Iowa Goes to Hollywood

“I wanted to let you know that you’ve been accepted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.”

Jessica Joens ’12 can’t quite remember how she reacted when she got the call, but she’s pretty sure she let out a cheer. After applying for a competitive, one-of-a-kind internship in Hollywood on the Warner Brothers Studio lot with the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Joens was thrilled the wait was over — she was accepted. “That call was gold,” she says.

A senior English major with a minor in film studies and creative writing, Joens couldn’t believe she’d landed such an outstanding opportunity to get her foot in the door of such an elusive industry. Nearly 1,300 individuals applied for the internship Joens nabbed with the support and advice of her Mount Mercy professors.

“If anyone deserves credit, it’s them,” says Joens. Mount Mercy professors helped by writing recommendation letters, coordinating Joens’ schedule, smoothing away timing concerns (Joens wouldn’t return until later in the semester) and above all, pushing her to believe in herself.

“They really supported me,” she says. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do it; it seemed so daunting at the time.”

“This was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Jessica to use her major to get on-the-job training in a profession she loved,” says Assistant Professor of English Chris DeVault, Ph.D., who wrote  recommendation letters on Joens’ behalf. “We felt that it was our responsibility to do everything we could to help her as she pursued this opportunity. In a closeknit community like Mount Mercy, you really care for your students and want them to succeed.”

Senior English major Jessica Joens nabbed one of the most sought-after internships in the country – opening the door for her to stretch her classroom experience all the way to Hollywood.

From July to September 2011, Joens gained one of the most
memorable experiences of her college career. Her role as an “everything and anything” intern on set, in the production office and behind the scenes for popular shows like “Harry’s Law” gave a whirlwind introduction to a field she’s passionate about.

“There are not that many women who work behind-the-scenes in higher positions in the TV world,” says Joens. “One of my dreams is to get into that field and work my way up — be a strong role model for women in this profession.”

While her education in close reading as an English major helped her research and analyze script ideas for producers, it was her critical thinking skills that helped her remain flexible and light-footed in the ever changing landscape of script rewrites.

“I had to really think on my feet…you never knew what was going to be thrown at you,” she says. “I had to multitask, be creative, think outside the box, analyze information, constantly try and figure things out — my English major prepared me for this.”

This skill set comes as no surprise to DeVault. “When students ask me what they can do with an English major, I typically reply by asking, ‘What can’t you do with an English major?’” he says.

In addition to making professional connections in the field, Joens found herself chatting with Ashton Kutcher about Cedar Rapids, joking with Conan O’Brien or bumping into other legends.

“I never understood the meaning of ‘star struck’ until I saw Clint Eastwood,” she says.

Joens’ tenure in Hollywood helped her realize how much impact she can have on achieving her future. “It is amazing how people underestimate what they can do and learn about themselves,” she says. “The sky’s the limit. You can do whatever you set your mind to.”