Montclair State’s Own Goes From Classroom to On-Set

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Published March 13, 2021
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The Montclarion
Sarah DiPippa with her ID from the set of the "Ways and Means" pilot episode. Emma Richter | The Montclarion

Around their junior and senior years of college, students start to venture out and look for internships, jobs and other potential opportunities within their field. Here at Montclair State University, upperclassmen are doing just that, but because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, internships are no longer the same.

Despite the virus’s best efforts to knock people down, many have managed to stay afloat and regain their footing. One of these people is Montclair State’s very own, Sarah DiPippa, a junior television and digital media (TVDM) major with a minor in business. Even through a computer screen, you will continually find DiPippa in a bubbly mood and always excited to talk about anything.

DiPippa recently had an amazing offer land in her lap: being hired as a health and safety production assistant at CBS. Her role was involved in the production of a new drama series, “Ways and Means,” starring Patrick Dempsey. Dempsey is best known for his role in the hit ABC drama series, “Grey’s Anatomy.”

With glistening purple lights behind her on a Zoom call, DiPippa explained her role on set and what exactly her job entailed.

“My role was to check in all cast and crew members,” DiPippa said. “So, as they would come in, I would take their temperature, check on the clearance list to see if they tested negative, to then allow them on set.”

Bundled up in her winter hat, layers and her production vest, DiPippa also was in charge of distributing personal protective equipment, such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. She also had to make sure everyone on set was respecting social distancing regulations.

Sarah DiPippa on set of the "Ways and Means" production. Photo courtesy of Sarah DiPippa

Sarah DiPippa on set of the “Ways and Means” production.
Photo courtesy of Sarah DiPippa

The production was shot in different locations and Montclair State happened to be one of them. Bohn Hall was suddenly transformed into a hospital, while the studio in the School of Communication and Media served as a talk show scene for the new series.

DiPippa stated that the production lasted about fifteen days, ending a bit earlier than anticipated. Prior to that, DiPippa worked about 12-14 hour shifts, starting her days at around 4 a.m.

DiPippa’s good friend Jessica Pochek, another junior TVDM major with a minor in Italian, was the first to know about this production assistant opportunity. Pochek works at Raymond’s, a restaurant in Montclair, where another scene for the episode was shot at. She recalls the director coming in, scoping out the restaurant and her antennas shooting up immediately.

“Like the nosey person I am, I had to approach him,” Pochek said. “I told him I was a TVDM major and he reached out to me a few weeks later.”

Jess Pocheck taking a quick selfie on set of the "Ways and Means" production. Photo courtesy of Jess Pocheck

Jess Pocheck taking a quick selfie on set of the “Ways and Means” production.
Photo courtesy of Jess Pocheck

That nudge from Pochek got her and DiPippa into the production. This is not the first time the two friends have helped each other out as well. DiPippa helped Pochek land another opportunity in their field a while back with a different internship.

As for DiPippa’s personal experience on set, she claims that the only downside was having to be inactive at times. A huge part of her job was being the aide for the cast and crew, so when the filming was actually taking place, she would stay in holding with background actors.

“Sometimes it wasn’t that boring,” DiPippa said. “I took the time to talk to them about their experience, about their careers.”

More than anything, DiPippa’s favorite part about the whole experience was finally getting to be a part of the field she sees herself working for in the future.

“I have such a bigger appreciation for the art now, [just from] going through this, experiencing the number of hours [and] the amount of hard work,” DiPippa said. “People were constantly working, even on lunch and people on their walkies, handling issues.”

DiPippa also learned a lot about networking, as she was pushed into rooms with aspiring and accomplished actors and directors. It made her appreciate the financial aspect of shooting production even more from seeing how much goes into a simple pilot episode.

DiPippa’s boyfriend, Ethan Mersing, a junior history major at Montclair State, got a firsthand view of how this internship impacted her.

“She was definitely excited about this opportunity and she was very optimistic about it and did not want to pass it up,” Mersing said.

He knows that no matter what she does, she will do it right and work hard for it.

With shooting on pause right now for the CBS production, DiPippa said that the final part of it will resume shortly, but is unsure if she will be a part of it with school now in session.

In spite of it all, DiPippa still got the most out of her experience, working not just in her field, but in the time of a pandemic, where assisting in health and safety production is now an in-demand profession.

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