My Internship at Paramount Studios: Weeks Four & Five

Week four marked the approximate halfway point of my internship on Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn and a return from a two week break. I was back in the production office. It was very relaxed. The majority of my work was doing  food runs for the writers. The runs definitely kept me on my toes as a driver! For the most part, my interning at the production office is being a back-up PA. If the other PAs were indisposed, I would be there to help out.

Week 5 I was sent to work in the props department! I’ve seen them around while doing errands onstage, but I’ve never had the chance to work with them and see what they do. My first day I was introduced to what the props department does. To begin, props are anything the actor touches and uses in a scene. Whenever say, Don Draper from Mad Men smokes a cigarette, holds a phone, that is a prop. Even food is considered a prop. But more on prop food later. The props department is tasked with the creation of the props and making sure they are continuous throughout the filming process. Continuity is very important. If forgotten, it can throw a monkey wrench in the production and confuse the audience. Going back to Don, the props department must make sure he is smoking the cigarette in the same hand from shot to shot. It also matters if the episode or film is shot out of sequence. If Don is smoking the same cigarette and walks into another room, it cannot magically switch hands.  Once the prop master told me about what she does, I got to help design a championship belt for the episode. It was like arts and crafts in set decoration, which was fun. Plus, I like seeing the fruits of my labor being featured onscreen.

I got to stay with the props, watching as they would take a picture of the scene as it began, and then would check the scene in case it was altered and fix it after every cut. I was mostly there to watch, which I’ve wanted to do for awhile. I was lucky to have a good episode to watch, as there were a variety of props to see being set up. The first was a cat scratch post. As the scene progressed and it was built, the props would add and take away pieces as needed. It was also interesting to see all the pieces in motion. How did the ADs work with the director and how the director worked with the camera people, it was like a well-oiled machine.

The second day I began with Production, but was not there for long. I was quickly called to the stage to help make signs for a wrestling tournament that was in the episode. It was exciting, because I could be creative and see my efforts onscreen. I also got to make really corny puns on posters which is always a plus. While I was working on the posters, I got a message from my boss telling me I could go into the editing bay and watch them at work.  That was so cool to see where it happens. I loved the editing bay, as it was quieter than the crazy set. When I went in, they were about to put the laugh track into the episode. I met the man behind that, who is one the few people that still does that. He explained to me that he watches the episode and creates an outline based on the pauses and the comedy. The post production team came in and would make adjustments. I can’t believe they keep all those old laughs from shows like I Love Lucy and recycle them into new comedic situations.

The last day of the week was getting to hand out props out to the background extras. Ultimately, I needed to make sure that the fake food was evenly distributed among the crowd. In addition, it was important to make sure that children didn’t receive loose food like popcorn or real pretzels. The scene was going to take 5 hours to shoot and children get bored and antsy, picking their food and playing around. So it was a strategic game to make sure the food and posters were easily distributed and easy to clean up when it was all over. It was mostly watching the scenes be acted out, again a treat to see. Week 6 I get to be with props again and this week there is a cooking class…

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