Aug. 6—HIGH POINT — The name James Pearse Connelly probably doesn't mean anything to you, but he's a bit of a rock star in the demanding world of Hollywood production design.
High Point native McKenna Farlow — a 21-year-old rising senior at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where she's in the School of Design & Production — can tell you all about him. She has spent much of the summer working a paid internship with Connelly at his Emmy Award-winning design firm, J.P. Connelly, in Los Angeles.
"He specializes in doing production design for all different kinds of reality TV and competition shows," says Farlow, citing such shows as "The Voice," "The Masked Singer," "Top Chef," "Nailed It!" and even variety shows such as "The Kelly Clarkson Show" and "Entertainment Tonight."
"I've gotten to assist and witness what it's like to work in that industry. I've gotten to visit sets, and I've gotten to show them a little bit of my skills, too. It's been a really cool experience."
Farlow, a 2019 graduate of High Point Christian Academy, is one of only 40 students nationwide chosen for the prestigious Television Academy Foundation Internship Program this summer. Every year, the foundation — which is dedicated to preserving the legacy of television — provides paid internships at top Hollywood studios and production companies to college students across the country.
Although Farlow's background is largely in theater, Farlow believes her career will be in film and television, and this summer internship will help her get there.
"My goal is to pursue a career in designing for film and TV, so this was a perfect opportunity for me to make sure that what I thought I wanted to do was really what I wanted to do," she says. "And it's done that — I've realized that I definitely want to continue pursuing film and TV."
Farlow's interest in the industry was nurtured in High Point, where she was a cast member in several High Point Community Theatre productions during her younger years. After graduating from High Point Christian, she enrolled at UNCSA in Winston-Salem, where she's studying scenic design.
The focus of the scenic design program, though, is on stage productions rather than film and television, so the summer internship is giving her experience she might not get at school.
"If anything, this internship has taught me how much I still need to learn," Farlow says. "I've learned more of what the industry standard is specifically for television, and I've learned different skills I need to pick up on a little bit more. Mostly, though, I've learned that this is where I want to be, which is a pretty cool discovery."
She's also learned where she probably doesn't want to be — in the reality-TV world.
"I've noticed the business of reality TV is very fast-paced," Farlow says. "That's really fun for some people, but I like to have a little more time to flesh out my ideas than reality TV allows for."
The internship program also provides professional development sessions with leaders in the television industry and customized seminars covering personal brand building and navigating the job market. Interns also become lifelong members of the Television Academy Foundation's alumni family, giving them access to events and networking opportunities as they build their careers in the industry.
According to Connelly, his young intern has a definite knack for design — and she may have a job waiting upon graduation.
"When you work in unscripted variety television, you never know what challenges a day will bring or what problems you'll have to solve quickly," Connelly says. "Either on the set or in the design studio, McKenna's work ethic is creative and diligent, and it's clear she has a passion for our line of set design. I'm impressed with her skill set and training ... and I truly hope she can join the team again after she graduates."
Farlow says the internship with Connelly, which ends Friday, has been everything she imagined it would be.
"Being able to work beside and learn from an Emmy Award-winning designer is a rare, highly desired position I plan to utilize to the best of my ability," she says.
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