Internship Experiences

Alessandra Bautze, Class of 2014
Triboro Pictures, New York
Summer 2012

This summer, I worked as an intern for Triboro Pictures in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York for twelve weeks. I chose this company for a number of reasons. Its small size meant that as an intern I was not doing “coffee runs,” but instead had a multitude of opportunities to contribute to the mission of the company in meaningful ways. Furthermore, despite being a small company, their mission spans four different areas: production through Triboro Pictures, distribution through Striped Entertainment, New York-based production services for foreign producers through The Production Service, and the Gotham Screen International Film Festival and Screenplay Contest. I thought that this would be a great way to be exposed to a variety of film-related areas, and I was correct, as I ended up learning a great deal.

One of my main tasks involved working on a documentary currently in post-production that focuses on the role of the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War. On my first day, I went through raw footage of Civil War re-enactors and I learned how to use a program called Grab to take hundreds of screenshots that could later be used in promotional materials for the film, as well as gifts for the re-enactors who generously agreed to be filmed. The next day, I was given my main task, which I worked on for a long time throughout my internship. First, allow me to give a little background information. This Civil War documentary was originally filmed about ten years ago, but it was never distributed, so Triboro Pictures was called in to help revamp the project, adding new footage and such. This also involved making sure that the image quality was up to the contemporary standard of High Definition. In the shuffle, roughly 150 images from the original tape went missing, and could no longer be found in High Definition. Thus, all we were left with was roughly 150 low-quality screenshots from the original tape, and no broadcast-quality images of these Civil War-era photographs and drawings that are essential to the story told in the film.

My job was to find exact matches or adequate, high-resolution close replacements of these missing images. For a number of weeks, with nothing but a low-quality image and no identifying information to guide me, I embarked upon somewhat of a “wild goose chase” by searching the Internet for the images. Despite my enthusiasm, it was often disheartening to come up empty-handed each day. However, I pushed ahead. I met with only mild success in finding exact matches, although I did come up with some interesting replacements. I became much more proficient with Microsoft Excel, and composed Excel spreadsheets of my work. Using a binding machine, I then compiled booklets of what I had done to show both my boss and the film’s director. There was still much work to be done, and I ended up learning even more about copyrights, image usage fees for television broadcast, documentary research, and the role of images as they relate to the documentary form. Shortly after I submitted these initial booklets, I had a meeting with my boss and he told me that he and the director were able to narrow down the search for the missing images to four original sources, and that the search was to start anew. At first I feared that all of my prior work had been in vain, but it turned out that some images I found would be used, and that I had provided them with a variety of options and choices for the film. I then started exploring the four original sources: the Minnesota Historical Society, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and the studios of Dale Gallon Historical Art in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The New York Public Library Maps Division also ended being a source as well.

I was very encouraged by this new development, and I set about on a more focused search for the images. A fellow intern and I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Harlem to visit the Schomburg Center’s Photographs and Prints Division. Over the course of two days, we poured through the folders and binders of Civil War-era images, and with the help of the knowledgeable librarians, were able to positively identify nine images that we needed for the film, which was a big step.  I also travelled by myself to the main branch of the New York Public Library to visit the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division. In only a little over two hours, I was able to positively identify the three maps that I had set out to identify. I have to say that I am proud of this because it initially seemed that it would be impossible to identify massive maps using only very small screenshots. With the help of the dedicated librarians, I was quickly able to identify the images, take down the identifying information, and successfully report back to my boss. With a different intern, I also went through the online archives of the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center and identified more images. Similarly, I matched images of Dale Gallon’s historical paintings with their titles, and compiled booklets of the missing images in order to prepare my boss and the film’s director for their trip to Gettysburg at the end of the summer, where they shot footage of the paintings just as the earlier crew had done some ten years earlier. We realized that (as helpful as the friendly Midwestern librarians were over the phone) it was going to be too difficult to track down many of the Minnesota Historical Society images without actually visiting the Library. So, the director ended up taking a trip to Minnesota and we sent him along with booklets that I compiled of all of the missing images (both photographs and newspaper clippings that could be found on microfilm). Similarly, when the director also went to the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Pennsylvania, we sent him along with another booklet that I had compiled, which included all of the missing images from Carlisle, as well as those images which we had already identified and that we had to order from Copy Services. On my last day, the company had me copy my computer desktop onto a hard drive and organize all of my email and telephone correspondence so that they would know how to continue my work after I went back to Hopkins. I was very touched that they had come to rely on me so much; I had become not only the “point person” when it came to these images, but also a leader. When the director called me to ask me a question about one of the maps, I was also touched and very happy, for I felt that I was truly able to make a meaningful contribution to the company by helping them move forward with the documentary through the retrieval of these important images.

