Internship Experiences

Clare Richardson, Class of 2012
Independent Film Channel, New York
Summer 2011

This summer I had an internship with IFC Films in their Sales and Distribution department.  Because of my dad I know a little about distribution from the exhibitor side, so seeing the process from the other side was something I was looking forward to. I worked two days a week (Tuesday and Thursday), and my duties consisted of organizing, entering, and checking box office reports for all of IFC and Sundance Select’s films, contacting individual theatre owners, checking film bookings, and providing coverage for films IFC was considering purchasing. Because IFC had one of its most successful summers with Herzog’s Cave of Dreams, Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip, and Buck, the documentary about the original horse whisperer, my work was more heavily focused on box office reports than anything else. I’d have to enter them into the aptly named program Hollywood, which holds both the flash (estimate) gross and then the box office gross (the actual amount, which we’d receive anywhere from a day to a week after the play date). If any theatres hadn’t reported to IFC, it was my job then to email them as well as make sure we had both the flash and box office gross.

While entering box office reports could be pretty tedious at some points, over the three months I got to know basically every independent theatre in the country. From the IFC Center to the Bear Tooth up in Anchorage the theatres IFC plays films at is an incredible range, and in directly dealing with the box office numbers it was interesting to see how different films played across the country. Cave of Forgotten Dreams grossed incredible numbers all summer long at the IFC Center, and in comparison to Buck’s strong returns in states like Montana and Wyoming or the growing buzz The Trip generated it was insightful to be on the “front lines” of a couple different marketing campaigns. Personally, The Trip was most interesting: a true platform release it played first in Los Angeles and New York City, and based on those numbers (which I dealt with every day I worked), it expanded into a more wide national release. Besides its grosses the film expanded based on PR and buzz, and additionally be sitting next to (and eavesdropping on!) the PR people who were making those articles happen showed me how they come to happen through both PR reaching out and outlets coming to the PR department wanting to run a story. The Trip became their sleeper hit of the summer, and definitely exceeded their expectations.

IFC does play a lot of their films with the larger independent movie theatre chains, but the majority of the films play at small, independently owned theatres—some of them so small they don’t even report to Rentrak. I had no idea there were so many of these tiny theatres, especially in cities like Fargo or Billings, Montana where I’d never expect an art house to survive. In a way it restored some faith in independent cinema!

I do wish I’d had more opportunities to provide coverage for films IFC was thinking of picking up, and the films I watched were a mix of surprisingly strong foreign films and very low grade horror films. IFC’s business model is to only pick up finished product, so I never had to read any scripts:  I just had to watch movies. Providing coverage is something I’ve enjoyed doing in the past, and having another opportunity definitely confirmed it’s something that I still like, and could even pursue farther at another job.  I had to send my coverage out to the entire sales and distribution department, and with each piece I wrote I usually received responses (both in agreement and disagreement), something that definitely helped my writing improve, and helped me better understand what IFC specifically was looking for in a film.

My summer at IFC gave me great insight into the independent studio system and the various aspects that go into both the purchase and exhibition of film. I learned a lot about both limited and wide release marketing campaigns, the theatres that show these films, and what IFC specifically looks for in a film to purchase. While I don’t know if I’ll be going into exhibition and sales as a future career, my summer internship was fantastic firsthand experience in the industry.

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