GVSU interns pull together to make GRFF happen

By Mary Mattingly | 2/12/14 6:46pm

Internships. While some bemoan tasks that may seem like thankless, uncompensated work, others find internships that truly enrich their learning experience. The interns of the Grand Rapids Film Festival can attest to the latter.

“So much of the world would not go anywhere without interns. We are a low-budget film festival, (our budget is about) $25,000; that’s not really a lot for a cash budget,” said Jen Shaneberger, executive director of the GRFF. “Committee members are industry members with full-time jobs, you give them a detailed task…they don’t have time. Interns are an asset because they’re able to dive into time-consuming tasks, and they have the…enthusiasm to handle it.”

The Grand Rapids Film Festival is a nonprofit organization as well as an annual film festival that screens in downtown Grand Rapids. This year, the fifth annual event will take place April 9 through April 14. To help get the festival off the ground, interns are used to complete assignments that committee and board members cannot. Out of the ten interns the festival currently employs, six are GVSU students, with one GVSU alumnus.

“Since (seven of us) are all from Grand Valley, we talk about professors we’ve had and the tools they’ve given us,” said Nick DiCarlo, a GVSU senior and one of the festival’s promotional interns. “It’s been a month, and I’ve used everything I’ve learned in classes (already).”

DiCarlo is part of a promotional team that consists of two other GVSU interns. He said that while he focuses on reaching out to university newspapers to publicize the GRFF, other members of his team have focused on contacting local businesses to garner interest, as well as pricing for flyers and posters.

Each Friday, Shaneberger meets with the GVSU interns at the Mary Idema Pew Library. During these sessions, she coaches them on leadership and evaluates the tasks they’ve been assigned.

“We are able to refine their ideas. Even though we are two months out (from the festival), we’ve been matching what they’ve learned in the classroom and what the reality is in the marketplace,” Shaneberger said. “I teach leadership… we learn things like what does it mean to be strategically absent? (Or) if we don’t send (companies a) press release early enough, (they) can’t calendar it out.”

Shaneberger has found that while the interns had prior knowledge, she also had to bring several concepts up-to-date. Meg Jewell, a GVSU senior majoring in public relations, has also found that there are lessons to be learned outside of the classroom.

“In all my classes, (professors) say there’s such a huge difference between advertising, public relations and marketing. But they all have to work together for an event like this to happen,” Jewell said. “At Grand Valley, in the public relations program, we focus all attention on PR; (professors) don’t really talk about how they can all intertwine and work together.”

Shaneberger said the interns have also been a valuable asset in the outlook they bring to these coaching sessions. While the festival in years past targeted a demographic of people age 30-50, this year the festival is targeting young professionals from ages 18-35.

“(The interns) give me a lot of momentum and energy,” Shaneberger said. “On Friday mornings, coaching those sessions helps me to understand deeply and fully what’s going on (and helps) me prepare my thoughts for larger meetings…we rely on the input of students.”

Jewell has been interning with the GRFF since July of 2013. This semester, she has been entrusted with the task of overseeing the promotions team.

“Having this internship has definitely given me more experience and it looks good on my resume to have an internship that lasted this long,” Jewell said.

She added that working on a team with other GVSU students has increased the sense of community among them.

“It’s been a great experience; it’s definitely had a positive impact on my education at Grand Valley,” Jewell said. “I get these internships because Grand Valley makes internships and gaining experience in your field so important.”

Although they are still in the early months of planning, the interns have come together to ensure that the festival will run smoothly.

“I’m really proud of the work they’re doing,” Shaneberger said. “I feel that Grand Valley interns are quality; they care, and they’re invested (so) I’m invested.”

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