Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA, USA. Photo taken by Vitaly Sacred. Follow IG @ @vitaly_sacred
Breaking into Hollywood
The Five Things You MUST Have in Order to Succeed
Written by Carole M. Kirschner
In Hollywood, they say it’s all about who you know. While that’s true, it’s equally true that it’s all about who knows you… and what they think of you. It doesn’t happen by accident. It takes planning and skillful preparation.
When it comes to the entertainment business, in order to break in (and stay in), I believe you need to have these 5 things.
#1) Blazing Hot, Creative Material
For writers/directors, this can be a portfolio of scripts, short films, web series, etc. Keep in mind, when you’re breaking in, your “material” is most often your cover letter and resume.
#2) Industry Savvy
Industry savvy means having a sense of the big picture and where you fit into it and knowing how to navigate it. You may have just gotten out of college, or you may have spent time in a different business, but if you want to (and I want you to) succeed in Hollywood, you need to know what’s happening. You do this by consistently researching and staying on top of entertainment industry news, trends, the major players and events, so you can talk about them intelligently.
#3) Enough Connections:
A community of people in your corner – to get traction.
In other words, the “it’s all about who you know” part of the equation. Some people think in order to create this network of allies, they have to be “networking.” However, when I think of the word, “networking,” I picture slick, aggressive people who are trying to get something from me. You don’t want to network. You want to “connect”. Connecting is a better word because it means you’re meeting new people, and when there’s a real connection, you create a mutually beneficial relationship. So, how do you take the “eww” out of “shmooze”? By being your authentic self – and focusing on how you can help others without worrying what you’re going to get out of it.
#4) Personal Mission Statement / Game Plan
I meet a lot of people that are totally committed to being successful in Hollywood, but aren’t nice humans. You’ve heard the tales. You’ve seen the characters in TV shows and movies. There will be times and situations where you’ll feel like, “I gotta get this job or else!” or “I gotta meet this person or else!” not caring how you do it or who you hurt in the process.
But I believe it’s just as important for you to be a whole, balanced human being. Creating a personal mission statement will help you see that whether or not you land this one job, or meet this specific person, you’re building a career and are in it for the long haul. Who are you at the end of it matters.
#5) Really Smart Self-Marketing
Having a smart self-marketing plan means having the ability to talk about yourself in such a way that people not only get excited about you and your work but also want to hire or help you. The whole thing might sound a little forced and fake, but the truth is, when you do it right — it will be authentic to the real you, and it makes the real you stand out from the crowd. Being memorable means staying on people’s radar (which is extremely important), so when they have a job to fill or they hear about one, you’ll be the one they contact to come in. The three things you need in your arsenal to create a smart self-marketing plan:
- Your Personal Logline
- Your Personal A-Story
- Your Anecdotes or Story
Now that you’re armed with the five things you need to have in order to make it in Hollywood, what’s something you can do in the next five minutes? Work on your personal logline. In show business, a “log line” is an intriguing one or two sentence description of a movie, television show or video series. It’s what producers pitch to sell their project. A personal log line is a few sentences that describe who you are, what you currently do, what you want to do, and WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT from others doing it. Being clear about who you are and what you have to offer will set you apart from your peers.
Which of these people makes you want to know more about them?
(A) “I graduated from college two years ago. I’m not sure what I want to do. Maybe be a cameraman or a director. I made a few student films, but I’m just not sure.”
(B) “I’m an aspiring writer. Even though I’m just out of college, I know I like to write dark crime dramas. I guess it’s because half my family are cops…and the other half are criminals.”
Your turn. Take the next few minutes to answer what you do, why you’re good at it, what you’re passionate about, and how you’re different from others doing it. Once you’ve written out your log line, the next most important thing is: Practicing it. Because your personal logline is something that’s continually changing and evolving depending on what’s going on in your life… rehearse all your versions until they come out sounding natural. Use words that fit you. Start by practicing your personal logline on five trusted friends or family members. Ask for feedback and tweak it until it feels second nature to you and you get a positive response every time you say it.
You can find out more about each of the five points in my book, Hollywood Game Plan: How to Land a Job in Film, TV or Digital Entertainment.
I wish you the best of luck as you achieve your Hollywood dream!
Carole Kirschner, Director of the Writers Guild of America’s Showrunner Training Program, the CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program and the Humanities New Voices program, has a passion for helping aspiring writers, producers and executives break in, stay in and move up in the entertainment industry. Having worked as a senior level television development executive for eighteen years (including her posts at CBS and as head of Steven Spielberg’s first Amblin Television), Carole has heard over 3,000 pitches, bought hundreds of projects and was involved in developing dozens of television series. Now an international speaker and entertainment career coach, she teaches creative professionals how to navigate the often mystifying field of show business. Through her popular workshops, Carole teaches real world strategies so writers and producers can thrive in Hollywood. Her book, Hollywood Game Plan: How to Land a Job in Film, TV and Digital Entertainment, published by Michael Wiese Publishing, is assigned as a textbook in film/television classes at various colleges and universities throughout the U.S.