Those were the first words I ever heard from Warped Tour creator Kevin Lyman’s mouth.
Funny enough – and completely unbeknownst to Kevin – I got that first internship after stealing leftover food from his back stage lot on Warped Tour earlier that year. I ended up in a huge office building interning for the TV/Film department trying to get my big break as a music video director. At that time everyone ran their company on buzzwords, and the word of the day was “synergy,” so the company I worked for also owned a record label, a management office, a sports agency, and a touring division, where Kevin worked. The thinking was that by putting all these great creative people within shouting distance of each other that their work would start to overlap and everyone would end up helping one another. A year after I finished interning the company went bankrupt.
I guess that’s how I got the position in the first place. They were short on money and needed someone to make the coffee and run the photo copier. Not a single person there knew my name but I couldn’t blame them, because there were ten other interns just like me making coffee and running the copier. One of the execs – he was always ‘dating’ some aspiring actress and sleeping with them during lunch breaks – had bad eyes and would make me photo copy his novels at 125% so he could read them easier on an airplane. If the pages were crooked I’d get the whole thing physically thrown at me and I’d have to start over.
It was no wonder the interns all hid in the break room. The job was pretty thankless and if you looked available you’d get grabbed and sent on some God awful task. If you hid or acted busy, well hell, you’d still have a good bullet point on your resume. It became a game to see who could find the most creative ways to get out of doing work. But no one was learning anything.
It was about this time that I met Kevin Lyman. He caught me at the Xerox and joked I should go around the corner to Kinkos where at least I’d get paid for my work. It was an eye opening perspective. Kevin was the only guy at the company who realized us interns did all the shit jobs around there and he was the only guy who treated us well and learned our names and gave us any respect. His words and his attitude inspired me and it made me want to find a way to get real value from my experiences before I burnt out. Was my only experience at this major company going to be learning to use all the features of the photocopier?
Half way through my internship the company I worked for had to move offices. There wasn’t any money to do it so I got volunteered to use my weekends packing boxes, putting them in my car, and then driving them across town to the new building. Most of the other interns didn’t bother to show up.
On my lunch break curiosity got the better of me and I cracked open one of the boxes I was moving. There was all kinds of good stuff in there and I spent the rest of the day sitting under a desk and reading. I saw what a record deal looked like and why certain movie scripts got axed and I learned how much everyone at the company was making.
After that, my whole attitude changed. Instead of hiding in the break room I volunteered for every photo copy job and read everything that crossed my path. I’m pretty sure I learned more in that six months than I did after four years of school. All my volunteer work started to gain me some notoriety within the office and people began asking for me by name. It was a small thing, but that little boost of confidence grew me some balls I didn’t know I had. At the end of the day before I left I’d knock on all the executives’ office doors and introduce myself and find one interesting thing to tell them about. For the music department, that meant bringing in CDs from artists no one knew of yet. My first batch was Taking Back Sunday, The Used and Brand New.
When those albums did well, it led to me getting an offer to run my own major label imprint. It also led to me telling the biggest lie I’ve ever told to get out of it. I’ll save that story for another day. But looking back, I don’t think any of the other interns at that company stayed in entertainment. Or if they did, it was surely at an assistant level, where they took what they learned as an intern and applied it to a 50-hour work week. Most of them used their internship as one more bullet point on their resume and moved on, and I feel really sorry for them. And I was almost one of them. But what makes someone successful is their perspective, and Kevin Lyman changed mine. If all I was going to learn from my internship was how to photocopy, I should have just taken a job at Kinkos.
Funny side note, over a decade later and Kevin and I share an office and are partners on a bunch of projects. When I had my nervous breakdown and fled California, Kevin was the only guy I would have come back for, because he was the only guy in the entire industry who bothered to talk to me while I was an intern. And when that company broke down and everyone got laid off, Kevin’s strong relationships ensured he didn’t skip a step keeping Warped Tour moving.
I’ve tried to keep that same philosophy. If you ever bump into me feel free to stop me and ask me questions. Or leave some in the comments below and I’ll write you back or save them as topics for a future post.