Interns learn the ropes of Hollywood

By By Edgar Zuniga Jr.

By Edgar Zuniga Jr.

Students looking to work in the entertainment industry can get hands-on experience through an internship program offered at the U.

The Ladder Program is a Los Angeles-based internship that allows students to learn about Hollywood by experiencing it.

Heidi Heller Banks ran a similar program at Northwestern University for three years before beginning the Ladder Program at the U. Heller Banks said more than one hundred of her past students have interned at a variety of television networks, movie studios and agencies such as CBS, Paramount and Evolution. Her husband, Steven Banks, is a U alumnus who is now a screenwriter in Hollywood.

“There are hundreds of careers in entertainment that are not acting, writing or directing,” said Heller Banks, executive director of the Ladder Program. “There are marketing, accounting, (public relations) and promotional careers in traditional and new media such as video games.”

Students with an interest in the entertainment industry are encouraged to apply.

Careers in the entertainment industry don’t recruit on campus like other careers, so students have to go to Los Angeles, Heller Banks said. An internship allows students to develop contacts and a context to work in so they are better prepared to break into the entertainment industry upon graduation. The people students meet during their internship will likely be the same people who will open the door into Hollywood for them, she said.

Heller Banks said a writer, for example, needs to intern with companies that buy scripts. A writer is also a seller and as such needs to know what companies are looking for when they buy screenplays. She said knowing how the marketplace works informs future screenwriters how to write.

Matt Schley, a junior majoring in film studies, learned this first-hand last semester when he participated in the Ladder Program.

“When I went out there, I knew next to nothing about the industry and how it works,” Schley said.

Schley interned at a small production company called 50 Cannon Production GroupSchley said the experience allowed him to learn how to pursue a career in directing and screenwriting. During his internship, Schley learned how an idea is developed from conception to a pilot picked up for distribution.

The program runs an average of thirteen weeks, from mid-August to mid-November, with weekly classes, guest speakers and class trips. Last fall, students heard from executives and professionals involved in the entertainment industry, in fields such as sales and talent management. Students write blog entries to keep a first-hand account of their experiences and adventures as they navigate the confusing world of entertainment.

Before leaving for Hollywood, Heller Banks helps students accepted to the program learn the basics of the industry and obtain an internship that is right for them.

“I’ve been so thrilled with the quality of students at the University of Utah. Coming from Northwestern, I’m very impressed with their caliber,” Heller Banks said.

Schley said that for students in Utah, it can be tough to understand Hollywood because the culture is quite different and that “there’s no better way to do it than go down to L.A. with the program.”

The Ladder Program costs about $7,622. Applications are due Tues., April 1.

For more information, visit the program’s web site, www.theladderprogram.com and the students’ blog, theladderprogram.blogspot.com.

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