her own voice and ability to present ideas.

In her role as a coordinator at Ace Entertainment, Cole relies on both the schools of Dramatic Arts and Cinematic Arts networks “as so much of the industry is ‘the hands you shake not the grades you make,’” she says.

At SDA, internships are vetted by a full-time director who also provides resources and connections to prospective positions in the entertainment industry.

“Working an internship in any department and at any company helps you feel out what you like and what you don’t like about the responsibilities of certain roles in this business,” says Thomas Winter BA ’22.

The alumnus interned with Legendary Pictures as a student, intentionally gaining as much experience as possible to make an informed decision about his post-graduation pursuits. He learned about the Legendary opportunity through the School’s internship program and decided to apply after hearing about a fellow SDA student’s positive experience.

“At the beginning of the internship, all of the interns had a meeting with Legendary’s CEO. Something he said in that meeting stuck with me. He said that interns at the company would often tell him about their ‘aspirations’ to work in the entertainment industry. In response to this, he said, ‘Stop seeing yourselves as just interns. You are working in the industry now. You’ve made it. Think of yourselves as junior executives and make yourselves indispensable,’” Winters recalls.

Legendary Pictures CEO Joshua B. Grode, who is also chair of the SDA Board of Councilors, explains that “supporting young creative talent is part of the fabric of Legendary. Whether that creative talent is a director, writer, cinematographer or an actor. We consider it an obligation to the arts to give these young voices the experience of working in a professional environment.”

He adds, sharing what sets interns from SDA apart from the rest: “We look for students that have outstanding academic credentials, who have challenged themselves with courses that are diverse and demonstrate intellectual curiosity. We try and read between the lines of a resume to find students that are passionate about the arts and have a voice that is distinctive.”

This article appeared in the 2022-23 issue of Callboard magazine. Read more stories from the issue online.