I Was an Adult Swim Intern
The summer of my Junior year in College I was a production intern at Adult Swim. Priority Number One was working with the Bump Team. I bribed my way in with brownies, a miserable demo reel, and ‘moxie’ (their word). Out of a summer of failed attempts at writing copy, I still got three original Bumps aired.
I couldn’t believe it when I received the email from Turner’s internship program. I was invited to Atlanta to interview at Williams Street for a summer internship. Which ultimately turned into an amazing summer inside one of the most cutting edge television networks to ever exist.
The interview was a day of conversations with various team members with Adult Swim and Turner, culminating in an intense, but great interview with executive producer Keith Crawford. An intimidating experience and an exhausting day of discussion. I did my best to sound smart and eager, somehow it worked…but I couldn’t tell you what they were interested in. The process was very opaque. – which made sense at the time Adult Swim isn’t known as a transparent network.
It’s a great place though. The Williams Street building takes up about half a block, but feels twice as big on the inside, built into a hill, and every zone in the building is elaborately redone with custom hallways, art painted on the walls and pop culture memorabilia EVERYWHERE. Star Wars lego to a full sized Big-O statue and even a Family Guy pinball machine. …and all around that were producers, designers, engineers and more working their asses off to make a network go. So cool.
The biggest surprise was how diligent and serious everyone was. You might think with all the fun distractions around, you would have a relaxed atmosphere, but it was as diligent and as silent as a library…for the most part. You could easily find people playing a game or two over lunch breaks, but during work hours, everyone was focused on the grind.
My responsibilities were varied. Most importantly was to verify that ads played back effectively across browsers and operating systems. Adult Swim maintained a plethora of computers (more than 10) that ran various different OS/Browser configurations. I was to playback and engage on the website on each computer to verify performance, and log it. Tedious, not particularly interesting work…but still important.
I was also assigned to upload and select thumbnail images for the website, beta test some of the flash games, run tapes across the street to the Turner satellite uplink building, and various small cleaning tasks.
After a couple of weeks my schedule became more routine, and I was eager to get involved -somehow, any way possible with the Bump Team.
Adult Swim Bumps are the 15 second interstitials between episodes and commercials that repped the network brand. Famous for being white text (Helvetica Neue Condensed Bold) on a black background with snarky and sardonic messaging, they’ve evolved over the years into all sorts of brief artistic statements. They’re cool. Super cool. So cool I need to work on these. Immediately.
In the evenings at my place I spent every night for a week making HORRIBLE demo bumps in Final Cut 7 and Photoshop, and my wonderful spouse helped me bake a feeble tray of brownies. I brought this all in to the office the next day and with the blessings of the internship manager, left my “brownie bribe” and reel with the writers room.
Well they handed my my literary ass. Justifiably my writing was garbage, my design layouts riddled with flaws, and my artistic approach fundamentally missed the brand voice. They made fun of me in a bump, and then invited me to write with them.
It was the coolest thing. Compartmentalized, small, measured opportunity for an intern, but I got given a real chance to work through the writers room process as long as all my other intern duties were caught up. I spent most of my time writing after hours, and getting critique in the mornings with the internship maintenance responsibilities following.
During my internship I had most of my ideas rejected (as it should be), but felt very lucky to send up 3 ideas that were polished only a little bit by the team before hitting air.
I learned a lot about cable television that summer, saw an actual Emmy up close, got to tour the Cartoon Network building, and attended an extraordinary internal presentation on Venture Bros. S&P practices. If there’s ever a chance to work for Turner again in the future, I would definitely pursue it!
ABOUT THE WRITER
Charles is an independent motion video & animation producer living in Austin Texas that used to review rock and roll bands in Chicago, writes the occasional scripts, and loves a good production story.