Undergraduate Student Profile: Brendan Walsh's "Mythological" Los Angeles Internship
By Madalynn Conkle
Working on my laptop, I am constantly referencing Spotify’s “Friend Activity” feed to discover new tunes and uncover my friends’ psyches by picking apart their playlists. I’m unashamed to possess this intruding behavior; I interact with humans with exceptional tastes, so it wouldn’t be right of me to not appreciate their auricular palates.
I haven’t told him yet, but I stan Brendan Walsh on Spotify. He caught my eye when I noticed Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s “Fever Pitch” appear with the little listening icon under his avitar. So, distracted from the studying sounds playlist I was supposed to click on—and the studying I should have been doing—I delved into his profile. More important than discovering Walsh’s impeccable music taste, however, was the discovery of his skills as a writing critic. These skills landed Walsh an internship this past summer at Mythology Entertainment in Los Angeles. Mythology Entertainment is a film production company known for producing White House Down, Truth, this past summer’s Slender Man and The House with a Clock in Its Walland the soon-to-be-released Suspiria.
“Something I’m not too modest about is that I’m really good at reviewing things in workshop,” Walsh, a fourth-year English major concentrating on creative writing and minoring in screenwriting and neuroscience, carefully said against his usually humble nature—one that I’ve gotten to know well after working with him in the Department of English’s main office for the year. As a critic, Walsh said that it’s important to analyze the other person’s writing to give helpful critiques that aren’t just demeaning. “Actually, giving constructive criticism and consulting on works is something I love to do because it’s a collaborative process.” As such, it was more than fitting that Walsh’s primary job at Mythology Entertainment was script coverage, meaning he would review and comment upon scripts, or books that were to be turned into scripts, for producers to consider for production.
“To collaborate with others to develop something that’s what the initial writer wanted,” stated Walsh, when I asked him what he was hoping to get out of this internship. “I want to get that writer to their goal.”
For anyone looking to make it in film, getting a piece of the industry as an undergraduate is a must. Walsh began looking for internships during the spring of 2018. “There’s not an internship program. You just cold call companies,” said Walsh. “Essentially, what happened was I got on IMBD Pro and looked through shows that I liked. One of them was Altered Carbon, and Mythology Entertainment helped work on one of the episodes. So I thought, ‘Hey, I’ll look into this company.’” That evolved into Walsh going on Mythology’s website, finding their phone number and cold-calling them.
Walsh had the unusual experience of calling two companies and getting a rapid response, and ultimately an offer, from one of them. It was surprising to hear back from Mythology, admitted Walsh, saying that he knows it’s typical to apply to ten or twenty companies and never hear back from any of them. “It isn’t to say that I think I’m super qualified,” said Walsh, “I think I just got lucky with the process.”
Looking back on his phone interview with the company, Walsh remembers the frantic build-up to it, including an error on his part in scheduling the interview. “The fool in me was like ‘Oh yeah, let’s do [the interview] for 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time,’ thinking that it was 6 a.m. here. But I flipped the time difference, so it was actually noon.” The interview itself, Walsh recalled, consisted of the essential questions about skills, experience and interest in the company. Many of Mythology’s current projects are in the realms of speculative fiction and thrillers, which Walsh said are particular interests of his. “I grew up on a steady diet of sci-fi fantasy,” remarked Walsh, saying that he admires speculative fiction because the creator can bring literary and humanistic qualities to a wider audience. “I think a lot of sci-fi fantasy stuff is rooted in social issues at some point,” he continued. “I think speculative fiction has a really cool quality to be engaging. It peaks your interest but is also humanizing.”
After the interview, the company gave Walsh a finalist script to coveras part of the next round of his interview process. Walsh recollected his panic when he got the script, thinking to himself, “Oh my god, I’ve never really done this before” and questioned if he should get his coverage back to them immediately, even though it was a 123-page script. He ended up sending his completed coverage to them on a Tuesday, five days after getting the script. “I got it to them on that Tuesday morning, and by 3 p.m., I got an email saying ‘Thank you for your script coverage. We’d like to offer you an internship here.’ So presumably they liked the script coverage.”
Despite his heavy investment in all things English—Walsh is a major in the creative writing program with specializations in poetry, fiction and screenwriting; an administrative assistant at the Department of English front desk; and an undergraduate consultant at the Writing Center—he originally enrolled at Ohio State as a neuroscience major. Of behavioral neuroscience, Walsh said he likes to learn why people do certain things and what motivates people—questions that, now, he continuously asks as and English major. “[Neuroscience] is really applicable to writing to have realistic characters that show how people behave. Neuroscience gets at that, albeit in a super clinical way, so you have to take three steps back when writing so you’re not diagnosing characters or doing things like that. But there’s an element of empathy in both writing and neuroscience that kind of joins them in my mind,” Walsh explained.
Walsh's emphasis on detailed character psychologies, combined with his conscientiousness in supernatural elements and how to innovate them in writing, reinforce how Walsh was a perfect fit for his internship at Mythology.
