Sarah: California Dreaming

Hey, guys! I hope you are all enjoying a lovely northeast fall and lots of Dunkin’ pumpkin spice lattes (two things I’m really missing at the moment). After spending last spring in London, I’m currently tackling my second semester abroad – this time with a lot less tea and a lot more sunshine. I’m spending the semester – and hopefully many years to come – in Los Angeles with the BU in LA Program. The program is not technically an abroad program, but to anyone not from the area, LA certainly seems like foreign territory. Moving out here has been an adjustment, but one I am glad to have made.

For all of you interested in the LA program, know that it is an invaluable opportunity, but also know that it is no joke. While I spent most of my time in London at a pub or jet setting all over Europe, I spend the vast majority of my time in LA at internships, in class and learning as much as possible about the industry. I’ve been fortunate to find two fantastic and distinct internships that I’ve learned worlds from in just the past few weeks – one at the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and one in the writers’ office at Mad Men. These internships are my sixth and seventh (and hopefully last!) internships, and both of them have helped reaffirm a few key pieces of advice I’ve been hearing from the beginning:

Networking is a lot like making friends.

In fact, they are often the same thing. Everyone in the professional world puts so much emphasis on networking, and there is no denying its importance; however, it doesn’t have to be as scary as you think! Networking shouldn’t feel fake, insincere or like someone is being taken advantage of. Networking can be as simple as asking someone about their weekend or commenting on the cute dog on their desktop background. Successful networking starts with finding something in common and fostering a relationship based on it. Just be yourself and find some people you can connect with!

Be interesting.

You don’t necessarily have to be a tightrope artist to be interesting (although that is pretty cool). Simply knowing about the industry you’re in, especially topical news, will interest other people. What’s going on in the entertainment industry is relevant to everyone in it – and often times, it is pretty fascinating. Keeping up with news is a sure way to impress those you work with. Bonus points are awarded for knowing the history of your field.

A Positive Attitude Goes a Long Way

No task is too small for an intern. I can’t tell you how many copies I’ve made or how many dishes I’ve cleaned during internships over the past few years. It comes with the job, and I think most of us come to expect it. No matter how menial the task, do everything with a smile. Someone is always watching – the people around you will notice a positive attitude. That being said…

Respect yourself!

I work with an intern who constantly says, “We’re just the interns.” We may be on the bottom rung, but we are certainly more than just interns. The climate of unpaid internships is changing, and it is more important than ever to understand your roll. Use judgment – don’t feel pressured to do something you don’t feel comfortable with. And don’t hesitate to bring issues to an advisor! They are there to help.

Sarah: Mastering the Skype Interview

Hey there, terriers! I hope you are all having a fabulous (and not too rainy) summer!

After spending the semester in London, I decided to spend my summer working, writing and relaxing at home before the big move out to LA. In preparation for my second semester “abroad,” I’ve had to face a particular challenge that plagues those of us living in remote locations – the dreaded Skype interview.

Skype interviews come with a number of concerns – What if the power goes out? What if my roommate decides to blast her music? What if the screen freezes on a horribly embarrassing face? But as with most things, video interviews have their perks. Here are a few tips to conquer your next long-distance interview with confidence.

1. Dress to impress

For me, one of the hardest parts of an interview is figuring out what to wear, so I am always tempted to forgo the headache for Skype interviews. However, I usually decide to suck it up and dress as if I were interviewing in-person (Although I did only iron the front of my blazer last time – shocking, I know). While your interviewer may only see from the shoulders up, dressing professionally from head to toe will help put you in the right frame of mind. Plus, there is that ever-so-slight chance you will have to leave your seat, revealing your SpongeBob pajama shorts to your potential employer.

2. Keep paper and a pen nearby

Use the medium to your advantage! Just like a regular interview, you can and should do research on the company. When you interview via Skype, it might not be a bad idea to jot down some notes on a piece of paper – company news, goals, questions, etc. – and keep it near by for reference. Be careful, though – you don’t want to write notes like it’s your Oscar acceptance speech. The interviewer will know if you’re reading from a set of cue cards. You should also be ready with a pen to take notes. It shows that you’re prepared.

