Leah Bodin '18

Student filmmaker to intern at Ken Burns studio

Leah Bodin '18 credits LEEP project experience with helping land Florentine Films internship
April 18, 2017

If you’re ever looking for Leah Bodin ’18, chances are you’ll find her doing one of two things: playing softball or filming videos.

Bodin, a screen studies major and student-athlete on Clark’s women’s softball team, unites these passions by making promotional videos for the Athletics Department with sports information director Kevin Anderson. This summer, she’ll take her skills to a new playing field with an internship at Florentine Films, the production company co-founded by Ken Burns, whose PBS films on everything from the Civil War to the history of baseball have set the standard for documentary storytelling.  

Bodin gained the necessary experience for this new challenge by completing a LEEP project last summer at the video production company Skyscope, founded by three Clark alumni and later sold to Matter Communications.

Bodin recently sat for an interview about her LEEP project, how the experience has prepared her to work at Florentine Films, and her future plans.

How did you develop your love for filmmaking?  

When I was a little kid and adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said I wanted to be a writer. I had so many stories inside my head that the idea of making up stories as a profession was incredibly appealing. But when I actually tried to transfer my ideas to the page, it felt like something was missing. Eventually, I gave up writing fiction without considering film production as an option. I think there’s this terrible push against young people dreaming too big, so without realizing it I found myself only considering paths within math, science, social studies or English. Luckily for me, I had great teachers in high school who saw how passionate I was about making videos and encouraged me to pursue it further.

What professors inspired you? 

Jeremy Powell, my academic adviser, was particularly influential in helping me understand the importance of learning the principles of film through formal analysis. The critical thinking skills I’ve developed in his classes have changed the way I see movies. In terms of practice, there is no one quite like Stephen DiRado, [professor of practice in Visual and Performing Arts]. It’s easy to get nervous about creating and displaying your own artwork, but he helps transform that nervous energy into excitement, which was instrumental to me moving forward in making videos.

Describe the Skyscope experience.

Skyscope makes promotional videos, specializing in testimonials. The position I applied for, Customer Happiness Specialist, had nothing to do with video production. I still thought it was a good opportunity because it played into my entrepreneurship minor, and I would be at least getting exposure to video production. The application required me to make a video about myself instead of writing a cover letter, so I went really goofy with it and had a lot of fun. From my application, they saw I was interested in production. They redesigned the internship so half my time was spent as the Customer Happiness Specialist, designing and distributing a survey about the customer experience, with the other spent as an editing apprentice.

Why was this LEEP project important to you? 

First, just getting that experience under my belt has made a huge difference. I can already see the improvements in my editing and the way I approach videos. Second, it demonstrated the vast scope of opportunities available after graduation and it introduced me to the world of producing promotional videos. Usually when you think of film production you just think of Hollywood movies, but this internship helped me realize that videos can be about anything.

Did anything during your internship particularly interest you? 

One reason I chose Clark was because I don’t like limiting myself to learning about one thing. I always want to be able to explore and learn. While at Skyscope, I edited and learned something new every day.

How is this kind of hands-on learning helpful to you?

I think classroom learning is crucial preparation to get experience, but, especially in film production, the most important learning is experiential. Being able to get in-class experience as well as community experience has been an integral part of Clark education. I’m grateful every day for the opportunity to get my hands dirty and mess up because otherwise there would be no way for me to know how to get better.

How did your time at Clark help prepare you for your LEEP experience? 

Every class I’ve taken, whether lecture-based, discussion-based or project-based, equipped me with problem-solving skills essential to completing my internship. I needed to be very self-sufficient since it was a small business and my bosses weren’t available to coach me every step of the way. It was important for my confidence to know how to analyze situations and think critically and then think of ways to improve upon my previous work.

How did your LEEP project represent Clark University’s motto: Challenge Convention. Change our World? 

The people at Skyscope really prided themselves on an entrepreneurial outlook on life. Being entrepreneurial doesn’t just mean starting a business. Entrepreneurship is about being innovative and striving for improvement even when it means taking risks. I think being entrepreneurial means to challenge convention. Being surrounded by people with that outlook pushed me to develop my entrepreneurial spirit.

What are you looking forward to most about your internship at Florentine Films? 

To have the opportunity this summer to intern at the studio that makes Ken Burns documentaries still feels like a dream. Naturally, I am looking forward to learning from the people on the forefront of documentary film making and to exploring new possibilities within the world of filmmaking.

What are your plans after graduation? 

I would like to use my background in production as a chance to travel. Video production is growing exponentially, and people are making crazy content all over the planet. The opportunities are endless.