Allison Lemons has always had a passion for the world of entertainment.
Lemons, a senior cinema and media arts major with a minor in music business, was able to break away from the “AU bubble” last semester and experience the industry at its core in Los Angeles, California.
Her semester was unlike any at AU.
Three days a week, Lemons worked as an intern at Funny or Die, the production company and comedy website owned by Will Ferrell.
Through her internship experience, Lemons learned a lot about the industry’s lingo and flow.
“They recognize hard work, but they also don’t hold your hand,” she said of her experience at Funny or Die. “That’s a lesson I had to learn quickly, because I think you get caught in that a little bit here.”
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she attended classes. Her coursework included a class about faith in the industry, which focused on finding her own set of morals and learning how to stick to them in the hectic, stressful environment of the entertainment world.
She also took a production workshop. As part of the class, students were split off into groups with the task of creating a short film by the end of the semester. When the films were completed, they premiered at a movie theatre in Hollywood.
Her group’s film is called La Promesa.
“It’s a Spanish-speaking film,” Lemons said. “My director was from Mexico, so it was really important to him to take the script and put it in his native language. In English, the title means ‘The Promise.’ The story is about two brothers who promised their dying mother that they would find their father, who left them at a young age to make a better life for them all in the U.S. It follows their journey crossing the border, and along the way they found out that their father never made it and died while trying to help others.”
Lemons was a production designer on the film, so she mainly focused on set design and costumes.
Outside of work and school, Lemons found herself absorbed in the atmosphere of the West Coast.
“It was more of a culture shock than I thought it would be,” Lemons said. “It was more of a melting pot and it was very diverse, which I appreciated.”
“There’s always something to do, too,” Lemons said. “I lived by The Grove, and there is a farmer’s market there, so I ate out a lot. There are loads of coffee shops and tons of touristy things. I kind of made a bucket list and just went through it.”
Lemons also experienced a clear social divide.
“I’d be driving through Hollywood and I’d be stuck between a Lamborghini and a Maserati,” she said. “I was in my Equinox, so it was weird.”
The social mannerisms of LA took time for her to adjust to as well.
“In Anderson, when you walk down the street in the Valley, you smile and say hi,” Lemons said. “It’s kind of rude if you don’t. I would do that out there for a little while, and it was clearly not socially appropriate. You learn quickly that they’re being bothered. It’s not necessarily a rude thing; it’s just a culture thing. Little things like that, adjusting to the mannerisms of the West Coast, make me glad to be back on the friendly side of the Midwest.”
Lemons had several encounters with celebrities in her time living in LA, mostly through her internship. A few of them, including Ben Schwartz of Parks and Recreation, and Matt McGorry of Orange Is the New Black, would remember Lemons’ name. “They were probably the nicest ones,” she said.
Other celebrities were a little harder to speak with.
“I saw Hilary Duff,” Lemons said. “I didn’t talk to her because I was nervous and I was on a work thing, but I was in a valet collection ticket line, and I turned the corner and there were a bunch of business men and this small blonde. I knew instantly that it was Hilary Duff. I was like ‘why am I freaking out so much?’ I started texting my sister, and then I just kind of creepily observed her because I wanted to know what she was like. But I also didn’t want to be ‘that person.’”
While away, Lemons grew in ways that she hadn’t expected. Although she learned a lot about her passions, she also learned a lot about being an independent adult.
“I was able to navigate through Hollywood by myself, and I could park a car on the street,” she said. “I did little things that actually meant a lot to me, as far as doing things on my own. My internship had a lot to do with that. They would send us on runs for different things, like picking up costumes, and I failed a lot, but I also learned a lot about the industry and how to communicate. I learned how to become more confident, and that’s probably the biggest thing I took away.”
Lemons studied in California through a Council for Christian Colleges and Universities program that partnered with the Los Angeles Film Studies Center. No one from AU had used the CCCU media arts program for about a decade. Now that Lemons has returned, however, another AU student has already embarked on her own journey in California.
Lemons hopes that more students will take opportunities like the one she discovered last semester. She said that, had she not dug around and asked her advisor about studying away from AU for a semester, she would have never known the CCCU partnership existed.
For students hoping to study elsewhere for a semester, even within the US, Lemons had one piece of advice.
“Be open-minded,” she said. “There were so many opportunities to explore, and if you go for an extended period of time, you get to learn about the people and the culture, no matter where you go. There’s a lot of fun things to experience and you learn a lot about yourself when you let go and give yourself a break.”
More from Lemons’ trip can be found at http://www.theastandsforawkward.com/.