Anything Goes : Anyone Starting out, How not to approach the Entertainment business by Stephanie Paul

Stephanie Paul

Anyone Starting out, How not to approach the Entertainment business

I like many in this industry have worn over my 22 years of experience many hats. We all make mistakes when we are starting out in any business or walk of life. However for the keen young creative, who wants to be a writer, producer, Director, Grip, Director of Photography, Production Designer, Casting Director whatever the goal is. I would love to hear a discussion from the experienced members or not, about an experience or a piece of a advice you can offer to help the next generation of film makers more aware and sensitive to our industries needs and respect to the craft and hard work that makes you a professional and someone we desire to work with. For example I was told a great piece of advise by a producer once. "If your early, your on time. If your on time, your late, and if your late your fired". Or please share a story that we can learn from.

Wayne G Sweat

Please offer advice to actors as well.

Stephanie Paul

Of course actors as well but I didn't want to list everyone who works in the industry or I would be here all day. It was not my intention to offend. My post was to encompass ALL people who work within our industry.

Paul Sumares

Related to how not to approach the business, a basic piece of advise given to me by a professor and mentor of film music (my area) who worked in synth programming and scoring at Universal for 15 years (with some top names), was simply to understand that it is not always the most talented who get the jobs. Obvious to many here, I suppose, but it helped me to stop focusing ALL of my energy on perfecting my craft, and start dedicating more time to meeting people and just getting involved with projects. More related to the question, I guess, would be my advice to focus on connecting with those directors whose work you really admire and do anything you can to work with them ... because once you are involved, you must remember that it is his or her vision you are serving. It will be much easier to take direction and alter your choices when you trust in the outcome that director is known for delivering. And being someone people want to work with is the same for this as any other industry, I would imagine: respect everyone and understand the goals they are trying to achieve, keep the process fun but the effort and execution serious and highly focused, be a team player, etc. I'm sure many others here could give specifics about how those basic rules play out in day-to-day workings with industry professionals.

Wayne G Sweat

No offense taken.

Matt Milne

treat your work seriously, yourself less so. Be willing to do as much as you can. Don't waste time meeting expectations and trends, such things change with time and from person to person. Don't take on more than you can handle, but aim for what you can achieve. be willing to approach each director and producer from their angle. Stand up for yourself and things you think are important creatively, but don't waste the director's time. Don't base your method on somebody else's method just because they told you it was the 'proper way' to do things. For would be composers: do not score to mood, it cheapens and degrades everything.

Matt Alexander Clark

Thanks for the advice thus far, everyone. I'm a writer/producer just starting out in the industry here in the UK, and at the age of 28 I feel I'm a little behind other new entrants, but I guess ultimately it doesn't matter - if you've the right attitude and desire to learn, improve and are ambitious, then starting late shouldn't be too much of a hurdle. It's just getting that all important experience. E.g. I had a brief placement at Working Title but aside from that not much! One thing I have learnt which I'll add briefly, is that it is important to understand that, although film/cinema is an art form, it is first and foremost a business. And businesses of course need to make money. So whatever your position, be you 'above/below the line' in your trade, it is crucial to understand this. So that's my 10 cents, as they say state-side. 'That's my 10 pence' doesn't quite have the same ring... If you want to network get in touch :) Matt

Tommi Trudeau-Street

Well.. I'm not all that accomplished.. But, I do live in Malibu and I haven't had to work a day-job in three years.. That's pretty cool because it's really hard to serve two masters... My advice is to never forget that it's called, show-BUSINESS.. I see so many artists living in poverty; slaving away at some Starbucks because they don't manage their money well... Everyone in the Biz; actors, writers, directors, producers, techies, or other support personnel are actually the CEO of their own small business and must manage their career and everyday lives as such.

Michael Kleven

I think my main piece of advice would be to learn as much as you can about business as possible, from marketing, to promotions, to taxes, contracts it is all important. Learning how to evaluate" return on investment" whether it is for an acting class, a new piece of gear or a marketing effort will help a lot in the long run. I've worked as both an actor and as well now on the production side. Professional skills in craft are rarely if ever an issue. My greatest challenge has always been to function efficiently as a business owner. And unless you are working in broadcast or in the back offices of a studio that is exactly what you are. If you are able to master this and achieve a certain level of success, the second, perhaps greater challenge is to remember that you are an artist. Maintaining your integrity in how you work and in how you treat others is the greatest achievement of all. That's my recipe for success in the industry.

