After thousands of tuition dollars for your college degree in Film/ TV, it’s time to journey west and “make it big” in Hollywood! The only thing is… your college didn’t offer a course in how to do that.
Besides needing a few thousand dollars, a car and a place to live, the first thing you need to know is that there’s a 99.9% chance you’re going to start at the bottom—receptionist, mailroom employee or if you’re really lucky, an assistant. In short, you’re going to have to pay your dues.
And by dues I mean answering a switchboard at a talent agency and telling Jennifer Lopez over and over again that her agent is at lunch and even if she asks one more time it still won’t change the fact that he’s still at lunch.
And it’s time to realize that your award-winning student film won’t instantly guarantee you an office on the Universal lot next to Spielberg’s. The only thing it might guarantee is a job on the Universal lot—in the mailroom, delivering scripts via golf cart to Spielberg’s office. Which can be quite fun as you and your cohorts` race around the lot counting BMW’s vs. Mercedes.
So how does one get in the position to say “no” to J-Lo? Or deliver Spielberg’s mail? Same as you would in any other business: Develop contacts—friends, family, college alumni working in the biz—anyone who can pass along your résumé.
If you don’t know anyone in the biz (and don’t worry, not everyone does) check out “The Hollywood Reporter” and “Daily Variety” production charts to see who produces your favorite TV shows, your favorite kinds of movies, etc. Then call them up and sell yourself.
College students are in demand because they’re young, hungry, not jaded and can collate a script like nobody’s business. (If you don’t know the meaning of the term “collate,” you soon will.)
Once you’ve landed your first job, your next mission, if you choose to accept it, is to not get fired. Some producers are notorious for firing their assistants just because there were tomatoes in their salad when they specifically ordered “no tomatoes.”
Your job is to think one step ahead of your boss. Paying attention to detail helps even if it borders on clinical anal retentiveness. Anticipate their next move and be ready with options for Plans B and C in case Plan A goes awry.
One of the reasons I got promoted from production assistant to writers’ assistant on That ‘70s Show was because the show runner asked me to buy him yogurt, not specifying which flavor. I’ve never been great as guessing games so I bought him every flavor Yoplait makes. That’s right, I have yogurt to thank for my residual checks.
If these examples haven’t turned you off from wanting to pursue your Hollywood dream, it shows you’re thick-skinned and ready for anything that comes at you—including a phone because you dropped an important call from Angelina Jolie to your boss. And as you pack your bags for your Hollywood adventure make sure to include: an open mind, a thick skin and a sense of humor. Also, bring an extra nice attitude because the butt you kiss on the way up might be kissing your butt on its way down.