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SFTV senior Jes Bickhart has managed to get hired at Gidden Media, even though he will not graduate until May. In an economic climate where recent graduates continue to struggle to find work, one of the best ways students can put themselves at the head of the employment line is through an internship.

“The more internships students have before graduation, the more likely they are to get hired, and sooner,” says Tasha Ross, the School of Film and Television’s Internship Specialist. “These students are the first to be placed in jobs.”

Bickhart caught the entertainment bug after seeing a performance of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in Princeton, New Jersey. He remembers walking out of the theater, holding his parents hands and telling them, “I am going to do that for the rest of my life.”  That was elementary school.

As a high school student, Bickhart understood the power of developing professional relationships and the importance of volunteer work – his father is in politics. His first volunteer gig was at a casting agency, where he worked in exchange for classes. He then interned at the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, where he had a front row seat on the ins and outs of government tax incentives for growing the local film industry.

As a newly minted freshman at Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television, Bickhart was now in Los Angeles – the heart of the entertainment industry. His hot pursuit of internship opportunities continued.

“There really is no substitute for gaining real world experience,” he said. “I did development work at MPower, so I learned and mastered the art of script coverage. I interned at 424 Post, where I learned about post-production, visual effects, coloring and the process of moving through production on studio movies,” he added. Then a lucky break came at the beginning of his senior year. “I received the Wednesday Wire listing for an internship at Gidden Media from the SFTV internship office, and here I am.”

In this case, the “here” was assisting Amy Baer, industry veteran and former President/CEO of CBS Films, who recently started her own company, Gidden Media, located on the Sony Pictures lot. Bickhart was the only intern at Gidden, and one of two people (counting Baer’s staff assistant) whom she trusted to handle the day-to-day operations of her company. Baer even flew him to Las Vegas during the filming of her feature film, Last Vegas, which is currently in production.

Bickhart is one of 350 students who have been placed in internships since 2009.

The program began with just 50 partner companies and now has close to 400 companies including DreamWorks, Disney, Lionsgate, CW, CBS and more. The program is now placing roughly 225 students into internships each year.

“By taking advantage of LMU SFTV’s internship program, I was not only able to get class credit and learn from incredible professionals, but also receive much needed grant money and opportunities that would not have been available to me otherwise,” said Bickhart.

Ross says she often hears from our partner companies that we have the best interns in Hollywood. “The students who work the hardest, the people who go above and beyond, and don’t complain, go the furthest in this business.”

Bickhart is a shining example of this work ethic. “I like to come into an internship, and get a sense of the place before really trying to become the rock star. You want to learn how the office runs on a day-to-day basis, how things are done, how people like their coffee,” he says. “Once you have that down is when you start to overdo it; you’re there half an hour before everyone else. You have script coverage on your boss’s desk, along with a hot cup of Starbucks coffee the way she likes it, right when she comes in. You have to know everything about the person you are working for so they never have to ask you. Once you get to that point is when they start to say ‘Who is this kid? We need to find them a job here.’”

Bickhart says it was through the relationships he made at MPower that lead to the internship at 424 Post, the post-production sound company. And it was the combination of all of his past work experience that won him the title of assisting Amy Baer on the Sony lot.

When asked his favorite part about his internship, Bickhart replied, “Walking under the Sony Pictures arches every day to come to our office—it really affirms that I am in the right place. I hope to never take that for granted. And you know what made it awesome for me? When my dad flew out and I hosted him on the Sony lot for lunch. Just walking him around the lot and seeing how excited he was for me was really moving. I brought him up to my office and showed him my desk, where there’s a picture of the family.”

Two hours after our interview, Jes Bickhart sent an email sharing the news that he had just been officially hired as Amy Baer’s assistant for the 2013 year.

Before he can begin his new job in earnest, he needs to finish his thesis film, aptly entitled Top of the Rock.

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