2007 PFIG Recipient Raya Lakova
College of Arts & Sciences
Media Studies and French
2008 Graduation Year
Internship: Link TV in New York, NY.
My internship is at Link TV, a non-commercial satellite network that features a mixture of uncompromising documentaries, international news, and cultural programs from around the world. I found out about the position from a website called www.idealist.org which features non-profit and non-government organizations dedicated to public service. I sent Link my resume, a cover letter and an application form and they called me back to schedule a phone interview. The interview with Steve Lawrence, Director of World Cinema, and Leslie To, my current supervisor, went well and I got the internship.
I hope to obtain valuable real life experience of the inner workings of television programming and acquisitions as a World Cinema Acquisitions Intern. My primary responsibility will be to screen and evaluate foreign films and participate in the preparation of the new CINEMONDO series scheduled to launch in the beginning of this fall. I am sure that as any intern I will have to do general office work like copying, filing and mailing materials but I don’t expect that to be my primary occupation. I hope to gain more expertise in international film from my internship experience and I’m excited and slightly anxious about moving to New York City.
Notes on the first week
My first week at Link TV was basically an introduction to the internship position and the network in general. I was introduced to the specific criteria for reviewing films and asked to watch the ones that are currently broadcasted to get a sense of the Link style. I reviewed the outreach letter that I will have to send to distributors and the licensing contract which contains the rights and regulations for broadcast. I became familiar with the online database and my next task will be to organize a shelf of tapes in the library.
My first task this week was actually for the Music Department as I had to find the links for songs from the network’s music blocks on iTunes, Calabash and Amazon. Then I was working on the library shelf and had to watch various tapes with interviews, music blocks, concerts, films, documentaries and etc which gave me more of an inside perspective of the content being produced at Link. One of the requirements for the internship was having bilingual skills which means that I might soon get a chance to use my French, Bulgarian or poor Russian if necessary.
I was really interested in what kind of people work at Link TV which is after all a non-profit network dedicated to providing a global perspective to the American viewer as opposed to some cheap info-tainment. I was indeed pleasantly surprised to find quite a diverse group of people in terms of nationality, experience and interests who are really passionate about their work and their role in society. I feel really comfortable in this kind of environment and can only hope that my personal qualifications will be an asset to the network even if for such a short period of time.
It is the middle of my internship at Link TV and every day is still exciting and interesting. I have reviewed films, documentaries and shorts from various countries including Indonesia, China, Croatia, South Africa, Brazil, Morocco, and Iran just to name a few. On the weekends my supervisor sent me to view the shorts program at the Brooklyn Film Festival, and The Violin, Desert Roses, and New Italian Shorts at the Lincoln Center.
The research that I perform requires finding out the US or World Sales distributor for given titles or any other relevant contact information. I was asked to research some specific Turkish comedies and the films nominated for the Shanghai Film Festival’s top prizes. The challenge in this type of research is that there are not that many reviews available online or those are usually not even translated into English. Then, I had to evaluate the films based on their synopses, the reviews or awards they received and the companies that represented them.
The final step in the acquisition process involves sending outreach letters to distributors to check if the rights we require are available for the US and ultimately, getting a screener. Unfortunately, there are way too many people who don’t respond to e-mail which leaves me no other choice than to make expensive international phone calls. I keep a record of the films that get received and answer to a variety of questions distributors have which usually revolve around the fees and types of deals we offer.
My internship at Link TV is now over and I hope to have made a contribution that lasts by officially screening the most films out of all interns and recommending some of the titles for the new CINEMONDO series. The role of Link as "an arbitrator of taste" was clearly defined as well as the need for both cultural and political content from around the world but the problems with financing that non-profit organizations face often provoked heated discussions about reforms of the business model.
I found the weekly staff meetings to be invaluable as everyone shared what they were working on and I learned more about the structure of the network. I attended a visit by the San Francisco executives and several shoots with directors and artists, one of which was slightly disturbed by a nearby construction. There was also a discussion about the future of television which has to incorporate the internet as a medium but requires changes in the layout of the existing website to make it more functional.
My life in New York was equally fast pace, dynamic and interesting as I moved three times in two months and changed several locations and roommates. Nevertheless, I am most content that I felt accepted at Link and I got to know a couple of the people I worked with relatively well. My last day there was a surprise goodbye party for me which convinced me that my internship experience was as much about the work as it was about the people I met for they determine the face and future of Link every day.