Television & Film – Business Program Finds Success with Entertainment Company Guru Studio
Having the opportunity to engage in experiential learning and foster the skills needed for careers outside of school is extremely important and is something that students at the School of Communications, Media, Arts and Design get to experience throughout their studies. Within the Television and Film – Business (FTVB) program in particular, many students have found great success during their placement requirements, especially with the award-winning entertainment company, Guru Studio, which has allowed multiple students to engage in a rewarding internship that has led to even further opportunities with the company.
Martha Mason, Senior Production Accountant at Guru Studio, has supported the program for many years and has been a main point of contact for students to connect with if they complete their placement at the company. Every year Martha and her colleague Brad Brisco, a former Guru Studio intern from the FTVB program and now a current employee, give a presentation to the FTVB class, which Martha says allows them to speak about their experience in the business of film and TV and the opportunities that exist.
“I have twenty-five years of industry experience, and Brad is an alumnus of the program and our first intern. Brad is now the Business Affairs Manager at Guru - he started in May 2017 as an accounting intern, was hired as a full-time accountant, and then moved over to business affairs. Needless to say, Brad and Guru have been a good match!” She continues, “During our presentations, we will discuss the industry and opportunities, ways to get your name out, and actual experiences. There is always a lively Q&A. Subsequent to the presentation, Guru will post for an intern at Centennial, and so the cycle of success repeats itself,” she explains.
Martha became familiar with the FTVB program approximately four years ago when she was approached by the Program Coordinator, Jeanette Loakman. “It was my first time hearing of this specialized program, and I was thrilled that it existed as there was and is a real gap in education and training in this nuts-and-bolts area of the industry. I was even more pleased that we would have the opportunity to welcome interns at Guru who would have this specialty under their belts,” she says.
Guru Studio has had great success with the interns. “We have had a total of five interns, three of whom are now employed with Guru, and two more graduates from the program are employed with Guru. They are in the accounting, business affairs and the sales departments, and they are all stellar employees,” she explains.
In terms of the responsibilities they have taken on, she says, “Some of the responsibilities in accounting were crew payroll - collating and quality checking crew timesheets; reviewing payroll edits from payroll service companies i.e. EP Canada and checking the data against the approved timesheets; assisting with coding accounts payable; ensuring that all backup is correct and complete which is essential to internal audits or a CRA audit which occur often due to the tax credit programs our industry participates in.”
In Business Affairs, Martha says, “We had an intern assist with setting up our Royalty Management system MyMediabox. It gave them the opportunity to read and review a large variety of licensing agreements between broadcasters, distributors, and merchandising licensees. This experience gave them the opportunity to see what, say, an agreement from Discovery looked like vs. an agreement from Disney vs, an agreement from Netflix. And then if those agreements were production financing agreements, it would give them the chance to see the financing structure.”
These responsibilities, amongst others, that students have taken on in past internships have not only benefited Guru Studio but have also greatly contributed to their learning within the field. Martha says, “It is very refreshing to have interns who want to work in the business of film and tv and who can hit the ground running. There is a lack of training and education, and so often people arrive to roles without the scope of knowledge the Centennial interns and graduates have.”
As previously mentioned, Brad Brisco was in the FTVB program and completed his placement at Guru Studio before being hired on as Business Affairs Manager. In terms of the placement itself, Brad says, “The placement helped me exponentially - it helped me get my foot in the door as a young person early in their career. It gave me the opportunity to show the skills and knowledge I learned from the program.”
Within a month of starting his placement, Brad was offered a permanent position at Guru Studio when an opening for a Junior Production Accountant became available. “I had direct guidance from our senior production accountants to help me with any issues I was finding with the software or formulas used in Excel spreadsheets. I showed a willingness to learn, which included doing math checks on production budgets for new projects we were bidding on, which also included reviewing our tax credit calculations which I learned from the FTVB program.” This then led Brad to his new role. He says, “By showing my willingness to learn and go above and beyond just a ‘production accountant’, I was offered the position of Business Affairs Associate about a year and a half after starting at Guru Studio. Now my responsibilities are very widespread - everything from rights management, to liaison with guilds and unions, to drafting agreements, to completing tax credit applications.”
Rebecca Walsh, a 2018 graduate of the FTVB program, also completed her placement at Guru Studio and was hired on before it ended. “I remember making a post on the day of my graduation ceremony saying that I couldn’t make it because I was already working full-time in my field! Which made me feel accomplished and like my education was paying off.”
In terms of her placement at Guru Studio, she says, “My field placement at Guru was amazing - it didn’t feel like a placement, more like a part-time job. My main job was organizing files, which admittedly sounds like the job of an intern, but it helped me understand what was happening in the studio and got me used to what the accounting system we use looks like. I was invited to all of their meetings, helped out with payroll, and got to really feel like I was a part of their team,” she says. Rebecca is now the Production Accountant and focuses on the show Paw Patrol, which is one of the shows that feature animation from Guru Studio.
Both FTVB graduates, who are now employees at Guru Studio, say their field placement helped them to propel into their industry with confidence. Rebecca says, “100% having a field placement is beneficial. I didn’t have a placement my first time in college, and I really struggled to find a job in my field and feeling like I was educated enough to apply for a position. The field placement took away those pressures, and it got me a job before I even graduated!”
With a great number of Centennial grads that work at Guru Studio, Martha notes, “Guru has had wonderful participation from Centennial interns and great success with the graduates. I have mentioned Brad, who is sort of the poster child for Centennial’s internship program, but I would also like to mention - Rebecca, Temilola and Jessica - who currently work in our accounting department. They chose accounting after my lively presentation - lol - and are now skilled, talented, and dependable employees in an environment where production accountants are very hard to come by. Rebecca and Jessica started as interns. Also, there is Sydney, who is now employed as our full-time Sales Assistant. She is a greatly valued team member.”
The partnership the FTVB program has with Guru Studio has proven to be quite successful, which helps prepare students even more so for a rewarding experience in their field. Martha notes that Guru offers several internship programs throughout the year, and this Spring they will welcome Animation interns, FX interns, Production interns, and Marketing interns. “It is a gift to be able to nurture new talent and training at our studio!”
Written by: Alexandra Few