Hello! My name is a Amanda and I am a rising Junior pursuing a self-determined major in Documentary Media Studies and a minor in Intergroup Relations. This summer, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of living in New York City and interning with independent documentary filmmaker and director, Ursula Liang in the Bronx, NY. Both 9-man productions and PLAG Documentary are award-winning independent documentary production companies underneath Liang that focus on illuminating stories about race, culture and social inequity. Her films have been broadcast on television, shown in film festivals across the country, and covered in the world’s elite media outlets.
I have a few more weeks of this opportunity and still so much more to experience and learn. So far, my job is very dynamic according to whatever her production team’s needs are of the day and the project being pursued; one feature-length documentary 9-Man in its distribution phase and the other Untitled work that is still in production. Some typical tasks may consist of handling the production company’s financial records, logging footage, organizing release forms, doing production-related research transcribing interviews, working on marketing materials and other miscellaneous filmmaking tasks. Most days I am working one-on-one with Ursula Liang in her home office, but other times I am traveling all throughout the Big Apple delivering and picking up footage and connecting with different filmmakers and journalists.
As an aspiring documentary media-maker, it was really important to me that I gain as much professional, hands-on experience in the field as possible before entering post-graduation. Thankfully, this internship has done just that. More specifically, it has provided me with such valuable insight into the daily challenges and triumphs of what it’s like to be an independent filmmaker and freelancer living and working in one of the most fast-paced, exciting, and sometimes overwhelming cities in the world. I’ve learned so much about what’s involved in the different stages of the documentary filmmaking process from the perspective of the director to the editor and producer to funders, and of course, from an audience member. But, what’s been most meaningful is the daily practice I’ve been having of simply working so closely with an award-winning film director in their own intimate workplace environment. Some film internships may have very little to no contact with the director of a project. I’ve been so fortunate to have the special opportunity of having a boss who has also acted as a mentor. Working in such close quarters with her has really taught me how to engage other media professionals in my future career and to build up my own confidence and independence as a young professional.
Thanks to Handshake I was able to find this internship position listed in the first place. But, thanks to the Summer Funded Internship Award, it was able to become a reality. Many internships in the documentary field tend to be unpaid due to tight budgets. So, I knew this would be impossible for my family and myself to ever pursue on our own. But, thankfully, with the CDC’s financial support I am able to afford housing and living costs of living in East Village, allowing me to commute to my internship in the Bronx everyday. Just as wonderful as this internship opportunity is the chance to spend time in NYC in the summer. When I’m not busy working, I’ve been exploring lots of interesting documentary and social justice events, fun outdoor movie screenings, some of my favorite music shows, and amazing food destinations. Most importantly, I’ve managed to find my place in a city that I was previously very intimidated by. Now, I feel even more empowered to pursue to my goals of becoming a documentary media-maker since NYC is the main hotspot of documentary work, creativity, and networking.
For aspiring interns, I’d say to apply for as many opportunities as you can, even if you feel a bit intimidated by the job description or application process. The more you put yourself out there, the greater your chance of getting something wonderful and just really important for your career path, in return. I learned that there’s times we each can get in our own way of our own goals when we don’t stay on top of deadlines and applications for incredible opportunities that the resources like the CDC would help us with. Also, it’s okay to be challenged and humbled in the internship opportunity you find. Not every internship will have you do the exact tasks your future professional selfwill actually end up doing. But, without a doubt, you will form really important relationships and experiences that may open up doors your future self will only thank you for in the long-run. I am excited for all that will be gained in my remaining weeks. Thank you Skidmore!