5 Pearls of Wisdom for Crushing it In Hollywood
July is a special month for me, as I celebrate two holidays: the 4th of July, where all Americans celebrate Independence Day, and July 24th, which I consider my own personal Independence Day. It was on this very day that I moved to Los Angeles as a 23-year-old college graduate, ready to start #adulting. I had no idea the wild ride it would be, and I learned some things along the way—things that can help you, the recent college graduate, adjust to life off your parent’s payroll and get on the road to true independence!
Like many of you, I graduated from college without a job and really had no idea what I wanted to do for a living. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I had some unusual ideas about a career: I thought I didn’t need one :-). I planned to get married by 23, have children by 25, and be the CEO of my household while my husband had a high-paying job and supported the family. No, I wasn’t born in the 1950s, but I was born in Provo, Utah, and raised in a culture in which marriage and family took priority over a career.
*If you really want the juice of this story, I was a guest on “The Other F-Word” podcast earlier this year. The interview is highly personal, and I feel a lil’ vulnerable sharing, but I do so in the hopes you’ll see that if I can come from a particular culture and make it in Hollywood, so, too, can you!
The Big Move
What I didn’t understand about getting a job back then, I see very clearly now. Everyone seems to talk about “following your dreams” or “finding a job you are passionate about.” I think that kind of advice well-intentioned, but misguided. Most people in their 20s and 30s don’t even know what they are passionate about. Passion develops over time and is uncovered with every new job you take. So, let’s replace “passion” with “interest”: find a job in a field you are interested in. The fuel for actually getting a job is motivation.
Like many parents, mine told me “you’re off the family dole,” and I had to become financially independent. I may not have known what I wanted to do, but I was highly motivated to make money and support myself in this new city!
I had so many obstacles to overcome (no real passion, no friends yet, living in an unfamiliar city with no real direction), and yet I overcame them all. I learned 5 Pearls of Wisdom that I want to share with you as you embark on your own Hollywood Journey.
Live in the city where you want to work
So many students who are recruited to work at great companies have jobs before they graduate. They have business, engineering, or accounting degrees—not B.A.s in communications, media studies, or film. Secure employment is not the hallmark of entertainment; you have to hustle to get a job, and there isn’t just one roadmap to success. Everyone takes a different path, and depending on who you ask, you’ll get different advice. My advice is this: move to the city where you want to work and then find work. Why? Well, you have to remember that everyone wants to work in entertainment—it’s supply and demand. There’s such an abundance of qualified candidates that Hollywood doesn’t have to look outside a three-mile radius to find qualified employees. Plus, on your first job you’ll be making anywhere from minimum wage to $19/hour. No company will pay a relocation fee, nor will they want to take the risk that you’ll get homesick and quit. It’s also likely they’ll want you to start ASAP—and you can’t possibly relocate to L.A. from Cleveland in just 24-hours, so plan on moving and getting settled while you find a job!
Suffer a little (and lose the pressure that you must have a job within a certain period of time)
It took me two months to find a job, and I was stressed out of my mind. Once I got the job, however, I realized two months was actually a short period of time. I’ve seen people find a job two weeks before graduation, and nine months after graduation—everyone is different. It doesn’t hurt to have a couple of jobs that you go after but don’t get. You’ll get practice and develop a thick skin. Eventually you’ll find something. It most likely won’t be your dream job, but it’ll be a job where you get a paycheck and some experience.
Take informational meetings
Many of you are saying, “But I don’t know anyone who works in entertainment.” Everyone knows someone who works in entertainment, no matter where they’re from. Ask your professors, family members, and friends. Or better yet, ask your doctor, dentist, or hairdresser! People in those professions provide services for people of every walk of life! It was my doctor grandfather, a man who had his hair cut by the same barber for twenty years, who got me my first job in entertainment. The barber’s nephew worked at the William Morris Agency and took an informational meeting. It turned into my first job! Never underestimate the power of family and a good barber .
Start meeting people who do things that might interest you and simply ask, “What does the life of a TV director look like?” “How did you get your first job? “What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? Also, use the GOT list I put out every month to connect with other MyGrads who are working at great companies.
Work at a talent agency
I had no idea what a talent agency was, but if you’ve seen HBO’s Entourage, you’ll have more of an idea than I did. “Ari Gold” is the stereotypical agent. Most of the agents I know are nice, really smart, and very connected. Working for a talent agency is like working in mission control. But don’t let that intimidate you. At its core, talent agencies are just employment agencies for creative people. All agents need assistants, so it’s a great first or second job right out of college.
If possible, work at one of the big 7 talent agencies (WME, CAA, ICM, UTA, Gersh, Paradigm, or APA.) Even though it’ll be low-paying, you’ll be surrounded by people who will become your friends and your professional network. When you work at a talent agency, you are working side by side with TONS of other people your own age. It’s fun! They become the foundation of your entire professional and personal network. Also, working at an agency is like getting a master’s degree in Hollywood, and your exposure to executives, clients, information, and other fantastic 20-somethings at various networks, studios, and media companies will be absolutely priceless. (As of July 1, 2018, most agencies are paying at least $15 an hour.)
Be open to a career you may have never considered
When you first graduate, you don’t know what you don’t know! You like movies, but do you really, really want to work in film? Working in film requires reading ten to twenty scripts a week and knowing what’s in development at various production companies and studios. Also, you’ll need to write coverage. Do you even know what coverage is?
Nearly every entertainment professional I know started out with one career intention only to realize they liked another field better. For example, my writing mentor, Bob Myer, wanted to be a stand-up comedian, but ended up being a TV writer, most notably as one of the showrunners on Roseanneback in the 90s.
Read this book (bonus tip)
Just before moving to L.A., my father gave me a copy of “The Gift of Fear” by security expert Gavin DeBecker. It’s effect on me was profound, and I still consider it a must-read for anyone moving to a big city—and a timeless reminder of the importance of listening to your gut.