3. Look into the camera

This is probably the most difficult video interview tactic to master. It’s only natural to look at the interviewer – at the computer screen – when you video chat. However, looking at the screen means that, to the interviewer, you are looking down. To add a personal touch, try looking at the camera instead. It will feel like you’re avoiding eye contact when, in fact, you are giving your interviewer the closest possible thing.

4. Think about the location

This is another difficult one. If you live alone, skip ahead to number 5 because you have it made. For those of us who live with roommates, parents, pets and little brothers, we know how precious and rare quiet can be. Do a bit of location scouting – find a quiet place where you’ll be free from distractions. Make sure your dog knows that you have an interview so he knows not to bark between 4 and 4:30 (this is always and issue for me). Also, be mindful of the background. You don’t necessarily want your dirty laundry or your One Direction poster on display. Or maybe you do.

5. Roll with the punches

There is a 99% chance you will experience some kind of technical issue. It could be something as simply as a fuzzy picture or something as troublesome as a broken microphone. Be prepared for any complications that may arise. Always keep calm and do your best to troubleshoot it. Also, make sure your computer is fully changed!

6. Don’t yell!

My parents always seem to think that I can’t possibly hear them on Skype unless they are shouting at the computer screen. Your interviewer may be on the other side of the country, but your mic is inches from your face. Speak in a confidant and professional, yet normal voice. If they cannot hear you on the other end, they will turn up the volume.

Smile through those video interviews – they’re not all that bad! And if anyone has figured out the secret to a successful phone interview, please let me know!

 

Sarah: Things I’ve Learned Abroad

Hey there, terriers! Long time no see!

To those of you recently accepted to Boston University – congratulations! You are among the best and brightest in your class, and your reward will be the best four years of your life!

At exactly this time three years ago, I was about to turn 18, had just been accepted to BU and was already planning my semester abroad in London. An application, a few semesters and a long plane ride later, here I am writing to you from foggy ol’ London Town. For those of you considering studying abroad, I have one piece of advice – do it. Just do it. Forget your reservations, pack your bags and get away for the semester. If you give it a decent shot, you won’t regret it.

For those of you who know you want to study abroad – or for those of you who might be getting ready to jet off – here are a few things I’ve learned about being a student in a foreign city.

It is OK to be American. Or Chinese. Or Italian. Or Tanzanian. Or whatever else you may be. One of the best ways to understand and appreciate your own culture is to remove yourself from it. After about a month in London, I realized that I was trying too hard to be British instead of fully embracing the experience of being an American in Britain. It is a wonderful thing to be immersed in another culture. I now know how to navigate the Tube and make a proper cup of tea. I’ve even adopted a few British phrases – “take away” instead of “to go.”  But I’ve also learned that enjoying another culture does not mean giving up your own. It is ok to ask questions, get lost and be disgusted by black pudding. Being aware of a stereotype is the first step in beating it, or at the very least having a laugh at it. In Barcelona, one café featured a “sandwich Americano.” It was a hotdog.

Learning is essential. You must not forget the study part of studying abroad! It is the reason people go abroad and the reason BU supports these programs. Fortunately, I use study in a liberal sense. Most of the learning one does while studying abroad does not happen in a classroom or from a textbook. While classes are important, learning opportunities come in various and often unexpected forms. I have learned all about the NHS and the history of British cinema. But I’ve also learned how to decipher between North England and South London accents and how to find the best hostel on a budget. I’ve learned that Keira Knightley got her start on a cop drama series and that Paul McCartney wrote “Let it Be” for his mother. I won’t say that school work is not an important part of the program, but don’t let it hold you back! As they say in England, “get on with it” and get out!

