Caroline: My Internship at CONAN in Los Angeles

IMG_8092I write this post as I sit in the control room at CONAN on my last day. I leave LA on Saturday and while my time here has been a bit of a roller coaster, I’m so glad I decided to spend my final semester of college out here in California. After three and a half amazing years in Boston at BU, I felt it was time to begin my transition from college to my career. The BU Los Angeles program is designed exactly for that. We intern during the day and have class three days a week in the evening. But these aren’t your typical classes—we have mostly speakers to teach us about the industry. There isn’t really homework, there aren’t any tests. This is an industry immersion.

And immersed I was. I am the control room intern at CONAN. What that means in a nut shell is I get to sit in the control room of a late night talk show all day. It is seriously the dream. I want to work in a talk show control room one day and it doesn’t get much better than interning for the late night veteran—25 years on the air—Conan O’Brien. I perform normal intern tasks like stocking food and distributing paperwork, but I also get to time the music performances in rehearsal and work with the director and associate director. Through observation I’ve been able to learn a lot. BU prepared me to understand what I was seeing in the control room, but I learned the intricacies of a live daily production that are hard to learn in the classroom.
I would be hard-pressed to find a nicer group of people to work with. So many of them moved out here from NYC together when Conan got The Tonight Show. And they were all in it together when Conan lost the The Tonight Show. Speaking of—I decided to read Bill Carter’s The War for Late Night about the 2010 Tonight Show conflict and I was able to talk to people written about in the book to get their take on what happened. Not many people can say they’ve had the chance to ask questions directly to people they are learning about. Just another example of the incredible learning opportunities the BULA program offers students.
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Not only was I working on a late night talk show, I also got to swipe in every day at Warner Brothers Studios. There is so much history here on the lot. I was lucky enough to have some free time to explore. I walked around Rosewood from Pretty Little Liars, or Stars Hollow of Gilmore Girls if you prefer (though the gazebo was gone). I biked past stages filming Ellen, Mom, The Big Bang Theory, Lethal Weapon, and so much more. I ate lunch on the streets of New York then walked through the streets of Paris. I even got to see some BU grads currently working on shows on the lot. And yes—I’ve talked to Conan and seen a bunch of celebrities.
IMG_8097While I am excited to head back to the East Coast, I am certainly sad to leave CONAN. I’ve made great friends with some of the interns here and I’m sure we’ll be working together again soon. And my departure marks the end of my college education. In a few weeks I’ll be walking at graduation and bidding adieu to the place I’ve called home for four years. My fellow seniors have all said their goodbyes so well. Instead, I’ll just say thank you to the institution that has offered me so much love the past four years. 

Casey: Sound is the Most Underrated Tool for Filmmakers

Ok, before you go on with the rest of this article I need you to stop what you’re doing for a few seconds and just listen to whats going on around you. Don’t think. Just listen. I’ll wait.

Alright cool now that those of you who actually cared enough to stop reading are back, let’s get to it. No matter where you are right now, the sound is one of the main things that sets the mood and feeling. Whether that be the low murmur of the COM Lounge or the loud thinking of angry Boston drivers as you read this on your phone walking down Comm Ave. Sound creates the world around you more than you notice day-to-day. And that’s why I think it is the most underrated tool when it comes to storytelling- in particular in filmmaking.

At this year’s Oscars, Dunkirk took home both the Sound Design and Sound Editing awards (yes, I was the only person I know who cared about those two awards) and is a perfect example to drive home my point. The movie begins with a small group of soldiers moves along a street. Throughout the beginning of this scene, there is an eerie silence. So much that you can hear the sound of the soldiers’ equipment ruffling and footsteps on the cobblestone paths, in addition to the fluttering of German leaflets, demanding surrender, to the ground. It creates a sense of calm and peace for the viewer, making them believe that the town the soldiers are in is abandoned, but that is shattered in a heartbeat with the quick but deafening sound of gunshots. Suddenly the previously steady music I noted scene has become louder and quicker, and the soldiers are running. 

