Oh, the burning question of the week… I have had literally no short of five emails this week alone from friends of friends wanting advice, hoping I can reveal the secret recipe for how to break into Hollywood (glad I have everyone fooled!). So, I thought I’d share my story and give some more free advice in the hopes of helping you and everyone you know get a foot in the door.
This past August marked my 14th year of living in L.A. The day after my 22nd birthday, my dad and I piled as much stuff that would fit in the car, and took a journey across the country jamming to the Eagles, stopping for Memphis BBQ, and making a little detour through the Grand Canyon before arriving a week later. I had plans to stay with friends of friends for a week before moving into The Oakwood apartments (where ALL the kids stay for pilot season hoping to make it big). The Oakwood was one room with a Murphy bed and cost $1550/month (a lot in 1999). So naturally, I did what any high-maintenance Southern belle would do—I charmed the pants off my new friends, and they so graciously let me stay six weeks until I found a roommate and could move to a more suitable guest house in Santa Monica (I am forever in their debt). I never moved to The Oakwood.
After a few months of flailing around, my mom called and said, “Ok you need to get a job. And I don’t want you to call me again until you have a job, and you better call me at the end of the day.” (She tells this story differently, but that’s my version and I’m sticking to it!) I had a job at the end of the day too…at Ron Herman in Brentwood, which I didn’t realize at the time, was the hottest clothing boutique in town. I had no idea that even that experience would help get my real first industry job a year later, working as the third assistant to producer Brian Grazer at Imagine Entertainment (he was intrigued that I knew fashion and personal shopping became a big part of my job). That job was my foot in the door and led me to now, owning my own company as a talent publicist. How did I get that first job, you ask? Through a temp agency recommended to me by a “psychic” at Universal City Walk. She clearly saw into my future—that’s all I’m saying! I could honestly write a book about my first few years in L.A., but I’ll stop here and save the rest for another day.
Until then, here is some of my best advice, all in one place, much of which I had to learn the hard way—so you don’t have to:
1) It’s Who You Know: Network, Network, Network! The year before I moved, I literally told everyone I knew that I was moving to L.A. and asked if they knew anyone. I kept a notebook and when I made a contact, I called them up and took notes. I had zero friends here and zero family, so I made a job out of meeting people. My first roommate happened to be a friend of an ex-boyfriend of one of my friends back home. Yup, figure that one out.
2) ‘Help Me, Help You’: I give this advice all the time. If you don’t know what you want, how can anyone help you? Most of the time when people reach out to me fresh off the boat, they are willing to do anything, take any job. Well, anything is too broad. To quote ‘Jerry Maguire’… “Help ME…help you.” YOU have to narrow it down. Set a goal and be specific with what you are asking. “I want a job in Hollywood” is vague. “I want a job as a writer’s assistant on a television show” is specific. Remember that time is the most valuable gift anyone can give you, so respect it.
3) Internships are Gold:– I did three internships in college, and you really should have read my essay on relating my job on a film set as it relates to corporate communications. I kept my professors amused, I’m sure. My most important internship was with Fincannon & Associates in Wilmington, NC. They are one of the best casting directors in the South East and at the time were responsible for ‘Dawson’s Creek.’ I had a referral, but they had already hired their summer interns by the time I made the contact. I literally called their office every single day until they agreed to let me intern. It was the best summer of my life. And, in a twist of fate, the producer of the show was related to Brian Grazer. See where I’m going with this??? And as a side note, when we are hiring an assistant at my company, we look for candidates that have internships in entertainment PR—they are one of our biggest requirements.
4) Meet with Temp Agencies: There are several great entertainment temp agencies in town that place temp and temp to permanent jobs. One is called Friedman and that is who got me my first job. Other good ones are Comar and The Grapevine. 24Seven specializes in fashion, design, lifestyle, advertising, etc. The Help Company places domestic help, personal assistants, estate managers, etc.
5) The Not-So-Mysterious UTA List: United Talent Agency puts out a list of Hollywood jobs every week. It ranges from Executive Jobs down to Internships. You have to know someone to get it, so ask your network. Just realize that it’s not that big of a secret anymore, so hundreds of resumes can be submitted for these jobs. Get help with your resume to make sure it is as good as it can be.
6) It All Comes Full Circle: Which brings me to…if you hear of an available job, it really helps to have a referral as opposed to cold sending a resume. Los Angeles is one of the most competitive cities in the world, so if you can find a way to get an interview, you are ahead of the game. Network, network, network!
7) Be Tenacious: Getting a job in a competitive industry is tough and takes time. Don’t give up and realize that you may have to get a job waiting tables or work retail in the meantime. If you make getting a job your full-time job, it won’t be long before you’re on your way.
If you work in ‘the biz’ and have some advice for those looking to start out, I’d love to hear it in the comments!