Photo courtesy of Tanner Robbins.
Hoover High graduate Tanner Robbins spent his summer in L.A. learning about the television industry.
Tanner Robbins nervously watched his phone and email. He knew a phone call would mean he had been accepted to his dream internship, with the Television Academy in Los Angeles. An email would mean he had been rejected.
He got the call.
“I applied thinking, ‘OK, this is the dream,’” Robbins remembered. “That’s the greatest thing I could possibly get.”
The Television Academy, which is responsible for the Emmy Awards and the Television Academy Hall of Fame, accepts 50 interns each year across different types of TV shows and careers in television, including casting, sound, publicity, costume design and editing.
Robbins, a Hoover High School graduate and current senior film student at University of Alabama, was chosen for the only internship in cinematography. He spent two months out of his summer living in L.A. and working on the set of “American Horror Story,” a horror series on the FX network.
Before the internship, Robbins said he had seen a few episodes of the show. Once he learned that his mentor would be Michael Goi, the cinematographer for “American Horror Story,” Robbins said he binge-watched three seasons of the show on Netflix to better understand it.
“I like the show,” Robbins said. “I knew it was a really creative production, design, cinematography-heavy show, so I thought it was perfect.”
When he started the internship, Robbins said he wanted to learn more about production techniques. Goi, however, told him that it would be more valuable to learn about the politics of being on set and handling other people. On a show’s set, the cinematographer often acts as a head of the crew, ensuring they aren’t overworked and are safe during stunts or other dangerous elements.
“As a cinematographer, you have to be the representative of the crew to the director and producers,” Robbins said. “It’s really import to think about protecting the people.”
On set, Robbins had very busy days. As an intern, he was only required to work 40 hours per week, but Robbins chose to stay later, sometimes until 5 a.m., to learn more through shadowing Goi and talking to the crew. He said some of the most valuable lessons he learned were about relationship skills, preparation before shooting and fast problem solving.
“I’ve gotten to have a first hand view of what it takes to put together a television show like this,” he said. “A lot of what I’ve learned is how to think on your feet.”
Based on what he’s seen on set, Robbins said fans of “American Horror Story” have a “really interesting” season ahead of them.
The internship wasn’t all work, though. Robbins got to experience L.A. through its restaurants, museums, parks and hiking opportunities. He also attended movie screenings and television panels, including the actors and writers of “Community” and “Black-ish.”
After he graduates from UA, Robbins hopes to return to L.A. and begin his career by working as a production assistant or taking on another internship. He hopes to eventually work on the set of dramas or thrillers, where he can have a lot of creative freedom, like his mentor Goi.
“Anything where I feel like I can be really creative and do what I think is necessary,” Robbins said. “I want to get deeper into it.”