Internship Spotlight: Matthew Middendorf
May 1, 2020 | by Clare Schmidt
Class of 2020
BS - Communications Media with an Emphasis in Producing
BS - Business with an Emphasis in Leadership and Management
We’re starting a new article series to highlight JPCatholic students’ internship experiences! For our first spotlight, meet Matthew Middendorf, who spent last Fall in Hollywood working two internships. Matthew received both internships after admittance into an organization called the Motion Picture Institute, whose competitive Hollywood Career Launch Program helps students get a foot in the door with partner production companies.
How did you hear about the Motion Picture Institute, and what was the decision process like?
I initially heard about the Moving Picture Institute after they visited our campus and gave a lecture. A few months later, in Spring of 2019, I decided to apply for their “Hollywood Career Launch Program”. Even though the acceptance rate into the Moving Picture Institute was less than 1%, I was selected.
After my acceptance, the Moving Picture Institute trained me and about ten other interns on the intricacies of real Hollywood and how to thrive in the intense environments I would encounter. After I finished my training, the Moving Picture Institute introduced me to contacts so that I could apply to different programs within Hollywood. With my career goal being producing in the film industry, I accepted offers that would best advance those goals. The organizations I chose to work at were Film Finances Inc., and Bold Films.
What is Film Finances Inc., and what did a typical day look like for that internship?
Film Finances Inc., is the oldest and premiere film bonding company within Hollywood. What that means is that a company such as Sony might approach them to secure a bank loan for a movie that is being produced. In return, Film Finances Inc., would ensure that the film remains on time, on schedule, and on budget through the different phases of production. If the film falls behind in any of these categories, the bonding company reserves the right to take over any means of production to secure delivery.
For that internship, I functioned primarily as an executive assistant to the entire office on my floor. Working there from Monday through Wednesday, my day typically started by checking in with the Moving Picture Institute, seeing if they needed anything on their end, then checking in with JPCatholic to see if I needed to complete any coursework. At this time, I was taking a full course load with my double majors, working full time, and maining my Summa Cum Laude GPA.
Back at the office, I received and organized production documents in the morning. Typically, these documents were call sheets, wrap reports, scheduling, and more. Usually during the second half of the day, I worked directly with the accounting department. I would take a look at budgets, cash flow statements, top sheets, amongst other financial documents. Upon receiving the documents, I would process the information through FileMaker Pro, and if I saw something that was a bit off, I would bring it to my boss. This all proved to be a tremendous learning experience and I am grateful for getting to know everyone within my office.
What about the internship at Bold Films?
Thursday and Fridays I worked at Bold Films. They are a production house in the heart of Hollywood behind groundbreaking movies such as Whiplash and Nightcrawler. At Bold Films, I worked in development. This meant I would read scripts and provide coverage. Coverage is a detailed document on a script which typically includes a log line, summary, analysis, and a recommendation for the story and writer. Working through one to two 120-page scripts a day, I became proficient in recognizing what was good writing, and what was not. This was not only beneficial to me as a creative, but also as a student.
For both of the internships, I sat in on a lot of production meetings, and received lots of one-on-one time with the different executives. For example, at Bold Films all of the executives had a one-on-one meeting with the interns. At these meetings, an executive would talk about their position, how he/she got there, and if we wanted to get to that position, what would be a similar route we could take. These meetings were packed with useful information on my career trajectory, and I am glad I was able to partake in these opportunities.
Matthew operating a camera on the set of a senior film project Gray Matters
What were your hours like?
Before work, I woke up early around 6:30 am and worked out at my local gym. Then, I would make my way over to the local Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee, and I would peruse my email for tasks to be completed that day. From there, I typically worked from 11:00 am - 7:00 pm everyday. Sometimes you would come early, sometimes you would stay late.
After work, I would engage in networking activities such as movie premieres amongst other events. On the weekends, I divided my time visiting my girlfriend at Cal Poly Slo, working on my senior project, participating in activities with my different young adult groups, or hanging out with friends at the beach.
Could you elaborate more on some of those networking experiences you had while working in Hollywood?
I got invited to many different movie premieres. Working full time, I unfortunately couldn’t make it to all of them, although I did attend Dolemite Is My Name, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, The Irishman, and Doctor Sleep. These premieres were all very cool as I had opportunities to talk to actors, executives, and sit next to celebrities such as Snoop Dog and Mark Hamill.
Additionally, I attended different conferences, meet-ups, and had coffee with different contacts.
What were your most valuable takeaways from the internships?
I think it was very eye-opening, seeing that not everything that happens in Hollywood is in shining lights; it operates like any other business or field. You study, you meet people, you apply, you get in, and you just work. It was really cool, a lot of fun, and I think it was a blessing to have these opportunities.
One of the biggest things is obviously connections, and having some real-world experience on my resume. Just knowing people, and knowing that there is a tangible way to get these jobs, and knowing there is a practical route to go about it. It was also a confidence boost; recognizing that people do believe in you, and that going to a small school like JPCatholic isn’t a detriment, it’s actually a benefit because you get that hands-on experience that you might not have at a larger school.
What advice do you have for other students as they pursue internships?
Just realize that a lot of it is to keep applying and asking. The vast majority will say no, but if you call two hundred people, one person will say yes to an interview. Keep applying, and don’t be afraid to apply to a big studio like Warner Brothers; they want to hire, and they want diversity. I think one of the biggest inhibitors of students trying to enter the industry is themselves, where they don’t have confidence in their own work or don’t think they’re good enough. The reality is, I don’t see much of a difference between a JPCatholic student vs. USC student vs. an NYU student. It really is just your mentality and your confidence going into these jobs.