California dreamin’: With help from Temple’s LA Study Away, entertainment industry aspirations become reality
Students in the Los Angeles Study Away Program have the opportunity to learn about and work in the entertainment industry.
Moving to the West Coast straight out of high school seemed scary to Sean Aversa, Class of 2022.
Instead, he chose to take advantage of a golden opportunity at Temple: the Los Angeles (LA) Study Away Program.
After learning about the program through a tour of the university, Aversa was sold.
“Temple’s LA Study Away has a good track record of success and getting people employed out of college,” said Aversa, a film and media arts major from Manchester, Maryland. “As an 18-year-old, I was like, ‘You can get a job in film? Perfect! I knew I wanted to do this program at Temple.”
Established in 1997, LA Study Away is a semesterlong academic program with an internship component offered in the fall, spring and summer.
“Students have a dream about what it means to be on the West Coast and understand Hollywood,” said Alison Crouse, program director of LA Study Away. “Being in school gives them the opportunity to explore the industry while they still have the support and structure of a program.”
Although housed under the School of Theater, Film and Media Arts, LA Study Away is open to juniors and seniors in any of Temple’s schools and colleges. Interested students fill out an online application, in which they submit a resume, essay and two references from professors.
“In the application, we are looking at a student and their ability to represent Temple and the program,” said Crouse. “We are looking to see if the student can balance academics and work.”
Once in LA, students take program-specific courses about the entertainment industry that foster professional development, taught by instructors who work in the industry. These classes complement the experiential learning students gain from working at one or two internships based on their career interests.
President Jason Wingard recently visited the LA Study Away Program. As part of the visit, Wingard and Provost Gregory N. Mandel joined students and faculty for breakfast. (Photo courtesy of Kasee Shambora)
Students also complete a prerequisite course called Hollywood Head Start that helps them identify companies for which they would like to intern and teaches them how to do resumes, cover letters and informational interviews.
“[This prerequisite] was the best class I ever had at Temple,” said Aversa. “It took this abstract idea of ‘I want to work in film’ and made it practical. It removed all the mystique and developed me as an aspiring professional. Taking the courses out in LA has furthered that development.”
Internships can be based in any area of the entertainment industry. Students have worked as production assistants on sets and development interns at production companies as well as interning at public relations, talent and advertising agencies. Students have also interned at major studios like Nickelodeon, Disney, Sony, NBC Universal and ViacomCBS.
During President Wingard’s visit, he toured the Venice Canals with the LA Culture class, taught by Anthony Carfello. (Photo courtesy of Kasee Shambora)
“Temple students are known for being hardworking, unentitled, scrappy and punctual,” said Amy Olk, director of internships and the summer faculty director for LA Study Away. “Because we’ve had a long tradition of successful internships through this program, Temple has a really great reputation in LA. I’m always getting emails from companies saying that they had such a good experience and would love to have another Temple intern.”
Rather than having automatic internship placements, the program teaches students how to apply for and earn positions themselves.
“It’s important for students to learn how to craft an industry-standard application and approach companies on their own because they’re going to have to do that when they graduate,” said Olk. She guides them through the process by helping them complete internship applications, decide between multiple offers and determine the best offer.
Aversa, who’s interested in screenwriting and directing, is interning for Bold Films, a production company behind such movies as Drive and Nightcrawler. He works two days a week providing script coverage in which he summarizes and analyzes scripts he receives. “My internship is great because I feel like I’m part of something in the industry,” he said.
Another component of LA Study Away is networking with Temple alumni who work in the entertainment industry.
“We try to organize as many events as possible for current students to meet alumni from the past 10 years who have successfully transitioned to the industry,” said Lou Pepe, LA Study Away faculty director for the fall and spring. “A lot of alumni come back to the program to ask for interns for their projects. They want to give back to the students.”
“Through a Temple alumnus, I was able to gain my internship opportunity and work on a short film for the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival partnership with Netflix, and now I’m steadily working as a freelance assistant editor thanks to those connections,” said Brittanie Maddox, TFM ’21. While in the program, Maddox interned for Samuel Goldwyn Films and worked on the promotional marketing material for the Academy Award campaign for The Man Who Sold His Skin.
“Networking prepared me to take bolder steps,” she added. “I’m more active in the animation community now, and I have spoken with people that I would have never learned how to even approach had this program not opened my eyes to the intricacies and nuances.”
For students, getting a taste of the entertainment industry while still in school can give them a better sense of their career direction, which is a goal of LA Study Away.
“A lot of students talk about how the semester in LA is life-changing and that they’ve learned so much here, which speaks to the power of experiential learning,” said Olk.
One of the greatest strengths of the program is the interpersonal connections forged between students, alumni and faculty.
“LA Study Away is run by people who really care, and I would recommend the program to anyone who’s interested,” said Aversa.