Internship offers chance to work with standout storytellers at NFL Films

May 24, 2017

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles about summer internships for students in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When it comes to learning from and working with the best of the best, aspiring filmmaker and storyteller Anya Swanson has landed in the perfect place this summer.

She’s completing an internship with NFL Films, which has earned 123 Emmy Awards for writing, editing, sound, sports series and specials in its history. Few visual storytellers do their job better than NFL Films, and Swanson appreciates the opportunity she’s earned in the company’s production department based on her passion, resume and skill set.

“They’re great at what they do, so there’s going to be a lot to learn,” Swanson said. “They tell personal stories that resonate because they’re so well done. It’s exciting. It’s the kind of thing I’ve always wanted to do.”

Swanson, a rising senior majoring in film-video, said she has always been fascinated by films and television. She remembers memorizing films and TV shows, and then looking at how they were put together.

As a high school senior with an interest in theater as well, Swanson put together a musical parody of “The Hunger Games.” Success in that endeavor boosted her confidence and excitement to lead more creative projects.

When she told her parents she wanted to build a career in something film or television related, they were supportive but cautious — suggesting that a passion is important but more practical aspirations might be, well, more practical.

“I initially wanted to pursue screenwriting. My parents encouraged me but they also suggested being an English teacher,” Swanson said. “They encouraged me to find a realistic degree and also a backup/fun one.”

Swanson dutifully explored education and English as options when she arrived as a freshman at Penn State, but she always kept coming back to her passion.

She appreciated her parents’ concern — “They didn’t want me spending all their money making films at home,” she said — and has done all she could to provide a strong foundation for a successful career.

To that end, NFL Films will be her fourth internship, following opportunities with WPSU-TV, the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications Office of Strategic Communications, and Lion Country Supply. That’s a mix of client relations and video production work through three distinct experiences that have enhanced Swanson’s skill set in a variety of ways.

“It’s been great to work with clients, and with different places that provide different challenges,” Swanson said. “Sometimes I actually find it easy to do what someone’s asking; I’m a pleaser. It can be harder to find your own voice at times.  But I do think there are ways you can put your own voice into client-based work. All of the experiences have made me better.”

In addition, Swanson said observation skills are especially important when developing stories.

“I feel you kind of have to be that way to be a good storyteller,” she said. “You’re always looking. You look for interesting stories. You look for interesting shots. And I’m always listening for bits of dialogue.”

As the summer progresses with NFL Films, Swanson also has an eye on the fall semester. Her film idea — about a family in a college town that deals with a break-in at their house as well as the maturation of their daughter (she admits its part biographical, part observational as a “townie” who grew up in State College) — was approved for the yearlong film course. So, she’ll be moving into production as soon as the fall semester begins, and she believes the internship will help her be more efficient and successful with her production.

“It’s going to be chaotic, but fun,” she said. “That means a crazy film schedule this fall semester, but the whole process will be very exciting.”

It’s all the more exciting for Swanson because every day is a day closer to her ultimate goal of being a film director. A fan of filmmakers like Nicole Holofcener (“Enough Said,” “Please Give”) and Alejandro Inarritu (“The Revenant,” “Birdman”), she’s embracing every opportunity to hone her skills, fuel her passion and make her dreams a reality.

“An internship with NFL Films is just intriguing,” she said. “It’s a great chance to learn and gain more experience, and it’s a chance for me to become a better storyteller.”

Last Updated July 19, 2017