50+ Hollywood Job Interviews in 4 Months — How I Learned to Get Any Job Offer.

Learn what it takes to get an entry level job in the entertainment industry.

It’s rough trying to follow your dreams in an industry where you’re completely dispensable unless you have a very practical and in-demand skill. Looking back at my Google calendar, I counted well over 50 interviews in a 4 month period. To anyone who is an overachiever or works in a less competitive industry, this looks like I’m either too picky or just unemployable, but this is a common story for entry level job seekers in Hollywood.

At first, I thought it was my resume. I rearranged it, copied from friends who were recently employed, and even found online services that analyze resumes to have a look at mine. I kept on getting interviews but I wasn’t landing anything substantial so I assumed my resume was at least good enough to get in the door.

I read countless articles on interview questions and procedures, practiced in front of the mirror, and kept my suit impeccable. I felt, talked, and acted as confident and friendly as possible in every interview. Some were easy to tell I didn’t have the aggressive personality they were looking for but other interviews would give me a call back for 2nd rounds, 3rd rounds, or even 4th rounds. Still, everything fizzled out to further unemployment.

There was no one to tell me the magic of getting a job, all the books and articles I read were outdated, overly positive chicken soup, or were just good marketing wrapped around generic advice. Was it just luck? Did I have to trick someone? Was it the way I looked?

The answer was, and still is, apparent to everyone but to find it you really have to take a closer look at the basics.

The Resume

My resume now and when I first started doesn’t look too different because I was trained by temp agencies and my internship director how to make it presentable. I’ve changed it to reflect the transparent requirements most people won’t notice.

My resume is divided like the following:

Name/Address/Phone/Email
All of this should be at the top, your name on its own line in bold.
Your address should be in or around Los Angeles, you won’t get called otherwise.

Job Position/Company Name ~ City/Dates — Job Description
Immediately add your current or last job, NO section header, make sure your job title and company are styled different from each other using italics or bold or underline.
Make sure your job description has the most important and desired tasks in bullet form (i.e. Account for the writing department’s expense reports with EP Access while supervising the use of petty cash and create check reimbursement requests when needed.) Do not put skills here like “use a copy machine, get coffee.”
Only include relevant jobs, they won’t care about camp counselor or cashiers.

Education Section Subheader
University, degree, major, graduation year. (all on one line)

Skills or Proficiencies Section Subheader
Word — Outlook — Excel — PowerPoint — Google Calendar/Docs/Sheets — FileMaker Pro
This section should be at the bottom and mostly comprise of random skills you can offer this particular job. This is also where you stuff your keywords you found in the job description or application (i.e. handling mail, email corresponse, travel arrangements)

Why Does Your Resume Have To Look Like This?

This is carefully crafted so that it can be quickly and easily read, pass resume analyzing software, and it makes it easier for you to expand your conversation during the interview.

Many big companies and most studios have HR software that will analyze your resume for keywords. These keywords are in the job description. Copy them and add some to your skills section.

If you don’t know some of the skills but they’re relatively easy or easy to learn, add them anyway. It doesn’t take four years to learn to make coffee or learn to use a fax machine if you haven’t done it before so don’t worry about “lying” because you’ll learn on the first day when you say you haven’t used this brand or type before.

This resume will have a lot of white space, uses bullet points, and styles important information differently. This is to make it a quick and easy read. HR and potential employers hate searching for dates, your job title, company names, and reading bulky paragraphs. Analyzing software simply won’t read your compelling job duties or extra curricular activities and achievements.

The Interview

If you’re offered an interview, practice questions, get dressed, go early and offer more.

It’s stressful to try to memorize the hundreds of questions they could ask you but typically they’ll ask you the questions that are most asked by any HR or potential employer. These questions will ask about what you’ve done, you reply with how amazing you’ve done those things. They’ll ask what you can offer, you reply with how much more you can offer.

This is generally speaking because you can just Google “top 20 interview questions” and they’ll at least ask half of those. What they’re looking for are honest, direct, and confident answers. They want to not only hear you’re the candidate but feel it as well.

When it comes down to the last two choices, they’ll say, “He has a good resume, but I feel this other guy was more personable, friendly, etc.” They’ll say this because they want to hire someone they want to work with, not just the best person for the job.

Surprisingly one of the most numerous compliments I’ve received is that I dressed up in a suit for the interview. Many people show up in jeans which means to HR or that employer that you didn’t even care enough to get dressed for something that should be important. Don’t be jeans guy.

This is also one area I’ve failed.

I’ve been to interviews at talent agencies and with high profile companies and top notch producers but I realized, quite instantly, they didn’t like the way I looked. A suit wasn’t enough because you’re going to be the face of the company or that person and they didn’t want a shaggy nerdy looking assistant greeting slick, polished, and fashionable actors.

