The Internship That Changed a Life – and a Career

Jacquelyn Lussier '20 is a Media & Communications Studies major and recently landed an internship with the Rhode Island International Film Festival. Below, she recounts her experience and how it changed the course of her career and life.

Have you ever watched a documentary that changed your life?

As an intern at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, not only did I consume 100+ hours of content as a part of their official selection process, I was impacted enough by my experience to change the career track I was on.

Chasing the Present director Mark Waters

After viewing "Chasing the Present," directed by Mark Waters, I immediately told my site advisor, Programming Coordinator Shawn Quirk, that we needed to accept this film. I figured if it moved me to change my daily routine as much as it did, influencing me to practice meditation and yoga on a daily basis, it must have the same impact on others.

Essentially, "Chasing the Present" is a feature documentary that is rooted in one's spiritual journey of self-discovery. The emotion depicted throughout is raw, transcendent and authentic. Maybe I only really enjoyed the film because I deeply related to the struggle of becoming, as I am on a journey of my own. However, the film’s beauty is hard to ignore, having so many quotable moments and ideologies to live by. The festival would have been incomplete if we let it pass us by.

To my relief, Shawn agreed to accept the film to the festival lineup. Little did I know that its selection would have the smallest impact on my life.

Lussier networking at RIIFF

A little over a month later, during the opening night of the festival, as I was collecting the audience ballot at the end of the show, I overheard director Mark Waters introduce himself to a fellow intern. I took the chance and leap of faith and wedged myself into the conversation, as I was his primary contact for the festival as the Print Traffic Associate.

Beyond the traditional introductions, I asked Mark if he would be at the after party that night, where we would be able to continue our conversation about my fascination with his film. He kindly obliged, mirroring my excitement to talk about his creation. After screening seven films that night, one of which made it to the 2020 Oscars, I had my first taste of what the rest of festival week had in store — endless networking, opportunities and memories were about to be made.

Over the course of our week-long festival, I not only gained invaluable experience as a show technician and Q&A facilitator, I also had the opportunity to schmooze with filmmakers and creators alike. Whether it was at the exclusive access after-parties hosted around different late night Providence hot spots or at the world premiere of his film, Waters shared kindness, advice and served as an inspiration for what I hope to achieve after I graduate Johnson & Wales with a BA in Media and Communication Studies.

World Premiere of Mark Waters' Film "Chasing the Present"

When I walked through the doors of the RIIFF office, I would have never expected my life to change — but it did. It’s been five months since the festival and nine since my internship, but because of my efforts, I was appointed to be the Student Representative on the Advisory board of the Festival. In addition, I received a scholarship and another internship with PBS through my networked connections. Because of RIIFF, because of "Chasing the Present" and the hundreds of other films I screened, I am able to confirm that being involved in content creation is what I am supposed to do.

If you pull anything from my experience, it should be this: get out there, chase the present.