Although there is a multitude of gunshots heard, very few bullets are seen. But they don’t need to be. The audience knows what that deafening sound is, and more importantly, what it means.

ImageNow you may think I’m thinking way too into this, but think about if Christopher Nolan had decided to do something different. What if the music had been ramped up from the beginning, creating tension from the very start. Then, change the gunshots a bit so that they are a little softer, and a little more spread out. Suddenly, they sound farther away, almost like warning shots, as opposed to an attempt on the soldiers’ lives. This gives a slightly different motivation as to why the soldiers are running, as now instead of the thought that they could die any second running through their head, they now simply believe that they should get out of the town as quickly as possible before they’re found. In addition, now the audience has less of a sense of tension and dread, and more one of thrill, feeling almost anxious about whether the soldiers will make it out of the town, on the edge of their seats.

That is the power of sound. It gives life to the things you see and creates the world around them. It changes the way you feel and experience a moment, whether you know it or not. So don’t just watch movies. Listen to them, too.

 

Tyler A: UK v. US Television: What’s the difference?

Before I landed at London Heathrow Airport this January (yes, I am abroad, but I didn’t want to give you the standard “I am abroad!” post), I thought that at any time I could just plop down and turn on NBC. But nope! I was silly! Maybe I’m not like everyone else, but I really had no idea what television was like in the UK. Since this is a blog for my fellow COM nerds, though, I thought it could be useful to give a broad overview of our differences:

  1. In the UK, public service broadcasting is king (or queen): In the late 1920s when the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) received a Royal Charter, one of the agreements was for radio – and later television –  to serve as a public resource, and by extension, became a government agency overseen by Parliament. Users had to pay an annual licence fee to listen, which also funded the organization. The belief was that it would prevent the creation of low-brow programming and instead result in higher-quality to inform, educate, and entertain the masses. BBC ran as a pseudo-monopoly in the UK for decades and arguably still does today. Back in the US, broadcast TV is set up commercially with revenue mainly coming from advertising (though the revenue streams have since slightly evolved in both the UK and US). Regardless, the US took on a much more “free market” idea of television.

  2. The major players in the US versus the UK: What do you think of as the big US TV companies? At least when it comes to broadcast, most people would say NBCUniversal, ABC/Disney, CBS Corp, and Fox. As American media seems to dominate globally, the content produced by these conglomerates still make their way into UK TV in one way or another, but the big players are different here. For years it was only the BBC and for a new channel to be made, an act of Parliament needed to call for it. That’s how in the 1950s Independent Television (ITV) came along as BBC’s largest competitor. Later in the the 80s and 90s, Channel 4 and Channel 5 (now Five) came along. All channels besides the BBC are funded by adverts, and these are the big UK players.

  3. Technological Development: How does your TV work at home? Do you use Cable? Satellite? Or maybe you’re a cord-cutter (or cord-never) who’s only used internet? The options in the US for TV providers feels endless (although it really isn’t, but that’s another story); however, the UK runs quite differently. Cable doesn’t dominate, but people still mainly use aerials (or over-the-air) to receive channels. In the 2000s, “Freeview” arrived and gave all UK TV-users scores of channels for free (or, with your licence fee). Satellite is somewhat common and usually comes from the provider Sky (owned by Fox, which may now be owned by Disney? What’s up, conglomeration! How you doin’?), which opens you up to more options for a larger fee.

  4. The market and the regulations are quite different. What’s the worst thing you could think of happening on air for a US broadcast TV show? Great. That’s no problem here after 9 pm because of a rule called “watershed” where they expect younger audiences have gone to bed. It really threw me through a loop, but it’s definitely nice when they can create such edgy content for widely-watched channels (like my production company’s new show, Kiss Me First, on Channel 4 – catch it on US Netflix soon!). Ratings systems are different, and the markets are different. Of course it would be when you’re in a country of ~65 million compared to ~330 million people.