If you want one of those highly regarded agent assistant jobs, you’ll have to literally be as beautiful as your work ethic (which should be a “willing to work 24/7 for free” mentality because the agency will probably grind you with their work hours).

The whole Hollywood easy going mentality about being yourself and that it’s not about the way people look is a complete lie. Don’t be yourself, be better than everyone as the most professional confident candidate possible. It is about the way you look, period.

That advice mostly goes to top companies, agencies, and producers. It is more relax when you work for lower tier companies or individuals. You won’t know who is who until you actually meet them.

How Do You Get Any Job In Hollywood?

Simply this: Be better than everyone else.

That’s generic and impractical advice to give but it’s the truest. Your resume can mostly likely beat 99% of other people if you reword things, add keywords, make it more presentable, and “fudge” some facts about your abilities.

You can do well in interviews. It’s all about practice, preparation, and looks. Arrive early, well dressed (preferably fashionable in addition to professional), and talk confidently.

The key to confidence is practice and preparation. Apply to some jobs you DO NOT WANT but you can easily get. They don’t even have to be related to the entertainment industry. The reason is that you can see your behavior is probably more relaxed, more confident, and you get the sense of the feeling that you could actually get an offer.

Need Help Finding Jobs?

If you’re tired of bookmarking every job site and studio job list, I’ve developed a website that gathers the most useful and important websites for applying to the majority of Hollywood jobs. Check it out below!

If you think it’s missing some sites, feel free to message me on twitter:
https://twitter.com/nickrruck

Are Screenplays Outdated?

Hollywood has a certain set of standards when it comes to screenplays that you’ll even hear stories of executives and agents tossing scripts just because they found a single spelling error or the writer was audacious enough to use an “oxford comma.”

Nowadays just about every screenplay looks exactly alike unless you’re famous enough to break all the rules, indie enough for no one to care, or foreign enough to realize money is more important than forcing standards on people who aren’t even in Hollywood.

And this is what a “visual” movie blueprint looks like!

If you think about it, this is kind of insane. Screenplays are supposed to represent a visual medium and if you’re writing about some crazy sci-fi adventure that transcends the very concept of knowledge itself, you’re going to have to be the world’s best wordsmith. But then again, those execs won’t read it because they felt the line spacing was off (even though it wasn’t).

Sometimes as a reader or intern or assistant you’ll receive “supplementary” materials along with a script that can include a cast list, designs, “set photos,” and other more visually appealing documents. These are almost always for Sci-fi or fantasy films from a director/writer/producer/actor/etc., and they paid some designer to put that packet together to make up for the subpar quality of the script. Other times it’s a film that is just looking for more companies to back its production.

“Please just recommend the script, it’ll be AMAZINNNNGGGG!”

In some ways, screenplays are outdated for the medium that it creates but in other ways it allows those who are actually better at writing to shine through those who are just good at appearances. Occasionally you’ll see some youtube link for some song which is fine and a very new change from the way scripts were written even ten years ago. If you read scripts from the 1980’s you’ll really notice how far the rules have lapsed since then.

Why Are Readers So Harsh?

A lot of people wonder why script readers are often “too harsh” and cynical towards the scripts they read. Whether it’s because they’ve read sooooooo many terrible scripts or because they’re not happy with their life, readers are the gatekeepers that keep you from the hands of producers, agents, and managers. So what makes them decide that all those months or years of work are not deserving of any praise, at least for effort?

Pretty much that.

I’ve been a reader for a couple years. Read for two major contests and a couple of independent producers, and only recently have I taken a serious try at writing. I started sending my script that I wrote with my co-writer to various contests desperately hoping that it’ll be chosen as, THE ONE!

What we imagine when we win.

If it gets chosen, we’ll have all our dreams come true! But the reality is this: it’s probably is not what you expect. The connections I have directly to producers will probably get me some kind of promising future rather than another file-in-the-pile contest but it’s worth a try for the media coverage alone, that is unless we actually option it without winning any contest whatsoever.

I’ve known one contest winner. She won a very famous and well acknowledge contest but she ended up as the script coord or supervision on a show. Previous to that, she worked on a show she wrote the spec script on, I think. So how’d she win? There are no tricks, she was very smart and well trained by one of the big agencies so she was always business focused. She said that the contest she won guaranteed her a job, training, and the chance to be staffed on a show for that network along with the few other winners for that fellowship. The thing was that the shows from that network want nothing to do with that fellowship and genuinely find it burdensome to deal with. She ended up coming to our show as a scripty when she realized something well known in Hollywood, THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES.

Rather Accurate.

Another thing I realized after I hired a script consultant is: your script will be read subjectively.

