Linda Di Bernardo ’10 Nails Down Internship in Set Design

Linda Di Bernardo '10
Linda Di Bernardo '10
“The only thing I ever enjoyed enough to see myself doing long term was being creative, which is why I became an art major,” said Linda Di Bernardo ’10. But it wasn’t until she watched Lord of the Rings for the first time that her interest in set design began to develop. Di Bernardo appreciated the clash of armor and attention to detail on every sword and garment, and knew that she wanted to contribute to such elaborate sets. “I remember when I was little I wanted to be an actress, which didn't work out for me since I get stage fright pretty easily,” she laughed. “Working on sets keeps me in that same kind of exciting environment while doing something I love.”

This summer, she has an internship at  blackwalnut, a scenery production company located in Spring Valley, N.Y. With a fairly large budget, blackwalnut is like a warehouse, storing thousands of square feet worth of scenery for television, theatre, exhibits, and special events. For a young company – about six years old – blackwalnut has already made itself known for its burgeoning talent in HD (High Definition) broadcasting scenery. Some of its more celebrated clientele include programs like ABC, CBS, NBC, The Daily Show and the Tony Awards. They house carpentry, painting, laminating, plastics, and electrics shops – and even Jon Stewart’s special desk from his “Indecision 2008” act.

As an intern, Di Bernardo rotates between the different shops, but she primarily works in carpentry. This means that she reads plans and then gets down to building the set.

“It's a lot of pressure, and I'm working in a predominately male environment, so there's a constant need to prove I'm capable,” she said. “But most of the guys know I'm learning and they're really helpful and understanding. I'd rather ask a million questions than be scared to show I don't know what I'm doing and potentially make a $2,000 mistake.” On top of the physical exertion and technical issues, accuracy and speed are important because they have to meet tight deadlines.

Di Bernardo knows what it is like to miss them. Last year, she had an internship in New York City working for an independent traveling theatre company. Unfortunately, she missed the deadline for Hamilton’s summer internship funds because the company offered her the position after the application was due. This year, she thought about her financial situation ahead of time, and applied for the Kevin W. Kennedy ’70 Internship Fund for the Arts, which subsidizes students’ summer full-time positions in the visual and performing arts.

Blackwalnut works with sleek, contemporary designs, which is not normally something that would excite Di Bernardo. “I’d like to work on more earthy, fun sets, but I think it's a great opportunity to gain valuable experience that I just can't get at school, and an amazing bridge from working in theatre to doing movies,” she said. “I'm also learning skills, short cuts, and various other building and painting techniques that I can use later on in my own practice.”

Di Bernardo has faith in the power of creativity in many aspects of life – and students should emulate that belief. In fact, she obtained her internship out of creativity and pure moxie. Black Walnut was posted on Craig’s List, but they only advertised regular employment opportunities. Di Bernardo saved the ad then scoured the website. In the spring, she sent an e-mail practically begging for an internship – and it worked. She received a response within a week, took a tour of the warehouse, and secured a position.

Although she had applied to 10 other internships, she is glad she took a chance with this one: “[blackwalnut] gave me more than I think I could have gotten at any of those other ones, and it’s more in line with what I actually want to do.”

Di Bernardo is a graduate of Dobbs Ferry High School.
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