Of course, there was much more to my internship than working with the images. I also did research for the company, such as researching production companies in Bermuda or doing location scouting online for a warehouse or raw loft space. I also had the opportunity to work on the set of a Dutch reality television show that was filming in New York, for Triboro Pictures was serving as the on-site American producer. Working on set was fun, eye-opening, and exciting; I was happy to have that opportunity, for I now I know more about what happens on a set, and am aware of how much work each and every individual must put in so that everything runs smoothly. One of my favorite tasks, however, was reviewing screenplays and writing script coverage. This was one of the best parts of my internship because it allowed me to apply the skills I learned from Prof. Marc Lapadula’s Introduction to Dramatic Writing: Film and Intermediate Dramatic Writing: Film. I learned how to write script coverage in his class and through my internship was able to apply my knowledge of script coverage to a real-world scenario. Coverage is a report in which one analyzes multiple aspects of a screenplay, including the premise, generic expectations, plot structure, character development, the stakes, dialogue, and whether the screenplay would be of interest to the company. The report must be clear and concise, and must always include a logline so that the person who reads the report knows what the screenplay is about. Whether I was reviewing a drama, a comedy, a dark comedy, or any other genre, I was able to use the skills I developed in courses such as Lapadula’s as well as Prof. Lucy Bucknell’s course Screenwriting by Genre. During my internship, I wrote two different types of coverage, which taught me that not all coverage is created equal, and that coverage serves different purposes depending on the situation. The first type of coverage I wrote was quite extensive, and this coverage was for the biweekly Readers Group. The Readers Group is a great concept, and it is one of things that initially attracted me to Triboro Pictures, as it reminded me of the seminar model pioneered by The Writing Seminars. Members of the Readers Group include industry professionals, community members of diverse ages and various backgrounds (including film, television, and publishing). Not everyone was involved in film and media in a professional context, but everyone was interested in discovering great storytelling, which I thought was fantastic. Every two weeks, we met as a group to discuss a screenplay that had either been submitted to the screenplay contest or directly to the company. We submitted extensive coverage in advance, and then had a lively discussion about the quality of various aspects of the script. For the second half of the meeting, each person would present a summary of a Gotham Screen screenplay that they had been assigned to review. This brings me to the second type of coverage, which required me to be more concise, as it was for the Gotham Screen International Film Festival and Screenplay Contest. I was so fortunate to have this opportunity to get a truly behind-the-scenes look at how screenplays are judged in a screenplay competition. My experiences writing script coverage throughout my internship were extremely educational and fun, as screenwriting is a huge interest of mine and it is something that I want to continue to pursue in the future.

I also worked on the Gotham Screen International Film Festival. I reviewed film submissions, whether they were short films or features of various genres. I also solicited film submissions from foreign directors; I went through booklets of foreign cinema (for example, Turkish Cinema 2012) that the company had gotten at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and I e-mailed directors whose films sounded interesting. Ideally, the films I solicited did not have U.S. distribution, so that if we were interested in the film, Striped Entertainment (the distribution arm of the company) could potentially provide U.S. distribution. Often, these directors sent me a screener to review, and so I was able to watch films that I would not normally get to see, such as those from the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Slovenia.

My internship at Triboro Pictures was a wonderful introduction to the industry; I loved working for the small, up-and-coming company, for I was truly able to contribute to their work in important ways. I learned a variety of new skills, and additionally I was able to demonstrate the skills that I have learned at Johns Hopkins in the Department of The Writing Seminars and the Program in Film and Media Studies. I also learned how to interact in a professional environment and I had to meet various challenges head-on, which was a worthwhile learning experience in itself. I am so grateful to have had this first professional experience, for it was very educational in so many different ways. 

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