Mentors key for film school grads

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Expensive film school classes are all well and good, but they don't provide much value if students can't find a job after graduation. That's why colleges and universities are increasingly making internship and mentoring programs a major part of their overall package -- because every happy, successful grad is a walking advertisement for the school.

What do these programs actually entail? Below are the experiences of three young people currently working in the industry, after taking advantage of what their respective schools had to offer.

Arestia Rosenberg enrolled in Boston University's BU in L.A. program in spring 2006 and worked simultaneous internships at Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution's "The Tyra Banks Show." She now works as an assistant at Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions.

"I was planning on going abroad like a lot of my peers, but I decided I could get a jump on my career by working in L.A. and making connections," Rosenberg says. "It proved to be extremely valuable. Not only was it a good way to transition into Los Angeles life, but also to start meeting people and start learning about a business that we all think we know, though we really have no idea."

Sal Cardoni participated in Loyola Marymount University's Sony-sponsored TAG: Transition After Graduation upon graduating from the school's screenwriting master's program in 2006. He was paired up with mentor Joel Cohen, writer of 1995's "Toy Story," who says he began mentoring when he realized how many film school grads had no idea how to break into the business. Through Cohen, Cardoni was assigned to rewrite the script for a Swedish animated TV movie.

"In the year after graduation, we'd have a monthly meeting and talk -- not so much about the art of being a writer but about the business," Cardoni says. "Two things Joel taught me: You are where you are because you are who you are, so let your gut instincts guide you, and 'It's about the Freud,' which means that no matter what character you're writing, they have personalities that can be dissected. Once you figure out who they are, everything flows out of that."

Lindsay Webster took advantage of American University's Summer in L.A. internship program and AU's mentorship program in consecutive years. Through the former, she had the chance to work for "Bones" executive producer Barry Josephson on the Fox lot. (Josephson says he enjoys helping interns because he "knows what it's like to get a break" and because "it's a reflection of yourself when you were young.") Through the latter, she received guidance from Showtime's senior vp original programming Danielle Gelber, who later got Webster a job on the network's "The L Word," where she's currently an associate producer.

"Rarely do you have an experience that just sets your life track into place, but those programs really did," Webster says. "Basically, the internship was a hands-on experience of how to work in a production office and handle that first job, that assistant desk job. I got to fill in for Barry's real assistant, handle phones, roll calls, keep phone sheets and expenses and pretty much get to understand the pace of how everything happens. These are things you don't learn in school."
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