Top film students gain brand storytelling experience with internships at Intel Production Corps.
Many students graduate from film school with a pocketful of student loans wondering, “What do I do now?”
Meriam Braanaas, a 26-year-old Norwegian national who received a master’s degree in film production at the University of Southern California’s (USC) School of Cinematic Arts, wondered the same. But then she heard about an opportunity that would give her the valuable commercial experience she didn’t get in film school.
“Everyone tells you it’s time to look for a job,” she said. Instead, she applied as a cinematographer at the Intel Production Corps (IPC).
IPC is a three- to six-month internship program designed to give top film school students experience at Intel Global Production Labs (IGPL), the production wing of Intel’s internal advertising agency, called Agency Inside.
Yogiraj “Yogi” Graham, director of production for IGPL, created the IPC as a way to connect with the youthful, tech-savvy audience the company wants to better engage.
“If we’re going to be relevant to millennials, and target them as people that we want to speak to in a meaningful way,” he said, “we realized we needed to bring them into the pipeline of our own creation.”
Getting into the program can by competitive, with hundreds of applicants vying for just a few coveted positions each term. To apply, the students need to submit a reel of their best work, get faculty recommendations and write a haiku about their favorite movie.
“The haiku, even if it’s not a perfect haiku, shows attention and creativity,” said Graham. “It tells us a lot about them.” If students don’t submit the haiku, they won’t be considered for the program, he said.
Getting to Work
“The minute I came there, I felt much more part of an advertising agency than a corporation,” Braanaas said. “It was incredible to be able to create content with a budget you never see in film school.”
She said she was surprised by the breadth of talent working at Intel, including veterans of the film and television industries who could act as mentors and share real-world advice.
Braanaas and the other interns went to weekly production meetings and were expected to contribute to the team.
“I never felt like an ‘intern,’” she said. “I felt like I was hired to do a job that I had been chosen to do. I really wanted to put my best work forward, and it was expected of me to do my best work,” she said.
A faded star, Vanity floating in the water, And action!
—Meriam Braanaas, inspired by Sunset Boulevard
Braanaas wrote and directed the story of Darryl Adams, a long-time Intel employee who has a degenerative disease that’s causing vision loss. Adams is working with colleagues to create a haptic feedback vest using Intel’s RealSense 3D depth-sensing camera technology. The vest translates the camera’s vision into feeling by vibrating when Adams walks near an object.
“We really wanted to land an idea that we were all excited about,” Braanaas said. “We got in touch with Darryl, and I ended up writing and directing that piece.”
As an athlete and long-time cyclist, Adams has been forced to get creative about keeping in shape. His garage, a personal sports haven complete with an indoor bike trainer, is featured in the video.
“It was important for me as a director to make that room special, a way to honor his being an athlete,” Braanaas said.
Several teammates also worked on the project (listed below) and Braanaas said working in a diverse team – from different countries, backgrounds and schools – pushed the levels of collaboration and creativity.
“Everyone contributed their best work to tell this really meaningful story,” she said.
Reid Davenport also worked on the project, which had special meaning to him because he knows what it’s like to live and work in the world while being physically challenged.
Davenport has cerebral palsy, and focuses his lens on telling stories about people with disabilities. He was in his last quarter in the Stanford University documentary film program when he got into the IPC program.
“Filmmaking is very physical,” Davenport said. He suggested that rather than trying to hide their challenges, young filmmakers can take advantage of them.
Armed glares from their roofs, The police swarmed in with force, Moral strife ensued.
—Reid Davenport, inspired by Let the Fire Burn
Named a TED Fellow, Davenport recently gave a TED Talk in Vancouver, where he spoke about how filmmaking allowed him to show his unique perspective. For example, when he attaches a camera to his wheelchair, he gives the audience a unique view they may have never experienced.
He said IPC gave him yet another set of tools, providing commercial experience he hadn’t gained at Stanford.
“Documentary and commercial work share a lot of the same attributes,” said Reid. “So it felt very complementary.”
To recruit students for the program, Graham and Katherine St Lawrence, operations lead for IGPL, visit top film and communications schools in the U.S., including USC, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), New York University (NYU), Boston University and Stanford. To qualify for the program, students need to be at the top of their classes.
“Students come in one of five disciplines: producer, editor, sound designer, motion designer or cinematographer,” said St Lawrence. “They need to have a base level of skill. But they’re here absolutely to develop those skills and to learn from professionals in those fields.”
She said the interns — four to six per term — are given full room and board plus a stipend, but they must be able to handle the rigors of working in their chosen professions. In other words, they need to rise to job, not simply go through the motions of an internship.
“That level of respect kind of grounds them, and gives them ownership and self-direction,” she said. “But they have to go and figure out how to execute.”
To make sure the programs have students year-round beyond the U.S. academic calendar, St Lawrence said they began accepting international students from the U.K. and Australia.
The interns work on a range of projects – from the videos they create as a team to high-profile productions. “They work on any and every project coming through our group,” said St Lawrence, adding that the teams are encouraged to go out and find good stories.
The first group of interns created a video about a family who used open-source technology to build an artificial pancreas to combat their son’s diabetes: Building an Artificial Pancreas Using Intel’s Edison. Another project told the powerful story of how the Boys and Girls Club can truly change lives by empowering young people.
“It’s all about great storytelling,” said Graham. “Our mission at IGPL is to both mine those stories, and tell them in the most powerful and engaging way as possible.” He said sometimes the students work on really cool projects, but also on more basic deliverables the brand needs.
“We expect them to kind of be owners of the brand,” he said, “We’ve found them to be pretty receptive to that thinking, because that’s work experience. It’s real.”
Building a Career
For Braanaas, now working as a filmmaker in L.A., the experience showed her the importance of storytelling, whether it’s for documentary films or advertising for a brand.
“To come out of school and be part of a production company with five other amazing people who come from schools all over the world was just really meaningful,” she said. “I feel very lucky to have been a part of this program.”
Starting on the first day of the program, the students’ haikus hang on the wall. Strangers at that point, the students don’t know who wrote what poem.
At the end of the program, they had to name the author of each haiku. “They all guessed it, they all got it right,” said Graham. After having worked and lived together for months, the interns know each other well.
“They learn a lot from each other,” said Graham. “And we learn a lot from them, too.”
Editor’s note: The following filmmakers worked with Meriam Braanaas on the story about Darryl Adams: Producers Andy McCallum (RMIT Australia) and Kadri Koop (Stanford), cinematographer Tarek Korkomaz (Boston University), editor Reid Davenport (Stanford) and sound mixer/designer Jake Emmett (RMIT Australia).