Lighthouse (Intern)ational Film Festival Provides Education, Growth, Opportunity for Students

Jun 07, 2017

An internship is an opportunity for high school and college students to make a real difference. Interns gain valuable insight into an area of work that interests them, while attaining and nurturing contacts that may segue into a future career. The interns at the Lighthouse International Film Festival on Long Beach Island exemplify the possibilities of their positions.

The festival, a three-day-long event that boasts some of the most talented young filmmakers and critically acclaimed films in the world, is an operation run exclusively by volunteers. This allows interns to play an integral role in the festival itself. The small team of interns is a vital part of the film festival, and many of them have years of experience contributing to the festival in a variety of ways. Be it designing posters and Snapchat filters for the event, handling the LIFF’s various social media accounts, or simply handing out tickets, interns are the ones behind the scenes and screens, ensuring the festival runs smoothly.

Three veterans of the LIFF internship program are Kim Pepenella, Anthony Salzarulo and Marisa Pittarelli.

Pepenella is a senior at Cabrini University, double majoring in political science and business with a finance minor. She has worked with the LIFF since its inception and has served in every capacity from social media team and venue shift manager to handing out tickets to moviegoers when she was a kid.

Pittarelli is a recent graduate of Ithaca College with a bachelor’s in cinema and photography who is in her third summer working with the LIFF.

Her main role is social media intern, she said, but she also constructs festival newsletters and volunteers at different screenings and venues. Pittarelli is also given the opportunity to apply the skills she learned in school and work as a photographer for the event.

The youngest of the three, Salzarulo, has been working with the festival for the past four years and is gearing up to start his freshman year at The College of New Jersey in the fall, majoring in graphic design. His main responsibility is to make most of the graphics at the different festival locations. His love of graphic design manifests in the various Snapchat filters, donor credits and posters seen around the different festival locations. When asked what he found to be the most rewarding part of his work, he said seeing his designs in person. “For example, last year when I saw the poster I designed at full size for the first time, it was crazy. Seeing people use the Snapchat filters I make is also very rewarding.”

It is especially rewarding for Pepenella, who started working for the LIFF when she was 12 and has watched it grow into what it is today.

“Being a part of the Lighthouse International Film Festival for so long, it is extremely rewarding to see how far we’ve gotten,” she said. “Every year it is something to look forward to. The best part of the weekend is knowing so many people love the arts and are willing to support it in my local area.”

Although the work is rewarding, nothing worth having comes easy. Interns can work long hours and under intense deadlines, often having to work in many different areas to make sure the festival runs smoothly. For Pittarelli, one of the most daunting challenges is the scale of the festival, while Salzarulo finds it to be the intense time constraints.

“Sometimes things need to be done on the fly or with incredibly short deadlines on the same day,” he said. “So it’s important to improvise and work with whatever time you have.”

The hard work they put in doesn’t go unnoticed. Interns have gone on to work in a wide variety of different areas, taking the skills they learned at the LIFF and applying them to careers in many different industries.

“Our internship program provides high school and college students a unique opportunity to peek behind the silver screen, meet filmmakers and develop their skills,” LIFF Managing Director Christine Rooney said. “Interns have worked in social media, communications, venue managers and technology.”

Although interns have gone on to work in many different areas, Pepenella and Pittarelli believe their work with the LIFF has solidified their dreams to work in the entertainment industry. Marisa hopes to take what she has learned working with the LIFF and apply it in the production of live events such as concerts, festivals and workshops. Pepenella hopes to synthesize her business degree and love for the arts by going into the business side of the entertainment industry.

“I would love to be able to work in the business end of the film industry,” she said. “With all the experiences I have had at the festival, my love for supporting the arts has grown.”

In many cases, internships offer valuable experience because interns are able to gain insight while being a part of a business and seeing the work that is put in every day. At the LIFF, the idea that interns should be responsible for work that doesn’t require much talent or experience is not only rejected but completely upended by the highly skilled interns who work around the clock to ensure that, come June 8, the film festival is an unforgettable experience for all who find themselves comfortably seated, staring at the screen, ready to experience any one of the acclaimed films.

The interns’ motivations go beyond the built-in benefits of developing skills, strengthening resumes and meeting industry big shots.

“The Lighthouse International Film Festival Volunteers are all family,” Pepenella said. “We all share the same passion and dedicate so much time to provide the best weekend we possibly can.”

— Zach Hoffman




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