April 15, 2014  

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Southern Miss Gulf Coast Grads Make Most of Cannes Film Festival Internship

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Even though University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast graduates Brian Alexander, right, and Todd Avera could not take part in the university’s commencement ceremony May 15, the two took a part of Southern Miss with them during their internship at the Cannes Film Festival. (Submitted photo)

While The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast hosted its spring commencement ceremony May 15, graduates Brian Alexander and Todd Avera continued enhancing their education nearly 5,000 miles away at one of the world’s most widely known film festivals.

Alexander and Avera, who both earned their bachelor of arts degree in radio, television and film, were accepted into the American Pavilion Cannes Film Festival Worldwide Student Internship Program. The recent graduates took part in the program for two weeks in Cannes, France. As interns, Alexander and Avera worked six hours each day engaged in various assignments, including managing audio visual equipment and promoting various film screenings at the festival.

“This program is extensive in terms of targeting students who want experience in their respected fields of study and how it applies to them in regards to the film industry,” said Avera. “There are also other parts connected to the program which deal with business, hospitality and culinary arts.”

When interns were not working, they were given the freedom to attend film screenings, panel discussions or exploring the French Riviera. Alexander described his first venture outside of the U.S. as “being a fish out of water.”

“There's a lot to learn, barriers to break down, and new experiences to take in. That's probably most exciting for me, just getting out of the U.S. and getting immersed in a completely different culture.”

Alexander and Avera both credit their film professors, Dixon McDowell and Dr. Phillip Gentile, with introducing them to the program. “The event opened our students up to not only the U.S. film industry, but the worldwide film industry,” said McDowell. “They now have a better understanding of how films are made and marketed internationally and the experience has helped to demystify what can seem to be a secret world.”

In addition to understanding the inner workings of the film industry, interns were also given the opportunity to network with professionals whose roles varied from actors to production.

“There is also the next generation of filmmakers,” said Alexander. “Every day they are working beside you, hitting the town with you, sharing your room and attending screenings alongside you. Those are the people I most want to get to know – my fellow student filmmakers.”

After taking part in such a unique event, Avera explained that “the entire experience has been awe-inspiring. While I experienced an emotional and aesthetic overload at first, I somehow managed to take in as much as possible.”

Now equipped with his bachelor’s degree and a once-in-a-lifetime internship on his resume, Avera says he looks toward the future in hopes of developing a career as a writer for film or television. “But, in all honesty, I think I will be happy with just about any position in the film industry, as long as it's doing what I love.”

For more information about Southern Miss Gulf Coast, visit www.usm.edu/gulfcoast.