Traveling is both a blessing and a curse. I chose to study in London partly because of its location. Europe is at my disposal. My travel itinerary this semester includes Budapest, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Prague, Berlin, Athens and various cities in Italy. It is pretty amazing to jet off to a new country almost every weekend. However, I would advise future abroad-ers to plan wisely. You can book trip after trip after trip and return home knowing very little about your host city. I have seven weeks left abroad, but only one weekend left in London. Studying abroad is a unique opportunity to call a foreign place home for a few months. It is learning the in and outs of London – the slang, the hidden treasures, the best grocery stores – that make the experience truly amazing. I know I will make time to travel throughout my life, but I will never have this opportunity again.

So as I said before, do it! Study abroad. You know you want to!

Sarah: How to be Funny

Last semester, I waved a bittersweet goodbye to my required courses. This semester, I loaded up on Film & TV electives and hit the ground running. It’s been a hectic semester, but in the best way possible. All my classes are practical and very hands-on (and don’t have finals!). In my production class, I made films. In my creative producing class, I put together packages for talk shows and documentaries. I’ve been busy doing the things I love to do and hope to make a career out of, and that’s what college is all about.

I thought I’d dedicate this blog post to perhaps my favorite class this semester – Writing Situational Comedy Scripts. The class teaches the fundamentals of comedy storytelling and how we see it executed in the current television market. Essentially, it’s a class in being funny. The coursework involves writing several drafts of TV spec scripts, or nonprofessional scripts written for existing shows. The class is taught by Michael Loman, one of COM’s stellar faculty members. Professor Loman was a staff writer for The Cosby Show, Happy Days and All in the Family, to name a few, and also acted as Executive Producer of Sesame Street for 10 years. Needless to say, he is qualified to teach the class.

Over the course of the semester, the class completed two major projects. The first was a group spec script for a current sitcom – ours was Modern Family. Since almost all shows have a staff of writers who group write, this part of the class is meant to simulate the writer’s room. We were all responsible for writing and pitching a story outline to the class. Then we picked one story and went to work. We all know how much of a struggle group projects can be, so imagine the plight of 16 writers – 16 loud, opinionated writers – trying to create a quality script. There was a lot of fighting, a lot of laughing and a whole lot of bad jokes. But in the end, we produced something to be proud of.

The second project is a personal spec script, which we completed on our own. This project is your chance to shine. I decided to write for one of my favorite new shows – New Girl. I spent weeks creating an outline, writing drafts and meeting with my professor. Oh, and rewriting. And rewriting, and rewriting and more rewriting. Now I have a polished spec script for a new series that I can use when I start applying to jobs (which is crazy soon!).

So on that fateful day when you must bid adieu to your requirements, find solace in all of the cool COM classes you have yet to take!

 

Sarah: Production 1

Now a first semester junior, I have been putting off Production I for some time. I’ve had quite a bit of experience with production in the past, but always as a production assistant. I observed first-hand how much work goes into directing your own film. I’m currently enrolled in Production I and shot my final film this past weekend. It was even more difficult than I thought it would be, but in the end, it was a totally gratifying experience.

Originally, I thought the class was about learning all the technical aspects of making a film. But really, it is about learning to make a film, start to finish. While the technical side of the class is important, the biggest take-away for me will be learning how to coordinate a production. There is an incredible amount of planning that goes into it. Unlike most films you will ever make, Prod I requires you to make them on your own. Well, not entirely on your own. If you’re lucky like me, you’ll have a few stellar friends and classmates willing to help you out. But, you will call all of the shots. Literally.

A note for anyone taking a production class next semester – pre-production is key! I dealt with a million and one problems before I started shooting –actors dropping out, locations falling through and unavailable equipment, just to name a few. I found out 5 days before I my shoot that one of my actresses was a union member. Using her in my film would require paperwork, signatures and a $50 deposit – all due one week before filming. Oops!  Luckily, I settled things with a very understanding woman at the SAG office. Because I was able to deal with these problems beforehand, the actual shoot went smoothly.

That’s not to say production won’t yield its own complications. Murphy’s Law is in full effect on most film sets. A pair of socks I bought as the focus of my film ended up being too dark to be seen on camera. My crew spent an hour in one scene trying to light them. My advice is to schedule yourself plenty of time to shoot. As my professor always says, shooting will take you three times longer than expected. I scheduled using this rule, plus added an hour in between location changes. I expected to be ahead of schedule all day, but I barely maintained it.

