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PUC Interns Learn at American Zoetrope

Larry Pena, January 26, 2010
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During the fall 2009 quarter, two Pacific Union College film and television majors got a chance to intern with American Zoetrope, the film production company of legendary filmmaker and Napa Valley local Francis Ford Coppola. Seniors Ryann Pulido and Tim Wolfer were accepted into an internship working at Coppola’s Napa Valley studio in Rutherford, about 20 minutes from PUC.

The work itself was not very glamorous — like many internships, it mostly consisted of cleaning and organizing around the office and making coffee. Through these low-level tasks, however, the two were able to gain some valuable insights into their future careers. “It’s actually the best place to watch from,” says Wolfer. “You really don’t know anything and they have no expectations of you, so you can actually learn and soak it in.”

“Seeing filmmaking firsthand instead of reading about it was valuable,” says Pulido. “It takes you from what you think it will be to what it actually is. When I first went there I was kind of afraid they were going to be mean or bossy. But everyone there was extremely friendly and it was like a family atmosphere.”

That wasn’t the only illusion that was shattered by this real-world experience. For Wolfer, the internship pulled back some of the mystique of filmmaking. “Probably the biggest thing I learned is that this is all real,” he says. “Here’s this famous film maker that people worship all over the world — and he’s a real person that made these movies.”

“I’m even more excited about filmmaking now,” adds Pulido, “because by experiencing it you find out that it is doable.”

Wolfer was encouraged to dig deeper into his field. “It’s one of those things you’ve read about in a book but once you see it you’re like, ‘Uhh, I probably should have paid more attention to that book,’” he says. “Talking to the people that worked there, I realized most of them had at least one bachelor’s degree. Most of them spoke at least two languages. And some of them have technical training on top of that.”

Wolfer and Pulido were originally hired on for just a short-term internship, but their performance was good enough to get them a job offer working on an actual film project — Sofia Coppola’s upcoming film Somewhere.

While the students' tasks may have been simple, the experience was valuable — and there were some exciting moments as well. They both got a chance to meet Coppola himself, and during one studio cleaning session got to handle the original film reels from the Coppolas Vietnam War epic Apocolypse Now.

The students’ internship supervisors were clearly impressed. “They’re hard workers and they were very good at listening to instructions and were always eager to learn during the internship process,” says Zin Cohen, post-production manager at American Zoetrope. “We’re hoping to get some more PUC students in here next quarter.”

“We plan to start working with American Zoetrope again in spring quarter,” says PUC's film and television program director Rodney Vance, who recommended Wolfer and Pulido. “I’ll be hand-selecting more students for this internship.”