We got the pleasure to interview both Kate Gondwe ’22 and Devon Vonder Schmalz ’21 separately about their internships, which are in the wide field of Media Art Production!

Kate ’22

Photograph of Kate Gondwe.

Distribution Intern

Devon ’21

Photograph of Devon Vonder Schmalz.

Digital Team Intern

INTERVIEW

How did you find your internship? 

KATE: I fell into this internship after another internship I had within film distribution. The companies are very different, but I’ve gained so much exposure as a student with both experiences. I think it’s a side of the industry that doesn’t get discussed much in the classroom. It’s so important and integral to a film’s longevity. I really appreciate distribution, and it’s been a fun ride to learn more about the different aspects within. 

DEVON: I found this internship through staying connected with my internship coordinator at Viacom. I interned at Comedy Central over the summer. As for how I found that internship, I found it on the company’s website.

How long is your internship?

KATE: My internship is officially from January 2021, 2020 to April 2021, but I started a little earlier in December. With the intern team, I’ve really felt a part of a community even while working virtually. We all share our ideas amongst ourselves and further challenge each other while working on collaborative projects. 

DEVON: This internship is 10 weeks, part-time

Where is your internship taking place? All Virtual? Hybrid? How do you feel about it?

KATE: The internship is all virtual. The company’s offices are in L.A. and New York. I think it’s interesting because you’re not getting the traditional experience of being in the office. However, interning during COVID has given much insight into new models that will shape the future of our industry.
Learning about virtual cinema (VC) has been really insightful. Exhibitors have been faced with such challenges throughout the pandemic, but VC has been a source of some hope. It’s great to be a part of a company that is taking part in the future models, and it has been really beneficial to learn.

DEVON: This position is part time and 100% virtual. Although it is not the same as a completely in-person position, there are still ample opportunities to network with other employees and make a lasting impact.

What does your daily routine look like? 

KATE: I work Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I have class before that, so I run to the library and get started. We have daily tasks that we do daily. One of the routines is press roundups, which I will always be grateful for because I never realized how important it is to read the trades regularly. You learn so much about the acquisitions and trends that are going on in the industry. 
Recently, we started having our weekly intern meetings bring in different employees to come and give their testimony. Hearing their stories has been really inspiring and insightful to see where they all started. 
I’m curious to learn more, and I can’t wait to speak with other employees. Earlier in my internship, I was able to speak with two other employees who I admire a lot and the positions they hold. I’m now interning under both of them. I’ve never been able to work for women that also look like me.

DEVON: My daily routine changes a bunch, since I’m only in 2 days a week, so I’ll just share my weekly tasks. Every Wednesday I send out an email listing off social media trends and influencers to keep an eye on. I attend development and brainstorm meetings here and there, and schedule informational interviews. In my downtime, when I’m not doing other miscellaneous tasks, I work on my development pitch that I have to present at the end of the semester. My favorite parts are definitely the meetings and working on my pitch.

What are you currently working on?

KATE: I’m currently doing a few tasks for a presentation we have this Friday for a new film. It’s been exhilarating because working with the intern team specifically on figuring out how to market this film makes us feel like we’re doing the distribution for the film. 
The company gives us the opportunity and position to figure out how to distribute the films we present.

DEVON: I am currently working on brainstorming and developing various different shows for Nickelodeon and AwesomenessTV, along with developing my own original idea.

What is something you wish you learned before taking your internship?

KATE: With this internship, I’ve actually been introduced to so many different platforms that I would have never had the opportunity to interact with. I would say the thing we use the most is email. The art of an email is so fascinating because I didn’t realize how much a company would rely on email. It really is what sustains a company.

DEVON: I wish I learned that I had to come up with my own original idea to pitch so I could have had more time to think about a solid idea before the position started.

What are some essential skills/abilities/knowledge someone in your field should have?

