Hello, welcome to ANIMAL. My name is Jonas, I am a student of media design and production at the Offenburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany. I was the first international trainee of the still very young filmmaker collective ANIMAL. For future interns who want to work here in Panama City, I want to share some useful information. First of all, an internship in Panama was an incredibly interesting, impressive and educational experience for me. It is worth it!
You can apply by email (in English or Spanish). You should write about what kind of subject you study, what you already know or would like to learn and ideally link a few examples of your previous work (in a Dropbox, etc.). In this way, the people of ANIMAL can get to know you well and plan how to work together.
More than just a company, ANIMAL is a collective of creative young filmmakers, founded in 2014, so it is still quite new. In the other hand, the film industry in Panama is not very developed, so ANIMAL is already one of the most important production companies in the city and in the country. The company is managed by Martin, Tomas, Christian, Felix and Carolina, they are friends since a very long time, also known as the family - "la familia". There are also a few employees and occasionally interns from Panama. ANIMAL produces all kinds of audiovisual projects: a lot of documentaries (Panama is a great place for that), but also music videos, dance and cultural films, promotional and commissioned videos, short and feature films as well as animation and live action.
On their website you will find a very broad portfolio. As an intern you have many opportunities to get involved, depending on what your interests and strengths are, but also on the areas you would like to learn. During my internship here, I was working with Tomás on a big documentary project for a museum about panamanian nature, culture and traditions, so I was involved in a lot of filming (all across the country) and later I did the editing and color grading. The projects are always very versatile and I think that you can learn so much more in the company's small production groups than in big production companies. Every film is an outstanding manual work for the love of film! It is made with simple but powerful devices, for example several GH5 cameras and the DJI Mavic Pro 2.
ANIMAL is the organizer of a small independent cinema called Microcine. In addition they host a local film festival, the Microcine Challenge . This takes place about once every two months and is a wonderful opportunity to get in touch with local filmmakers. As an intern, you are welcome and encouraged to produce your own short film and present it at the festival.
Preparation (international Interns)
In order to live in Panama you have to prepare several things. Here is a detailed guideline.
1. Enter the country
The direct flights to Panama are sometimes quite expensive, but you can check for cheap flights on Skyscanner. In case that you are travelling from the United States you might use Spirit Airlines for a cheap and direct flight (Florida to Panama approx $150). Travelling from Europe you might consider flying to the very common airport of Havana and then continue your trip to Panama with Copa Airlines (approx $150). This way you can also discover the beautiful capital of Cuba - but keep in mind that you need to buy a visa at your departure airport to do so.
Panama does not require a visa for travellers from most countries in the world, when entering you will be issued a tourist visa free of charge for 180 days. To be sure check your specific visa terms at the panamanian embassy.
Vaccinations are not required, but for your own safety you should sign up for a valid health insurance.
I also recommend having your technical equipment insured for damage and robbery.
2. Living in Panama
Please organize a place to stay before entering the country. I started searching about two months before I arrived, but the housing market in Panama City is very fast-paced, so I had been given reliable offers only two weeks before I arrived. A good option is to look for apartments on Encuentra24, ideally right in the San Francisco area - within walking distance to ANIMAL. San Francisco is also a very safe, rather rich neighborhood, with large supermarkets, a mall, all sorts of restaurants and a free public swimming pool.
Apartments are usually rented for at least a year. Of course, you can still cancel a one-year contract any time, but then lose the deposit. If you are looking a bit more you might find friendly people who rent their apartment for a few months without keeping the deposit.
Much easier and cheaper is to move into a shared flat. There are a lot of shared flats here, and Encuentra24 is the way to go - but the ANIMAL team also have contacts and can help you.
In the apartments you might pay extra for water and electricity, you should also ask the landlord or real estate agent, if there is an Internet access already. If you wish, they can help you signing up for a provider.
3. Money and currencies
In Panama, the US-Dollar is used. For an internship of only a few months, it is not necessary to open a Panamanian bank account. Just bring a credit card, and take larger amounts when withdrawing, in order to reduce fees. In addition, it is very advantageous to create a PayPal account that you can then use for online payments, e.g. for UBER.
I have never transferred the rent, because there are big fees for a transaction from a foreign account. Instead, let the landlord give you the bank details and bring cash to the appropriate bank. There you simply fill out the slip for a "Deposito" and pay your bill. Invoices for Internet are handled in the same way, in corresponding paying agencies, the "Multipagos". Everything is much easier than it sounds, especially as the landlord can help you very well.
4. Packing list
Actually you do not have to take too many things, because you can buy and wash here also. Keep in mind that it is raining heavily in Panama now and then, especially in wet season (May through December). Sometimes it just rains spontaneously for an hour. But still it is always quite warm.
So my suggestion is: one pair of long pants, three pairs of shorts, two sweaters, many T-shirts, a rain cape, underwear, a pair of shoes, a pair of flip flops and a bathing suit.
