Students get a ‘leg up’ through semester program

(From left) Alan Helimsky, Nate Marquez, Jordan Zauderer and Colin Coyle take a break from their internships while participating in Rider’s Semester in LA Program.

By Samantha Brandbergh

Whether it’s interning for a small production company or a well-known nighttime talk show, a group of Rider seniors is gaining the skills needed to make it in the entertainment industry.

The students, who are staying within walking distance of major entertainment and media companies such as Warner Brothers Studios, have been interning in Los Angeles through Rider’s Semester in LA Program.

The program was developed over a five-year span and rooted from student enthusiasm for the spring break trip to Los Angeles, which was organized in 2010 after Rider partnered with the National Broadcasting Society, according to Professor of Communication Barry Janes, who is currently in California with the students.

“We started researching what Rider could do and how we could put together a program like this for our students,” he said.

After Janes sent out 24 applications to senior filmmaking, TV and radio majors, the program became a reality.

In addition to gaining work experience, the 18 accepted students are also able to complete capstone courses, such as senior seminar, and gain credits through online classes.

“It’s a really nice mix,” Janes said. “They can complete the degree program at Rider while enjoying the opportunities to do their internships in the film and television industry.”

Senior Jordan Zauderer first became interested in the program after participating in the spring break trip last year.

“I’ve always been into film, and I really like the idea of going somewhere where nobody knows me,” he said. Being from Long Island, New York, and going to school in New Jersey, Zauderer felt like the opportunity to go to Los Angeles would be a way to “reinvent” himself. “When you’re here, you don’t want to leave, and that’s how I felt [last year],” he said. “It was a tease only being here for five days, so I knew I had to do the semester trip.”

Zauderer is currently interning for two production companies, Hydepark Entertainment and Intrigue Entertainment, where he reads scripts and edits promotional videos for American adaptations of international shows, such as the Korean television series “Black.”

“[At Hydepark], I edit together a trailer based on the episodes I watch online, and I learn the story through subtitles, since it’s all Korean,” he said. “So I’ll edit together a two-minute promo; they use that to show the studio to get them interested and pay [the company] to hire freelance writers for the script.”

Working for Intrigue Entertainment, however, has given Zauderer more responsibility, since it is a much smaller production company.

“We recently had a show get picked up by The CW, and the pilot is filming right now in Vancouver, Canada,” he said. “In the process of finding actors, they had the interns watch the auditions tapes to get our input on who we think would be a good fit for the characters.”

The Semester in LA Program has given students a wide range of opportunities.

Senior Kara Kellenbenz, for example, is the general production intern for “Conan” on TBS, which films at the Warner Brothers lot.

“I’ve seen more of the entertainment industry than I thought I would because I am on one of the most well-known lots in the world,” she said.

Some of Kellenbenz’s daily tasks include the stereotypical intern duties, such as answering phones and running errands, but she occasionally catches cue cards during the show tapings or stays overnight to assist with a 24-hour livestream the show produces with Google Play.

While the job has been stressful at times, Kellenbenz said the experience will help her in the long run.

“I think this program will benefit me after graduation because now I have so many connections here in LA and at ‘Conan,’” she said. “I know that I can always reach out to anyone here, whether it’s for future employment or just to take a look at my résumé to make it the best it can be. It’s also beneficial because I have made friends with the other interns who are also looking to live out here post-graduation, so I don’t have the fear of not finding roommates anymore.”

Aside from applying for jobs, the group is able to relax and explore California, taking day trips to Santa Monica, Venice and Malibu, all while making connections in unlikely places.

“We’ll go to bars and stuff, and while you’re there, you meet people also in the industry and you start talking,” Zauderer said.

While this year’s program focuses on film, radio and television, it will be open to all communication majors next year to “expand the scope,” Janes said.

“They’re observing the flow of the industry itself and what people are doing,” he said. “They really have a leg up on the job market. I don’t think I anticipated the impact that this could have.”


Published in the 3/21/18 edition.

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