So even though I don’t plan on continuing with production, this class was an invaluable lesson in planning and budgeting (time, not money). I hope you all get the chance to get out there and make some movies!

 

Sarah: A Boston Halloween

There is no place like New England in the fall. The air becomes a bit cooler, the trees change color and you’ve survived your first round of midterms. But most importantly, Halloween is approaching – and there is no place like Boston for Halloween. Here are some of my picks for the best Halloween activities in the Greater Boston Area.

Coolidge Corner Theatre’s Halloween Line Up

Every Bostonian’s favorite independent movie theater celebrates Halloween by screening old horror movies throughout the month of October. Enjoy the romanticism of an old theater while watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Poltergeist and The Exorcist, just to name a few. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? screened on Halloween night will top off the month of horror.

ImprovBoston’s Horror Show

Who says Halloween can’t be funny? This year, ImprovBoston presents their 10th Annual Halloween Horror show. This year’s show is a musical comedy titled “28 Days Latte.” The story follows a group hipsters and senior citizens as they barricade themselves in a coffee shop during the zombie apocalypse. What could be better? There are only ten shows this year, so order your (student-discounted) ticket soon!

Pumpkin Palooza

If you’re feeling both creative and charitable, consider painting and donating pumpkins with BU’s Community Service Center this month. Stop by the BU Beach on Friday, October 19th from 11am-3pm to carve and paint a pumpkin. The CSC will donate the pumpkins to local shelters, hospitals and group homes to decorate for the Halloween season.

Salem, MA

Nothing puts me in the Halloween spirit quite like walking through downtown Salem during the month of October. Note that this is a place, not an event. That is because there are too many ghost walks, haunted tours, festivals and expos to name. Be sure to do some research beforehand – not all haunted houses are created equally. There are enough street performers and people dressed in elaborate costumes to make just walking around an entertaining experience. Salem is just a thirty-minute train ride from North Station – perfect for a day trip. Take a trip with some friends during an upcoming weekend. Or if you’re feeling super adventurous, check it out on Halloween night.

Rocky Horror Picture – AMC Boston Commons

For the past 28 years, the “Full Body Cast” of Boston has performed The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday at midnight in Harvard Square. This year, although the location has changed to AMC Boston Common, the tradition lives on. As you might imagine, Halloween is a pretty big occasion for the cast. In addition to the usual Saturday show, the cast will perform on the Friday before Halloween and on Halloween night. You haven’t experienced The Rocky Horror Picture Show until you’ve seen it live!

 

Sarah: The Best Non-COM Classes I’ve Taken

In my experience, if there is one thing freshman want to know going into their first and second semesters here at BU, it is what classes to take. We hear a lot about all of the great COM classes to take, and there are plenty, but there are tons of hidden gems throughout all of BU. Here are a few of my recommendations.

SED-DE570 & DE571 American Sign Language 1&2

Jason Norman & Kelly Kim

I could dedicate an entire blog post to my love for ASL. In fact, I have (check out my post from last February). If there was one requirement I dreaded, it was the language requirement. I avoided it altogether freshman year, hoping COM would magically drop it and I would be free. When I couldn’t put if off any longer, I registered for ASL; it was the perfect choice for me. I loved learning about Deaf culture and discovering an entirely new way to communicate. And, the class was just fun! We learned by playing games, role-playing and creating vlogs. If you like very active and hands-on (no pun intended) learning, this class is for you!

CAS-PH266 Mind, Brain, and Self

Walter Hopp

The dreaded philosophy requirement does NOT have to be so bad. This class came highly recommended to me, so I feel compelled to pay it forward. I’m not going to sugarcoat it – the class is difficult. It took me half the semester to just train my brain to think philosophically. But, if you put in the effort, you will be fulfilled (and feel whackid smaht!). Professor Hopp really makes the class what it is. He is incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the subject, and it shows. He is also one of the funniest professors I’ve had (one of my friends in the class kept a list of priceless Hopp quotes). And, he is all about helping his students do well. I would send him page-long emails of jumbled thoughts and he would respond with two page-long emails of brilliant feedback.

