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So You Wanna Be an Intern, Huh?



Feed Me Light's veteran intern Mark Mullan shares his top tips for acing your internship application

So You Wanna Be an Intern, Huh?

It's April, which can only mean one thing: the season of internship openings is officially upon us. Across the globe, creative studios are sharing Instagram posts opening the floodgates to tonnes of eager animation students, Feed Me Light included. To celebrate the occasion, Feed Me Light got their veteran intern 'Young Mark' to lend  insight into acing your internship.

Young Mark joined the Feed Me Light team as the studio's first doe-eyed intern in February 2017, after sending a lengthy (and rather clingy) email about how much he wished to join the team. Eventually, they took pity on the poor chap and let him hang about for a further six months as a Junior Generalist and Production Assistant. 

Read on for his totally subjective and completely inexperienced account of getting the most out of your internship!

Apply early

Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow what you can apply to today. Often studios don’t have time to read through every miscellaneous application they receive during the course of the year. When windows open to submit your application, they are golden opportunities. Know which studios you want to apply to, know when their application window opens, and when it does, drop everything else and get that application in if its the last thing you do.

Write a cover letter

It's not just creative ability that gets you a job. Personality, professionalism and the ability to communicate all play their part. Take it from a guy who’s only been getting by on his (stellar) sense of humour. This is the opportunity to demonstrate your passion for the studio’s work and your desire to learn from them.

And don’t fake it. If you find that studio that you really want to work for and you think you’d fit right in, the cover letter should write itself. It is the first step in building that human connection that might eventually bloom into a working relationship. I knew from the moment I found the FML website that they were the perfect studio for me, and that obviously came across in my first letter. And we’ve never looked back. Well, except this reflective blog post, obviously.

Go to events

Sign up to every creative network that you can. Be aware of events that are happening on your doorstep. Through Hiive, I attended the Open Doors event at The Mill last February. This led to an interview opportunity and eventually an entry-level job offer with the company. While I ended up sticking with the FML crew, this was an amazing avenue that opened up to me through being tuned in to these types of events. Go to conferences, to talks and festivals, they have student pricing for a reason.

Go the extra mile

I learnt the hard way that quality really does beat out quantity. In my desperate attempts to get any sort of internship, I applied to over 150 positions that varied from graphic design to recruitment. Don’t do that. Make a list of your Top 10 Dream Studios, know their work, know your own career ambitions. Do/create something that grabs their attention, that demonstrates your grit and passion. Don’t set out with the aim of being an intern, you want to be their intern.

I spent a few weeks working on a Christmas themed project based on directors Emmanuelle and Julien’s concept work as part of an application, and ended up working with Emmanuelle and Julien at Feed Me Light, so you never know where your endeavours might lead!

Be more open to any avenue that presents itself to you

Some studios aren’t in a position to afford an extra mouth at the table, or the time and resources needed to coach an intern. But as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. After working unpaid for a local Irish production company, I had spent all my savings on petrol and lunch going in and out of the office for two months. I was doing remedial design work for live action television that in no way furthered my animation career, but I persevered for the sake of experience and possible future connections.

When the opportunity arose for an amazing internship with a London based studio, by the name of Feed Me Light, I thought I would have to turn it down for sheer lack of money to afford the move over to London. However, my Executive Producer from that same Irish company, Donna Higgins, offered me free accommodation in her London flat for the duration of the internship and sent me off with wings soaring, as thanks for all the unwavering hard work I had done.

And when I came to Feed Me Light, the team couldn’t have been more helpful to myself, and the other interns that followed, in making sure we were fully supported for our internship experience so that everything ran seamlessly and we got the most out of our time there.

It can be hard to imagine anyone other than your mum campaigning so passionately for your success, but truth is there are so many people in this industry who relentlessly encourage us young ones just taking our first steps. Seek out these kinds of people, and when they invest their time and effort in you, make sure you do everything you can to return it tenfold. Always remain humble and thankful for everything that they do to help you out in this formative part of your career. These are what I call “opportunities in disguise”, so don’t be so quick to strike them from your list.

Look after your mental health

When your career so heavily hinges on the quality of your work, it can be easy to let your lack of immediate success begin to affect how you view your own worth. Getting an internship isn’t designed to be easy, and even when you have one, it can be a lonely and trying time. If your search for an internship or the opportunity itself starts to affect your mental health, that is completely normal! If there’s anything Pixar has taught us, it’s that it’s okay to be sad. So reach out whenever you feel weighed under by it all, talk to a classmate, they’re probably going through the exact same thing as you and you’ll find comfort in knowing you’re not alone.


And if you get that lucrative internship position, here’s my advice on being a 100,000 Sambo intern (an extremely accurate scientific measurement we’ve concocted here at FML).

- Spend as much time in the studio as possible. They will ask you to leave, or to take a day off, but don’t listen. Be present and absorb as much of the experience as you can. You’ll appreciate it in the long run.

- Write down everything, EVERYTHING. I became a notebook addict. Write down daily to-do lists, things people say in meetings, brain farts, draw out the complex node networks, log the lengthy step-by-step manoeuvres of technical how-to's. Putting pen to paper is the best way to make something stick, and have it to return to later if you get stuck.

- Ask questions. I was surprised how devoted the Feed Me Light team were to furthering my knowledge. They were always so giving with their time, sitting down and talking me through their processes and workflows. At one point it even got competitive as to who could teach me the most. So ask, listen, learn.

- At the end of every conversation, always ask what you can do to help, always. Sometimes the smallest thing you can do will help those around you accomplish their goals and schedules. Never stop offering a helping hand.

- Give it a week, then start slagging everyone. Don’t hold punches, give them hell. And if you’re stuck for a comeback, just ask them something like “So what did you watch on television in your day anyway?” It works 90% of the time.

- Befriend the studio dog. I suggest ear massages and constant sneaking of snacks, but whatever works for you.

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Feed Me Light, Thu, 05 Apr 2018 12:59:15 GMT