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Thursday, November 19, 2009

How to Make it in Hollywood

So, as I go on this crazy ride of life and get more and more involved in the film industry, I'm constantly getting questions about how it works, how you get started, and how you keep going in this insane business. Here's a few thoughts from me about what's it's like to work in Hollywood.

The basics

What's your background?
I decided I was in love with movies around the age of 14 when I wrote a screenplay off a zany idea inspired by my dad and I's love of the Food Network: "Spilled Milk." From there, I wrote a few more, went to film camp at NC School of the Arts, and kept the bug for years. I went to Duke and majored in Literature (thinking it was as close as I'd get to learning how best to analyze films and scripts) and created and produced 2 years of an annual 24-hour filmmaking competition called "The Movie Making Marathon" with some friends and a very supportive professor.

Over the college summers, I worked for Discovery Communications, Intandem Films (in London) as a script analyst, and New Line Cinema (as a floater). I graduated in May 2008 and moved to LA in July. After six weeks of intense searching, I got my first job as the 2nd assistant to Joe Drake, the President of Lionsgate's Film Division and CEO of Mandate Pictures.

After busting my butt for 10 and 1/2 months with Lionsgate (SAW, Tyler Perry franchises, Precious), I moved on to my 2nd job in the industry at Disney Animation - Assistant to the Producer on Disney's "King of the Elves" - a feature-length animated film coming out in 2012. In my "spare" time, I write this fun little blog, decorate awkward gingerbread men, and am working on a new screenplay.

What's the best way to get a job in the industry?

There's several different ways to answer this. My best advice is always - be tenacious about every means of finding a job - i.e. don't just apply online or just reach out to people you know or just sit at Starbucks with your book about the movies and pray someone discovers you. There's tons of ways to find a job but I'm a firm believer that the fastest and best way to be successful at it is to attack it from all fronts! 

Allow me to demonstrate: I got my first job through applying online to a posting at I got over 10 interviews through temp agencies, through being referred to recruiters by old bosses, and by making friends with other assistants. Lastly, I got considered for my current job by checking in again (following up, it's majorly important) with someone I knew because her dad was my professor at Duke. 

Here's a big tip from me - if you see a job posted that you're interested in - do not wait to apply to it! Jobs here are filled almost as quickly as they are posted. Jump on opportunities as fast as you can (but only if you're ready and able to work, ps).

Is it really like "Swimming with Sharks" and "The Devil Wears Prada?"
Yes and no. When I watch these movies, do I totally recognize my workplace in them - absolutely! Too many examples to count sometimes. But really, while everyone working in Hollywood has horror stories - it really amounts to who you work for and where you work. I've been lucky that my bosses have been really great, down-to-earth people. That doesn't mean I didn't have crazy stuff happen to me while I worked for them - but at least they weren't stapler throwers.  

There's also a huge difference between working in live-action and working in animation. At a live-action studio, I found things were much more formal and the amount of personal work for my boss nearly overtook things that had to do with day-to-day business.

Now in Animation, things are more in-house and team-based. Most of what I do relates to the production, whether it's glamourous or not. It's also a kind of environment where they don't expect you to skip your Grandmother's funeral because your boss needs his lunch delivered somewhere. :)

Wow, that's a lot of writing. What about you guys? Do you have any burning questions about the film industry? Let me know - I'll try to be helpful. Til then, I hope you've enjoyed this little peek into my life in the movies.


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