Robert Leane reflects on his paid press and PR internship with the Creative Eastleigh team for European programme Recreate.
Rob joined the Culture Unit at Eastleigh Borough Council for his 18 month internship working with the Creative Eastleigh team and partner organisations in England and France for Recreate, a cross-Channel economic development and regeneration programme. Here he talks about his experience with Creative Eastleigh and the value of paid internships…
Eighteen months ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had spent three years obtaining a strong Film Studies degree from the University of Southampton and been disappointed to spend the next year flitting between unfulfilling admin jobs in call-centres and offices.
Now, I fully know the career I wish to pursue and have already made in-roads into the industry, forged valuable contacts and developed a strong professional portfolio. What happened in between? A paid internship at Eastleigh Borough Council.
I knew the position was a rare and unique opportunity as soon as I saw the advert: it was a 12-month paid role (later extended by six months), working alongside Eastleigh’s stellar Culture Unit to help organise and promote a series of large-scale creative events in the borough. This wasn’t a ‘make the tea and take the minutes’ internship, not in the slightest. In fact, this was far more like a real job – a chance to join a thriving, imaginative department and truly help with their next big projects.
As a Film Studies graduate and a hardened film fan, I was most thrilled by the opportunity to join the team working on the inaugural Eastleigh Film Festival. The opportunities to work on Enliven (an established fashion showcase), Unwrapped (an outdoor theatre spectacular), The Sorting Office (a studio space for developing designers) and Tec Hub (a workspace for modern digital businesses) were the icing, sprinkles, cherry and cream on the cake.
I remember being pleasantly surprised to learn that this position was paid. Of course, this wasn’t a glamorous big city salary, but it was certainly enough to move away from home and re-embrace the sense of freedom that had been lacking in my life since returning to my hometown after university.
Understandably, I was absolutely chuffed to get the job. As much as I didn’t know then quite how life-changing my internship would turn out to be, I could tell it was a big deal.
As soon as I arrived on the 1st July 2013 I felt entirely welcome at The Point, Eastleigh’s council-run theatre, which would go on to become a home-away-from-home in the coming months. There was a strong community spirit in the venue, with tonnes of passion emanating from every department. In the first Eastleigh Film Festival meetings I attended, I was blown away by the imagination and enthusiasm on display.
Soon, I was developing skills in areas I had no idea I could excel in. Under the guidance of the Recreate project team (the EU-financed local development scheme which funded my position) and the experienced marketing experts at The Point, I was quickly introduced to the world of writing press releases, website content and social media promotions as well as developing my knowledge of filming, video editing, photography and – perhaps most importantly – making contacts and networking.
The timeline of Eastleigh’s strand of the EU-funded Recreate project meant that I would have to wait nearly a full year before Eastleigh Film Festival came around, but this initial worry soon turned into a positive. By working on the promotional push for The Sorting Office studios, and assisting with the sizeable marketing campaigns committed to Enliven and Unwrapped, I quickly began to understand the ins and outs of the industry and beginning to develop my own voice as a writer.
The confidence that this experience was giving me was such that I was soon approaching my favourite film website – the brilliant Den Of Geek – with ideas for articles and submissions, in my spare time. To my amazement, they liked my writing and my pitches, and soon began publishing my work on their site.
Meanwhile, throughout the organisational process for Eastleigh Film Festival, I had been brought in to help forge contacts and attract talent. This led to working relationships with Danny Leigh of BBC One’s Film 2014 and Owen Williams of Empire Magazine (both of whom attended our festival). I also got to meet loads of interesting people from the film industry including Oscar-shortlisted writer-director Lisa James-Larsson, the inspirational Alex Counsel and Paul Charisse from FOAM Digital, Gerard Melling from the BBC and storyboarding expert Marcus Pullen.
As well as making these contacts, I had been leading the push to promote the event – acquiring coverage in newspapers, magazines and radio, gathering skills and know-how as I went. By the time the festival came around, three nights of events (out of six) had already sold out. It’s hard to put into words the sense of pride and accomplishment that came with selling-out these 340 tickets.
When the festival arrived, I was immensely excited to see the event become a big success – as well as the sold-out events we had film fans turning-up in costume, industry experts bestowing their wisdom and a short film competition stuffed with local talent. I’ve never been more proud in seeing a project I worked on come to fruition, it was a brilliant thing to be a part of.
When I told our head of culture Cheryl Butler that I wanted to see how the other half lived and undertake two weeks work experience in the editorial offices of the prestigious movie magazine Empire, she was incredibly encouraging and supportive. Alongside my work for Den Of Geek, this fortnight (when I was lucky enough to attend a press screening, visit a live set and have my work published on the Empire website) cemented my career decision going forward.
With the confidence gained in my writing, communication and online skills, all of which I garnered from this internship, I have now decided to go full-time freelance as a film journalist. It’s a challenge I never would have had the courage or skills to undertake if it weren’t for Eastleigh Borough Council taking a chance on me eighteen months ago.
I can’t thank this team enough, and I hope more local authorities follow their lead by employing paid interns alongside their cultural projects.
Press and PR Intern
To watch a video of Rob’s latest work for Empire Magazine, an interview with the cast of Night At The Museum 3, click here.
IMAGE: Intern Rob Leane interviewing BBC One’s Film 2014 Danny Leigh ahead of the Eastleigh Film Festival.