Lights, Camera, Internship

Maya Burns tags a prop at her internship. (Photo/Cristabelle Tumola)

Twelfth grader Maya Burns dashed from floor to floor at Eclectic/Encore Props, a large prop rental warehouse in Manhattan, scanning props, and entering data into a computer.

The 17-year-old senior at Academy for Careers in Television and Film, a career and technical high school in Long Island City, was not skipping class that Friday in April. The job was part of her internship program, an optional part of her studies at the new specialty professional high school, which is about to graduate its first class in June.

Among the city’s 30 career and technical high schools created since the late 1990s, Academy for Careers in Television and Film is the first in the city to arrange internships in movie and television production. Other CTE schools specialize in areas such as, aviation maintenance, culinary arts and sports management. The career high schools were designed to be constructive alternatives to the outdated vocational high schools that many believed lacked rigorous academic programs.

“I’m extremely pleased not only with the number of internship positions we’ve been able to secure, but also the diversity of positions,” said the school’s founding principal, Mark Dunetz.

The Academy for Careers in Television and Film has been able to place around 40 students out of its approximately 100 seniors, as well as some juniors, in internships.  The positions range from editing, lighting and props, to working with crew members on film sets. Kauffman Astoria Studios, Bronx Documentary Center, Eastern Effects, Gotham Sound and Crook Brothers Productions have taken in the academy’s students.

Alan Metzger, director of the school’s production unit and a former producer and director of film and television, made some of these internship connections. Andy Lassman, a production teacher and coordinator of the internship program, who spent over 20 years working as a prop master, made the rest.

For example, Lassman has rented props from Eclectic/Encore Props in the past and now Burns and another student from the high school are currently interning there.

Richard Gagnon, creative director at Eclectic/Encore Props is very hands-on and does a good job of teaching the school’s interns how to display props, said Lassman, who needs to make sure the students are being trained as productive team members. “We’ve been fortunate that a lot of the people where the students are interning at are great mentors,” he added.

Burns is thinking about working in set design. She began working at the prop warehouse in the fall two days a week, and now comes just on Friday mornings. It’s her first internship, but she has many responsibilities, such as doing inventory intake, pulling orders and helping customers find items.

“We’re extremely satisfied with Maya’s work,” said Gagnon. She brings a smile, an amazing attitude and strong commitment.

Other Academy high school students hold internships in places like Nickolodeon and other film equipment businesses. For the past few months senior Kyra Vargas, 17, a wannabe film producer and director, has been shooting scenes in her high school for the Nickelodeon show “Mission: Dawn,” which is produced by Crook Brothers Productions. Vargas often puts in 12-hour days for the show, helping out with set decoration and learning about directing. “Time goes by fast for me, I wish I could stay more,” she said.

Another senior, Maria Tapia, who wants to work in lighting, is currently interning at Eastern Effects, which rents film and television equipment.

The internship program is designed to fit into seniors’ schedules; they are limited to 15 hours of interning per school week. Internships take the place of some required hours for the senior production class. Juniors who intern on weekends and those who do summer internships may get extra credit.

With the success of this year’s internships, the school hopes to raise the number of employers and students participating in the program next year. Lassman is already busy trying to add a costume house to his list of intern spots.

“We’ve got such positive response from the employers, said Metzger, “that we are confident that we are able to build up our client list.”


Photo slideshow: See more of Maya Burns at her internship.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *