Aga Baranowska, our most recent intern hard at work!
At the ICO we offer internships in the office during busy times, and this year we took on Aga Baranowska (@BaranowskaAga) who impressively combined ICO office duties two days a week with studying for her MA at Birkbeck. We always endeavour to make our interns' experience as varied and enriching as we possibly can and below, Aga answers our questions about the experience... no pressure, Aga!
Why did you apply to be an intern at the ICO – what did you hope to learn?
As soon as I saw the posting on the website, I was really excited about the internship opportunity! I had been following the ICO for some time, and wanted to learn more about them. I was new to the UK, so I wanted to gain valuable work experience here and learn specifically about the British film industry, and I also hoped I would learn about different areas of the industry thanks to the ICO’s activities being so varied. The posting was for an Events & Admin internship, helping with ICO training courses and Screening Days, so I knew I would be able to use my events management skills.
After I sent in my application, I was invited for an interview. Hurray! My interview was with Becky Clarke and Sarah Bourne. We talked about the ICO, the role, my experience and my expectations for the internship. The interview felt natural, and Becky and Sarah were friendly and passionate about their work, which perfectly describes the atmosphere in the office as I discovered after I started the internship.
What studies were you doing alongside the internship? Has the internship had any impact on your academic work (other than taking time away from it!)?
I’m doing an MA in Film, Television and Screen Media at Birkbeck, University of London. One of the reasons I chose this programme was because it combines academic work with practical opportunities. As I want to work in the film industry, gaining work experience alongside completing the MA programme was very important to me.
Even though the internship at the ICO was not part of my programme, the experience has added to the knowledge I’ve gained in my studies. Earlier this year, I took a Film Festivals module, and as part of the course I attended the Berlin International Film Festival. Talking to the ICO programming team about their experiences at Cannes and helping with the ICO’s Develop Your Film Festival course shed new light on the topics I studied in this module.
What key films and/or cinematic experiences informed your love of cinema?
There have been many films and experiences over the years that have shaped my love of cinema. When I took the Intro to Film course in my first year of undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, I was amazed by the films we saw each week: we started with Citizen Kane, and continued with The Piano, Raise the Red Lantern and I am Cuba. Combined with my first exposure to film history and theory, it was a hugely impactful experience which convinced me that film was not only my passion but also the career I wanted to pursue.
Then I saw a retrospective of South Korean cinema at the New Horizons Film Festival in Poland. The films I saw, Old Boy, Peppermint Candy and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring, had a profound impact on me. As a result, I changed my university programme, added East Asian Studies as one of my majors, started learning Korean and eventually lived in South Korea for a summer. I still have a soft spot for Korean and East Asian films.
A couple of years ago, I started reading more about women’s cinema and feminist approaches to film studies, and I have become so interested that I’m planning to focus on this area in my dissertation. It is impossible to list only a couple of films here, but since moving to London I have been enjoying Chantal Akerman’s retrospective organised by A Nos Amours, events put together by the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image as well the ICO’s Jemma Desai through her initiative I Am Dora, and Selina Robertson through her film club, Club des Femmes.
Please describe a typical day for you at the ICO...
My day would depend on what was happening at the ICO. A week or two prior to a training course or Screening Days, I dedicated my time to these events. I helped with updating and printing hand-outs and packs, as well as preparing name badges and other on-site material.
On other days, I assisted with events that were scheduled for later dates by updating the ICO website, preparing e-mail blasts and promoting the events. I also worked on a number of other projects, for example, researching and compiling a list of arts venues, theatres, community halls and village halls in Wales to promote the Neighbourhood Cinema event.
Please can you give an overview of your experiences?
I started my internship at the end of March and was originally meant to finish in June. However, I enjoyed it so much that I extended my time and stayed until the beginning of August. I mainly helped with Screenings Days and training courses, but I also conducted research for ICO releases, collected and entered film data for programming activities, and updated the database used by everyone in the office.
Over the course of my internship, I had the opportunity to attend two Screenings Days events, one in London and the other in Cardiff. It was a great chance to see first-hand the important role the ICO plays in the film community. Making a contribution to the work the ICO is doing was definitely the most rewarding aspect of the internship. Throughout my time, I always felt that I was working on meaningful tasks and projects, and I truly felt part of the team.
What have you learnt from the experience? What do you think you’ve gained?
I have learned a lot! As I had hoped, I learned about various areas of the UK's film industry. That was crucial for me: being relatively new to the UK but hoping to work here I knew I had a lot to learn, and the internship has helped me in this regard. I have also gained a better understanding of the various roles within the industry, and the difficulties that each sector faces.
The ICO staff are knowledgeable, experienced and always eager to share. I have had a number of talks about the industry with Simon Ward and Becky Clarke, which were incredibly informative and inspiring. They also shared tips about working in film which I know will help me succeed in the industry.
What aspects of working here have you enjoyed the most – and the least?!
I enjoyed the projects I was working on, and the one compiling the list of venues that would be interested in starting a film programme in Wales is definitely at the top. Not only did I get to know Wales and its communities a little bit more, but it also felt rewarding when people were interested in the event that I was contacting them about.
However, I would have to say that the most enjoyable aspect of this internship was working with the welcoming, open and friendly ICO team. Everyone is passionate about film and I loved being part of this environment, talking about films and directors on a regular basis throughout the day. I appreciated listening to various opinions and sharing my thoughts, and I have a long list of wonderful films mentioned in the office that I will be catching up on.
Has the internship helped you gain entry into the industry, and do you think it has improved your job prospects?
Yes and yes! The internship has without a doubt opened up new opportunities for me. The experience allowed me to enhance my CV, gain valuable career advice and meet people from different areas of the industry. What I found particularly unique about my experience at the ICO is that everyone in the office was eager to share career advice and supported me in my search to secure a position following the internship.
Have your overall career ambitions changed since doing the internship?
I have realised how important it is to gain diverse experience in various sectors of the film industry to be able to fully understand it. I think this is reflected in the diverse activities of the ICO, and the career paths of many of the staff members. My overall career ambition has definitely been influenced by this experience, but more importantly it showed me generally that there are many different paths that can lead you to achieve your career goals.
Finally: if you were giving advice to future ICO interns or interns within the film sector generally, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions or offer suggestions. I think it shows that you are interested in the organisation and the wider industry, and are engaged in your work.
Take even the smallest tasks seriously and be committed to the project you are working on. Some projects might not be glamorous, but it is still important to get them done as well as you can.
Be passionate about cinema and dedicated to working in the industry. You must be both committed and organised to be able to devote your time and attention to the internship while possibly working part-time, studying, or sometimes doing both at the same time.
Thank you ICO for an amazing internship experience!
Thank you, Aga!