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What about internships and assistantships?
Internship and Assistant positions can be great opportunities to learn in a real, working industry setting. The pay is often low, and the hours are usually long, but the real "compensation" in these jobs is the knowledge that you'll learn while working.

Requirements for these jobs include lots of flexibility with your schedule and a willingness to learn and do whatever is necessary to help complete proejcts. During a film or television project, you may be working absolutely crazy hours... between projects, however, your hours may be few and far between. Such is the nature of the business, and it's important to recognize that when you consider working as an intern or assistant.

Intern positions exist in the paid and non-paid variety. Often they involve manual work, running errands, cleaning, and other relatively low level tasks. But there's lots to learn on an intern gig, including how the composer or songwriter works with clients, how the studio is configured and how it's run, and what technology is used. It's common for interns to move up to paid assistant positions, and in some cases to be hired as writers on a composing team, etc.

Corporate intern jobs (such as with music publishing and record companies) can also be very valuable, providing direct exposure to the corporate music business and access to professionals and information that is hard to come by elsewhere (and is not taught in the schools!).

Assistant jobs (typically working directly for a composer or songwriter) can be very important career steps for up and coming composers and songwriters. An assistant is a higher (and usually better paid) position than an intern, and is considered a "regular" gig - with a weekly schedule, etc. as opposed to the on and off schedule of interns.

A composer's assistant helps with any and all phases of the composer's business, including working with the composer managing their studio, handling books and data, managing and updating their technology and computer systems, and assisting with the production of music. Sometimes assistants will be given writing and/or orchestrating assignments, and will often be asked to help during recording sessions.

But with both asssitant and intern jobs, opportunities exist to learn about how the business "really" works and to build relationships with composers and songwriters, not to mention the people the composers work with (vendors, musicians, etc.).

The one vitally important rule to remember when you're working as an intern or assistant is to never, never, never say or do anything that represents a threat to the employment (or relationships) of your boss. This includes obvious things like not giving your demo tape to your boss' clients, but also includes making sure that as you pursue your "own" films, you make sure that the process you're using and the work you're doing in that regard doesn't represent a conflict of interest (or worse) to your employer.

One of the best ways to make sure this doesn't happen is to communicate with your employer about film and television projects you're doing instead of keeping them a secret. If your employer truly respects and values your work, he/she will be pleased that you're getting work and building your own reputation in the industry. But keeping these projects a secret can be problematic, setting up a tension between you and your employer that isn't healthy for your relationship or job.

Remember - recommendations from your employer when you work as an intern or assistant are vital - don't do anything to threaten the goodwill you're building as you're getting established in the industry.

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