Media and Information Student Branches Out at Home and Abroad

Elise Conklin has always loved visual storytelling. Whether it's "Silver Linings Playbook," "Star Wars" or "Tropic Thunder," the Media and Information junior will watch almost any kind of movie. And her favorite part about filmmaking is editing.

"As long as I'm behind an editing machine, I'm happy," she said. "I like piecing a puzzle together. Why does this part work? Why is this part not working? It's something that's subtle and underappreciated, but it's so wildly important to filmmaking."

Over the summer, however, she got the chance to explore the pre-production side of filmmaking through an internship at Landmark Productions, a Grand Rapids-based video production company. As an intern, Conklin helped with a little bit of everything – from location scouting to communicating with clients.

"That was something I was really glad I got to do because it's something that's difficult to learn in a classroom," she said.

Conklin went out on a limb to get the job. She met the owner, Kyle Burton Black, while she was in high school. He came to work with her school's theater department, and he told the students about Landmark Productions. Fast forward a few years and Conklin reached out to him in an email asking for a job.

She was worried that she wouldn't be able to find an internship before she left to study abroad in India, but Landmark Productions was more than happy to take her on for a few weeks.

Her favorite project involved a promotional shoot for Main Street Dueling Pianos. The pianists were playing at a wedding and the film crew followed them for the whole day, which ended up being about 15 hours.

"It was really valuable even though we weren't there for the wedding specifically," she said. "(Kyle) was talking about the logistics of how you can do more corporate videos artistically, and I think that's a really important skill to have."

While the internship was unpaid, Conklin was a recipient of the Adrienne M. Johns Communication Arts and Sciences Internship Award, which helped to cover expenses.

"I wouldn't have been able to do the Landmark Production internship if I didn't have the scholarship," she said.

As soon as she finished her internship, Conklin flew to India to participate in the "Beyond Bollywood: A Taste of Indian Media" study abroad program. The group traveled to three different cities and explored the regional differences in Indian filmmaking.

"We were going nonstop and seeing everything we could possibly see, and we still only saw a tiny, tiny percentage of what India has to offer," Conklin said. "It was a complete wild ride, but I loved every single second of it."

While in India, Conklin and the other students helped to plan, shoot and edit a 15-minute film in just five days.

"It was one of the hardest things I think I've ever done," she said. Their longest day on set was from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. the next day. "We walked out of there like zombies, but still really excited zombies. If I could go back right now, I 100 percent would."

Now, Conklin is in the process of applying for other internships, and she has some advice for other ComArtSci students.

"Talk to your professors. Form a relationship with them and they'll remember you," she said. "Whenever they have an opportunity, they'll remember you and you'll get brought on to these really cool projects.

"I think ComArtSci is something really unique and really special. A lot of professors have real-world advice and a lot of real-world experience."