KATE: You really go through such a long journey with the film. It’s not just writing the script and development and then going into pre-production and production. After that, you have another year, if you’re lucky. It can expand to many years because it takes so long for a film to find life afterward. The end goal for every filmmaker is to have an audience watch their film. Have your film travel, have a theatrical release, immerse themselves in different communities, and engage with a greater sense of humanity and have that human connection. That is also the greatest part about cinema to me. I think with a lot of the films that NEON has. You would most likely want to go to the cinema to see them. 
The advice I would give to filmmakers starting out and to myself is to know your story. Once you know your story, know who the audience is for your story. After that, you can go to the distributors. You’ll see and realize which distributor would actually be interested in your film.
Knowing other films that might be compared to your film, you can estimate the budget and the gross it can make in the box office. Distributors want to know that, you should know, and your producer will ideally know too. 
I would definitely advise any filmmakers, especially independent filmmakers, to know about the distribution and know the distributors distributing the films you want to tell. Know your audience and know the markets that you’re entering. It is so important to know what market your film will end up at. Also, knowing which festivals themselves are connected with distributors is important. Plus, knowing how a distributor goes after a film at a festival is important. Who are your sales agents? 

DEVON: Patience, gratitude, optimism, and personability. Networking is everything in every industry. No matter what you choose to do, you have to know how to form meaningful connections.

Why did you decide to take this internship? 

KATE: I think the company is fascinating, and I love many of their films and have experienced here in Boston at the Kendall Landmark or Coolidge. Most film kids geek out when they see NEON up on the screen. You know what you’re in for, or at least there is a feeling you will be part of pop culture. That’s exactly why I wanted to learn how brands like NEON operate.
The films they support, the important message behind the film. There is a meaning, but also there is such art. Political or not, and I think that, for me, as someone who also believes that art is inherently political, I wanted to belong to a company like such. Some of the greatest auteurs of our time and emerging voices come out of NEON.

DEVON: I was really stoked to learn more about how kids content is developed and made! Since I previously interned at Comedy Central I thought this was a logical next step to broaden my knowledge and experience on different genres of television.

FUN FACT

A message from Kate Gondwe. A Must-Read!

The past year I’ve been overseeing the distribution of emerging BIPOC short films under my initiative Dedza Films (featured in No Film School Women And Hollywood), supported by New York distributor Kino Lorber. It’s been the most rewarding experience, and I hope to continue with Dedza post-grad. I’ve always dreamt about telling my story, but with DEDZA, I have a chance to uplift more voices. It’s a gift I hold dear to me. Through meeting DEDZA filmmakers and interacting with professionals in my industry I look up to, I’ve been able to hold on to clarity. My team and I believe Dedza can create a space for BIPOC filmmakers long after the discussions of inequality leaves the mainstream dialogue. We absolutely love our collection and can’t wait for the release. I’m so honored to be guided through this process with Kino’s team. 
This year has not been easy. A few family members passed away with COVID, my mental health has been a bit impacted by the quarantine, but I feel a sense of self regaining in my re-birth, new outlook on life. I’d advise any Emersonian who’s unsure or feels forsaken to stay strong and write down your goals, whether they be big or small. I never thought I’d be granted permission to work in the film industry. As a girl from a small town in Kansas, raised by an immigrant single mother, it’s in my DNA to persevere. Nothing is perfect, but I think that’s part of the journey into growing, and change can often feel like a numbing experience. Just keep going. My free time feels constantly chased by time. There’s never a day that provides me with enough time but pushing your organizational skills and prioritizing your work is one of the first parts I’d suggest overcoming in your twenties. 
Other things to be on the lookout for DEDZA FILMS will be releasing our first collection. I was fortunate enough to experience the Sundance Film Festival this year, assisting the world cinema documentary competition film FAYA DAYI, directed by Jessica Beshir. I have projects in development specifically focusing on my home country, Malawi. I’m currently looking at the best path for me post-grad in December and want to travel and experience life more. I truly miss my home country and would like some time to digest film school, write my scripts, photograph life, and live. I have a few photoshoots I’m working on, an associate producer on a feature, assisting sets, and my thesis film. I hope to assist a director who functions in non-fiction, photo, and fine art. I feel very blessed, and I look forward to whatever is left to come in my journey. 

Devon Vonder Schmalz’s has a growing TikTok account! Also, check out Vonder Schmalz’s music: https://biglink.to/dev_lemons. A Must-Listen!