Half Yard Productions Development Intern – Bethesda, MD
You may not recognize Half Yard by name but I promise you know their work. Have you ever binge-watched Say Yes to the Dress? Tried to understand Hillbilly Handfishing? Sat on the edge of your seat for Last Alaskans? Half Yard Productions created each of these addictive masterpieces and I landed an internship where I helped brainstorm new shows. The Gold Girl Scout network passed the application on to me. Honestly, reality TV production never crossed my mind as a real job and now, it consumes me.
What It’s Actually Like
I spend most of my time on the Internet. Every day I receive a new assignment, depending on the type of show Half Yard aims to make next. I’ve scoured the Internet for clips of trucks crashing, for the newest bridal trends and for the most insane murder cases. I call myself a miscellaneous intern. Half Yard Productions has a lot fingers in a lot of pies. I pick up whatever research or little tasks need to be done.
The other development intern focuses specifically on casting for a show. She cold-calls and emails Facebook pages in hopes of hunting down the perfect people to feature on each channel. Each person she casts must fit precise descriptions assigned by both the show and the network.
Once or twice a week, the two of us sit in on meetings discussing all projects. We act as bouncing boards for new ideas and fresh eyes on dead ends.
We swore secrecy on most of the shows we’ve helped with. When the shows air, I’ll be able to scream to the world how I helped with them but until then my lips are sealed. Let me tell you though, keep your eyes on your TV.
Cool Stuff You Get to Do
Half Yard Productions has over 100 shows across 16 networks. In a year, I’ll be able to turn on the television and watch shows I got to work behind the scenes on. The other intern cast for a show actively in production. She called and Skyped people we’ll watch on TV months from now.
The Development team set up a tiny gong in the corner of the office. They ring it when a show sells. The office bursts with absolute joy.
I spent most of my days researching so I got to come across the coolest stories on the Internet. If I found a really great one, and if I would come up with an impressive enough show from it, Half Yard would listen to every idea I had and consider taking it to a network.
What You’ll Learn
Half Yard knows how to work the production industry. Each network they pitch to has a specific profile of shows they want. For example, TLC is considered “OMG with a hug.” TLC specializes in outrageous slice of life shows: sweet enough to draw you in and too insane for you to look away. They’ve a made a name for themselves when it comes to weddings and Alaska but they’re always on the hunt for new markets. A new crime unit recently took up residence in Half Yard with some of the coolest ladies I’ve ever met. The crime brainstorms I sat in on blew my mind. They know the nuances between Oxygen and ID like the back of their hand. They even know how to create a show to pitch to both.
It takes an incredible amount of effort to get a show off the ground. The idea for a show will go through about 10 phases before it even gets pitched to a network. That’s only about one-tenth of the development process.
How to Prepare Your Application
My best advice: network. If you can find an in, use it. Most production companies are in LA but there are a few scattered about in DC and NYC too. I only heard about the opening through the Girl Scout Network so if you want this job badly enough, start talking to everyone you can.
The initial application includes sending along your cover letter and application. Easy, until you realize the Development department mastered the art of judging first impressions. Add any experience you have in cold calls, editing videos and working in creative environments. “Show you’re a persistent overachiever,” Development Manager and Boston University alum Heather Hutt said.
Be confident for the interview. The job requires reaching out to anybody and everybody. No wimps allowed.
Skills that Impress Them
You’ve got to have a little bit of everything to do this job right. “Be adaptable. You’ll be wearing a lot of hats. You need to conduct interviews, write treatments, come up with formats but most importantly you need a willingness to try,” Development Producer and American University alum Taylor Kampia said. Big ones though: Video editing, research and perseverance. “Fill the gaps. Your ideas are your worth,” Hutt said. Every idea may be a bust but you still have to keep coming up with them. If one turns out good – great! – but you keep developing ideas without someone holding your hand. I spent a lot of my time researching crime cases and looking for other very specific stories. However, they also once sent me on a hunt for a very specific clip on Youtube without anything more than a vague description. You just keep sorting through the hard stuff.
First off, you get to see your ideas come to life on television. If your ideas don’t initially fly, at least your work will end up televised. Also, you get to interact with the coolest people out there in your coworkers and the people you cast for the shows. “I took a casting trip to New Mexico and met the most incredible, bad-ass women,” Hutt said. If your casting goes anywhere, you have a chance to travel to incredible places for shoots. “You get to talk to some of the most interesting people the world has to offer,” Taylor said. “Plus, I once got to ride on an Alaskan fishing boat for a shoot.” Even on the slow work days, you have no excuse but to continue your search for the next best show. No downsides in sight!