Wednesday, July 15, 2009


So, I usually try not to give folks advice... at least not unless they ask for it. But one request I get constantly is from a friend or relative who "... has a nephew or buddy or old schoolmate trying to break into the biz" who's looking for advice from a working professional, i.e. yours truly.

I got such a request from a really good friend a few days ago on behalf of his sister's friend's cousin or whatever. I'm never sure just what to say to folks trying to break into this insane business, but what follows is exactly what I sent my buddy to forward to the aspiring artist in question. Well, I must have said something right, because my buddy told me that he's going to use excerpts from it in his management course at work, and that much of the advice could easily apply to any field.

Hmmmm... really?

Which got me to thinking that if there is anything worth knowing in what follows, that if it can help just one person have a easier time of things as they go through this crazy journey that is life and art and whatever else... then maybe it would be a good thing to share with all of you. So here goes... my "words of wisdom."


Patience, persistence, hard work, and a bit of luck. Of course, you can make your own luck (a la Thomas Jefferson) by working hard, being patient, and always being persistent.

Also, be flexible. There are so many great opportunities in the entertainment industry nowadays that didn't used to exist. Also, don't measure success by outrageous goals like, "If I don't have an Oscar by age 30, I'm a failure!" Yes, Diablo Cody got an Oscar at 28. This is sooooooo the exception. Most of the influential and powerful people in this town, the ones who can get movies, TV shows, or video games made, are all 50+ years of age. (The exceptions are actors, but if you want to be one of those--man, GOOD LUCK.)

One big secret to success is that you can't do it alone. So... FIND A MENTOR. That's someone in your specific field (writing, cinematography, acting, editing, set design, whatever...) that is a working professional and a nice person. Then beg to be their apprentice/mentee/assistant/coffee boy or girl. I did it, and trust me... it works. Also, you will outgrow a mentor after a few years, so find a new one then.

Another big secret to success out here: continue your education in your specific field. All the entertainment fields are craft or techically driven. The craft (acting, writing, for example) continually changes. You must be "up" on what came before and what's coming down the line. So keep studying and learning. For example, I'm a writer. But the way screenplay structures are written now vs. 15-20 years ago when I started out have changed radically. I knew this, so 5 years ago I took courses on all the new stuff, also on all the new writing computer programs. I'm current -- but I continually study how scripts, outlines, synopses, dialogue. etc. are performed on contemporary shows. Someone's always breaking new ground. It doesn't have to be you... but once it happens, you need to have it under your belt.

This is even more important in technical fields like camerawork, lighting, visual effects, editing, and directing. The technology is changing so fast, I've seen people get jobs because they knew how to use a new editing system or camera / lighting package... when a competitor did not.

Lastly, surround yourself with a strong support network of 1) peers and 2) loved ones. Let's say you're an actor or director starting out. You should be making friends with fellow actors, writers, directors, editors, & camerapeople who are at your level. You will help each other get through tough times. Also, if you pool your talents... you just might create something special. On the other side, true friends and loved ones that believe in your dream just as much as you do are crucial. You WILL fail multiple times in this industry throughout your career, just as you will SUCCEED BIG TIME on other occasions. When you fail, you need something close to you there to remind you why you're doing this.

Because making in the entertainment industry is HARD AS HELL.

There are about 10,000 people in the world who are just dying to be plumbers. There's about 100,000 people who want to be opticians. Guess how many people would love to be a famous actor... or millionaire screenwriter... or big shot movie director?

About 10,000,000,000,000,000 people. They are your competition. And they are working just as hard as you are. Some them are even Steven Spielberg's cousins. Hence the need for a hard work ethic, patience, persistence, mentors, peers, loved ones, and yes... LUCK.

I hope this helps.

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