In addition, of course, bring all the technology you need: a laptop and external hard drives, various cameras and drones, speakers, headphones, chargers, a multiple plug and two to three travel power adapters.
In addition, toiletries and towel, and if necessary, a guide book ... These are in my opinion the most important things, of course, only suggestions and not necessarily complete. The entire baggage will definitely fit in a backpack or suitcase.
5. Hablas Español?
Spanish is not necessarily a language everyone speaks. But that is not a problem. The colleagues at ANIMAL speak very good English. Most Panamanians, in the other hand, do not, but there is always a way to communicate more or less. In preparation for the trip, I completed an online course at babbel.com for two months. After that I was able to master my everyday life without problems, at least as far as the most necessary communication is concerned. And of course you will learn a lot here.
ANIMAL does not pay the trainees, except, of course, the travel expenses, food and transportation costs of all the company's productions. This means that you have to pay for rent, food, taxis and all other types of expenses. Although some things are cheaper (like taxi rides or cinema), Panama is definitely more expensive than Germany and Europe. Here are a few price examples:
Rent in a shared flat: ~ $300 / month
Rent an entire apartment (two bedrooms): ~ $800 / month
Mobile Prepaid: ~ $20 / month
Cheap lunch at restaurant: ~ $5
Taxi ride in town (UBER or Cabify): ~ $3-7
Ticket for a film in the cinema: ~ $6
Haircut ~ $7
1l of milk: ~ $1.50
200 g butter: ~ $3
12 eggs: ~ $2
200 g of cheese: ~ $6
You can see from these examples that food from the supermarket is more expensive compared to Germany. For food you have to account for about $10 per day. My monthly expenses are around $900. This is of course a lot of money, especially if you have to take it from your savings.
In order to avoid big expenses I recommend to check for scholarships or grants provided by your country or certain organizations. You might specifically look for organizations related to your focus.
Living and working in Panama
My daily life in Panama has developed a certain routine. I usually worked six days a week, but of course you can discuss your hours with the company. Also five days a week is possible. A few of the Panamanian interns even work only three days. I would suggest delving into the work in order to learn as much as possible. There are definitely a lot of exciting projects, and with ANIMAL you will definitely get around if you want to.
Apart from the work, you can also make life in Panama City very exiting. The city is loud and crazy, that's for sure. But: Again, there are beautiful spots. Small pubs, a beautiful and cultural old town, the great promenade Cinta Costera with a large fish market, the wild Ancon Hill with great views and the city park Omar with free sports equipment and 3 km jogging track. There is no beach in the city, but for $16 you can travel to the island of Taboga in front of the city and enjoy the great beach. Also Coronado is a relatively close beach. Many Panamanians have cottages to which they may take you. Try to find some Panamanian friends or be invited by the colleagues. Then you will discover the small but beautiful places that make this city special.
You do not have to worry about too many things here, just pay the rent on time, electricity, water and internet. Apart from that you can discuss your schedule and tasks very flexibly with ANIMAL. You are also encouraged to film your own projects, and of course spend time traveling.
Traveling in Panama
One of the main reasons for me to come here is, of course, to discover Panama as a travel destination. As a backpacker, you can easily explore the country on your own. Panama is divided into two distinct sections. West of Panama City you will find many towns and villages; all are well connected and easily accessible by public transport. It is very convenient for backpackers and there is a lot to see, such as: Lake Yeguada, the beautiful island of Coiba, the coffee plantations in Boquete, the volcano Baru or Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro. There are great hostels at the beaches - you can dive, hike or immerse yourself in Panamanian urban and rural life. There are constant celebrations here, so you will get the chance to watch the traditional dances and costumes of the Panamanian. Mountains, waterfalls, hummingbirds in the rainforest - there is so much to discover in this part of the country and everything is very easy to organize and access.
The east of the country is drastically different. Here there are two of the most beautiful places in the country: the San Blas archipelago with beautiful golden beaches, as well as the remote and enchanting Darién rainforest. The entire area is mostly uninhabited, even the large Pan-American Highway here is just a gravel road, which ends in the last city of Panama - Yaviza. Behind this town is only dense forest, which is inhabited by some indigenous people, drug dealers and military. If you want to travel here, you have to organize very well - and be aware that this area carries a risk. Many of the places can only be reached with the small wooden boats of the indigenous. Nevertheless, there are a few places that you can visit as a traveller, for example La Chunga or Puerto Pina. I do not want to go into the topic of traveling too much, instead I invite you to read some of the many travel blogs that are online.
I hope I have tempted you to come work and explore Panama. For the education, cultural experience and traveling - an internship here is worthwhile on so many levels.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions!
Direct contact with ANIMAL via hola[at]cineanimal.com.
Direct contact with me via jonas-geisler[at]web.de.
In this sense, thank you for reading and hopefully see you soon.