Jessie Bernard


Jon Brown

Pick one aspect of the process that you like the best or are very good at and learn it well. Basically I think it's better to specialize in something specific than wear a lot of hats.

Stephen Krystek

Be passionate about what you do, but also remember that the mortgage bill isn't going to pay itself :D

Matt Milne

i wouldn't say a college degree is advantageous. Right now i'm scoring a 96-minute film in 4 days, because the previous composer (a graduate student) dropped it at the last minute.

Thomas C. Baggaley

Matt, I'd say it's not the degree that is advantageous, it is the education. That being said, many music programs do not prepare a composer to work under the kinds of deadlines and time constraints that we run into in this business. In school, you can spend three or four months perfecting a single four-minute composition. Obviously, that is a luxury that rarely happens for film composers, and it sounds to me like this previous composer had no idea what the time demands were for such a project or at least had not developed the time management skills he would need. On the other hand, I have found my education extremely valuable when it comes to actually doing the work, because I have a deeper understanding of what music does and how it works. If nothing else, my education allows me to not have to reinvent the wheel when I'm writing under a deadline, and it helps me avoid some of the traps and pitfalls I'd otherwise have to learn the hard way - through experience - while working on someone's film.

Brian LaPan

A degree is USELESS however the connections you make may make the difference in your entrance into the biz. The advice I give is to FOCUS on one aspect of the biz and go for that. Jack-of-all-trades is USELESS in the professional side. Also, I'd suggest maybe that instead of paying for that college degree you save that money and go to a media center with 2 years cash in hand to live and volunteer to work for someone who does the job you want. Work for free. Prove yourself. And, if you're good, trustworthy and ON TIME (so many interns/gophers miss this point) you'll most likely get a paid opportunity soon.

Thomas Allen Crowell

I teach media law on the law school level and have taught in film schools as well. In my opinion, most film schools do a very poor job preparing media creators for the legal and business environment of the film and television industries. Once you are out of film school, recognize that film and television is a business first and foremost. The fact that you may be able to deconstruct Citizen Kane better than anyone else means very little outside of art school academia. One of the best things you can do for your career is gain a solid understanding of the legal and business foundations of your project. If you are approaching investors and you use a term like “net gross," you’ll quickly be branded as an amateur, and not worth their time or money.

Edward Leech

I come from an entirely different arena....a service industry, as a registered nurse (now retired and writing high concept scripts)....if you're late by one minute at my hospital, you got your first warning (oral); the second tardy (a written notice in your employee record); while a third tardy could mean you were fired. Nurses work 12 hour shifts and go 90 miles an hour (to the detriment of their own urinary bladders) and bust their butts to provide quality care to/for their patients and their families. Many days I wished for a clone to be able to complete all the task on the floor that the job demanded. So, we were NEVER LATER, Worked hard beyond the 12 hours ALWAYS, and helped others to the best of our ability. We made it our mission to always be learning NEW STUFF. So in the business of show business, how can you be anything but professional in your interactions with others (from producer all down the line) in terms of respect, humility, caring, getting assignments in on time, and doing your very best in fulfilling the needs of others using your creativity, humor, and trust. That being said, always remember, everyone puts their pants on the same way you do, one leg at a time.

Mike Chinea

Here’s a bit of advice given to me by a tyrannical producer that I hope is no longer true, she told me “here’s my incentive plan, you make one mistake and you’re fired”. My advice to anyone coming into the industry is to be passionate and leave your ego at home.

Robert gunter

I am a videographer who shoots many types of productions from NBC News to Corporate videos. When a producer hires me for a shoot, I always speak directly to the producer during the shoot with any suggestions or concerns and not to the client. I think you should always make sure that the client knows the producer is in charge of the shoot. The client hired the producer and expects the producer to produce the product, not me. The producer hired me to obtain good footage, not the client.

Wayne G Sweat

Question for Floyd Marshall, Jr.. What's a H/R?

Stephen Krystek

@Wayne Sweat: Headshot/Resume

J Mark Inman

I just try to figure out what I want to do and who I want to do it with and then I go for it. All else is details that get in the way. Fuck money.

Eric Kasitz

When first starting out, take ANY job offered to you, and do it well.

Kathy Rowe

Any words of wisdom for a new screenwriter? I have 7 novels published, and I am an award winning, best selling author who just wants to see her work on the screen. I have one script completed (sci-fi), which is at coverage right now hopefully to give me direction and a learning experience. I have no problem with work, heck, I retired from the Air Force. The drive and energy is there, just waiting to be discovered.

