Between two premiere internships this summer, I have gained an invaluable and intimate knowledge of the unspoken rules and moves to make in order to make it into the Hollywood biz. A lot of what I learned seems like common sense, but all too often students and hopefuls let their ambition blind them from being courteous and careful. Unlike other industries, in entertainment you have to give face-face-face and then still give face.
I live by the motto that it's not about who you know, but rather who knows you.
I think instead of just having a pile of business cards it's more important to build a cohesive network that knows you. Who can advocate for you and your talents? That's one rule in this business that almost every executive I have met has discussed. For many at HWS, Hollywood represents the pinnacle of making it in entertainment. I won't disagree. But I will say that I do not think everyone is made for Hollywood, and I especially do not think that Hollywood will accept everyone either.
I have only been to NYC once and so I cannot speak on the city's culture, but having grown up in the City of Angels I can tell you how this city works. Between my publicity internship in Burbank, CA and my time throughout Beverly Hills and Santa Monica attending panels and screenings, I can also tell you how this industry works.
One of the greatest lessons I got from my father was the importance of finding your team - Sofia Coppola
I cannot tell you how small the entertainment industry truly is! I swear everyone knows everyone and the 6 degrees of separation feels like 3. Earlier last week, Fremantle sent its' monthly newsletter out introducing us interns, and out of nowhere I got an email from a Hobart alum. He was ecstatic to find someone from the college unknown to most in L.A. working in the same company as him. This shows how you never know who you will run into, and it also shows how communication channels are so tight in this town.
Finding your team means finding people in your company, and neighboring companies, that you can trust to support you in your career. Whether you grab lunch together or ask for advice on a project, your team compliments your weakness. You then offer your strengths to compliment them. As an intern, this is a prime time to build my network because this is when I have the time to explore. My host company, FremantleMedia, has 10 interns and I am proud to say that they have become my team. We grab lunch together, go out together, and we even help each other connect to the contacts we have.
Building a team is crucial in this industry because in order to advance you have to have a platform behind you. Never burn a bridge in Hollywood because you may never get a second chance.
There is the misconception that as people of color in entertainment you are competing with each other, but that's not the case. The right opportunity will find you and you have to believe that. - Jada Pinkett Smith
At most colleges like HWS, there are two groups of students that want to work in entertainment. One group consists of people with some avenue into the industry, nepotism is real y'all, and then there are those with no connection at all. I am in the latter group. Regardless, breaking into Hollywood is tough.
What I want to share with you is how not every opportunity you get will be the right fit. While you may land what you think to be your dream job, the truth is you don't know what is right for you until you get it. I had no idea that I would like the realm of public relations and marketing as much as I would have until I got to work at my current desk. I had been offered a position with the scripted department, but I admit to my HR contact that I was hesitant on accepting the role. That's when she told me how just minutes before the call the Senior Vice President of Communications & Marketing had asked for an intern. The rest is history.
Many of the executives I met have all shared vastly different stories in to how they got in. Some sent in cold applications and others bounced around for years before it clicked that show biz was for them. The point of this point is that you cannot expect to land at your dream desk without paying your dues. That means starting in the mailroom and working your way up. There's a reason agencies use this model.
If what you want is money or to build your ego than leave. You have to love story telling if you want to work here, that's the secret - Victoria Alonso
One of the most salient points I have learned this summer is that Hollywood is not as glamorous as one may think. There are more roles that just writing, directing and producing. Any vocation you can think of can be under the umbrella of show biz, but that doesn't mean it's for everyone. We do not have "normal" 9 to 5 days. We do not spend all day just meeting celebrities. We especially do not all eat kale salads for lunch. We work hard.
In regards to film, movies are planned at least 7-10 years before they come out. Television shows are born 4-6 years before you see them on the small screen. That means that the work that goes into what you see is around the clock. The average talent agent works 18-20 hour days. What about weekends you may ask? What are those?
Entertainment is a a very demanding industry, but the pay off is amazing. In my case, my team will go on set from 8 AM and not leave until 7 PM. During this time, talent is being prepared, journalists are being called and rallied, and phones are on making sure all meetings for the next day are still on. Thus I reiterate this point, if what you want is money, fame, or glory, than take a velvet seat because you won't ever be on the screen just admiring it.