PDP-DA 150 Cardio Jazz Funk

Jossie Coleman

This class is just as fun as it sounds. If you can commit to them, PDP classes are a great way to de-stress from a hectic week. I always looked forward to starting my day off with a little bit of dancing. Jossie is a wonderful teacher, and is accommodating of all levels of experience. She has crazy amounts of energy that will get you fired up and moving. She demands the same kind of energy and pushes everyone just a little bit outside of their comfort zone. I also loved the variety of people in the class. Some people had years of experience; some people had never taken a dance class before. But, everyone had a blast!

CAS-AR100 Great Discoveries in Archaeology

William Saturno

I took this class the first semester of freshman year, and I still miss it to this day. The work was reasonable and discussion sections were always fun. The material can be a bit dry at times, but Professor Saturno is the best lecturer ever! I feel like he should be hosting his own show in Vegas instead of teaching an archaeology course. But, he is certainly well-qualified to do so. Professor Saturno has gone on expeditions all over South America, and has a million and one stories from all of them. One of them involves a very territorial bonobo ape, but that’s all you’re getting out of me. He has also made some incredible contributions to the field – he recently discovered the oldest known Mayan murals in Guatemala. How cool is that!?

Sarah: Surviving the First Week

Hey everyone!

It’s hard to believe the Fall semester is almost upon us! Where did the summer go? While I was beyond excited to start college my first semester, I was also a little nervous. Big changes can be a stressful. Here are a few tips to make that first week a little easier.

Check out your classes beforehand.

It’s no secret that BU is a big school. The COM building and The College of Arts and Sciences are easy enough to find, but there are plenty of other classroom buildings on campus. During my first semester, I had one class in the Kenmore Classroom Building and one class in the Stone Science Building (I had no idea where they were either). It’s not a bad idea to check out where your classes are before they start. It’ll save you the stress of getting lost, and you can see how long it takes you to get from one class to the next.

Bring your order number when you pick up books.

If you have to pick up books at Barnes & Noble, be prepared for a pretty substantial line. Book pick-up is on the top floor (and is the hottest part) of the building. You only need your BU ID to pick up your books, but if you have your order number with you, you’ll move through the line much more quickly. Also, if you know you don’t need your books before the your classes start, try heading to the book store after your first day of classes.

Don’t bring your books to class on the first day.

Despite what I thought on my first day, your professors probably do not expect you to bring your textbooks to the first class, unless they tell you otherwise. This time is typically used for introductions and a syllabus overview (your hour-and-a-half-long class may only last 20 minutes!). There’s no need to lug around that 10-pound US History book. But, definitely come prepared with a pen and paper. For when you will have to carry those books around…

Buy a backpack!

Yes, I know – backpacks are dorky. Or, at least that’s what I thought going into college. I thought I’d buy a trendy over-the-shoulder bag and would be good to go. While these bags seem to work well for some people, my back didn’t stand a chance. I immediately went out a bought a backpack and haven’t looked back since.

Sarah: Tales of a Nicktern

Hey there terriers! Whatever you find yourselves doing this summer, I hope you’re making it fun and meaningful. Make these next few weeks count – fall will sneak up on us before we know it!

Your first summer after your first year of college tends to go a bit differently than the previous, especially if you’re a COM student. But fear not! This change is often for the best. Come springtime, if not as a freshman than definitely as a sophomore, you’ll be hit with the same question countless times: “What are your summer plans?” This year, with a smile and maybe just a hint of smug satisfaction, I was able to respond with something that makes the 8-year-old kid in all of us do cartwheels: I’m working for Nickelodeon.

As of last Monday, I officially started my internship with Nickelodeon Animation in beautiful Burbank, California. The program hosts roughly 30 interns on various shows and in various departments. I’m working in the post-production department with the vault librarian, and after only my first week as a Nicktern, I can tell that this will be a near life-changing experience. Nickelodeon has built a climate of genuinely passionate and friendly people who are excited about their jobs and excited to teach interns.