  5. Don’t fret! US TV is still here: I panicked when I realized that I couldn’t finish off my faves The Good Place or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend when I came here. But don’t be afraid. A lot of US content creators strike deals for a second window in the UK. Both of the above shows aired their new episodes weekly on Netflix, as do many other shows. You may even catch some on BBC or Channel 4. I’ve been watching The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story on BBC2 right with you. Okay, I’m behind. But I’m watching it, and I’m alive!

And there we have it, folks. It’s not a deeply comprehensive piece, but it’s something to start you off. And now, if you ever come to London on study abroad, you can impress your professor with all of this knowledge! You’re very welcome.

 

Alex T: 10 80s Flicks You Need to See Before “Ready Player One”

Let’s face it: it’s pretty hard to find people who love pop culture more than COM students. So, no matter how much it pains you to admit it, you’re probably going to end up seeing Ready Player One in a few weeks. And whether you’re just there to hang out with friends, or you’re the kind of person who openly weeps by the end of the film (my deepest apologies to everyone in the theatre with me last Saturday), you’re gonna want to brush up on the films your parents always made you try to watch as a kid.

 

1. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)

downloadOkay, even if you’re not trying to catch Spielberg’s latest blockbuster this weekend, Back to the Future is still a must if you want to maintain any semblance of geek street cred you think you possess. Marty McFly is a classic 80s protagonist who always seems to be running out of time…until he goes back in time and is tasked with ensuring his parents fall in love so he can continue to exist. This story coupled with killer score and design (his name is Marty McFly…of course he’s going to rock the freshest outfit known to man) makes for a film that defined a whole generation of nerds.

2. The Breakfast Club (John Hughes, 1985)

download-1For a little change of pace, (or if sci-fi, retro awesomeness isn’t really your jam) The Breakfast Club is another classic not to be missed. Five strangers, all stuck in Saturday detention, form an unbreakable bond by the end of the day. We’ve all heard the tagline: “They only met once, but it changed their lives forever.” Not only did it change their lives, it changed the lives of young audiences across the country. If you didn’t fall in love with the brain, the beauty, the jock, the rebel, or the recluse, I have to question whether or not you even have a heart in the first place.

3. Evil Dead II (Sam Raimi, 1987)

download (1)This might seem like a strange choice to those who have never even seen the original Evil Dead, but you’ve just gotta trust me on this one. While it does rely on a lot of plot points and characters laid out in its predecessor, Evil Dead II is in a class of horror all its own. Ash and the gang are back at it again, slaying zombies and fighting curses in the same, gory style that’s a hallmark of all of Raimi’s films. However, where Evil Dead II stands apart is in a very unexpected place: its comedy. Most horror films do have the one off, snarky jokes made by the protagonist to keep the momentum up, but Evil Dead II makes fun of the form itself; Raimi admits that his story is ridiculous, and takes it a step further by acknowledging that fact in the film. It’s a parody and a love letter to the slasher horror genre, and a love letter we can still learn lessons from today.

4. Say Anything (Cameron Crowe, 1989)

download (2)We’ve all been there: a bright eyed, bushy tailed high school student, hopelessly in love with someone who won’t even give us the time of day.

…well, maybe that’s only me, BUT, this film still holds up, even if that isn’t your truth. John Cusack plays Lloyd, an unassuming recent high school grad who lands (and eventually loses) Diane, the girl of his dreams, played by Ione Skye. Written and directed with aplomb by Cameron Crowe, it’s hard not to fall in love everytime Cusack holds that boombox over his head. Because, at its core, Say Anything is about risking everything for someone or something we love; now, that’s a story that we can all relate to.

5. Tron (Steven Lisberger, 1982)

download (3)We’ve all been there: a bright eyed, bushy tailed high school student, hopelessly in love with someone who won’t even give us the time of day.

