Over Reading Period, I had the chance to shadow Danny Steiner ’10, the Executive Assistant to the CEO of Shine America. I walked into the Shine America building a little nervous because I had practically zero knowledge of the entertainment industry beforehand. I have some experience in small-scale video production as ancillary content for marketing and journalistic purposes, but I want to take those skills and apply them on a much larger scale. Given how much of my free time is spent on binge-watching episodes of Breaking Bad or House of Cards, I was curious to see if a career in entertainment might be something I want to pursue after graduation. This Princeternship was the perfect opportunity to get a feel for the industry and the variety of opportunities within it at a company that produces and distributes high-caliber content like The Office and Ugly Betty. Danny was an excellent host and set up several meetings for me with people from practically every department at Shine including: marketing, acquisitions, digital, business and brand development, clearances, scripted/unscripted production, post-production, research, and human resources. Despite my primitive understanding of the industry, everyone I met at Shine was incredibly welcoming and excited to share their work with me. I looked over a presentation for a new reality TV show, flipped through the final proof of a MasterChef cookbook, and watched a Google hangout for The Biggest Loser with the Digital team and listened to their comments. Of course, being the editing geek that I am, I leaped at the chance to check out one of the editing bays at Shine. They have desks that can be elevated to standing height, which is CRUCIAL when you spend 10+ hours a day in front of a screen.
Any reality TV junkie would be at home here, especially with posters for The Face and the aforementioned shows decorating the offices. While all these mini-tasks were super fun, the best part of this Princeternship was being able to talk to people who were so passionate about their jobs in entertainment. Their enthusiasm is absolutely contagious and I walked away from many conversations seriously considering whether or not I could hack it in whatever department I had just talked to. I picked up a lot of new vocabulary (i.e. deficit financing, formats, AMORT) and learned a lot about how studios and networks are organized by departments and how they collaborate with one another on any number of projects. It was also fascinating to talk to Shine employees about the direction of the industry from the insider’s perspective. One of the many great conversations I had was with Kevin Ivey from Research. Kevin spends most of his time going through ratings and numbers to track how well a show is doing. I have to admit that walking in, I wasn’t totally sure that I was going to understand or appreciate what Kevin does, but his explanation of the Nielsen ratings system and how those numbers translate into ability to generate advertising revenue was really accessible. It helped that Kevin framed our conversation in the context of the Duck Dynasty and Paula Deen scandals. We also talked about how video on-demand services like Netflix and Hulu are changing how people prefer to watch television and challenging the traditional model of ad sales based on projected ratings. I think I walked in with this idea that the entertainment industry has this weird impenetrable force field that selectively allows people to succeed. But my conversations with the people at Shine assured me that, like any other industry, given a little luck, some quality hard work, and time, anyone can work their way up. It was also great to take my personal observations about the state of television and develop those ideas through my conversations with industry professionals.
Overall, this Princeternship was an eye-opening experience for me and went by far too quickly. It was an incredibly effective crash course in the ins and outs of television production. While there is only so much that can be learned without actually working in the industry, I now know enough to intelligently think about the path I want to pursue within it. Thank you Danny and everyone at Shine America and Princeton Career Services for this amazingly educational and enjoyable experience. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and everything that the people at Shine were willing to share with me.