Saturday, 17 May 2014

Should graduates do unpaid internships?

This is a tough question. Lots of seasoned professionals in the entertainment industry feel strongly that graduates should never work for free - why provide cheap labour for companies who just want to exploit young talent? On the other hand, working as an intern can provide vital contacts, experience and opportunities that might otherwise prove elusive. The problem that all graduates face - and especially arts graduates - is simple. You need experience to get a job, and to get a job, you need experience. It is a chicken-and-egg problem that is not easily solved. "But why", ask many graduates, "don't entertainment firms want to take on young talent and train them up?"

The answer to that is also simple - it's because they don't have time. Most companies in the entertainment industry operate on razor-thin margins and are usually just one flop away from bankruptcy. Don't be deceived by the swanky premises and glossy reception areas - it's all for show. Very few businesses in the arts and media actually make much profit. So, while companies talk loudly about training, it's usually just that - talk.

So what's a graduate to do? The answer is, at least at first, work for free, or work for low wages. Get that vital experience that you need to build an impressive demo reel of paid work, work done for clients, subject to all the discipline and intensive feedback that goes with doing client work. Get this sort of work on your reel, and you will have the kind of skills that companies will actually pay for.

How do you find internships? Some of these are publicly posted, such as Cinesite's Inspire program. More commonly, they are informal, word-of-mouth, or even generated by the graduate him or herself. Offer to work for nothing, or for low wages, be enthusiastic, and help out. These are qualities that all companies are looking for.

And don't forget to keep in touch with your tutors, and your fellow students. It is very common for students to help each other find work, especially when a producer comes by on a thursday afternoon and says "we need an animator by Monday....anyone know of a good one who might be available?".

(Editor's note: for more information on finding work in the animation business, read our post on how to find a job in the animation industry, and check out our post about what not to do at a job interview. Also see our post on starting your own small animation business, learn how to create an invoice, and see how we are helping our students find work through our film co-operative Nano Films.  Download the free Escape Studios Careers in VFX Handbook. Take a look at how can help you find a job, and read our piece about how to survive as a freelance animator. Also, find out what Cinesite look for in a student's demo reel. )

1 comment:

  1. They can if they can afford to, obviously. The truth is, good companies often offer you at least some money to cover basic life expenses, so try looking for one of these offers.
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