Anja Ellam, a 21-year-old Toronto native, comes home from Los Angeles for the first time since she left. After moving her entire life to pursuing her longtime dream of living under the California sun, Ellam sat down with VERONDRÉ to talk about her experience.
In Toronto, Ellam was in her third year at Centennial College taking a broadcasting program. Her love for the entertainment industry started earlier on when she attended Rosedale Heights School of the Arts in Toronto.
It started my creativity because it was an arts school.
Little did she know, all her hard work and a large amount of creativity would help land her an internship at AwesomenessTV in Los Angeles.
AwesomenessTV is a media and entertainment company. It deals with film production and distribution. They cover a wide range of media platforms from Youtube to Netflix and have even started their own clothing brand. The company recruits up-and-coming celebrities and social media stars to broaden their audiences. Some of the popular stars they’ve collaborated with are Nash Grier, Amanda Steele, and Josh Peck.
Apart of me has wanted to be in LA for such a long time.
HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT AWESOMENESS?
I’d seen it every once in while on Youtube when I searched [things]. I would see it a lot for entertainment things like Taylor Swift dancing weird. Those videos would always pop up.
WHEN DID YOU APPLY?
Since I knew I wanted to get my internship in L.A. I started applying at the end of [last] September. I heard back from them [ AwesomenessTv] instantly when I emailed them. The second time around when I applied was the end of October. I went out [to L.A.] for the first week of November to do interviews for other internships as well. So when I emailed them I said: “Hey I’m actually going to be in LA, do you think we could do an interview?” And they were like “Yes for sure come down”. And that’s when I went to the office.
HOW DID YOU APPLY?
It was on entertainment careers.net, which is an American website for internships and just kind of breaking into that industry. They had a posting for an internship for fall but I applied for it anyway. And they said “We would need you to start next week. So let us know closer to when you can start your internship.” So when I got back to them I was able to.
“It wasn’t just questions it became a conversation, which is pretty common in L.A.”
HOW WAS THE INTERVIEW PROCESS?
It’s a lot better if you go down and actually do it because it completely changes everything. You can actually see the company and see the space. Whereas internships that I got over the phone or on Skype, I really knew very little about what their office would look like or how their company is run.
It was just one interview and I was really lucky [because] I clicked with the girl who interviewed me. I grew up dancing and she did as well. We really clicked on that. It wasn’t even questions, it just became a conversation, which is pretty common in LA. Everyone’s very laid back and they just want to get to know you because your resume really speaks for itself. It was more about your personality. We were talking for at most 20 minutes and they offered me the internship on the spot. They did the classic, “Do you have any questions for us?” and I asked, “When would I hear back from you guys?”, and they were like, “Oh probably pretty soon, what are else are you doing down here?”, I said I had other interviews, [they said] “Oh where?” And I told them, “This company, this company,” [they said] “Oh really?”, [I said], “Yeah but you guys are for sure my first choice,” and then they were like, “Oh we’ll just offer you the internship.”
WHAT WERE YOUR STEPS AFTER YOU LANDED THE INTERNSHIP?
I had to go back [to Toronto] because the visa process was very long and tedious. It is such a stressful process. It doesn’t have to be. When it comes down to it, it’s very easy but every time you think you’re done, they’ll send you another batch of paper work. It was really hard for the company because at that time they had just been bought by Dreamworks. So they didn’t have an HR department before and they just got HR and they didn’t have any rules set into place for interns and they had to make them for me because of all this visa stuff. So it was really stressful.
“L.A. is more plain. Everybody wears all black and leather jackets.”
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN L.A. AND TORONTO?
In terms of clothing style, I would say L.A. is more plain. Everybody wears all black and leather jackets. That’s the L.A. style. Especially in the going out scene. There, it’s more about their cars and their houses and other expensive things, whereas in Toronto people don’t really drive so your outfit is the first thing you see. So that’s more your statement instead of your flashy car.
DO YOU LIKE WORKING THERE?
I love it. I really love LA. It’s very laid back, everyone’s really relaxed it’s a really fun vibe. It’s cool how you can kind of be like in the busy work scene and then go to the beach. which is right there.
HOW DID YOU FIGURE OUT YOUR LIVING ARRANGEMENTS?
That was another tricky one. I was on all the roommate websites looking at everything. I found my roommates and my house from the website called easyroomate.com. You can build your little profile and send emails and someone will email you. I didn’t know where to live. The office I work at is in Santa Monica and I didn’t even know looking at a map how close things really were. But I’m like a nine-minute drive from my internship. My roommates are great, I got really really lucky.
It really was [hard] because I came from living with my parents, to moving to a different country, [and] having roommates. It was very different.
WAS IT HARD TO ADJUST LIVING WITH ROOMMATES?
