Los Angeles was always such a foreign idea to me. It was a pipe dream like winning the lottery, never mind “making it” in LA, getting here alone seemed challenging enough. If you have ever read Of Mice in Men, going to California was my version of “tending the rabbits.” I always knew I would be happiest out here but it always felt extremely inaccessible due to a myriad of personal circumstances. It was somewhere over the rainbow, you might say. Enter the SULA program.
It is the end of February as I write this to you. I have been in LA for almost two months. I have had two competing feelings as a result… It flew by but I feel like I have always been here. When you enter a rhythm of work, school, play, it blurs and goes by faster than oncoming traffic (then again, that’s not saying much in LA). Appreciate everything if you take part in this. I spend much of my free time walking great distances. I don’t ever have a destination but I make sure I see everything I can along the way. My off-the-grid exploration has certainly made my time here much more personal, exhilarating and realistic. I never tried to treat this like a vacation. I wanted to know what it would be like to live here – stripped of the glitz, glamor and clichés. The verdict: it is still worthwhile, in my book.
The program itself is very supportive although it suffers from being in its infancy. There are some group events which gives us access to accomplished alumni and unique tours of industry-leading facilities but they are more the exception than the rule. In past years, it seems everyone in the program was also really close or, they liked to say they were because it sounds good on paper. The fact of the matter is, there are packs in the program. Some people don’t embrace the team spirit which SULA tries to instill in us and the whole program suffers for it as a result. Like the Bowling for Soup song, high school never ends. But don’t let that discourage you. The people you do manage to get close to, will be worth their weight in gold because they will be people of substance. People you will come up with and be able to rely on for years to come.
The Oakwood is a lovely facility but get out as much as you can. It is very easy to feel trapped here, especially if you are under 21 and it is a Friday or Saturday night. You also are going to be spending money until it hurts. Be prepared for that and make sure to prioritize. Your internship is what you make of it. I don’t care what celebrities appear at your job. Just do your damn job and do it well. Someone else’s success that briefly mingles with your attempts at being successful by way of passing them on an elevator, getting them a coffee or asking them to “wait one moment please” is no way to gauge or validate yourself. So, don’t fall prey to that. That said, I love where I am interning and, yes, it has its fair share of high profile clients. But as I said, that doesn’t mean anything. If you want to be professional, you can’t be enchanted by that either. Also, interns are cannon fodder no matter where you work. Does that discourage me? No, not really. Instead, it confirms a sneaking suspicion I have always had about myself… I need to be an entrepreneur. More than anything else, being privy to the behind the scenes operations has given me insight on what I would want to emulate and revise in my own business plan.
This probably seemed a little off-beat with some other posts you have read. That’s because there are some things which are inherently good and go without saying. The weather IS great, you WILL meet cool people, there ARE fun places to go. But what does that really tell you about this experience? Not a whole lot, if you ask me. Instead, I wanted to give you a more objective look at it. SULA is a great experience. If you have aspirations in the entertainment field and have never been afforded the opportunity to go to LA, this is the program for you. It gives you the chance to see what it is like to be in LA with the safety net of still being a student in a program. What is unique about SULA, is the program’s laissez faire approach. You can really feel like you are on your own out here, if you want to. That is a valuable experience in its own right – an experience you wouldn’t have at one of the local schools (USC, Chapman, etc). You just have to be prepared to treat it as such.
Where you intern or where you travel to is not the great take-away from SULA. What is, is the great lesson in self-reflection. Not unlike The Wizard of OZ, what you come all this way looking for is something you will discover you always had all along. But the experience is still one you ought to have so you can know that for sure.