What It’s Like Interning at the American Film Institute – Q&A with Sabrina Gunn

Career Blog
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Published: February 17th, 2023 by Hannah Nguyen

Many Library and Information Science students worry about a lack of experience or connections getting in the way of their career prospects. Some students simply have a hard time narrowing down their field of interest. An internship can be an excellent solution for all of these issues. I interviewed iSchool student Sabrina Gunn about her experience as a remote archival intern at the American Film Institute (AFI). Find out what it was like to work with their historic collection!  

What was the application/interview process like?

I applied with my resume and a cover letter by emailing the AFI Archivist using the contact details provided in the SJSU iSchool Internships database. I was interviewed not long after via Zoom in which the AFI Archivist asked me about my overall goals for this internship, my interest in AFI and archives, and any relevant experience I could lend to the position. I was officially offered and accepted the internship at the conclusion of the interview.

Was your internship virtual or in-person?

My internship was virtual, which was perfect for balancing my other summer classes and commitments and gave me the opportunity to intern with an archive I greatly admired but was not located near.

What kind of tasks or projects did you work on?

I primarily cataloged a variety of born-digital and digitized audiovisual assets in AFI’s digital asset management system. I processed thousands of audiovisual recordings of seminars given by prominent filmmakers, writers, editors, producers, actors, and more to AFI Conservatory fellows over the years by creating accurate, consistent, and complete metadata records. This project required keen attention to detail to select the correct fields and values based on the nature of the materials and identify potential mislabeling, audio, or video errors. I also conducted subject analysis on hundreds of seminars to propose supplementary subject terms to add to the institution’s controlled vocabulary and further enhance assets’ discoverability.

What was your overall experience?

I had an incredible experience as the Remote Archival Intern at AFI. This internship gave me hands-on experience with a broad range of competencies, including digital asset management workflows and technology, metadata creation, cataloging, quality control, subject analysis, controlled vocabularies, file formats, and archival processes. It was both personally and professionally satisfying and gave me a better idea of the types of jobs and companies I would like to work in/for. Additionally, my internship supervisor was a wonderful mentor whose enthusiasm and dedication to providing interns with a rewarding experience were so deeply appreciated.

Do you think completing this internship has helped or will help you reach your goals?

I absolutely know that completing this internship will have significant benefits in helping me fulfill my goals. I have also already seen the positive impacts of completing this internship as I have applied for subsequent fellowships and internships, as I have direct experience I can use to demonstrate my competencies in relevant areas. The ability to learn from and network with a practicing archivist in the field was an invaluable aspect of my internship experience as well. It is one thing to read about archival practice and quite another to see it in action! Overall, I would highly recommend completing an internship during the course of one’s MLIS journey!

Additional Resources

Good News for You!

If this kind of work interests you, there are current internship openings at the American Film Institute:

Remember that internships can be an especially valuable part of your learning experience at the iSchool while also helping you when it comes time to look for jobs. Learn more about the iSchool’s internship program here, where you can check out the INFO 294 Student Handbook as well as the Internship Sites database.


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