Intern Report: John Campopiano

Each semester, the Harvard Film Archive Conservation Center welcomes interns from graduate programs near and far to work with us on our collections and to supplement their theoretical and practical studies in film criticism, archival studies, and filmmaking.  In a new series for the blog, interns will report on their experiences in their own words.  Here’s our first installment, from Simmons ’13 grad John Campopiano:

John, pictured left, alongside fellow HFA intern Max Goldberg, holds one reel of JAWS from the HFA collection after the first annual conservation center pie party.

In my opinion, a sure sign that an internship is destined to succeed is when your supervisor hands you a film to watch within the first five minutes of your first day. Any nervousness I may have felt that morning quickly vanished as I sat down to watch the first of many documentaries by filmmaker Robert Gardner. Gardner’s name was not familiar to me prior to starting work on his paper collection this past January. However, I soon realized how significant this filmmaker was and still is, and quickly began to appreciate his extensive body of ethnographic work that stretched from Ethiopia to Indonesia and covered a time period of over 50 years. I felt honored to have worked on his collection and left feeling as though I have a much more solid understanding of what goes into making an ethnographic film.

What I learned during my experience at the HFA extended beyond the technical skills I had already begun honing in traditional archival work (processing, inventorying, finding aid creation, etc). I also gained valuable insight into the importance of navigating hierarchical protocols within an institution, particularly with respect to requesting and receiving on-site training (I was briefly trained in Harvard’s photo cataloging system), requests for IT support, and so on. Rather than bustling away in a secluded cubicle never to see or interact with those around me (the unfortunate reality with some internships), I felt that my position as intern was included into some of the daily work flows and, perhaps more importantly, valued – enough so that I was able to experience, firsthand, the dynamics of receiving training and even providing my own insight and opinion when appropriate. For an internship aimed at encompassing the experience of the Simmons GSLIS program and, ideally, preparing the student for entry into the “real working world,” I couldn’t be happier with my experience at the HFA.

Another rewarding element of the internship was seeing how films can be a strong catalyst for everyday interaction among staff members. In an office that includes not only HFA staff and interns but additional Harvard Library staff, it was wonderful to see how a screening of a Super 8 at the end of a work day or chat about a film on the way back to one’s desk could connect people and provide a common ground for conversation and friendly interaction. This, among many other reasons including some of the technical skills developed, made me truly appreciate my internship experience and look forward to coming in each and every time.

Also, PIE & JAWS

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