*This was written in February of 2018 so some elements of the below information may have changed. However, I have done my best to update it to the best of my ability.
It’s that time of year! Cover letters are being prepared, resumes updated, and summer internship applications have begun! I still remember the shock I felt the day I found out that this guy I knew from school was going to be interning for one of my idols in NYC. I too had applied for that internship, more as a joke and a big dream, but when I realized that someone I personally knew and someone getting the same education as me was going to be working for her, everything I ever thought about the theatre industry in NYC was changed. It always seemed a little out of reach, or that I would always be a little under qualified. But my now friend Matt Redmond proved me wrong. And that’s why I’ve put together this blog.
Internships are extremely helpful in launching you into the theatre industry, no matter what your skillsets. So, I’ve convinced a group of my friends, most of which are very recent college grads, to share their experiences interning in NYC. We cover everything from the application process to how much money you’ll need to survive. Hopefully we can pull back the curtain a little and show you how exciting and 100% accessible a summer internship in the theatre industry can be!
First, I’m going to break down 5 different internships that my friends completed. This is just generic information, but it’ll hopefully preface the rest by showing you what exactly being an “intern” in the theatre industry means, from the viewpoint of 5 different professions within that industry.
And then, I’ve compiled our budgeting tips and generic takeaways and advice from interning in this industry so make sure you read all the way to the end!
BREAKING IT DOWN
Generally, most internships can be found on Playbill.com/jobs and you’ll probably want to choose the “internship” category. I always suggest starting to look in the fall for summer internships so you know what types of internships will be coming up and can plan extracurriculars, spring classes, and trainings accordingly to make sure your skillsets align with the jobs that you’re going for. Applications for summer internships start coming out in January and will be listed all the way up into April. I highly suggest checking every morning or at the very least, once a week, as jobs move fast and deadlines will be coming up before you know it! After you read this blog, I highly suggest checking out the website so you get a better feel for what’s out there.
CASTING – Telsey + Company (others include Tara Rubin, Stewart/Whitely, Stephanie Klapper, Binder Casting, Michael Cassara)
Working hours were Monday-Friday 10am-6pm. Daily tasks include observing casting sessions/auditions, answering the phones, filing headshots and resumes, and sometimes even calling agents and scheduling appointments for actors.
What was the application/interview process: Cover letter/resume > Skype Interview
What qualities/skills “got you the job”: personality, professionalism
How much did you get paid: $150/month stipend
How many internships did you apply for: around 6-8
“The connections you gain are priceless, you are truly immersed into the industry, and they truly give you the insight into the life of a casting director.”
JOURNALISM/THEATRE PUBLICATIONS – Entertainment Benefits Group (others include Broadway.com, Playbill, Theatermania, BroadwayWorld, TodayTix, The Broadway Briefing)
Working hours were three to four days a week, from 9am to 5pm. The job included learning how to utilize WordPress and copyedit on strict deadlines, writing blogs and features, and formatting stories for an e-commerce website, focused on entertainment in New York.
What was the application/interview process: writing samples/resume > 2 phone interviews
What qualities/skills “got you the job”: 5 previous internships, writing-intensive major, previous interviewing and production experience
How much did you get paid: one-time stipend for entire summer
How many internships did you apply for: had already accepted another offer when this one came up
“My favorite memory comes from a huge feature my editor let me mount — I interviewed eight separate Broadway talents, a feat I had not done at 19 years of age. The biggest perks of the internship came from the access — I was able to truly dive into interviewing some pretty big names of the theater, names to whom I had looked up for years.”
STAGE MANAGEMENT – Bay Street Theater (others include Atlantic Theater, Playwrights Horizons and Second Stage)
Working hours were 60 hrs/week working on all aspects of being a production assistant/assistant stage manager.
What was the application/interview process: It was abnormal… I got the job for the first show, then the company manager offered me the rest of the shows.
What qualities/skills “got you the job”: I would say it’s what I had learned so far but also a lot about the contacts I already had.
How much did you get paid: $100 a week
How many internships did you apply for: Every summer in college I applied to probably more than 15 jobs
“Internships can be hard but also very rewarding. Get ready to work harder than you ever had before yet you’ll meet some amazing people.”
THEATRE MANAGEMENT (sort of) – 54 Below (others include Roundabout, Lincoln Center, Signature Theatre, Ambassador Group, MCC, Manhattan Theatre Club)
I worked almost every day, sometimes 11-6 or 6-10. In the evenings I worked with artists on their shows, and during the day I worked with the programming staff in planning shows, carrying out contracts, and recording various data.
What was the application/interview process: I was lucky to have a connection. It was a casual, informal interview with Jen Tepper and I was offered on the spot.
What qualities/skills “got you the job”: My versatility in the business, my people skills, and my passion for the industry.
How much did you get paid: $100/week stipend
How many internships did you apply for: I didn’t apply for anything else.
“Do it. Just do it. Intern. Be the bottom of the totem pole. Take in everything. Take notes. Watch everything. Be curious and open. Remind yourself you don’t know everything.”
DIGITAL MARKETING – Marathon Digital (others include AKA, SpotCo, RPM, Serino Coyne, Situation)
I was in the office three days a week for about six hours each day. Beyond daily tasks like checking Google Alerts, my job included copywriting for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and well as helping with opening nights.
