Many incredible people have passed through the VACorps internship program since we first started hosting interns in 2006. “Oh the places you’ll go” is a series where our alumni share updates about their careers and life accomplishments. In this latest post, Rob Weidner (’12), checks in with us from—surprise— the Mother City! While many alumni declare that they will return to Cape Town, few actually make it back to the city. Rob is the exception to this rule, as you will learn in this interview. We will definitely be keeping tabs on Rob in the coming years because he is a driven and highly creative entrepreneur. Network with him HERE on LinkedIn!
Please give us a summary of your career to date. What have been doing and where do you see yourself heading?
After many unfulfilling attempts at working in construction, lawn care, and car detailing, Rob Weidner stumbled into the hobby of making films at the early age of 14. He used this creative outlet to support himself throughout high school and into university. Up until his graduation from DePauw University in 2014 (see photo below. Rob getting his diploma from actor Kal Penn), Rob had produced content for organizations such as the Chicago Bears, NFL Films, Gigi’s Playhouse, Leading Authorities, as well as various projects and short films.
While taking a priceless semester-long internship in Cape Town, South Africa during the fall of 2012, coordinating with the incredibly supportive and prestigious Volunteer Adventure Corporation internship program, VAC landed him a job working for Big Sky Productions, a high-end international production company with clients including Woolworths, Audi, and National Geographic. During these four months, Rob got his first real world taste of the entertainment industry. After that point, and just like Pavlov’s dogs, he salivated at any opportunity to further sink his teeth into professional visual storytelling. Aside from a quick stint starting a pizzeria called Pizza Dude during his fourth year at DePauw, all signs were pointing toward a career in the creative industry. With a degree in computer science and studio art, immediately after graduation, Rob worked on his first feature film titled Reparation as the focus puller (see image below. Rob with actor Mark Menchaca) under cinematographer Jay Silver (23 Blast). With a reaffirmation for his love of filmmaking, Rob then made the move back to Cape Town to work as a freelance focus puller and has since worked on projects such as Saints and Strangers, Of Kings and Prophets, and The Dark Tower. On the side, Rob started a e-commerce website, filmgear.co.za which aims to bridge the gap between Hollywood and South Africa, by providing an efficient way to purchase professional film equipment in South Africa.
What were the highlights of your internship experience in Cape Town?
The greatest highlight of Rob’s internship in Cape Town was simply being in Cape Town. The city is incredibly affordable especially for young professionals (See image below. Blue Rock Waterski Park where there are frequent We Love Summer parties outside of Cape Town). With the mountains, ocean, and countryside so accessible from the Mother City, there is no excuse for failure to explore. With the various activities that VAC offers its intern, paired with the friendly locals always willing to include foreigners in their day-to-day lives, South Africa is the perfect destination for a multi-month internship, or quarter-life crisis as some people call it.
Can you share an example of how your internship experience aided you with your career?
A very clear and direct example of how an internship through VAC can aid you in your career is that Big Sky Productions graciously offered to sponsor Rob’s work visa to come back and continue his career in South Africa. It is because of the foundation of the VAC program, that their interns are able to hit the ground running from day one (see photo below. Rob with Casey Neistat about to go for a run up Lion’s Head) for their host companies and provide immediate benefit with minimal on-boarding headaches.
What’s the single most important piece of advice you’d like to give to future VAC interns and/or those considering participation in the program?
The single most important piece of advice for future VAC interns is that it is just as important to make connections with locals than it is with other foreigners. If you do end up coming back to South Africa, or anywhere you spend time abroad, you want to have the network in place to jump right back in without having to start from ground zero (see photo below. Rob filming at Val De Vie Polo Estate with Olympic Gold Medalist, Ryk Neethling). Keep in contact with friends and work colleagues after your internship and offer the same hospitality and generosity that you would want if the opportunity arose.
Any predictions for what we can expect from you in 10 year’s time?
In ten year’s time, you can expect to see Rob back in the United States, but with roots deeply planted into South Africa still, whether that be working with or for South Africans. Ideally, Rob will be splitting time between the USA and RSA, still working in the film and entertainment industry as a cinematographer. Oh and most likely sipping a glass of Simonsig 2011 Redhill Pinotage.