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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo
Aidan Merck.jpeg

From the loop to the streets of Los Angeles

Merck details film internship

Over the Fall semester, a group of five Taylor students, including senior Aidan Merck, starred in their adventure abroad in the town of the silver screen.

Merck is a film and media studies major who spent this past Fall studying abroad in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, to intern with two different documentary companies.

“There’s a lot of people that get to travel while at Taylor,” Merck said. “But this felt like such a special opportunity to get to experience what it’s like not (to be) in the middle of a cornfield. Taylor’s got so many connections in Los Angeles, so it was really, really great to go out there with some other Taylor students in this really safe environment but also to get to experience what it’s like out there in a massive city like Los Angeles.”

Merck pointed out some of the differences between Hollywood and Upland, both geographically and culturally. 

One major opportunity was that he had so much to explore in the different parts of Los Angeles that could rarely be offered elsewhere. He also enjoyed the diverse community of neighborhoods that resided in Los Angeles.

During Merck’s application process, the entertainment side of the film industry was in peril due to writers’ and actors’ strikes, which resulted in less and less hiring of people for these positions. 

Most students in Merck’s group ended up working with documentaries as it was a safer environment that did not require as many writers and actors.

“I feel like the biggest thing that I learned while I was out there is that connections really are everything,” Merck said. "Lots of different people from the industry kept telling us that it’s all about who you know.”

One of Merck’s biggest difficulties with getting around Los Angeles was driving through traffic with twice the number of lanes that he had been used to. Driving within the city could still take an hour, according to Merck.

One of the documentary companies was an independent production company called Black Valley Films, with director Scott Hamilton Kennedy. 

Merck learned that Kennedy’s latest documentary film, which he was in the middle of distributing, happened to be executive produced by Neil deGrasse Tyson. 

Merck even had the honor to have brunch with deGrasse Tyson and Black Valley Films.

The other documentary company that Merck worked for was called Tremolo Productions, which is most well-known for the documentary about Fred Rogers, titled “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” During Merck’s internship, the company was in the middle of producing around nine or ten documentaries.

“It was really about helping out with a lot of relatively mundane tasks for all the companies,” Merck said. “Creating spreadsheets, managing different meetings, creating an archival log and digitizing a bunch of archival tapes for certain things. Just a lot of the early work of a documentary that not a lot of people think about, but that work is really going to help them moving forward as they continue to produce these documentaries over the next couple of years.”

One of the documentaries by Tremolo Productions that Merck was helping with was about psychologists in the 70s and 80s who were helping couples with relationship issues, with a focus on the science of love. 

Another documentary that they have been working on is about Paul McCartney and his time after the Beatles when he formed his new band called The Wings.

Black Valley Films, with Merck’s help, is working on a documentary titled “Shot in the Arm,” which revolves around the issues of misinformation having to do with the vaccine for COVID-19.

“One thing that I was surprised by, even in Pasadena, is that there’s such a large variety of things that are walkable from our apartment,” Merck said. “So many different coffee shops and restaurants and even movie theaters … Every single neighborhood has their own culture in and of itself.”

Merck wishes to thank his film and media professors John and Kathy Bruner, who made his internship possible, as well as his fellow students whom he traveled with during the semester.

Some advice that Merck gave to aspiring film students is to take the opportunity to do the Los Angeles program.

“It really gives you just a chance to see what it’s like working in Los Angeles, which is such a major part of our industry,” Merck said. “And you get to make connections with people out there that can really help you in your career going forward.”