If you think you must have a degree from a good school or know someone in the business to get a foot in the door, realize that these are not guarantees that you will get to work in film or television. Your desire and ability to prove yourself to others will be what ultimately gets you hired or gets you fired.
By following the ten tips laid out below may not lock you in to a job, but they should certainly help you on your path to getting there:
1. Be Willing to Work for Free:
Yes, as ugly as that sounds, it's absolutely essential that you are willing to either work for free, or for a very low wage. Those who are financially able to do so are able to get a position with most film and television crews relatively quickly. It's often a low level position, but it's an "in" and you'll have the opportunity to meet others in the business as well as learn on the job. Most "free" jobs quickly lead to full time careers.
2. Leave the Ego at Home:
Hollywood is full of egos, they're in no need for one more. If you can remember to check your ego at the door when you come to town, you'll find most people will be a lot more receptive to helping you. In time, you might find that your ego will come in handy -- but only after you have learned a few of the Hollywood ropes. Otherwise, it'll just get in the way.
3. Have Patience:
Some of the best advice I got when I started in Hollywood was to think of my first few years in the business as a sort of graduate school. You're essentially going to be getting a masters in entertainment -- although, there's no cap and gown and no graduation ceremony. However, you'll be that much more prepared to take on your new career. Every year you'll find yourself thinking you know it all and by the end of the next year, you'll quickly realize you didn't know a thing!
4. Be Persistent:
I've just told you to check your ego and to be patient -- but that doesn't mean stop working toward your goals. You want to be sure you spend every day doing something that helps you get to where you want to be. Meet people, make calls, send letters (or e-mails) -- do whatever it takes to move forward.
5. Be Respectful:
You're going to come across dozens (if not hundreds) of different types of jobs in Hollywood -- many of which you wouldn't dream of doing. However, those who ARE doing them might actually enjoy what they're doing. Additionally, and although it might seem unlikely, the one guy you ridicule might have been the one guy who could have and possibly would have helped you.
6. Recognize Opportunity:
Many of the jobs you have to do in Hollywood will be less than glamorous. So, you need to recognize the opportunity in the events as they happen. Sent to copy scripts? Then be sure to make an extra copy so you can read it yourself. Forced to run calls for you boss? More than likely he's letting you listen in -- learn by listening to what's being said. You have the find the opportunities as they come up and take advantage of them.
7. Always Be Learning:
When you're just starting out, you want to be sure you learn as much as possible about as much as possible. Learn what each department of a production does. If you're in an office, then spend some time getting to understand what purpose your particular department serves. What does each executive do? What information do they deem valuable? Why? You need to always be learning -- teaching yourself the business by understanding what your superiors are doing and why.
8. Know Where to Look for Hollywood Jobs:
If you're looking in the classifieds section of your local newspaper or on career sites like Monster.com, chances are you're not going to have much luck. Most production jobs are never advertised. People are often hired through word of mouth and pre-established relationships. So, you can see the importance of getting to know as many people as you can (See #9). You might find a few in Variety or The Hollywood Reporter, but more than likely, you'll need to seek out these jobs on your own.
NOTE: By the way, I can't really recommend this new crop of "Hollywood Job" websites that charge a monthly fee because unfortunately, many of the jobs they advertise are filled before the listing even goes up. Besides, even if the job was still open, there's not a production person I know who has the time to sift through the hundreds of resumes a service like this would generate. They want to hire the best person for the job and more often than not, that person has been identified by someone else already on staff. So, save your money.
9. Get Out There:
If you think a Hollywood job is just going to magically plop itself on your doorstep, you're sadly mistaken. There are way too many people out here in Los Angeles that complain that they can't get break in to the industry and yet, they never take the steps required to actually break in!
Believe it or not, getting a job in Hollywood is not impossible. Becoming a great director, writer, make up artist, electrician, agent, executive or whatever, all starts by getting out there. Meet some new people, take the low level jobs, take a few classes and get to know others who are like you.
10. Be Fearless:
Very few people working in Hollywood today started at the top. Of course there are those prodigies who just seemed to have a knack for their particular profession right out of the gate, but the majority of Hollywood big-wigs both past and present started their careers on the bottom rung of the ladder.
You have to be somewhat fearless when going after what you want. Hollywood is notorious for chewing people up and spitting them out. So, to avoid this fate, you have to have strong convictions, a desire to make it and the talent to back it up. No matter what your career path of choice might be. If you're consumed by fear it will rule you -- but if you can master your fears, you will rule.