There's nothing like running coffee for movie stars to make you stop and think.
Maybe it was the allure of the movie set, or maybe just the stimulation of the caffeine. Whatever it was, I often found myself falling into reflective mode during my stint last summer, serving Starbucks to celebrities. Fortunately enough, however, I'd already had two solid years of learning how to think, courtesy of Millsaps, so it wasn't difficult at all to consider what I was learning from my celebrity coffee running. Or to ponder the goals, the expectations, and the support that had brought me from Jackson, Mississippi, to the New Orleans coffeeshop in the first place. And, most importantly, to think about where I was going to go from there.
Towards the end of my first semester at Millsaps, I found myself becoming more and more interested in the school's Faith & Work Initiative. After stretching my intellectual borders in LS 1000, the Initiative's acclaimed Lilly Interns program seemed like an ideal choice - a complete immersion in the workplace, but with a chance to truly sit back and figure out how it all meshed with my ideas on a long-term career. Taking a gamble, I cast aside my other class options and signed up for a semester-long internship at the Mississippi Film Office.
It was an extraordinary experience. I was instantly welcomed and integrated into the office's day-to-day work of drawing big-name movies to film their stuff in Mississippi. I read scripts and explained my opinions on them. I screened films for the local film festival and served as an official judge. I attended film summits and conferences, talked, listened, and carefully learned as I was given a backstage entry into the thriving center of the Mississippi film culture. Being only four blocks from campus also made the job an opportunity almost literally on my doorstep.
The Millsaps internship convinced me that I still had some exploration to do, however. Thus, through the contacts I'd made at those Jackson film festivals and summits, I found myself standing on the New Orleans set of the movie Bug one day in early July. I was now a Producer's Assistant for Lionsgate Entertainment's latest major motion picture, with a badge on my chest and major butterflies in my stomach. And yet this experience, too, imparted a completely new kind of influence on my career aspirations. In the course of the following month, I learned more about commercial filmmaking than I had in the previous six years of being a film enthusiast, picking up on everything from how a typical set operates each day to how all those credits at the end of every movie translate into real production jobs. Starbucks runs were, unfortunately, part of the job description, but it was a small price to pay to watch a Hollywood picture in the making, and near my hometown, no less.
Throughout it all, from Jackson to New Orleans, my Lilly mentors and classmates at Millsaps kept me focused on the big picture, and kept me questioning where my film experiences were leading: Is this the job for me? Where do I see myself doing what I love to do, and helping others at the same time? Is this where I want to make a difference?
They didn't just want me to evaluate if this job was right for my abilities; they wanted me to evaluate if this job was right for me. They wanted me to consider whether or not this was my calling.
Are there other college-based internships out there? Oh, sure. But only Millsaps and its unique Faith & Work program gave me the complete perspective on how my film experiences were affecting my life plan, even as they were unfolding before me. Besides - where else could I rub shoulders with Morgan Freeman, Nicolas Cage, Ashley Judd, Ethan Coen, and Harry Connick, Jr., all before I'd halfway finished college?