What was the application/interview process: cover letter the length of 2 tweets > in-person interview
What qualities/skills “got you the job”: it was a combination of passion, in-depth knowledge of theatre, and a high recommendation
How much did you get paid: unpaid, able to receive college credit
How many internships did you apply for: probably 15-20
“One of the most interesting tasks for me was going through show scripts and b-roll to find potential material to use. It was just so interesting and creatively fulfilling to find gif-worthy footage or a quote to use as a show’s hashtag.”
Okay so now that we’ve introduced you to a few types of internships in NYC and what they entail, let’s talk about the toughest part: budgeting.
I personally spent 3 months in a completely unpaid internship and budgeted $2,000/month including rent, which was definitely more than I needed to survive, but I agreed on the number with my parents and worked to pay them back little by little. I also ended up getting a part time job selling merchandise at night 4-5 times a week after my 10-6 internship. I made the sacrifice so I could spend the other 2-3 nights a week doing fun things and seeing shows. I know that everyone’s budget and resources can be vastly different, so here are a few opinions from my fellow intern friends on how their budgeting went during their internships.
“For the entire summer, I had a budget of about $3,000 — it was an incredibly tight summer. Almost all of my funds went to my living arrangements. I never ate out, and I really learned how to cook for the first time! That summer taught me the importance of saving often and remaining mindful of even the smallest expenses. (AKA — make your own cup of coffee each morning!)
I would highly suggest saving some money two – three months’ prior you embark on the internship journey. My budget per week was around $250.00 – this fluctuated because sometimes I would spend more and sometimes less. (NYC is quite expensive.)
“Don’t be afraid to eat ramen and dollar pizza a lot… no joke. Just walk it off. Also don’t stress, things work themselves out. Make sure an internship that doesn’t pay well at least leaves you time for a part time job.”
“My budget was very sad and living in the Hamptons was hard with no money… But eating at home and not drinking out would be my biggest suggestions.”
A few facts to keep in mind:
- For a sublet in Manhattan, expect to pay at least $850-$1000/mo plus utilities
- A monthly unlimited MetroCard is $127 (about $4/day)
- Minimum wage in NYC is $15.00/hr
- You really can get a large slice of pizza for $1
WORDS OF WISDOM
Because we all need them.
-Internships can be hard but also very rewarding. Get ready to work harder than you ever had before yet you’ll meet some amazing people.
–Don’t stop applying!! A lot of jobs won’t get back to you… But don’t lose your spirit, keep finding places to apply to and eventually you’ll find something.
-Be kind to everyone. You never know what opportunities can rise from people knowing and trusting you and your work ethic.
-Once you send in that application or walk away from that interview, just let it go. Don’t worry about what the result will be, and know your worth no matter what happens.
-If you don’t get that internship, use the time to help yourself grow as a person both professionally and personally. Learn a new video editing software; start a blog about a passion; learn as much as you can about the industry you want to work in; expose yourself to as much art as you can. It will help fill up your tool belt of skills, have a creative outlet, and could even help with your resume and portfolio for the next time you’re applying.
–Begin your work now before pursuing an internship. Don’t wait until senior year.
-The world is your oyster. Take advantage of every opportunity out there.
-Trust the process. Don’t freak out if you don’t get your dream internship or even any internship at all. Everything works out the way it’s supposed to.
–Life in New York is hard. The entertainment industry is hard. But if you are willing to fight through the ups and downs, the stresses and the successes, you will find your way.
JUST DO IT
Interning was one of the best things that ever happened to me. And if any of you reading this are even remotely interested in an internship in NYC, the least you can do is look at the application. I can’t guarantee that you’ll get the job, but I can guarantee you’ll come out with a little more knowledge and a little clearer idea about the industry you want to be a part of and the footprint that you want to make. I applied to 20-25 internships and heard back from a total of three. 1-2-3. Of those 25, I had three dream internships and didn’t hear back from a single one of them. I didn’t know during the application process that the internship I got would lead me on the path that it has. Heck, my mom was convinced my internship with Marathon was going to be me simply hitting “retweet” of “favorite” on twitter 9-5 Monday-Friday. You truly never know the opportunities you’re going to get. And the ones you don’t get are a little extra time to prepare yourself for the opportunities you really want.
My biggest personal advice when you start this process is to trust yourself. You have more valuable skillsets than you probably think you do, but at the same time, your skills on paper will never be as valuable to a company as your personality and overall work ethic. Don’t be afraid to apply for things you really want, but may only be 90% qualified for. The worst that’s going to happen is they say no, and you know exactly what 10% to work on to apply again later. And you have to know that you are never too young to be an intern. Some of our company’s best interns had just finished their sophomore year of college and still come back to help up from time to time because they were so awesome at what they did and absorbed so much in their short time here.
I hope all of this craziness was helpful in some small way and if you have ANY questions about interning, living in NYC, or any of the specific branches of the industry mentioned in here, please contact me and we’ll chat. If you’re committed enough to read this all the way to the end, you’re already taking a big step in starting your intern journey. And this industry needs more people like you.
See you soon in the Big (hopefully not as scary now) Apple!