From “Maplewood” by Planet Nutshell’s Fall 2019 intern, David Oneacre

The past few months have found us knee-deep in fall and winter internship applications, and the process revealed a few things. 1) There are a ton of talented young animators out there. 2) Our resident animator Mollie Davis is basically an internship expert. Seriously, she’s had so many awesome internships, she has trouble remembering them all — “I had 4. Oh no, wait! I interned there, too! I had 5!”

Given these two discoveries, we thought we’d share some of Mollie’s best tips for aspiring animators. She not only has great advice for how to land your dream internship but how to get the most out of the experience once you’re there.

1. It starts with the reel.

Though you should give thought to your resume and cover letter, your reel and portfolio are the #1 things potential internships will look at (and yeah, scrutinize a little). Reels should be about a minute long and cut to a great track. However, since so many people watch things on mobile, make sure the reel is compelling when viewed silently, too. Lastly, put your best work at the beginning and the end, since busy internship coordinators may watch the first few seconds, then skip straight to the end.

2. Show your work-in-process.

While your portfolio should include your best finished work, think about including sketches, animatics, whatever pieces you have from the process itself. This won’t just show your technical competency but also your storytelling and revision skills.

3. Once you’re there, listen & observe.

Though you may work on some great projects during your internship (maybe even some for real clients that pay real dollars), just being in a studio setting is a valuable experience, so pay attention to what’s going on around you. How do the the producers and the creative team interact? How does the creative director present work to the client? Though teamwork and communication are referred to as “soft skills,” there’s nothing “soft” about them, and they can help you succeed when you land your first job.

4. Ask questions… but the right questions.

Internships are a time to ask questions, but do yourself — and your supervisor — a favor and make sure your question can’t be answered by a quick Google search first. This won’t just save your supervisor from potential frustration, it will help to spark more thoughtful discussions, since you will have gotten some baseline knowledge about the issue from your initial search.

5. Stay loose & push yourself.

Your first internship in animation can be intimidating, but remember: they like you, and they like your work. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have given you the gig, right? So use this time to step outside your comfort zone and push yourself. The feedback you get from people in the field is so much different than feedback you get from professors, since professors often care about fostering your creative voice, and working studio animators can teach you a lot about the process itself and how to do things quicker, better and more efficiently.

So that’s it! Our resident internship expert’s five tips for how to be an awesome intern.