That is correct. I realized that about myself as a reader and about other readers and consultants as well. The approval of your script ultimately depends on the personal taste of the readers. Let’s assume 70% of scripts are actually terrible. 20% are average and probably subpar stereotypes of whatever is popular. That leaves 10% for scripts that could be good. I guarantee that half of that will be good scripts that the reader doesn’t realize is good or have the same vision as the reader. That leaves 5% hypothetically being something that could possibly be recommended. It’s probably less than that cause most contests select finalists at about less than 1% (big contests have ~2000 entries, finalists are often top 50 or top 10).

I’ve had two consultations on my scripts. One script with a generic Bob’s Burgers ripoff, some kind of adult animation aimed for Adult Swim or Fox Animation. I could tell with the first coverage sent that the reader didn’t watch any adult animation, therefore found my script very confusing. He questioned basic tropes of the genre, jokes I’ve probably ripped from similar shows, and even stereotypical storylines that you would usually see in adult animation. This was not his fault, he just probably wasn’t familiar with the genre as I saw quite plainly from his comments.

The second consultant I thought was a sure thing. They gave detailed notes down to the punctuation but what my cowriter and I noticed was that they did not have the same vision for the show as we did. When a reader starts your script they may come with a mindset and expectations that really have nothing to do with your script. They may expect Breaking Bad when you were writing something closer to Weeds. This difference in expectations is what probably makes good scripts get bad reviews, and honestly, that is nobody’s fault.

THEIR FAULT!!!!

Script readers read your script blind. We pick up what we can from the title, the first few pages, and any logline we receive. If it sounds like a comedy when it’s really a tragedy, there’s going to be problems whether or not the script is actually good.

This is soooooo important to remember because it’s a lot easier to pitch and sell a script to a producer you’ve met, an agent’s assistant you know, or a meeting that was set up for you because you can take questions, guide the audience to the vision you’ve imagined, and respond to any inconsistencies that detract from the quality of the script.

You say your script is Big Bang Theory meets Mom, you’ve given your logline that it’s about single moms who are also nerds trying to raise kids in the inner city, and you’ve pitched the type of jokes you throw around at comedy clubs stand up hours. That’s a meeting, not a contest submission, and you can see where the opportunity lies and why so many scripts written in Hollywood are picked up in Hollywood.

TL;DR: So in sum, readers are not @$$holes, they just read your script blind.

NEW SCREENPLAY COVERAGE SERVICE AVAILABLE!

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 10.22.30 AM

I am now available to write coverage on screenplay submissions.

Prices are $9.99 for basic coverage, $19.99 for in-depth coverage, and $9.99 for margin notes.

You can see my experience here if you’re interested in my background.
– Two Development Internships for two A-list production companies.
– Experience in the writer’s room as a writer’s production assistant for a major comedy TV show.
– Consistent work as a freelance Screenplay Reader and Analyst.

I aim to return coverage within a week but ideally 2-3 days.

Process for Temp Agencies

The TV show I was working on ended production back in Feb so I’ve been looking for a new job, again… Mostly because the show hasn’t been renewed (yet…) and the current season won’t premier until the fall season. Since I was a mere PA, I am sadly not important enough to paid to vacation for half the year… Sigh…

Anyway for the past couple months I’ve been applying to the listings and sites everyone else does and contacting employment agencies but not much has come about, especially from the agencies. Turns out you really need a connection for that as well.

If you think about it, thousands of people looking for temp jobs after production cycles spam those agencies hoping to get picked up as a client. They can only handle so much.

After an alumni posted on our facebook group saying that she had a connection to an agency I emailed her and she forwarded my resume. The very next day I had a call from the agency. This goes to show the benefit of joining those online alumni groups. I know that there’s people in our group that didn’t go to our school, so a smart person ought to find and infiltrate as many groups as they can to get all the jobs!!!

Anyway the process is this:

  • Get a contact at a temp agency.
  • They’ll mostly likely offer a phone interview.
  • Then ask you to take some online assessment tests.
  • ???
  • Jobs 4 u

In the phone interview they’ll ask you what industry you want to work in, what hours (full or part time) and what areas you want to work in. They’ll ask other stuff about your goals and skills as well. Then they’ll send you a “welcome to the agency!” email. Usually with that you’ll have to take some assessment tests. These will cover your ability to use Microsoft Word/Excel/Outlook. They’re virtual question, so you use their online platform to navigate a simulated desktop and MS program.

After that you’ll probably be on their list but you need to bug them or look through their job listings to actually get anything back from them. Make sure to follow up every week to let them know you haven’t died or actually found a job as well.

Update! Working as a Writer’s Production Assistant.

I think I last wrote/updated in September so I’m writing now because I finally have some free time…

We went into production back in November which means that everything becomes a lot more busy. Before the writers room was located in the Network’s building but since we went into production it means we’ve moved onto the studio that’s filming the show. In the previous year, before they figured out when the premier date would be, they had the writer’s room in the Executive Producer’s company’s building (the guy who’s responsible for initially creating the show before handing it off to the Showrunner). Luckily this show had some pretty big names attached (seeing how it was created by an A-list actor/writer/producer anyway) as I’ve heard many shows without such pull really struggle budget-wise to find a home until, by some miracle, they get picked up by a network.