Nicky Mondellini

As an actress I have learned that you need to respect everyone's job, from the simplest to the most demanding, actors, crew, PAs , make up artists, director,producer,etc you can learn valuable tips from everyone that will help you not only improve your craft but also have great working relationships.

Kathy Rowe

@Chris- actually I'm seeking an agent for representing my screenplays. As for my novels, I'm happy to stay Indie.

Mark Cabaroy

Someone once told me "If you want to be a director you should only director, if you do other things then people will never accept you as a director." A second person told me "Have a usable skill, if you're a great writer or camera person then often you can leverage that skill to doing something else like directing" A third person said "Only listen to the advice that makes sense to you."

Patrick Hampton

Don't be scared from the word free. In free jobs you get faster boost in titles and more experience. Still be wary because people try and take advantage of you.

Daniel L. Noe

A) Be yourself. B) Be honest. C) Remember that there are other human beings being human around you. D) Treat EVERYONE with the same respect you want treated with. Do this no matter what you do and you will go far. Works for me.

Kathy Rowe

@Daniel- hi, found me, huh? LOL! Yes, I agree. I extend the kind of treatment that I would expect to be given to me. Please, thank-you, and the whatnot. Respect is what I had gained in my former career, yet I always gave the same respect to those under me. I little bit of kindness goes a long way for productivity.

Jack Raymond

You have to face the reality, that if you want financial success you need marketable product. Forget about making a good film. If you're good the film will be good regardless. You have to concentrate on "marketable" to attract the money (distributors and producers with experience and success). That also means you need name actors for key roles. You need a marketable genre, like thriller, action, maybe horror, maybe comedy, maybe doc, and probably not romcom or drama. And you need a budget in the $1M to $3M range. Lower will not be attractive and you can't afford talent. Higher and you are too inexperienced and no one will want to invest. By the way, the production budget without talent would be in the $500K - $1M range. But you need to have a talented experienced crew (with a success record) that you pay; not just your friends. Free doesn't work. You need to put a "package" together that includes bankable names, tax credits from your location state or country, and some equity (direct investment - usually of around 10% - 29%). Having said all this, realize that even the most experienced producers are looking to fund projects just as you are. They face the same problems. Currently, I am developing a romantic thriller called LOST LOVE ( ), and I am seeking a co-producer/production company willing to consider looking at my script to determine what kind of budget and tax credits I might have in their location state or country.

Dave Merlino

Many times the ultimate decision as to whether or not your work gets bought is the executive deciding whether or not they want to hang out with you for the next year while making the movie. Translation? A-list actors and directors are allowed to be high maintenance prima-donnas, you aren't. Just relax and be yourself. Show you have a good head for the business, you are collaborative, and you can take feedback and use that to help make the film better. Be yourself also means just that. Don't try to fit your resume into each conversation. Don't mention times on obscure Indie sets you worked on in an obvious attempt to show you worked on a movie set. Don't mention obscure pieces of equipment you worked with just to show you did. I write and I direct, that's what I do. I don't care about sound floors on specific microphones as they pertain to editing software X during the render process. Tell me a joke instead and make my day more enjoyable. Show me that you're cool to hang out with, then I will decide if I want to ask you about your skills.

Michael "Cap" Caputo

Orson Welles had to take his pants off to poop, just like you. One guy will give you an autograph because he's a nice guy the other only if he is paid. If they won't answer the phone for your call THEY are the one losing out. You do not NEED anyONE for your project to be a success, if you believe you do you wrote something for them not for the sake of the story. A project will attract the level of talent it deserves.

Laura Tabor-Huerta

I think you have to decide what exactly you want to do and then the answer is different depending. Start going for those grunt jobs and see the roles of the folks at levels above you and see if it looks fun to YOU. It is a highly personal question. If one of those roles looks fun ask how they got to where they are and ask several because some may not want to share. I think there are some huge jerks and you have to avoid taking their advice. If none of the roles look fun for you to make a living and work your way up, find an alternate route-do a day job you can tolerate or like and make your films, do your writing on the side. Some can meld to the Industry and some can't. And no one can tell you what you should do-you need to follow your heart and gut.

Stephanie Paul

There is a vast and excellent array of responses to my topic and it really gives all of us food for thought. Thank you for sharing!!

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