Wyatt Lewis ’13 – So, this summer I was lucky enough to secure an internship through Wabash College with the Indy Film Fest, and I think it’s been the best work experience I’ve ever had. But let me tell you: it started off with a bang! I spent my first few days working our booth at the Broad Ripple Art Fair — the philosophy was that if I had to talk about the festival to a horde of strangers, I’d certainly be up to speed on festival logistics by the end of the weekend. And it certainly worked! By the end of the weekend, I began to feel like part of the team. On Wednesday, I worked the ticket booth at the IMA for the Indy Film Fest screening of INDIE GAME, a fantastic documentary about independent game developers. Afterwards, the audience had an opportunity for a Q&A session with the directors via Skype. On Thursday, I helped set up the Earth House for the film fest screening of the Bellflower, the final film in the Spring Film Series. And on Friday, I helped out with the “Nooner,” a free, once-a-month lunch-time screening of a handful of shorts.
So while my first week at the film fest was a supercharged introduction and crash course, the rest of the internship was much different. I quickly discovered that the above-mentioned events were more or less the last scheduled events (except for our Sneak Peek and another Nooner event) before the festival. The next month and a half would be spent doing nothing but racing against the clock to acquire sponsorships, partnerships, consent forms, films, and more. The pace quickened considerably, but the hectic nature of the work gave me a lot more autonomy than I expected. As my boss Lisa Trifone, the Festival Managing Director, pointed out, we had to work whenever there was work to be done. This often meant finishing up early on a Thursday or Friday only to spend all day Saturday and half of Sunday at the Film Fest office after receiving lots of mail.
But, as I mentioned earlier, I ended up with a great deal of autonomy, and this is what made the internship fantastic. Lisa gave me several projects to manage, and I was often able to set my own hours, so long as I filled a 40-hour week and completed the work that needed to be done. But the best part about being given projects was the chance to really take ownership of the jobs given to me. These projects included compiling a list of organizations and emailing them to invite them to the fest, emailing several organizations for sponsorships, asking for donations and using them to build VIP swag bags for the filmmakers, helping build the Festival Genius website, contacting filmmakers for film information, working with Lodge Design (our marketing company) to get them appropriate hi-res stills from filmmakers, and monitoring DVD traffic to make sure that all of the festival jury members, bloggers, and film critics from NUVO, the Indianapolis Star, and the Indianapolis Business Journal received all the films they needed on time. I found myself simultaneously thrilled and intimidated by having so much to juggle and continually forced to find my own answers to problems. There was no rule-book for the internships, and when I asked my boss questions, she often replied with a sincere, “I don’t know—what do you think?”
So while it ended up being surprisingly exhausting work, the internship was also incredibly rewarding. Even though we spent a lot of really late nights at the Earth House office frantically trying to catch up with the growing pile of work, I always left the office in the evening feeling proud to be working with such a great group of people on a worthwhile project. I will actually be missing the festival proper—I knew this would be the case when I first signed up for the internship because of prior work obligations in NJ, but at the time I didn’t mind too much. However, now that I’ve invested so much personal time and effort (and seen some of the films!), I’m incredibly disappointed to be missing the festival. But as I told my boss, working with the Film Festival has definitely whetted my thirst, and I plan to be back around in Indy for the Fall Film Series!
So I think that in the end the internship really gave me a chance to contribute in a meaningful way—no pushing papers or pulling staples this summer (which I literally did last summer—ask me about it sometime). On top of that, I feel plugged into Indy in a way that I’ve never felt before—I never realized how small the arts community is—or how quickly it’s growing! Since our office is located in the Earth House, I continually ran into people from First Friday, Big Car, PUP, NUVO, and other arts organizations. It was fantastic to see how tight-knit the arts community is and discover just how much is going on in Indy. In fact, I didn’t even know there was an Indy Film Fest before the internship (and no, it’s a different film fest than the Heartland film fest), so I’m really thankful just for the opportunity to get involved with Indy on a deeper level and really engage with the community at large.
Last, I want to thank both my boss Lisa Trifone at the film fest, and also give a huge thanks to the Lilly Business Internship fund for making this whole summer possible. As a rising senior unsure about his future, I’m seriously considering nonprofit work for the first time in my life—so thank you to everyone who helped open up new opportunities for me.
Actually, one last, last thing: if you do love movies, you should think about coming out to the Film Festival! The festival runs July 19-29 at the IMA and the Earth House, and we’ll be showing over 100 independent films. Each film will screen twice—so you should be able to find a screening you can attend for any film that interests you. Go to here and click on films for more information—you can find trailers, photos, special events, scheduled discussions with filmmakers, and all the logistical information you need there. And stay posted on about the Indy Film Fest throughout the year to find information about all of our other yearly programming.