Moving to the West Coast right out of high school seemed scary for Sean Aversa, Class of 2022.
Instead, he chose to take advantage of a golden opportunity at Temple: the Study Away program in Los Angeles (LA).
After learning about the program while visiting the university, Aversa was sold.
“Temple’s LA Study Away has a good track record of success and recruiting college leavers,” said Aversa, a film and media arts student from Manchester, Maryland. “At 18, I was like, ‘Can you get a job in film? Perfect! I knew I wanted to do this program at Temple.
Established in 1997, LA Study Away is a semester-long academic program with an internship component offered in the fall, spring, and summer.
“Students dream of what it means to be on the West Coast and understand Hollywood,” said Alison Crouse, program director of LA Study Away. “Being in school gives them the opportunity to explore the industry while they still have the support and structure of a program.”
Although hosted by the School of Theatre, Film and Media Arts, LA Study Away is open to juniors and seniors from all Temple schools and colleges. Interested students complete an online application, in which they submit a resume, essay, and two professor references.
“In the app, we’re looking at a student and their ability to represent Temple and the program,” Crouse said. “We are looking to see if the student can balance studies and work.”
Once in Los Angeles, students take program-specific courses on the entertainment industry that promote professional development, taught by instructors who work in the industry. These courses complement the experiential learning that students gain by working in one or two internships depending on their professional interests.
President Jason Wingard recently visited the LA Study Away program. As part of the visit, Wingard and Provost Gregory N. Mandel joined students and faculty for breakfast. (Photo courtesy of Kasee Shambora)
Students also take a prerequisite course called Leaving Hollywood which helps them identify companies they would like to intern for and teaches them how to write CVs, cover letters and informational interviews.
“[This prerequisite] was the best class I ever had at Temple,” Aversa said. “He took this abstract idea of ’I want to work in film’ and made it practical. It took away any mystique and developed me as a budding professional. Attending classes in Los Angeles fostered this development.
Internships can be based in any area of the entertainment industry. Students have worked as production assistants on sets and as development interns at production companies, as well as interns at PR, talent, and advertising agencies. Students have also completed internships at major studios like Nickelodeon, Disney, Sony, NBC Universal, and ViacomCBS.
During President Wingard’s visit, he toured the canals of Venice with the LA Culture class, taught by Anthony Carfello. (Photo courtesy of Kasee Shambora)
“Temple students are notorious for being hard-working, lawless, rambling, and punctual,” said Amy Olk, internship director and summer faculty director at LA Study Away. “Because we have a long history of successful internships through this program, Temple has a very good reputation in Los Angeles. I always get emails from companies saying they had such a great experience and would love to have another Temple intern.
“Temple has a very good reputation in LA. I always get emails from companies saying they had such a great experience and would love to have another Temple intern.”
— Amy Olk, Director of Internships and Director of LA Study Away Summer School
Rather than having automatic internships, the program teaches students how to apply for and win positions themselves.
“It’s important for students to learn how to design an industry-standard app and approach companies on their own, as they will need to do this when they graduate,” Olk said. She guides them through the process by helping them fill out internship applications, choose between several offers and determine the best offer.
Aversa, who has an interest in screenwriting and directing, is interning at Bold Films, a production company behind films such as To drive and Somnambulist. He works two days a week providing script coverage in which he summarizes and analyzes the scripts he receives. “My internship is great because I feel like I’m part of something in the industry,” he said.
Another element of LA Study Away is networking with Temple alumni who work in the entertainment industry.
“We try to host as many events as possible for current students to meet alumni from the past 10 years who have successfully transitioned into the industry,” said Lou Pepe, LA Study Away faculty director for fall and spring. “A lot of alumni come back to the program to ask for interns for their projects. They want to give back to the students.
“Thanks to an alumnus of Temple, I was able to secure my internship and work on a short film for the Los Angeles International Latin Film Festival’s partnership with Netflix, and now I work regularly as a freelance assistant editor thanks to those connections,” said Brittanie Maddox, TFM ’21. During the program, Maddox interned for Samuel Goldwyn Films and worked on promotional marketing materials for the Oscars campaign for The man who sold his skin.
“Networking prepared me to take bolder steps,” she added. “I’m more active in the animation community now, and I’ve spoken with people I never would have learned to approach if this program hadn’t opened my eyes to the intricacies and nuances.”
For students, getting a taste of the entertainment industry while still in school can give them a better idea of their career direction, which is one of LA Study Away’s goals.
“A lot of students talk about how the semester in Los Angeles changes their lives and that they learned so much here, which is a testament to the power of experiential learning,” Olk said.
One of the greatest strengths of the program is the interpersonal bonds forged between students, alumni, and faculty.
“LA Study Away is run by people who really care about me, and I would recommend the program to anyone who is interested,” Aversa said.