This Summer Internship Is Wild

Jake McDaniel ’17 got behind-the-scenes experience at a show that broadcasts from Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve.

By: Meghan Kita  Wednesday, November 8, 2017 04:31 PM

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Jake McDaniel ’17 on site at his internship in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve. Photos courtesy Jake McDaniel.

Changing a battery in a live-streaming camera seems a typical intern task: simple, menial, something no one else feels like doing. But when Jake McDaniel ’17 was asked to do so in the early days of his summer internship at National Geographic’s Safari Live, he had to get a ride on a 4x4 through Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve to reach the camera, which was set up along the Mara River. As he fiddled with the battery compartment, a herd of wildebeests (like those pictured at right) made its way across the water nearby. And then, “a lion popped out in front of me and killed two of them,” McDaniel says.

When he wasn’t having awfully-close-for-comfort wildlife encounters, McDaniel’s time at Safari Live—which is both a twice-daily, three-hour live-stream that airs on social media and a more polished show that airs on the National Geographic Channel—allowed him to use some skills he picked up as a film studies major and creative writing minor while also developing new ones.

“I learned how to do editing, logging and behind-the-scenes production through several video production classes I took at Muhlenberg,” McDaniel says. During his internship, he got a look at what goes into a live-streaming show: He’d monitor social media accounts to be able to feed viewers’ questions to the wildlife presenters in real-time, for example, or he’d keep an eye on the feeds along the river to alert producers to action happening there. He also edited together this video and wrote this blog post for the show’s Facebook page about his experience.

“People who are just trained in ‘old-fashioned’ film or television will find their options more limited than those who see good storytelling transcending the barriers between film, TV and the internet,” says Amy Corbin, associate professor of media & communication and film studies who taught McDaniel in several classes. “Live stream experience would give training in thinking on one's feet and improvising. It shows an ability to adapt to new forms of media.”

McDaniel returns to Africa for a second three-month stint with Safari Live in December. This time, he’ll be in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Ultimately, he wants to get into scriptwriting, which requires the kind of behind-the-scenes knowledge his internship has helped him gain.

“Learning about the production side of things helps a lot,” McDaniel says. “To be a good writer, you have to understand the work that goes into making a scene.”