While he accepted a position as a script coverage intern, Walsh ended up doing much more involved work than is typical for a person in his position. At the beginning of his work at Mythology, the personal assistant, a.k.a. the middle person between interns like Walsh and the executive producers, left. As a result, Walsh added the role of a stand-in assistant and office manager on top of working on his own projects. Several twists to the typical internship experience came out of this. The standard process for script coverage is that a script, or some medium that wants to become a script, will end up at a production company for a script coverage intern to read through, write a Wikipedia-like synopsis and provide general comments about what is working well or not. Interns will usually crank through three to five coverages a week from slush piles of scripts. Next, the script coverer’s notes will be passed to the executive producer’s personal assistant, who will use the intern’s coverage to decide whether or not to give the script more critical coverage. After this second review, the personal assistant will archive the works until the company is ready to hit the greenlight for production.
Walsh was hired as a script coverage intern and was anticipating a summer of writing synopsis after synopsis of film-hopefuls. However, he ended up fulfilling a role closer to that of the personal assistant and got to work closely with Mythology Entertainment’s executive producer. Instead of reading and covering a handful of scripts each week, he covered about fifteen scripts the entire summer, writing six to fifteen pages of carefully-detailed comments and suggestions about each one. All the works Walsh reviewed were already acquired by Mythology or were in the process of being reacquired. “I was reading a lot of projects that were already in development, meaning they were inevitably going to be made into movies. So instead of my summary and synopsis being important, I ran pretty heavy with the comments. So I was like “this could use this” or “do this with that,” which the producer found very helpful,” said Walsh.
When I asked Walsh about struggles he had in performing such extensive coverage, he replied that the “bad” scripts were way easier to comment upon, but he wanted to do the good scripts justice. “For those, I would take maybe a week and sit down, ask myself, ‘Alright, what is this doing well? What is not so great?’. I would make a concept map of everything and ask, ‘What if you change this? How would it affect the plot if you had this character interaction? Or is it too late in the writing to do that?’”
Most of the projects Walsh worked on over the summer are still under lock and key. But one upcoming film script he covered is The Overlook Hotel, a prequel to The Shining. “I can’t say a lot about it, but it was one of my favorite scripts to read. I don’t know if they’ve decided whether it will be produced as TV or a movie,” shared Walsh. “And there is something else coming down the pipeline that I can’t talk about, but it has a big-name director…God, I really wish I could talk about some of this stuff because I think it’s going to be big—or relatively successful.”
Aside from script coverage, Walsh worked office assistant duties such as conferencing phone calls, organizing lunches for the producers, emailing key contacts and even hiring the next round of interns for autumn. Professionally, interning at Mythology was the most influential experience Walsh said he’s had. This internship ultimately led him to switch career paths. “At first I wanted to be a screen writer, but now I want to be a producer who works with screenwriters because producers have more control over everything, as opposed to writers who have to pitch their ideas to different companies…From my experience in creative writing workshops, I like working with people and their writing, which is also why I began my job at the Writing Center this year.”
I kept in contact with Walsh over the summer, and his conscientiousness of how this internship was impacting him was remarkable. A quicker reader, a better analyst and writer, a more professional employee, a more flexible person—Walsh noted all of these progressions throughout his summer working in L.A.
“I’ve gotten a bit more confident,” Walsh wrote to me after six weeks of interning. “The executives have repeatedly said my coverage is excellent and want me to look for new content that they could purchase and develop. On top of that, I’m a bit more “no nonsense.” …If you want something here, you kinda have to push for it, be direct, and be memorable.”
Another outcome Walsh got from his internship was developing relationships with other producers and personal assistants. “I got in contact with the producer who just transferred to Jason Bateman’s company. And another assistant who’s working with James Vanderbilt, who’s working on a lot of scripts.” Walsh cites Professor Angus Fletcher as his primary adviser throughout this entire internship process, especially toward the end of summer as Walsh was figuring out how to capitalize on his experience in a way that will propel him into the industry after graduation. “Every once in a while, I would email him and be like ‘Angus, what am I doing?’ and he would just call me.” Of course, the ultimate outcome Walsh would like is a job, and he’s kept in contact with Mythology’s executive producer to discuss Walsh’s post-graduation potential in L.A.
Walsh’s career epiphany came to him after a string of failed attempts to schedule lunch with the producer. “I sent him like four emails and he was always like ‘Yeah, this time’s great,’ but it would never end up working out. Then one day, he came into the office at like 4 p.m., and I was like “Oh, cool, maybe we’ll get coffee after work.” We stayed there until 8:30 p.m.—I normally got out of there at 6 p.m. at the latest. And I was like, oh god, please let us get coffee.He couldn’t do coffee, but he was like “Hey, I can drive you home.” During that drive, Walsh recounted the executive producer praising him and his work. After some questions about Walsh’s previous experience interning or working with script coverage—which, to the producer’s surprise, were essentially nonexistent—the producer shared that he was impressed with Walsh’s abilities. “I told him how my workshop experience transposed really well [into script coverage].’ “It was that moment when I was like oh, wow, this is a producer who has been in the industry for ten to fifteen years saying I know what I’m doing,” said Walsh. “It was a super validating, super good moment… it was good to hear that the skills I have have some marketable value. Something valuable outside the academic world.”