This really isn’t your typical internship program. Our supervisors trust us with a lot of the work and responsibility given to employees. And because of it, we’re held to very high standards. But it’s not all work – being a Nicktern certainly has its perks. Interns have the opportunity to take classes, see screenings, attend networking events, meet with some big names in the industry, and just have a lot of fun (I play ping-pong almost everyday with co-workers in the outdoor courtyard). Nickelodeon really knows how to treat its interns.

Being on the west coast still feels a bit surreal to me. Just weeks ago, I was in student services planning out my schedule so I could participate in the LA program my senior year. Now, two years early, here I am. There were certainly a few bumps in the road. Moving out to the West Coast from New York was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to coordinate (I may have spent more time on Craigslist looking for a place to stay than I did studying for finals). But, it was absolutely worth it!

The perpetual follow-up question I got about my summer plans was, “How did you get that gig?” The simple answer: I applied. Having connections is a great way to get your foot in the door, but NEVER underestimate the power of a polished cover letter and genuine passion for a position. As a BU COM student, some pretty incredible internships are well within your reach. This summer alone, I have COM friends interning at Lifetime, Sirius Radio, VH1, ABC and some other pretty cool companies. Searching for internships can be one of the most stressful tasks as a college student, but in the end, also the most rewarding. Take advantage of all the career services COM provides. And just apply! You’ll never know until you do.

So soak up the sun and enjoy your last few months pre-BU. And be prepared to make next summer count!

See you new terriers in the fall!

Sarah: Free (and legal!) Movies on Campus

Sarah ImageWe all love free stuff, and as college students, we have plenty of it available. At any given campus event, you might walk away with flip cam, a gift card or, best of all, a free t-shirt. While I welcome all free things, there is nothing quite as satisfying as a free movie. Here are a few (legal) ways to catch a free flick right here on campus.

Krasker Film Library

This place is Mugar’s hidden gem. In the basement of the library hides a secret stash of over 18,000 movies on DVD, Blu-ray and the ever-popular VHS. Krasker has every film from Citizen Kane to Superbad, and plenty in between. All of the films are catalogued and can be reserved online. You can’t take films out of the library, so head here on a rainy day when you have an afternoon to kill.

Geddes Language Center

This is the Krasker of foreign films, housed on the fifth floor of the College of Arts and Sciences building. There are thousands of films in nearly 30 different languages, including Russian, Korean, Italian, ASL, Creole and Yiddish. Language professors typically use this facility for class screenings, but individual students can also reserve films. All you need to watch a film is your BU ID. These films must also stay at the center.

Cinematheque

If anyone knows the worth of a good movie, it is BU’s Film & TV department. Each semester, several writers, directors, producers and actors visit COM as a part of the department’s Cinematheque series. Our guests typically screen a movie or TV episode and then hold a Q&A session afterwards. Sometimes we’re even lucky enough to get COM alumni who have struck some success in the business. Last month, Jennifer Getzinger was here to screen an episode of Mad Men that she directed. Pretty cool, huh?

Redstone Film Festival

Another department event, this film festival is all about student work. All COM students are invited to submit their original work, which is judged by a panel of industry professionals. Once a year, they roll out the red carpet in front of the Tsai Performance Center to screen the top films and announce the winners. It feels like a Hollywood movie premiere right on campus. The theater always sells out, so show up early!

Programming Council Events

BU’s Programming Council hosts more campus events than I can ever keep track of. From open skate to comedy shows to semi-formal dances, PC does it all. My favorite PC events, of course, are free movie screenings. They host “drive-in movie” nights throughout the semester at different locations. When the weather is nice enough, they even project movies on jumbo screens on the BU Beach or Nickerson Field. The usually show double features, like Bridesmaids and Horrible Bosses, and serve free popcorn!

And if you just love the ambiance of the traditional movie theater, check out the GSU ticket office on the second floor for discounted tickets to Regal Cinemas. Being a BU student has its perks – take advantage of some of them!