How to find TV/film costuming internships in or near LA?
April 28, 2014 12:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm an apparel student from the Midwest, looking for a wardrobe/costuming internship in LA for the summer of 2015. Help me track one down?

Hello! I am a fashion design student in the Midwest whose dream job is to make historical costumes for TV or film. I'm finishing up my Bachelor's degree in Fashion Design (emphasis in Technical Design) next year, and plan to continue into the graduate program. I have a background in period clothing for living history museums, and I recently spent a semester in London studying millinery, corsetry, and shoemaking under some wonderful costumers.

My college has tons of great fashion connections, but nothing in terms of TV/film. I've found websites full of theatre internships, but again, none for TV/film. The only wardrobe/costuming internship I can find is for Team Coco. I'll take it, if that's the only thing available, but there's got to be more out there! I know my first costuming internship is most likely going to consist of me "making coffee runs" for free, but I'll do it. I just can't seem to find those opportunities at all. Are there industry websites I should be using? Should I just be calling the studios directly?

Because it's so much easier to rely on, my plan is to take on an internship in apparel/textile/accessory design during the summer of 2015, and pick up a wardrobe/costuming opportunity while I am there.

Thanks for any help you can give me! You guys are always great.
posted by jaynedanger to Education (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Damnit, I wanna spend a semester in London studying millinery, corsetry and shoemaking.

Have you worked your network? You should contact the people you studied under in London and ask them if they know anyone in LA who might know about internships. Go to your college's career services center and see if they have the names of any alumni who work in costuming (or anything related) in LA. Talk to your profs and see if they have any ideas. I suspect that these are largely gigs that you get through word of mouth, not through a formal application process.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:26 PM on April 28, 2014

You might be a bit late for this summer. You can check the various entertainment job boards--Mandy and Entertainment and try to get a copy of the UTA list. The Designers Guild, part of IATSE, might be worth contacting.
And you'd also need to see what films and TV shows are gearing up to start production--costume design and building are going to be in pre-production. Calling the studios won't really help--production offices aren't the same as what you're wanting. Western Costume is still around.
Most costumers I know, here in LA, use very experienced garment industry people to build the actual costumes. I think your best bet is to work your network as well.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:35 PM on April 28, 2014

Find some movies/shows that particularly pique your interest from a costume standpoint. See who the costume designer is. Email that person and ask them this question, subtly angling for an internship or job lead.

Re how to get their email: try going through the union. In Los Angeles, costume designers are IATSE local 892, the costume designer's guild. (They also might be a good general resource for someone who is interested in becoming a costume designer.) You could also try an IMDB pro membership -- lots of costume designers have agents, and that info will be listed there. Hint: a lot of crew people (costume designers, cinematographers, etc) are repped through an agency called Paradigm. It wouldn't hurt to just call paradigm and ask if so and so is one of their clients and how can you get in touch with them.

A note about internships in the film industry, in general. There are going to be two types of internships available to you:

1. An internship through official channels. Most likely this would be a general internship through the studio/network, for people interested in working in film/TV in general. You'd be rotated around to different departments and maybe parts of the studio or network to get a taste of what it's like to work in the field, in general. There usually aren't specific costume internships to apply for, though I suppose you could stress your interest in that area on your application. These internships are usually for school credit, and are much more likely to be on a TV show than a feature, just for scheduling reasons. It is unlikely that you could request a particular designer or even a project that deals with period costuming. You get what you get, which might mean blowing your whole summer in the post-production department of Brooklyn 99. If they're even taking summer interns.

2. An "internship" on an indie film. These are much sketchier than the above. You will basically be the costume designer's slave. For a costume designer who is a considerate person and a good boss, this could be a total shoe-in to a career in your field. For an asshole just looking for more bodies to make returns, this could be an unpaid, uncredited, tedious waste of time. Don't expect to be paid at all, even in something like class credit or paid lunches/mileage/perks. You basically cannot do this without extensive savings or parental support, though these gigs usually are very temporary, and there's always the chance that you'd find yourself a paid costume PA on the next gig.

Which reminds me. A word on the relationship between internships and jobs in the film industry. I'm going to do some novelty formatting, because this is probably the most important thing to know about this entire idea:

The goal of an internship is to lead to paid work.

Do not take an internship with the assumption that you will go back to college in the midwest after it's over. Because if you do, you'll throw away any chance you ever had at a career as a costume designer.

This is how internships work:

Step 1: Schlep around as an intern for a few months. Make sure everyone knows who you are, for the right reasons. Everyone there should love you and be desperate to find you your first paid job in the industry. Your goal here is to be a sort of mascot/baby sister/fresh meat.

Step 2: You give your resume (what little there is) to the department coordinator, costume designer, wardrobe supervisor, and probably people in other departments (art, production, AD, etc) just in case. You express sincere interest in finding paid work in the industry. Not next year, but like tomorrow. Your goal is to be taken onto "the next one" as a paid costume PA. Also, go to the wrap party and any other job-winding-down socializing options that present themselves. This is where all the networking happens for future jobs, and where all your "I want to be your PA on the next one" groundwork pays off.

Step 3: Be able to swing up to a month or six weeks not working. After a long job, a lot of well-compensated union folks like to take a little time off to recharge their batteries. This is a good time to try out work in other areas (AKA be a set PA), network your way into some "day player" work in a different costume department, or otherwise make it so that the department you interned with isn't the only contact you have to the entertainment industry. Go do a reality show, get a short term retail gig, whatever.

Step 4: PROFIT. This is the part where you diligently wait by the phone to be called onto The Next Job. Don't be afraid to be assertive in reminding your connections that you still exist after Coachella or Burning Man or a month backpacking in Asia. Email. Text. Call. Whatever their preferred mode of contact is. The message here is "I'm available and really psyched to do whatever it takes to work with you again!" Even seasoned pros send out "I'm available!" and "Remember me?" and "Whatever happened to that pilot you mentioned at the wrap party?" emails all the time, so don't be shy about this at all.

Once upon a time when I was an art department PA, we had this intern. He was a great intern! Everybody in the whole crew thought he was brilliant and was ready to bring him onto the next thing in whatever capacity he wanted. Then he made a big mistake: instead of finding ANY JOB that would allow him to stick around, go to the wrap party, and be available for the next gig, he went home to the midwest. He's still living in Michigan, working in HR, years later. Literally the only thing that stood between him and his dreams was not knowing the social cues of how people translate internships into paid work. Don't be that guy! Seal the deal! Once you've got an internship, you don't live in Wisconsin anymore, you're here, you're in, and your sole aim is to get a staff gig as a PA.
posted by Sara C. at 9:00 PM on April 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

So much help! Thank you!
posted by jaynedanger at 3:51 PM on May 1, 2014

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