SOM student wins Cannes fellowship

For many Yale students, the choice between spending the summer relaxing in an exotic locale and enhancing their resumes with a fast paced internship is not an easy one. But Drew Skelton SOM ’09 will get the best of both worlds. He simply does not have to choose.

Skelton was selected to be part of this year’s International Business Program, a competitive work-study program run by the American Pavilion, an organization that facilitates the American presence at the Cannes International Film Festival on the French Cote d’Azur. The Business Program, one of two work-study programs offered by the American Pavilion, gives business students the opportunity to learn about the corporate side of filmmaking at the most recognized film festival in the world.

“I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Skelton said. “It’ll give me introductions to all kinds of different people.”

As an MBA candidate, Skelton will likely be assisting an independent film company like the Weinstein Company in acquisition negotiations with filmmakers. Founded 20 years ago, the American Pavilion provides a 5000 square-foot business area where American visitors can go for information, food or recreation, while also offering internship opportunities to American students. Last year, during the 16-day May event, the Pavilion gave 146 film and business students from 66 different schools the opportunity to assist in its operation, learning about the film industry firsthand.

According to Walter Harris, the director of the internship program, Cannes provides the ideal environment to learn about the buying and selling of films.

“The majority of films bought and sold around the world are sold at the Cannes Film Festival,” Harris said.

The strategy behind these transactions can be complex, Skelton said, considering the various genres and niches into which a film may fall, along with the previous revenues brought in by the actors that a film stars.

With a background in finance and accounting, Skelton is not the typical intern for the American Pavilion. The International Business Program accounts for only 20 or so business students that get to participate in the program.

But Harris believes Cannes can teach these students about more than just the film industry.

“They will have the opportunity to learn other businesses as well,” he said, “and make the kind of connections that will be important to them.”

But hailing from Laguna Beach, Calif., Skelton has already had some exposure to Hollywood.

“I don’t know the film business as well as I’d like to,” Skelton said. “My motivation is to meet and network with as many people as possible.”

And it was this motivation that struck Walter Harris.

“He was very much on the ball, very eager,” Harris said of Skelton. “He impressed me quite a bit with his business sense and how much he wanted to be part of the program.”

For Skelton, the program is a chance to experience a kind of business he may not get to once he finishes his education. Skelton plans to join the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs when he graduates next year.

Yale film studies major Conor Pewarski ’08 also received an internship for the Worldwide Student Program of the American Pavilion, but will not be participating.

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