I didn’t know anyone when I moved. It really was [hard] because I came from living with my parents to moving to a different country, [and] having roommates. It was very different. I was lucky that my roommates immediately took me under their wing. helped me [and] introduced me to all their friends. If they didn’t, I don’t know what I would’ve done. I didn’t know anyone when I moved.
WHAT ARE YOUR TASKS AS AN INTERN?
Right now I’m in the entertainment internship. I write their little segments for their shows. So we have the daily report [and] the weekly report which is a whole week scrap up [in entertainment news]. The top five show, which [are] whatever top five things are going on. I just wrote Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner’s best friend moments. That’s the most recent one that came out. Then there’s a bunch of new shows coming out that we’ve been working on. I get to help out on set as well. I’ve got to be in some of their videos, which is really cool. I got work on one of their movie sets in February. I got to be in a Nash Grier video, on his youtube channel.
DO YOU MEET A LOT OF CELEBRITIES?
You meet so many celebrities being there. They have the agency as well, so you always meet new people. I met Josh Peck last week.
ANY INTERESTING LA STORIES?
There was this one time I was out at this club called Henry’s and my friend was a promoter there. He goes “Do you want to hang out with Soulja Boy?”, he was performing that night. So I hung out with Soulja Boy that night. It was crazy. He had to perform but he was too drunk to do it on the DJ booth where he was supposed to, so he just did it [on the floor]. So it was him , his best friend and me standing there with my friend’s on the other side.
DO YOU EVER GET HOMESICK?
I really did especially when I first moved there. Being by yourself is really hard. When you’re at home and bored you can call up your friend [to hang out]. But when you don’t have many friends, and all of them are a long distance phone call away and different time zone, it is really hard. But luckily I had a really good group of friends [in L.A.], who was there for me. Otherwise, it would’ve been so much harder. I can’t even imagine what I would do.
HOW DID YOU KEEP UP WITH YOUR FRIENDS IN TORONTO?
We’d Facetime a lot because long distance calls are too much [money]. My one friend, every time I would go to my internship she’d be at hers. Every time I’d come in I would have an email waiting from her. There were a lot of people that I kind of fell back with, but being back here this week it feels like no time has passed. There’s a lot of people where we’re in constant touch and still in the loop of each other’s lives.
It’s cool how you can be in the busy work scene and then go the beach [because], it right there.
HOW DOES YOUR SPACE LOOK LIKE AT AWESOMENESS?
It’s actually really funny. All the interns work on this ping pong table. But they just got rid of it two weeks ago for a real size table that has outlets coming out of it. It’s kind of better for size. I would describe our office as how I’d envisioned a Google office to be like.
HOW MANY INTERNS WORK AT AWESOMNESSTV ?
So it changes all the time because people’s internships are different. I believe there’s more [interns] than there ever has been because there’s a lot of new departments. There’s probably between 20-30.
WHAT’S YOUR BEST MEMORY AT AWESOMNESSTV SO FAR?
The best memory I would say was the day that we went to Dreamworks. It was the day that Home the movie came out. It was a huge party. We got to meet all the CEOs and talk to them. Ask questions. It was so inspiring. Their office is breathtaking.
My second memory is when we have our town meetings. So every person from Awesomeness and their sister company All Def Digital are invited to the office. The CEOS tell everyone what’s been going on throughout the whole company and the deals that they’re signing. They had Lady Gaga’s manager come and speak. He started from nothing and took over the music industry. From working with Will Smith to discovering Lady Gaga. It was amazing. I’m 21 and he was saying things like “This is what I would tell my 21-year-old self.”
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS WITH AWESOMNESSTV?
I’m actually going into a second internship with them this summer. I definitely want to stay there and grow with the company. It’s only two years old and still growing so much. I think it’s a really good place to start a career in the [entertainment] industry.
I don’t know what the future holds I’m just going with the flow.
WHAT KIND OF CAREER DO YOU WANT?
I don’t know. That’s a really hard question. Originally when I started school [college] I really wanted to be a TV host. I still want that for myself. But after being in school I’ve really explored producing. With this internship, I’ve really found myself enjoy writing, either entertainment or screenwriting. I don’t know what the future holds I’m just going with the flow.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOUR LEARNED FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE?
You learn how do to do small budget films. They do everything on a smaller scale but it still has a wide response. Their company is so successful because they do low budget but high quality projects that reach such a wide range of people. I’m just trying to learn as much as a possibly can before diving into my own projects. I am excited to hopefully be working on my own projects later this year.
WHERE YOU ALWAYS AN IMPULSIVE THINKER?
Not even. Apart of me has wanted to be in L.A. for such a long time. I’ve wanted to live there for years. I only went there for the first time for five days in [last] August. I don’t know what my attraction was. I needed a change and I hate winter. I was thinking go big or go home, I guess.
Here are some videos that Anja has been featured in. Enjoy!
Photos by Julia Vit