By Mari Olan - 21 January 2020
If you have the opportunity to go on a study abroad programme, Film Production student Mari Olan has some advice for you. DO IT! No second thoughts. Just do it.
A top deciding factor
Before we get into the specifics of my internship abroad, I first found out about this opportunity to study abroad before I had even started my journey at the University of Derby. The option to go on a study abroad programme was one of my top deciding factors. From the beginning, I knew that the work experience and exposure abroad would be beneficial for my professional and personal growth. I think many students overlook this.
As students, we are used to sitting in lecture rooms listening and taking down notes. But, to be good at your craft, it is crucial to put that theory into practice. Your best chance of doing this is by taking part in a study abroad programme. Those theories can only be mastered by putting yourself in real-life and industry-standard work, especially for courses like the one I did, Film Production. So, during the second semester of my final year, I chose the alternative route to take part in a five-month internship in Malta.
Why Malta is special
Why did I go to Malta, you might ask? How is it related to my Film Production course?
Having serviced over 200 feature films, movies, documentaries and commercials, Malta Film Studios (MFS) is considered to be one of the largest production facilities in the world. It is most renowned for its special effects water facility featuring one indoor tank and two large exterior water tanks located along the coast, giving productions a natural landscape. The studio’s vast range of water SFX equipment and experienced crew can make any special effects possible.
The company with which I completed my traineeship was set up to offer a wide range of production services. These include short films, corporate promotional adverts, documentaries and online video content both for local and international markets. They offer services from development all the way to finished product, covering the full spectrum of the film making process, which gave me the opportunity to work on all aspects of film making.
Challenged to work hard
I had the chance of working on numerous projects varying from television, social media adverts and a feature-length film. All of these had tighter deadlines than I am usually used to. That said, I was challenged to work three times as hard and without allowing the quality of my work to suffer. Most of the projects I worked on involved editing, basic colour-grading and sound mixing.
During my internship, I was able to work with many different people and I learned to adapt quickly. Working with different people helped improve my communication skills as well as adaptability to other cultures, attitudes and practices.
I was extremely lucky to have been in Malta for my internship when a major foreign film production was in the country – which also happened to be produced by my employer. He trusted me to work as the Second Assistant Director under the guidance of the First Assistant Director. I am beyond grateful for having had this opportunity. I was very much involved in the preparation of the production and also helped as many people as I possibly could on set.
Opening my eyes
Working with the water tanks in the Malta Film Studios has been an incredible and eye-opening experience. I worked with around 50 crew members but the most fascinating part of my experience was seeing how the water tanks work.
We had to recreate open-water waves and a storm and watching this happen was unbelievable and extraordinary. My involvement in this production was a pleasant and unforgettable experience. I witnessed a true form of art and passion during my time working as a Second Assistant Director. This experience has taught me not only determination and passion but also a better appreciation for the art of film. It is truly humbling to have had the opportunity to work on a major feature film.
Other than that, I learned the day-to-day operation of a production company, how to communicate with clients and to adjust to their needs, especially when amending the project based on their feedback. Resilience and modesty are crucial. More importantly, I learned how to manage my time well and to prioritise even when I had multiple projects due at the same time. Because of my internship, I gained an awareness of my skills, which is important to gauge your work time and your strengths and weaknesses. Throughout the internship, I learned to take initiative and to stay grounded.
A new hobby
During my free time, I found myself discovering and exploring a new hobby. I spent the last three months of my internship exploring Malta underwater. It is, after all, the best diving spot in all of Europe. With the free time that I had on weekends, I took it upon myself to work towards my dive licence. Diving has allowed me not only to explore a new interest but also to discover Maltese culture, even underwater.
In addition, I have not only learned more about film making and gained new experiences, but I also learned more about myself and my environment.
I enjoyed putting myself in a new environment and learning to adapt to their way of life. Likewise, I gained new useful skills both in film making and in my personal life. I met many people who share the same passion as I do who also taught me how to become a better person and a better team member.
My internship in Malta has been a very valuable experience for myself and for all my colleagues. Apart from technical skills, most importantly, I learned how to improve my communication skills, adaptability, time management and awareness of my skills. I also learned to accept criticism and turn this into an opportunity to grow.
While I was in Malta, I kept in touch with my Programme Leader and Lecturer by sending them weekly updates. This way, they could keep track of my progress. They were also in communication with my employer in Malta to make sure that I was performing as he had expected. Overall, everything went as smoothly as I had hoped. I would definitely recommend studying abroad or doing an internship to any student who is given the opportunity to do so.
Choosing the alternative route for my final semester of university has been the best and most fulfilling decision I have made throughout university. The opportunities I received during my time in Malta has made me more passionate and determined to continue my journey in the film-making industry.
Other than that, I have met many people from all and different walks of life who have allowed me to see things from a different light and to understand how cultural differences can affect how a team works. Despite these differences, the film-making community continues to strive for the same goal. Because of this experience, I became more confident in my skills and it has helped me become more employable. In fact, every job interview I’ve had has asked about my internship in Malta.
As far as I am aware, the process of doing a study abroad programme is not universal. Each programme is different and has different requirements so be sure to check ahead of time and talk to the relevant people. For me, my main source of information was my Programme Leader.
Now, go and make your university experience worthwhile.
Learn more about studying abroad