The Gold Rush
In 1848, a man named James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in an area where North America meets the Pacific Ocean and the massive California Gold Rush began. The actual near-hysterical search for this precious metal lasted just over a decade during this first episode, but it firmly established the state’s American identity as the place where dreams could come true and fortunes could be made. People still travel great distances to the state for the same reasons. Most recently, the allure of Hollywood, celebrity and the entertainment industry have replaced gold as the most sought-after commodity and Los Angeles has become the modern-day Sutter’s Mill.
Paying Your Dues
Whether you’re seeking time in front of the lights or behind the scenes, internships have become the traditional means of gaining some experience in the field, making contacts and determining whether your dream truly is to be a costume designer or a cameraman or an understudy. Most internships are limited to students or recent college graduates, of a temporary nature, take place primarily during the summer months and are unpaid positions. There are multiple websites available to help you locate and apply for available positions, organized by position sought, company, region served and your degree of experience, if applicable. The earlier you begin your search and submit your applications, the better chance you have of garnering a premium position–possibly even one of the less common paid internships.
What You Need to Prepare
Among the preparations you’ll need to attend to include:
- Your U.K. passport’s validity for the entire length of your planned stay.
- Thorough review of U.S. visa requirements for the length of your stay. This information may be sought and verified at any U.S. embassy.
- Short term health insurance to pay for any medical expenses you might accrue during your stay in California.
- A professional portfolio, if available and appropriate to your planned area of employment.
- A contact person from the organization at which you’ll be working as well as their address, telephone number and email address.
- Money to pay for your transportation and living expenses while in the United States. Even if you’re lucky enough to snare a paid internship, your salary will usually be miniscule in comparison to the area’s cost of living.
There have been several lawsuits regarding some company’s treatment of unpaid interns, despite legislation–almost a century old–designed to protect such workers. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 there is a list of six criteria a company must meet to offer an internship. The most disputed among all participants are the two rules regarding benefits of the activity: “the internship must be for the benefit of the intern” and “the employer derives no immediate advantage from the intern.”
You can find more information about these cases in the websites of U.S. magazines.
Break a Leg!
Despite stiff and constant competition for jobs in the entertainment industry, take heart in the fact that a job growth of 15 percent is expected in the field by 2018 as compared to an 11 percent growth rate for all other industries combined. There aren’t any promises. You have the same chance Mr. Marshall had when he picked up the nugget of gold from among the other stones in the stream.