Digital Storytelling Student’s Unique Majors Build Internship Foundation

Rachel Sageman, a digital storytelling and accounting senior, spent her summer at Paramount Television Studios for a ten-week paid production finance internship. According to her, part of what made her application stand out were her areas of study, which distinctly blend creative and analytical skills. 

“A lot of people in production finance that I met had no accounting or finance background,” Sageman said. “It’s unique that I have these two majors that meshed well together. I think that gave me a leg up because I knew the technical side of the film world, and I also knew the accounting stuff.” 

Throughout the internship’s duration, Sageman built a network of fellow student professionals in the program. 

“They recruited a lot of different people from all over the country,” she said. “I met someone from Peru who was an exchange student, someone from New York, someone from the University of Michigan and one other Michigan State student. It was just so cool to make these connections because, in the film world, we know connections are very important.” 

In addition to clerical work, Sageman learned production accounting from industry leaders and even got to draft a mock budget for a project. 

“For the fun side of it, we had a production accounting class,” she said. “This lady who’s a big production accountant came in a taught us more about production accounting, because it’s not a very well-known field. I also worked on my own budget for a 30-minute pilot episode. I pretended to find rates for people working on the film and just put it together.” 

Even though Sageman had been working on her own tasks, she still yearned to immerse herself in the company even further. This involved taking on extra projects, job shadowing and most importantly, developing professional communication skills. 

“I had to reach out to people in order to get these projects because my team was focused on merging with this other department,” she said. “Communication was a big thing. I had to step up and ask for things and I’ve never really had to do that. I learned how to write a good email.” 

Originally, Sageman couldn’t see herself living in Los Angeles. But after this summer, she admits that she’s warming up to the idea.  

“I always thought I was a New York kind of girl, not California,” she said. “I ended up using Airbnb’s so that way I could have flexibility. I stayed in two different neighborhoods in L.A. —the Silver Lake area and West Hollywood—which was so fun. There’s so much going on, there are so many different people and I got to experience different sides of it.” 

She also admits that achieving the Career Center internship award aided some stressors of finding suitable housing.  

“It was helpful because L.A. is an expensive city,” she said. “I could get housing in a safe area and not have to worry about transportation, food or anything. It took a burden off for sure.” 

Sageman also noted that asking for help and being willing to learn are essential in internships, and any professional realm, for that matter.  

“It’s about building up your resume of connections so people can vouch for you, say you’re a hard worker and say you know what you’re doing,” she said. “And if you don’t know anything, that’s fine to say because most people love talking about their jobs and what they’re doing. If you just ask them about it, they’ll be happy to share and help you out.” 

Perhaps her biggest piece of advice for finding a company fit, however, is simply to stay true to yourself. 

“Don’t try to conform to what you think they want of you,” she said. “If you don’t fit in their scheme of things, it’s not going to work out and you’re not going to have a good time. It’s just about being yourself so that you can always have those connections.” 

Luckily in Sageman’s case, her internship, peers and mentors helped her realize she’s pursuing the career she’s certain will be a fit. 

“It definitely narrowed down what I want to do,” she said. “Whether it’s on the corporate side or in the field, I definitely want to go into entertainment. The people who work in entertainment are amazing and my experience was amazing.” 

By Stella Govitz