…well, maybe that’s only me, BUT, this film still holds up, even if that isn’t your truth. John Cusack plays Lloyd, an unassuming recent high school grad who lands (and eventually loses) Diane, the girl of his dreams, played by Ione Skye. Written and directed with aplomb by Cameron Crowe, it’s hard not to fall in love everytime Cusack holds that boombox over his head. Because, at its core, Say Anything is about risking everything for someone or something we love; now, that’s a story that we can all relate to.

6. Star Wars, Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (George Lucas, 1980)

download (2)Though it’s technically just on the cusp of the 80s, I would be remiss if I didn’t include what is, objectively, the best Star Wars film in the franchise (I will actually fight anyone who disagrees). The George Lucas train was just picking up steam with the release of A New Hope in 1977, but he really hit his stride with The Empire Strikes Back. It marks a deeper dive into the extensive universe he created, and a more meditative look at the characters we all grew to love in the previous film. George Lucas set the precedent for transmedia franchises with Star Wars, and it’s easy to see that Episode V was the beginning of his reign over late 20th century pop culture. Also, Lando Calrissian. Need I say more?

7. Top Gun (Tony Scott, 1986)

download (6)Looking at films today, it tends to become a little difficult to see why, as a whole, we’re so obsessed with Tom Cruise. However, after taking a look at his breakout success in the 80s, we’re reminded of what he used to be and what he represented in a time when actors weren’t just pigeonholed into one type of character. That being said, he really did make a damn good action star, and there’s no better example of that than his performance in Top Gun supported by an incredible cast (Val Kilmer ftw) and a truly radical soundtrack (also Kenny Loggins ftw), Cruise led this movie to mainstream success and a lasting place in our hearts.

8. Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988)

download (7)I’m just going to come out and say it: Die Hard is the best Christmas movie of all time. I know it’s not a popular opinion, but I’m okay with that. Facts have rarely been popular opinions. The story is about an off duty cop, played by Bruce Willis, fighting a gang of terrorists that take over a CHRISTMAS EVE party he’s attending. What defines a Christmas movie if not time of year? In all seriousness, though, Die Hard is a masterclass in storytelling both visually and verbally. Even though it’s obviously not the Citizen Kane of 80s cinema, it is an all around good time for any occasion, but especially Christmas. Oh,and the definitive list of best Christmas films is:

1. Die Hard

2. Step Brothers

3. Gremlins

9. The Karate Kid (John G. Avildsen, 1984)

43266c1fe9eb27ef7c08fff88d5420e9Oh man, it looks like we’ve reached peak coolness. The Karate Kid is the template for any quality movie you can remember from the 80s: a lonely underdog (Ralph Macchio) learns karate from his elderly neighbor (Pat Morita) to beat the high school bully (William Zabka) and win the heart of the girl of his dreams (Elizabeth Shue). Throw in sharp dialogue, nuanced performances, and the best featured song in movie history (You’re the best…AROUND!!!), and you’ve got the classic that we all know and love today.

10. Goonies (Richard Donner, 1985)

download (8)I’m bringing it all full circle with our last film on the list. Based on a story by Steven Spielberg, Goonies tells the story of a group of friends trying to find a hidden treasure so they can keep their houses from being destroyed to make room for an incoming country club. This movie holds a special place in my heart; it’s one of the few that I truly loved as a child. I remember watching it over and over for hours on end (and my parents were surprised that I’m a film major…), and that’s why I think we still love it now. It reminds us of what it was like to grow up. In reality, the Goonies are trying to save their innocence from being lost by losing the only group of friends they’ve ever had to a country club, the EPITOME of adult-ness!!! They’re just a group of outcasts and misfits (not unlike the group of outcasts and misfits most of us were a part of growing up) simply trying to spend what could be their last few hours together going on an adventure. And if that doesn’t break your heart, I don’t know what will.

Kate W: Why I Love, Love, Love Off-Campus Internships or Extracurriculars

This semester, I have had the incredible opportunity of interning with the TV and Video department at America’s Test Kitchen for two days out of my week. Going into it, I knew it would be an great experience to learn all about things related to film and television, but I didn’t realize how much it would impact my semester as whole.
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Having lived on campus the last two years where I am a mere ten minute walk from anything I could possibly need, I often find myself sticking to the BU Bubble. It’s so easy because BU is where I am most comfortable and it has everything: food, housing, classes, and extracurriculars. So, when I realized that I would have to commute 45 minutes to the seaport for a job, it seemed a little daunting. For two days a week, I would be part of the real world, and that scared me a little bit.

 

However, this opportunity has not only pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but has also provided a really amazing escape from the stress and workload that is school. While I am off campus at my internship, I don’t have to worry about my essay due on Friday or the exam that I have next week. These things don’t matter here because I am solely focused on the work that I am doing for my internship. Strangely, there is some relaxation in the fact that I can’t work on my homework during these hours, and that I am forced to let it all just leave my brain.

 

In addition, there is no fear or worries over social stress. I don’t have to worry about who I am eating lunch with that day or if I should be doing my homework instead of hanging out with my friends. While I am at my internship, I am present and there is no where else that I should be. On the T, in particular, I can listen to my music and take some me-time without feeling guilty There is nowhere else I am supposed to be. I know that I am using my time well and I never feel like I’m missing out on anything back on campus.

 

Finally, by being around a non-BU affiliated company, I am able to see how the real world works and what working at an entirely new place is like. I’ve learned what it feels like to be handed an important task and trusted to take care of it. There is a sense that what I am doing now has an impact on a working company as opposed to just my grade. What I am doing has some weight, and there is motivation and pressure to appeal to the real world guidelines.

 

This change of pace is such a great experience and adds so much to my semester. I finally feel like I am taking better advantage of all that Boston and BU have to offer. I highly recommend finding an activity completely off campus, especially after your Freshman year when you’re starting to become a much more comfortable with Boston. It’s a really great way to shake things up a bit.

Alex: 7 Movies You Have To See (Or At Least Pretend to Have Seen) If You’re a Film and Television Major

I know what most of you are thinking, “What? Alex Tuchi, of all people, writing an incredibly niche blog post?” Well, set your ridicule and derision aside for the moment and realize what I’m trying to do here: save you! You know what they say: jobs in communication are always won and lost based on who you know. But to know people, you need to talk to them. And before you enter the harrowing world of small talk with Film and Television majors (dun dun dun), you’re going to need to be equipped with these seven films just to keep you from looking like the sweet, simple fool you’re pretending not to be (don’t worry; 90% of Film and Television majors haven’t seen these either).

1. 8 1/2 (Federico Fellini)

8 1:2Everyone has heard of this semi-autobiographical masterclass in storytelling and cinematography by Italian director Federico Fellini. But has anyone ever really seen it? Doubtful. When talking about it, though, you can be sure to bring up a few key plot points to trick your friends into thinking you have. Just talk about the steam bath, Guido’s love triangle, and that weird sequence where he meets a prostitute when he’s eight years old. Don’t worry if it doesn’t make a lot of sense either; you’re much more likely to see Marcello Mastroianni’s ugly mug (with a jawline that could cut glass) on your roommate’s poster than in the actual film. The beauty of 8 1/2 is the universal fact that no one has seen it, which means no one really wants to talk about it. So as long as you practice your “Oh yeah, I’ve totally seen that one,” nod, you should be good to go!

2. E.T. (Steven Spielberg)

ETWe all know the broad strokes of this Spielberg classic: an alien crash lands in this kid’s hometown and, for some reason, it’s this literal child’s job to help an extraterrestrial being to return home, possibly altering the future of humanity in irreversible ways. Also his bike flies? Anyway, the Big Thing™ to remember when discussing this movie is that you can never say it’s bad. No matter how hamfisted that acting is, how hackneyed the writing is, no matter how insanely bad the CGI is in the 2002 re-release, it is a masterpiece for it’s time. It is a genre defining, convention breaking powerhouse that should be treated with nothing but the utmost respect. And if you disagree…be sure to keep that to yourself. Hell hath no fury like a scorned Spielberg nerd.

