Students prepare for spring semester in LA

Austin Faulds • Dec. 7, 2017

As the tranquility of Thanksgiving dies down and the frenzy of finals build, signaling the arrival of winter break, another semester is already beginning for a select group of Media School students.

They complete applications, pack bags, conserve gas, say goodbye and prepare for four months in Tinseltown.

This spring, The Media School will host its first-ever Semester in Los Angeles program, giving students an opportunity to study and intern in one of the most prolific media cities in the world. About 60 students applied for this program over the summer, but only about half were accepted, program manager Isabel Shanahan said. All accepted are either juniors or seniors, and about two-thirds of them are studying film.

“Basically everything that’s covered at The Media School, we’re trying to translate that into real work experience in the epicenter of the entertainment industry out here in LA,” Shanahan said.

The program will begin on Jan. 5 and continue until the end of April, just before spring graduation.

Because it is an academic program, participating students will be taking three different media courses throughout the semester. They will choose either a film production class or a public relations and advertising class, and they will be required to take two other media classes. All of the courses will be at night, which Shanahan said will leave room for students to be at their internships during the day.

“They’re just going to be really, really busy,” Shanahan said.

For internships, students will have two options. They can either work one full-time internship or two part-time internships for the duration of the program. Shanahan said opportunities she recommended for the students included Studio71, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Funny or Die, Disney and more.

Katie Mastores, junior, and Gabriel Xu, senior, will be taking the same classes. However, the situation surrounding their internships is more antithetical. Mastores is still seeking an internship – much like many of her peers accepted into the program – while Xu’s internship search was quick.

In a previous semester, Xu took a class with Batman producer and IU alumnus Michael Uslan, a Media School professor of practice. Xu said he stood out in Uslan’s class because of his knowledge of the Chinese film market, a topic in which Uslan is interested. They maintained contact after the class ended, and Xu reached out to the producer for possible contacts for LA internships.

Uslan recommended he email a notable film producer and current managing member of Institutional Media Investments. The contact hired Xu on the spot without an application or resume required. He will be interning there and at Zero Gravity Management.

“Sometimes networking is more important than what you actually do,” Xu said.

Another obstacle the students must overcome before the program begins is finding reliable transportation. Unlike Chicago, New York City or Washington, D.C., it’s difficult to function in LA without a car. This creates an added challenge for many students.

Mastores said she decided she wanted to make the drive out to the city in her car. She plans to leave with her boyfriend on New Year’s Day and hopes to arrive by Jan. 5. She said friends of hers also in the program will be leaving around the same time in their own cars. Together, they will be sharing lodging sites and eating at the same places in a road-trip fashion.

However, Xu’s plans are different. Never having had a driver’s license, he will not be able to independently transport himself to and around LA. Instead, he has considered paying friends also in the program to drive him to his internships, classes and other locations around the city.

Both of these students said they will find it hard being away from their friends and families for an extended period of time. Mastores has never been away from any of them for more than a couple of months, but now she will be for four.

Having moved away from his home country for college, Xu said he has already had this sort of experience with his family and childhood friends. However, he said he will still miss the many friends he made at IU, especially with this current semester being his last in Bloomington.

Regardless, both said they are excited to learn more about LA culture and to meet the various people already there, living the lives they are eagerly working toward.

“You always make new good friends,” Xu said. “You always have new best friends in stages to stages.”