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Los Angeles


Finding Opportunities to Learn in LA

By Katie MacDonald

March 2020

When I first arrived in LA, it felt as if every day I was being handed a new list of things I have to see and experience in order to make the most of my semester. From family and friends to professors and internship coordinators, everyone seemed to have an opinion on how I should be spending my time. As the list of places and events in my notebook continued to grow, I really had to think about why I decided to come to LA and what I wanted to get out of my time here. Personally, I am not all that interested in being a tourist. While the hike to the Hollywood sign sounds amazing and I am sure I will get to it eventually, I want to use my time this semester to accomplish more than just seeing things. This is an opportunity for me to gain real experience within film and television and I want to take full advantage of it.

Since coming to LA, my most educational and fulfilling experiences have all happened on American Film Institute sets. After receiving an email from Robin and putting my contact information on a spreadsheet for AFI film students, my email exploded with producing and directing fellows looking for help. Open to any set experience, I started accepting offers to work as a production assistant, art department assistant, and second AD. While it requires me to commit to long and unpaid hours, I have found all of my set experiences with AFI to be incredibly educational and rewarding. Every set is run with great professionalism, yet the crews are always welcoming and willing to help each other learn. I have had the opportunity to work with art students to dress a diner set for a musical, assist an understaffed camera crew on a classroom shoot, and PA on a night shoot on the CBS studio backlot. While I have worked on film sets before, AFI provided me with the chance to work in departments I was previously inexperienced with, giving me a much deeper understanding of how a film set truly functions.