Fulbright Scholar Tanya Charina on Her WIF Internship

This summer, Women In Film hosted a Fulbright Graduate Scholar as part of the Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program. This prestigious network of motivated, multilingual students is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, in an effort to foster mutually beneficial working relationships with graduate students from around the globe. Upon the completion of her internship, Tanya Charina wrote about her experience:

Hi, my name is Tanya, I’m a Fulbright scholar from Russia pursuing my Master of Arts in Arts Administration at Indiana University, Bloomington. I have a Bachelor’s degree in architecture, and have worked in the industry for 1.5 years. I have changed my concentration two times, to graphic design and marketing, because after practical experience in the creative industry, I realized that a career path is not a straight line.

During my higher education I have been interested in graphic design and marketing, and did projects on a freelance basis. I applied to the Fulbright scholarship two years ago to study abroad, because I knew that social media like Facebook was created in the U.S., and it is better to receive knowledge from the first source without distortion.

I got the scholarship as one of 38 students from Russia in 2018, and flew to the campus to start this transition in my career. The Arts Administration program required a summer internship, and I already knew where I wanted to go. I focused on social media marketing in arts, specifically in the video and film industry. I enjoy analyzing creative brands and organizations. I dream of making my own creative agency to help people clearly talk about their mission, vision, service, product, and find customers. Advertising is a form of art to me, where you should tell a story of the brand or a product in a few seconds, send a message, and even have an influence on people.

I desired an internship in an organization that does filmmaking in Los Angeles, and I even wrote it in my new year’s resolutions of 2019. I always was interested in films: how they are made, what is happening behind the camera, how people create films, and how it is released on screens after months of hard work. I set the intention and wrote down: “I’m having a summer internship in the best Los Angeles organization that supports films.” I had no idea what life would have in store for me.

I was accepted to a full-time summer internship in Women In Film, the nonprofit organization that supports women, they talk about women behind the camera, creators, all who make the industry, should be engaged and equal. Talented women, who are not afraid of speaking out loud.

The first day as a Communications and Marketing intern, I got my first tasks and I planned to volunteer on the same day as a photographer at the WIF Speaker Series event dedicated to animation. My summer internship required volunteering, and I thought it would be great to invest my time in the same organization. I want to be part of the creative industry, and I wanted any chance to learn more about WIF from inside. The first day was tiring and exciting, overloaded with information. At the end of the day, my supervisor Katherine asked if I was more tired or hungry. I said, “I am so tired, I could eat an elephant!” Thank you Katherine for the first day. It was very lovely of you to invite me to dinner; I felt so welcomed.

I started to get more involved in WIF projects as time went by; the main focus of projects was social media marketing and design. I worked on a few projects, such as designing WIF programming posters, visuals for Facebook groups and social media posts, and mock-up designs for the Sexual Harassment Help Line. The other project was social media analytics of WIF performance on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and Annual Gala social media analytics. The analytics give perspective on how to improve the organization’s performance on social media, adjust the schedule of the posts to more efficient times, reach targeted audiences, and build a more engaged audience. I am really passionate about useful numbers that help create working content. 

I also worked on weekly screenings of films and TV shows, where women were directors, producers, writers, editors, cinematographers, or composers. It was really fascinating that I could see my work updated every week on the website and in the newsletter. It is a unique feeling to do something that people could see. 

I was checking emails and answering the WIF phone on a daily basis, and I learned a lot! The first few times answering the phone was a little scary, in my second language, with improvisation, but I like to overcome my fears. Every day was educational, inspirational, and I grew personally.

Volunteering at a screening of the 2018 Production Program Short Films gave me a new perspective of film comprehension. I started to pay attention to how the script and production work together to create the message the filmmakers want to convey to the audience. Plus, I watched a few films based on the recommendation of my lovely supervisor, who loaned me her DVDs including RUN LOLA RUN and MARTY. I gained new knowledge at work, when volunteering, and at home—a deep dive into the industry! 

One of the most fascinating events for fundraising at WIF is the Annual Gala, where I also was happy to volunteer. To see women up-close who create films and shows, I could only dream about! I helped to create content for WIF social media, and took pictures on the red carpet. Wow! I was able to listen to the inspirational speeches of Xosha Roquemore, Issa Rae, Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler, Cathy Schulman, Elizabeth Debicki, and other gifted women who change the industry, who work hard to achieve their dreams, and who make it a reality.

Women In Film staff and interns at the 2019 Annual Gala

Working at WIF I deeply understood the importance of having the right people around you. Persons, inspirational women who are ready to lend you a helping hand, to guide you in the right direction, and solve a problem together. I understood the phenomenon of sisterhood, where all staff work together to achieve the same goal, where you feel welcomed and appreciated by work you do for others. Thank you to all of the WIF staff for help and guidance. This would not be complete without your proficient direction. The leadership of who can be an example of modern women, this is what really inspires me to work toward my crazy dreams. Thanks for being an image of a person I want to be. 

I am really glad that I worked with rising filmmakers and professionals, the other interns at WIF. Thank you for the friendly atmosphere and film suggestions at lunch time. I hope to see your success soon!

Women In Film was like a host family to me, because all my relatives and friends are back in Russia. My new international and U.S.-based friends also traveled with me on weekends during the summer. I felt like I was home, and this is important when you are far from your roots.

I could not believe that three months already have passed. Today is my last official day at Women In Film. I am sad and satisfied at the same time. Another chapter of my life has passed, and I am ready to open a new one. Next step—finish my degree, then stay for practical experience for a year and half in Los Angeles. My further long term goal—make my own creative agency and work online. Sounds crazy, I know, but isn’t this what life is about? Dream big, work hard, be a leader of your life.

Now it is thank you note time. Thank you Kirsten Schaffer for signing my offer letter and being an example of a wise leader. I could not be a part of WIF without it. Thanks Katherine Spada for profound guidance through my path, educational work with the website, sheets, designs, and genuine advice. I’m really happy that I know you. Thanks Ashley for all your work, guidance, and intern meetings. Big thanks to the intern team, Alli, Lars, Milan, Oscar, Alyson, Melinda and Alexa. I will remember lunches in the courtyard for a long time, my intern squad. Thanks Ebony for the Korean BBQ invitation and delicious evening. Thanks Angel for the positivity and email checking, now I know how to reply on text and on phone! Thanks Toni-Marie for communications projects, thanks Whitney for the educational talk at the Speaker Series, and a freestyle song, it is very very sweet. Thanks Alyson, Maikiko, Amy, Melissa, and Phil, without you my experience would not be complete.  

The creative industry helps people tell their stories, and I really appreciate the opportunity to share mine. Thank you Women In Film. Gorgeous, powerful, strong, kind, and smart women, and I am so proud being a part of it for three months this summer.

Tanya