Friday, February 04, 2005

Working in the Industry

Since I've been talking about being an actor, I thought maybe some people might be more interested about working in the entertainment industry such as at a movie studio. I got my start as a proofreader at an ad agency that did movie ads, posters and video packaging. It was a great job, paid a bunch of dough (since I worked a lot of overtime) and I got to be an expert proofer at this kind of thing. Worked with every major studio in town, also, which gave me sort of an "in."

But, you know, I get bored easily, so I saved a bit of cash and quit the job to be a freelancer and an actor. After a while, I started to get really broke. Then 9/11 happened and I got a little desperate. So, I applied at a temp agency and they got me an interview at a movie studio. Doing what, you ask? Proofreading and copywriting video packaging and distributor catalogs. It was actually much easier than the ad agency proofing job because the workload was far lighter and the work hours were way more manageable. Plus, they didn't seem to mind me heading out for an audition every once in a while.

Technically, I was a part-timer. But there were some periods where I would work for several months straight without time off. Most often, I would work for two weeks, then have two weeks off. That was pretty nice because I had the two things most people wish for: money and time.

Like I said before, movie studios can pay a lot for guys like me. But they have to be able to justify your paycheck. That means a couple of things: One, you have to be the best in your field. That way, if an exec asks why they're paying you so much, your supervisor can just say, "He's the best there is." And two, I always liked to justify my working there by saying that I was actually SAVING them money by protecting them from lawsuits and costly production mistakes. And it was true, because I did save their asses a few times.

But here's the thing. If you want to work in the entertainment industry, it's easy. Just be the best there is. Period. Hollywood studios are SOMEWHAT colorblind as long as they think they're getting the absolute best talent for the money. So, if you're in accounting, IT, MIS, marketing, PR, or whatever, you have to, at the very least, talk a very good game about how great you are. Then, when you're on the job, you gotta show how great you are. Otherwise, your ass is back on the street and you're never getting hired back.

Of course, there are those who just talk a good game and actually aren't very good. And, for some reason, they do just fine. You can also go from studio to studio, because every studio is in competition with all the other ones. In fact, I knew an exec who was great at getting jobs, but he was lousy at actually doing the work. By the time his seniors started to question his work, he was already moving on to another studio. This is a guy who typically made six figures.

Now, if you're really desperate to work in a studio and you don't have many skills on your resume, there's always one thing you can do. But I swear, it's the lowest of the low. Nobody wants this job. The turnover is so high, there's a revolving door for them. What are they? Executive assistants. Their job sucks. Absolutely the worst job on the earth, below sweeping elephant dung. But there is one reason and one reason only why you should do this job: because one day, you want to be an exec.

Okay. So I'll end this by talking about the mailroom. You know what they say: You gotta work the mailroom and then move up. Well, it might work that way in the agency system like William Morris, but it doesn't work that way in a studio. Nobody hires the mailroom guy, and nobody sleeps with him either. Why? Because he's the mailroom guy. And besides, once they're trained and can remember who everyone is, do you really want to hire somebody else to replace him? No way.

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