Each month we showcase an individual who participated in the "Made in NY" PA Training Program. Click
here for information on the free, month-long program developed in conjunction with Brooklyn Workforce Innovations and designed to create job opportunities for New Yorkers, connect New Yorkers with employers in the industry, and educate production assistants on how to work collaboratively with the communities in which they shoot.
August 1, 2013 - For Caroline Ibarra, working in the film industry always seemed like an unattainable goal, “something that only certain people could do.” Originally from Florida, she came to New York and discovered the “Made in NY” Production Assistant Training, which prepared her for a career working in film and television. Since graduating from the program in 2012, Ibarra, who now lives in Queens – “next to La Guardia Airport; I can practically hear the planes land” – continues a journey that’s taking her to new heights.
Caroline Ibarra became a "Made in NY"
PA in 2012. Photo courtesy of Caroline Ibarra.
What were you doing before you began the program? What was your life like?
I was attending school and working at a bookstore, but I wasn't happy. Now that I look back on it, I went through college with a false sense of normality. I kept thinking that this was what was expected of me: a college degree and then a stable 40 hours a week job with benefits. As time went by and I got closer to graduating, I began to realize that I was miserable and needed to pursue something I loved and that was film and television.
What made you decide to pursue a career in entertainment production?
As a gay teen, I struggled to find media representation about people like me or that at least of people who felt like me. I looked to television, movies, music, books, anything that helped me not feel so different, alone and scared. I remember how much it meant to me when I stumbled across this TV series…that tackled the struggles of a gay teenage girl trying to come out to her religious parents. It was my life on TV, and it was comforting to see myself represented somewhere. I realized then that I wanted to be part of the community of people who created these stories. I wanted to be a part of that industry, a filmmaker who creates LGBT content, but I had no idea how to go about it.
What was your experience like during the “Made in NY” PA Training Program?
Amazing! It was my film school, or at least it felt like it. I learned so much in so little time, and that’s a real testament to the greatness of the program. You could know nothing about the industry when you start, but once the staff and alumni get a hold of you, they whip you right into shape.
Where are you currently working?
[After working on several series, I realized] that I wanted to work in the camera department. That's when I began to look for work or an internship at a camera rental house and I was given that opportunity at ARRI CSC. I've been [there] since October 2012. I interned four days a week for over three months...and finally got hired in January 2013. I've learned so much at CSC, and I feel blessed just being there. Prior to that I knew nothing about how to operate a camera and much less about how the camera department functions on set. Flash forward a couple of months, and I am signed up to take the Local 600 exam in August.
How has your life changed since the program?
My life has more purpose than ever before. The program allowed me an opportunity that otherwise seemed impossible, a direct ‘in’ into the industry with only a month’s worth of training. I’ve met some amazing people, I've created enduring friendships, and I am inching closer to my goals of writing and directing my own stories.
What do your family and friends think about your new career?
I think, at first, they were a little scared for me; the unpredictability factor freaked them out, but now they love that I am pursuing my passion. When I’ve worked 12+ hours on set, they are still a little baffled as to why people would choose such a career. I always reply “because it’s art, and we love it!”
What is your favorite part of working in production?
Bringing people of all walks of life together to create something worthwhile all within the limits of time and money can sound like a daunting task, but at the end of the day, it’s super rewarding. Oh, and the wrap parties are kind of cool, too!
What are your career goals, both short- and long-term?
Short term, I am focused on passing the Local 600 exam, which I take on August 9. After I finish the exam, I’m kicking myself into high gear to finish writing the script for my first short which I hope to direct by the end 2013. Long term, I want to continue writing and directing my own work all while still working as an AC and hopefully soon enough become a Camera Operator.
Do you have any advice for other “Made in NY” PAs or people who might be interested in the program?
You’ve got to be sure that you want this. There are so many people out there willing to PA, intern and work just as hard as you are for this, and that could be overwhelming at times, but don’t let it get you down. If you have a passion for this, that is what people will see, and that’s what they will want around them on set.
Interested in learning more about the “Made in NY” PA Training Program? Click
Read more about previous "Made in NY" PAs of the Month here.