3. Thunder Road (Jim Cummings)

Thunder RoadThere’s really no reason to have skipped this one. It’s a short film that won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2016. Following a snapshot in the life of a small town police officer after his mother passed away, Thunder Road is the kind of film that gives us all hope. After debuting it at Sundance, filmmaker Jim Cumming was given $150,000 to keep making short films in the same style. What Film and Television major isn’t searching for a deal that sweet?!? Its success story isn’t the only reason to watch it though. It paints a nuanced portrait of a broken man and toes the line between tragedy and comedy perfectly. It is, at its core, a reflection of the human existence. And that’s the whole reason we fell in love with movies, right?

4. Tangerine (Sean Baker)

TangerineEspecially after the recent success of critical darling The Florida Project (talk about an Oscar snub, @WillemDafoe), Sean Baker has been en route to become one of those filmmakers that comes once a generation. So it only makes sense that we pay homage to his 2015 breakout film, Tangerine. Other than a stellar script, outstandingly diverse cast in terms of racial and gender identity, and brilliant performances from a host of talented actors, it also holds the distinction of being the first mainstream film to make it into the box office while being shot on an iPhone. It looks like we’re living in the future, kiddos, and the future is a place where the next blockbuster could be shot all on the little camera in your pocket. Baker deserves a round of applause for showing us that it can be done.

5. Brick (Rian Johnson)

BrickA trend that we Film and Television majors love to brag about is the fact that more and more “arthouse” filmmakers are being signed on to make big budget flicks with some of the biggest studios in Hollywood. The biggest example of this occurrence in recent memory is Rian Johnson hopping on the Star Wars train to write and direct Episode VIII. While it’s easy to think that Johnson is a filmmaking prodigy, handpicked from obscurity by JJ Abrams himself, we can’t let ourselves forget that, not that long ago, he was just a kid with a camera (like most of us). This is best seen with his first feature, Brick. Made on a shoestring budget, Johnson directed breakout stars like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in his neo-noir film set at his old high school. Even if the genre isn’t your jam, it’s still worth a watch simply for its aesthetic beauty; every frame is a glorious, indie painting.

6. The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desiree Akhavan)

Cameron PostI’m calling it early; this film is the John Hughes, coming of age story that’s going to speak for all of those geeky film kids growing up in the 2010s. Adapted for screen by Desiree Akhavan (a gifted actor in her own right), The Miseducation of Cameron Post tells the story of a young girl being sent to a gay conversion camp at the suggestion of her aunt. While we may have been placated by the bland, albeit charming, adventures of a few teens just trying to make it through Saturday detention, we need to address the problems of sexuality and racial identity in this day and age. And while you might have to wait a hot minute for wide distribution, do yourself a favor and catch this one; I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.


7. This is John (Jay and Mark Duplass)

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The Duplass brothers


The only suitable way to end this list is with a Duplass Brothers film. Built on the brand of distinct characters placed in perilous situations, Mark and Jay Duplass have been a household name of indie startup filmmaking since their first foray into the medium with This is John. The entire film is literally a man trying to record a new outgoing voicemail message (sorry, spoilers). The equipment is shoddy, the premise is narrow; everything in us as filmmakers tells us that it shouldn’t work. And yet, miraculously, it does. This is one film I believe to be almost perfect. It fills me with a creative spirit I only get when watching films I love, and it reminds me that I don’t need millions of dollars to make something that touches people. It reminds me that if I’m not out every weekend, shooting, writing, editing, that time is time wasted. Because every filmmaker on this list came from humble beginnings. Every single one was just a kid in the movie theater at one point in time, seeing their lives played out on screen in front of them, thinking, “Hey, someone gets me.” Films aren’t made by beautiful cinematography, or genius scripts, or breathtaking performances. They’re made by the little imperfections we, as humans, all share. This film, as all films should, remind me that I’m not perfect, but that’s okay. Because no one else is either.