Break into Hollywood: 4 Secret Weapons to Get Interviews, Jobs, and Representation

I completed my internship and one of the executives asked me, “What do you want to do next?”

I told him I was thinking about going to an agency.

He picked up a phone. He said to someone on the other side, “Have I ever asked you to meet anyone? Okay, well, I got someone I want you to meet.”

He hung up the phone. “You’re all set, you’re going to interview at WME.”

I interviewed with Carole Katz — not her assistant or her junior executive. Her. You’ve never heard of her, but she’s been head of HR for WME since 2001.

She told me (like they tell everyone) all the reasons I’d hate the job. Minimum wage. 12-hour days and weekends. No life. Think carefully, she said.

I said I’d let her know first thing tomorrow.

I emailed her the next day: I’m in. She said she’d put me on the consideration list.

I never heard back.

And it’s 100% my fault. Because I never followed up. Instead, I was waiting for her to “give me my chance.”

All the mistakes I’ve made in my career have come from waiting for my chance.

Fortunately, if you’ve moved to Los Angeles and you’re building your career (or even if you’re still working on getting out to LA) there are dozens of things you can do to create your own chances — even if you don’t have experience or connections.

I call these your “secret weapons” for breaking into Hollywood.

So let’s talk these secret weapons. (Btw, yes, you’ve got to have skills, too. If you’re a writer, actor, director, whatever, I’m assuming you got chops and every day you’re working to get better.)

Secret Weapon #1: Prepare Like You’re Going to War

With basic preparation, you’ll outshine 90% of your peers competing for the same attention, meetings, and jobs.

Because you know what preparation looks like for most people? 10 minutes of Googling on their phones 15 minutes beforehand. And it shows.

That’s why most people ask terrible questions, like, “Uh, so what advice do you have?”

Or when they’re asked to talk about themselves, they launch into a 10-minute rant about how she’s loved film ever since her parents took her to the $3 budget cinema next to Lechmere’s.

You’re different. Here’s are your rules of thumb: [click to continue…]

Would you help him?

Here’s a note my friend received recently, via LinkedIn:

Hey Jeff,

Glad to link with you on this thing. Pun intended.

I’m really trying to push my television pilot. I know you’re not looking but could you possibly lead me to some places (or folks) that are? I promise I won’t make you look bad. 🙂

Or you can hit me on the personal tip: [HIS EMAIL]

Any advice at all would be appreciated.

One love.

Let’s analyze all the things wrong here, then commit them to memory. Because if you’re going to make it in Los Angeles, you will have to ask for help.

But you have to do it the right way.

Here we go: [click to continue…]

Finally! Be Happy

I waited tables for 11 years in Albany.

Mornings, I opened the restaurant. I wiped tables and tucked chopsticks into white linen napkins. Everyday, I repeated to myself:

“When I get out of Albany, I’ll finally be happy.”

Then I moved to Los Angeles. Things changed.

I quit waiting tables. Then had to go back when I ran out of money. This is my first day back. I'm dying on the inside.

I quit waiting tables. Then had to go back when I ran out of money. This is my first day back. I’m dying on the inside.

Now the napkins were red. Instead of chopsticks, it was silverware.  

“When I get out of the restaurant business, I’ll finally be happy.”

The next step, I figured, was: become a Hollywood assistant. Learn from an agent. Answer phones and read scripts. Nine months of napkins later, and I started at a management company.

After a few months:

“When I start working for a writer, I’ll finally be happy.”

But this time, I wondered.

We love to think that once we get our “big break,” BOOM, that’s it! Red panties night.

Examples of the big break:

  • Money – “Once I start making six-figures, all my money problems will go away”
  • Relationships – “I just need to meet the one, and she’ll make everything better”
  • Moving to LA – “After I start fresh in Los Angeles, everything will work out”

Seeing dreams come to fruition is exhilarating. When it comes to moving to LA and finding a job, I can help. (For relationships, there’s an app for that.)

But I’ve worked with people who’ve climbed very high. Their books got on lists, then on movie screens. They made a lot of money. Had sex with a lot of people

They still say: “After the next big break, I’ll finally be happy.”

Work for your dream. Get up at 5 a.m., work till 2 a.m., and ship early and often.

But if you’re counting on your big break to “finally be happy” — spoiler alert — it won’t.

That’s up to you.


Photo Credit: Geraint Rowland

This Is How Success Finds You

Seth Godin wrote a post called Gradually then suddenly a few months back. It’s stuck with me, as Seth Godin posts tend to do.

This is how companies die, how brands wither and, more cheerfully in the other direction, how careers are made.

Gradually, because every day opportunities are missed, little bits of value are lost, customers become unentranced. We don’t notice so much, because hey, there’s a profit. Profit covers many sins. Of course, one day, once the foundation is rotted and the support is gone, so is the profit. Suddenly, apparently quite suddenly, it all falls apart.

It didn’t happen suddenly, you just noticed it suddenly.

This is what sticking around in a dead-end assistant position looks like. You want more responsibility but the company won’t give it to you, so resentment builds. The company feels the resentment and is reassured of their decision not to nudge you along or push you forward.

You stick around. Not because the paycheck is particularly good, but it’s not particularly bad. You’re comfortable.

Until the one day you’re not. And then you look back at the last 3 or 5 or 10 years of your life and you wonder where it all suddenly went.

Of course, as Seth points out, the inverse is true, too:

The flipside works the same way. Trust is earned, value is delivered, concepts are learned. Day by day we improve and build an asset, but none of it seems to be paying off. Until one day, quite suddenly, we become the ten-year overnight success.

My favorite part:

This is the way it works, but we too often make the mistake of focusing on the ‘suddenly’ part. The media writes about suddenly, we notice suddenly, we talk about suddenly.

That doesn’t mean that gradually isn’t important. In fact, it’s the only part you can actually do something about.

Don’t focus on the outcome. Don’t focus on being tomorrow’s Max Landis or Shailene Woodley or Jennifer Lee.

On a smaller scale…

  • Don’t daydream of your career 10 years from now. Crush today’s work.
  • Don’t fantasize about your “summer body.” Pick up the weight in front of you.
  • Don’t imagine finishing the screenplay. Write the next page, sentence, word.

Focus on the everyday work and — quite suddenly — the outcome will appear.