University of Texas student interns on NBC's 'Community'
Minh Vu has escaped the torrid temps of Central Texas summer for the relatively cooler climes of Southern California (as I type this, it's a cool 80 degrees out there and, surprising for Hollywood where things are often other than what they appear to be the "feels like" temperature is also 80).
The Radio-Television-Film major who enters his senior year this fall at the University of Texas is in the midst of an eight-week internship on the Paramount Studios lot, where he's working on the hit NBC sitcom "Community."
Vu is one of 39 students chosen from roughly 1,100 applicants to nab a slot in the program, which provides college students with in-depth exposure to professional television production and is offered by the Television Academy Foundation (the Emmy Awards people). The program has proved to be a springboard for industry success.
I recently had a chance to ask Vu about his experience as a "Community" intern.
American-Statesman: You're from Round Rock, right?
Vu: Yeah, technically I'm from Round Rock. I'm on the border of Round Rock, but I've always been in the Pflugerville Independent School District. I kind of consider Pflugerville as my hometown.
Why did you apply for this internship?
I've always been a television addict, and so I've always wanted to work in the television industry in some capacity. With this internship, it's kind of helping me — guiding me — to where I want to focus. I've known about the program since sophomore year, but I was told that it would be best to apply during the later part of your college career, just as an experience and for connection purposes and all that. I figured it would be an incredible experience, a really hands-on opportunity to kind of be in the industry, to be in the business and kind of see how it all unfolds.
What was the application process?
You had to write a professional statement that discussed your objectives and the reasons why you chose the category that you chose (episodic series) and what you believed a professional did in that category. Afterward, they notify you if you're a finalist or not. When I was notified I was a finalist, I had to then answer a list of questions on camera and create a DVD interview of myself.
Were you comfortable doing that?
It was a little nerve-racking. I feel like I do a little better in one-on-one interviews so that I'm able to feel how the interview is going.
How much time did you have to prepare after you learned you had been selected?
I had about two weeks. It was a very quick turnaround. I got notified on a Monday and bought my ticket that Thursday. Luckily, I have friends out here that went to UT whom I was able to get housing with. They have kind of taken me in for the eight-week program.
Were you a fan of "Community" before you were placed on the show?
Definitely. One of the questions I had to answer was "What are your favorite TV shows?" and I said that "Community" was one of them. It's a really great, smart show, and I wish it got more attention.
What other shows do you enjoy?
I'm really sad that "Friday Night Lights" is ending, but I'm glad that they got their Emmy nominations. I like a lot of the NBC comedy lineup — "The Office," "Parks and Rec," "30 Rock." I've started watching "The Killing." And I have guilty pleasures, like "Grey's Anatomy." I can't seem to quit it.
Have you worked with any of the TV productions that have filmed in Austin?
My last internship was at the Texas Film Commission, so I got to see how the business works in that aspect, and that was a great experience. I think it really helped me with this internship I have today. I was a volunteer extra on "Friday Night Lights," which filmed its pilot in Pflugerville.
What are you actually doing in your internship?
Since the episodic series category is so broad, it casts a wide net on everything. Right now, because we haven't started filming yet, I'm in the production office. I'm helping out with the production assistants and the production coordinator, performing various tasks about getting everything prepared so that when filming starts it goes smoothly. Once filming starts, I'll be on set, helping out wherever I'm needed and observing, seeing how it comes together from start to finish. I can also go to the casting department and learn about how casting works. And then, once post-production starts, I'll definitely see how the editors work and all that. It's really a good category to be in, because it gives you the opportunity to see everything.
What have you learned so far?
It's a collaborative effort. I've always known that, but actually seeing it reaffirms that idea and gives me respect for everyone who takes part in creating a TV show. So often it's just the actors and a couple of other people, maybe (who get kudos). Those credits that we overlook at the very end — I've met those people, and they're hard-working people.
Has anything about the experience surprised you?
I was surprised by the atmosphere. It's really warm and inviting; everyone's really nice. You get the stereotypes about L.A. being a dog-eat-dog city, but everyone has been very welcoming and funny.
Do you get starstruck?
I met Yvette Brown (who plays Shirley on "Community"). She swung through the office, and you have that initial spark in your head, like "I've seen this person in my living room and now I'm seeing them in real life." But because I'm there on an internship, I need to be professional. So I collect my thoughts and I give the formal handshake, "Hi, how are you doing? I'm from Texas, I'm an intern for the summer." Nothing like, "Can I have your autograph? Can I take a picture with you right now?" Once filming starts, I think I'll have that same mind-set. I might have that initial "Oh, wow" of seeing them in person, but I think that ultimately I'll just keep my composure.