Access Theater, New York, NY
From my time interning on an ultra-low budget indie movie this summer, I have decided that I am definitely going to try to break into the movie industry as a full-time professional. Along with another Williams student, Phillip Pyle ’22, and a Williams alum, Laura Lee ’17, I worked closely with Jacqueline Christy, the founder of Access Theater and director on her first feature film, Magic Hour, in its post-production phase—this means that all principal shooting had already been finished, and editing, music and composer selection, and festival applications were all in progress.
Since Magic Hour is Jackie’s directorial debut, the first few weeks of the internship revolved around research on how to apply to film festivals and for grants, how to hire composers and editors, and what demographics to target based on comparable films. Since the movie is low budget, grants were crucial—one of my main tasks this summer was compiling information about the crew and writing applications.
There was a lot of organization that needed to be done—most of the scenes had been completed, and so we had to create a huge guide for the editors on where to find every single shot, every single take and corresponding sound file to make it easier for them to sync sound and video, and to edit the movie as a whole. This guide was our main project for the first few weeks. Once all the organization had been done, we got to work on more creative aspects of the film.
I would say the most exhilarating part of the internship was meeting with the editors after each new cut they created, and listening to the director’s opinions. I was surprised by how much of the script and movie in general is changed in editing—while I thought editing centered more on what to add, take out, or shave down by just a few milliseconds, major plot points were changed during this process! We watched different versions of the film so many times that towards the end of the eight weeks, we were practically able to quote the entire movie word for word!
At the same time that the movie was being put together by two professional editors who work on acclaimed TV shows such as Younger and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the movie was also chosen as a project to be edited by students taking classes at The Edit Center in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Some days, I had to run to Gowanus to pick up the hard drive with all of the footage on it, and so I got to meet the teachers and some students who were working on the film. It was great to see how people who had never edited before chose to tackle difficult scenes in the movie—their fresh approaches to some scenes gave us and Jackie new ideas for what to tell the actual editors to try in their own process.
For meetings with the editors and for most days of the second half of the internship, we were based out of NYU Tisch, where Jackie had just graduated from film school. Her experience at film school was actually the inspiration for Magic Hour—the plot is about a middle aged woman who goes back to film school for a second chance in life. I absolutely loved NYU Tisch, and I especially enjoyed seeing the posters on the walls for famous movies made by alums. Phillip (the other intern) and I got to sit in on many meetings with Jackie’s advisors—it was refreshing to see how willing people who had worked on acclaimed movies were to give advice and time to help with a tiny budget directorial debut. I realized film school is most helpful for the connections you make to your peers and advisors. (Spike Lee was one of Jackie’s advisors, and he said her script was “f***ing funny!”)
The last few weeks of the internship were less focused on organization and post-production work, and more on pre-production for a pick-up day of shooting scenes that were not completed during primary production dates. We also had to work on pre-production for Jackie’s next project, a short-film funded by the Sloane Foundation about one of the first female astronomers. For this and pre-production for Magic Hour pickups, we had to do more research on where to rent cameras and other equipment from, reaching out to actors and crew members, drafting budgets for the days of shooting, and location scouting.
Technically, our internship ended a few weeks before shooting, but I wanted to see what being on an actual film set was like and I was able to assist with keeping the shoot on track. I even was an extra in two scenes—I “acted” as a lacrosse player in one scene, and a crewmember for a film-inside-the-film scene. While on set, I got to “slate” a scene, meaning I got to hold a slate with a scene number in front of the camera and slam it closed when the scene started. Everyone was so supportive, giving me tips and being patient with me, as it was my first day ever on set!
Working on set gave me a huge appreciation for everyone in the film and television industries. I had no idea that it took so many takes for each shot, and what hard work it is to be a director of photography and to make everything look seamless. I also did not realize how many hours people who work in these industries put in. The production day was practically 15 hours of non-stop work, transporting and lifting equipment, wrangling cast and crew, and making sure that the shoot was staying on track. However, being on set brings you together with amazing, hardworking, artistic people.
I’m especially grateful to have had this experience and to work with so many incredibly supportive people—the editors, advisors, crewmembers, and actors could not have been friendlier. Once again, thank you so much—this was an amazing opportunity for me to start seriously working in the film industry.