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BU Abroad: The Land of Hollywood

Lights, cameras, and a lot of action

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In the video above, take a sneak peek at the BU in LA life of internships, classes, and plenty of hard work.

When you think of studying abroad, you probably conjure up images like the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, or the Sydney Opera House. You might not immediately think of the palm trees, back lots, and miles of highway of Los Angeles. But BU’s LA Internship Program, better known as BU in LA, offers students a rare glimpse into the intricate, often seemingly foreign ways of developing and making television shows and films.

BU in LA students attend classes and work several internships. Along the way they gain experience and develop contacts in one of the world’s most competitive industries. It’s a demanding program, with students taking multiple courses, and on average, two internships.

Students in the program can choose from four tracks of study: advertising and public relations, film and television, entertainment management, and Los Angeles studies.

BU Today spent time with two film and television majors who recently completed development and production internships through the LA Internship Program. That experience led them to two very different paths. Below are their stories.

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In the video above, Alyson Isaac (COM’10) talks about her busy life with the BU in LA Program.

After taking on a hectic schedule of three classes and three internships, Alyson Isaac returned to campus this past spring invigorated by the drive and resilience engendered by the BU in LA Program. The Connecticut native had an opportunity to work for the production companies that had produced such hits as Inglourious Basterds, The Break-Up, and the X-men franchise, and had every intention of returning to Hollywood after graduation in May.

“Before I did the program, I was convinced that I’d be on the first plane to LA after they read my name at Commencement,” says Isaac (COM’10).

But a funny thing happened upon her return to campus. “Coming home to Boston after the LA program was really like coming home. I thought I could marry LA, but it turns out we were really more of a fling. I realized that I’m head over heels in love with Boston.”

In Los Angeles, Isaac had a job offer, friends who were moving there, and places to stay until she had an apartment. “The process of deciding not to go was long and hard,” she says. “It absolutely would have been the easier choice, but I’m not particularly fond of easy choices.”

So after producing two films for BU’s intensive Film Production 3 course, Isaac reevaluated her production skills and decided to become a Boston-based event planner.

She credits the tenacity instilled by the LA program for giving her the courage to change paths. “I just moved in to this sweet apartment in Back Bay, which I finagled with my incredible super-sleuth skills,” she says. “Skills that I developed in LA.” Her relatively swift career shift and current position as assistant to a wedding planner came “by cold-calling almost every event planning company in Boston and following up.”

“In LA, people tell you no constantly, and you have to find a way to yes,” she says. “When your job depends on you having the information, you find it. ‘No, you cannot have the contact information for that agent.’ ‘No you cannot live in Back Bay for Allston prices.’ Yes, yes, you can!”

“The most invaluable lesson I learned in LA is to be unforgettable in a sea of faces,” Isaac says. “Because the competition is so intense, people are looking for a reason to write you off.”

“It’s about opening the right doors, and if they won’t open for you, you’ve got to jimmy those suckers open anyway,” she says. “Screw the bolts off ’em or something.”

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In the video above, Fran Richter (COM’10) takes us with her to her production internship on the ABC sitcom Cougar Town.

Before enrolling in the LA Internship Program, Fran Richter recalls, “Los Angeles was all stereotypes and intimidation to me. I couldn’t see myself there.” But after spending two consecutive semesters last year interning for the Weinstein Company, Dimension Films, and the ABC sitcom Cougar Town, Richter (COM’10) was smitten with the city and the industry. “I caught the bug,” she says. “I was determined to get back out there as soon as I could.”

The path back to Los Angeles hasn’t been easy. “It took a lot of patience and hard work on my part,” Richter says. The film major has spent the past eight months working three decidedly unglamorous jobs in Boston to earn enough money to return to the West Coast. Among them: waitressing full-time, working retail part-time, and babysitting on the side. “It was tough to go from complete immersion into the industry to a completely detached environment, but I made an effort to stay up on the trades and keep in touch with my contacts in LA so that I didn’t fall out of touch completely. THR.com is my homepage.”

Richter is happily back in Los Angeles, where she’s unpacking 15 small boxes and 3 suitcases in her new, empty apartment in East Hollywood. And while she’s currently working another retail job, the recent graduate is hopeful about finding an entry-level job in the film industry.

She attributes much of her optimism to the LA Internship Program. “My time at BU in LA is why I am so comfortable moving back, and why I think I have a pretty good chance at finding a job sooner rather than later,” she says. “I learned so much through that work experience in such a short period of time that I can’t imagine anything else better that I could have done to prepare me for my career at this point.”

Alan Wong can be reached at alanwong@bu.edu.

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