Internship Spotlight: Sarah Ford

As a U3 student majoring in English: Cultural Studies, and double minoring in Art History and Communications, I wanted to secure an internship that would align with my interest in media and film. I also have a passion for nature and wildlife, as I have been doing wildlife photography for 10 years and have career aspirations in wildlife filmmaking. Therefore, when I came across Rotating Planet Productions, a production company based in Montreal that has created award-winning documentary films on nature and wildlife, I knew this was where I wanted to do my internship. The company’s mission involves creating innovative ways to use film to highlight the relationships between people and nature and encourage viewers to take positive action with regards to the environment and wildlife. When I reached out to the company, I was thrilled by their openness to taking on an intern. My learning objectives included attaining knowledge on the wildlife documentary landscape in Canada and internationally and learning more about documentary film production.

As Research and Production Intern, my main responsibility was to prepare pitch decks and proposals ranging from 1-20 pages to be sent to broadcast networks. This is the first step of almost any film production, as an idea needs to be picked up by a broadcaster to be feasible. Therefore, these proposals needed to successfully communicate the concept of a new film in a way that seemed fresh and entertaining. I was tasked with writing these proposals with language that would pique interest and designing the documents with images and text to tease the style of the film. Creating these pitch decks involved finding leads on stories and characters that could be included in the film. Research also involved finding what these broadcasters were looking for. Further, through multiple discussions with my internship supervisor, I played a major role in deciding the direction and style of these films. Additionally, some of these pitches were my original ideas from start to finish, with valuable input from my internship supervisor. Throughout my internship, I successfully completed over 10 pitch decks and proposals that were sent to major broadcasters including CBC, Netflix, and National Geographic.

My other responsibilities included coordinating a major European press release of the company’s newest film series, Animal Social Networks. I created the press release and media package, contacted crew members, and found and contacted organizations and publications that could spread the release. Further, I contributed to writing grant applications, and conducted research on funding sources. Finally, I worked on the company’s newest project, Good Stock Library, an archive site containing wildlife and nature clips that can be bought to facilitate telling stories about nature. This site is different from other stock footage sources, as all its contents have been acquired ethically through prioritizing the well-being of the habitats and wildlife featured. Further, a portion of the proceeds goes to environmental organizations working to protect these animals and spaces. I worked on logging metadata for the clips, providing input on the company model, and developing a video-based promotional campaign.

One of the highlights of the internship was learning that the pitches I created would be sent directly to extremely prominent broadcasters. I felt this was a testament to the quality of my pitches, and it gave me additional motivation to create the best pitches possible. Another highlight was being supervised by the head of the company, Ari Cohen, who has over 25 years of experience in wildlife film. During our meetings, he often shared advice and insights that will surely stick with me. Since every task I was given was something I had never done before, the internship presented numerous challenges which I took as opportunities to expand my skillset. It was also challenging to conduct the internship remotely, as email and phone communication sometimes feels inadequate. However, frequent phone and Zoom calls made me feel more present.

I will be receiving academic credit for this internship through writing a paper on contemporary nature documentary film production in Canada under the supervision of Professor Derek Nystrom. This internship has helped me recognize a major field of academic interest in wildlife filmmaking, which I am excited to pursue in this course, and potentially further into my studies as I pursue a Masters degree.

I received funding from the Archie Malloch Undergraduate Internships in Public Learning thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Blachford. Since my host organization did not have allocated financial resources to take on an intern, this funding made the completion of this internship possible.

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