Judging by how it’s portrayed in the media, you would be forgiven for thinking that Hollywood is a strictly nepotistic operation, handing down jobs ancestrally, or to a lucky few who manage to get on a producer’s radar. While there is a smidgen of truth to this, the more complete picture is that there are plenty of ways to get into Hollywood, regardless of who you are or where you came from.
This post will look at four proven ways to break into Hollywood. But first, a caveat: “Hollywood” is not a homogeneous or monolithic term, but rather encompasses a wide array of different jobs, suitable for different skills and personalities. To that end, this post will look at industry access points according to four of the most popular Hollywood jobs: director, actor, writer, and “all the rest”.
Breaking in as a Director
You can go the film school route, putting in your years under the tutelage of professors and industry professionals, but this is no guarantee of success; unless you match that education with hard work and determination, your degree might remain a piece of paper on the wall.
Not everyone can afford film school though, nor are is everyone from a socioeconomic station that considers directorial pursuit a possibility. But the world needs everybody’s stories, not just those privileged enough to attend college. For underprivileged youth looking to tell their own story behind the camera, learning how to land that first entertainment job can be accomplished through a mentorship program.
Breaking in as an Actor
Start small and dream big. Cut your teeth in small stage productions, local commercials, improv acts, YouTube content – whatever you need to in order to gain some exposure. Get yourself prepared with headshots, a sizzle reel and a resume. Finally, when looking for an agent, understand two crucial things: what motivates them (i.e. what they want to see in an actor) and what makes you salable according to those criteria.
Breaking in as a Writer
Again, just as with directing, the best way here is to mentor. This might mean connecting with a mentorship program like the CIE Tour, which helps underserved communities get their start, or it might mean forging connections on your own. Meet people, invite them for coffee, but don’t be too pushy with an agenda; just absorb their advice and try your best to follow it. Programs like 10,000 coffees, and apps like Shapr are also good places to start.
Breaking into Camera, Lighting, Sound, Art & All the Rest
There are numerous jobs on a film set. Whether you are more artistic, or more analytical, whether you prefer brainwork or brawn work, there’s something for you. While the departments on a film set tend to be siloed (it’s difficult to move between them), landing a job in one is about honing that particular skill, whether it be lighting, sound, etc., and then networking. Again – for the third time – mentorship programs are perfect here, as there will always be industry professionals ready and willing to teach the next generation.
Whichever job you choose, the important thing is to go for it. Do not be deterred by Hollywood’s impenetrable image, nor by the perceived shortcomings of your upbringing – get out there, meet people, and become the next generation of storytellers!