Considering that Career Focus intern Dustin Courchene picked up Set PA gigs on two high-profile film productions, just weeks after his on-the-job training with Film Training Manitoba, it’s easy to proclaim him a qualified success story.
Established in 2006, the Career Focus Internship Program allows for under-30, post-secondary graduates to gain experience on an actual film set, equipment house or production facility. FTM partners with production companies to assess which departments are able to comfortably take on paid interns, allowing for positions to be filled in such varied areas as the costume department, lighting, or — as in Dustin’s case — the AD (Assistant Director) department, not to mention several others.
“I was looking for different opportunities online, so I went to the (FTM) website and saw the listing. I quickly became interested after reading up on it, so I made a phone-call. I spoke to (FTM Training Coordinator) Allison Bile, and she gave me all of the info about the program. Shortly after that, I came in for an interview and was placed with (APTN series) ‘Cashing In’, then in its third season,” says Courchene, 29.
What was it like for Dustin, a graduate of the University of Manitoba and a past participant of NSI’s New Voices, to join an already established television series?
“It was awesome. The crew had done two other seasons, so they were all basically a family, but they still welcomed me with open arms. It was a great experience.”
Dustin found that the production was increasingly able to give him more responsibilities as time wore on.
“Initially, it was baby steps, but that was just until they got comfortable with me. I started in pre-production, so that meant putting the paperwork together: daily time sheets, weekly time sheets, deal memos, both corporate and employee. After that, I helped set up the AD offices for when filming began. Once production was underway, I mostly helped with background (performers), signing them in and out. And there’s a lot of paperwork involved with that. I also wrangled and placed the performers, and ushered the main cast to where they needed to go.”
Although it wasn’t Dustin’s first time on a film set, the FTM program proved to be an exceptional way of being thrust into such a demanding environment.
“It’s actually a little intimidating trying to get (on a set), as a lot of the business is networking and if you don’t already know people, you’re not really going to be getting calls. FTM helps open that door so that you’re out there meeting the people who will become friends and who will be able to recommend you in the future.”
As Dustin discovered, collaboration is crucial.
“Teamwork and putting in hard work each day allows for everything to gel. On a film, there are 100 people working towards a common goal, all led by the director. And your attitude is important – you’ve got to push aside any negativity and be professional. Otherwise, everyone else’s day is going to be miserable.”
Following his positive experience on ‘Cashing In’, Courchene subsequently found positions on two major fall productions.
“In my case, (3rd A.D.) Megan Heke got me onto (feature films) ‘ATM’ and ‘Goon’”, says Courchene. “Without FTM, I wouldn’t have met Megan. So they act as a great stepping stone to get your foot in the door.”
What should prospective interns anticipate if they’re chosen for the program?
“Expect not to know anything, even if you assume that you have an idea of what a film set is like. Being an intern, people are more aware that you’re just starting to learn – that you’re green, but you should try to be as proficient in your duties as possible.”
“Also, expect long hours. As an intern, I was only able to work 12 hours (each day), but once you’re on a film set as (a regular employee), be prepared for 15 hour days.”
In the end, Dustin says he’d recommend the Career Focus Internship Program wholeheartedly, and hopes he one day reaches the professional level that enables him to contribute to this FTM initiative.
“I hope to one day reach that point. Mentorships are a great way of giving back.”
For more information on the Career Focus Program, please contact FTM or visit our website (www.filmtraining.mb.ca).
~ Written by Aaron Graham for FTM