Going into production means you’ll be doing more runs, everyone is usually more stressed as deadlines get closer, and you need to make sure you get everyone’s specific order in on time and to their liking. It also means going from 8 hour work days to 10-12+ hours for most show productions as well. There’s still a lot of down time as the writer’s don’t constantly request stuff, so it’s a good opportunity to get paid to scroll through facebook work on reading their scripts, writing your own scripts, volunteering to help out around the production office, cure a hangover, etc…

Writer’s PA is a pretty neat job to have considering you’re name will be in the credits, all the free food, and you get to hang out with the writers of a TV show and occasionally see or meet some stars! But where do you go from there? Well the show probably lasts about 6 months before it gets cancelled or renewed and you come back in another 6 months to start the next season, hopefully… You work half the year, and then live on unemployment the other half year. That’s unless you’ve successfully networked your way into another job by then or shown you’re valuable to the production team  (as they just go from show to show and have no loyalty at all!) and reminded them they should probably keep you around.

As with most jobs, this one needs a bit of common sense or you’re likely to get fired. Really fired?! Yea, if you honestly screw up and show you’re incompetent enough, you WILL get fired. You can be the most outgoing and friendly PA who becomes best friends with everybody, but if you sass the wrong person as a joke, consistently fail to show you can work a fax machine/copier, don’t follow instructions exactly as they’re told/written, you’ll find out 3 days prior you’ve been replaced. You’ll get a phone call politely asking you not to come into the office anymore and a half-hearted apology for firing you for sucking at your job or you’ll come in because you’re actually that dumb and wonder who’s sitting at your desk. So be a well balanced individual without any social ineptitudes and you’ll quickly skip the unemployment line.

I’m tired and I think I got sidetracked somewhere so I’ll just stop here I guess. I’ll make a post soon about relocating (because there’s not enough of those on other LA blogs) and update the job stuff.

 

EDIT: I also just got a job as a script reader for a major script contest! I’ll update later on that.

How I got my first job in the Entertainment Industry (and what you can do too)

Sorry there hasn’t been much updates or posts, but I got a job, my first real paying job in the entertainment industry.

It’s a Writer’s PA job for an upcoming network show and I mostly help with office assistant tasks like stocking the kitchen, delivering lunch/coffee orders, petty cash and expense reports, and anything else they might need.

I got this job because my close friend was leaving the position to go to another job (which also depended on someone else leaving that position for an endless chain of 4 people doing this same thing…) So you’ll notice there’s a pattern here.

It’s been almost exactly 3 months since I moved out here and that’s quite literally the time most people will tell you it takes to get a job. But I got this based on my elite Harvard connections which is often a lot more than what most have when they start here.

For the 3 months I did apply to jobs and go to interviews. In fact the week before I landed this gig I had 2 interviews a day for 3 days straight! But prior to that I had less than one interview a week… So why is that? I figured it’s mostly to do with the seasonal hiring schedules here in LA. Most people will either start working in the late spring or early autumn (fall). I instantly saw loads more job postings in the last week of August than I did the entire summer.

This job hiring seasons thing has to do with people staying in positions for a year (for experience) or 2 years (for promotions). Spring is pilot season and when school finishes for those entering entry level positions. Fall seems to be when businesses pick up, people quit or get promoted, productions start up or renewed, etc.

I had one job interview at an unnamed international management company where they sent me an email after I declined the position saying how awful it was of me to choose a job that not only pays more but has better hours and is more inline with career goals than to choose to be overworked, underpaid, and (from the tone of the email) regularly insulted… I was desperate at the time to almost work there despite some red flags of the place because I needed money and didn’t care that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. It’s another lesson you’ll hear over and over again when you start, “Don’t do jobs [Just for the money][That seem sketchy][won’t advance you’re career][where the CEO emails a peasant runner about how their career is OVER!][etc].

Since I’ve taken this job I’ve received replies asking for 2nd interviews/assignments (some jobs will ask you to do an assignment related to the job here in LA), and even another offer. These came from the job listings I have on my jobs page but mostly from EntertainmentCareers.net

But basically I’ve learned the following:

  • It’ll probably take 3 months before you get offered a job.
  • You’ll probably lose some opportunities while you learn the way most people expect interview answer, resumes, correspondence, etc. in the beginning.
  • Don’t do jobs out of desperation (or if you do, at least make sure they’re reputable).
  • Apply to jobs just to interview, more interviews is more practice!
  • You’re friends will likely help you get a job, other people probably won’t.
  • Track your expenses, save as much as you can, do little odd jobs if you can.
  • Research the position, company, and learn to bullshit your heart out.

Hopefully this helps someone!