How to get a job in Hollywood
Today there were two striking examples of how to get a job on a movie. The first is the classic case of who you know. A few days ago my friend the UPM (Unit Production Manager) asked me to sort through some resumes of sound mixers, separate the wheat from the chaff. My immediate boss had already sorted through them and weeded out the wannabes and pretenders. Every resume that was in that file was from someone who was very qualified.
Okay so how do you pick from the fifty qualified people? One person was personally recommended by another crewmember, and that resume went to the head of the list. And as I was sorting through the names I thought I recognized one, but I wasn’t sure. I called his numbers and I confirmed it was a sound guy I had worked with almost two years ago. But this dude stood out because he had a great attitude on this no budget thing where I was the AC (Assistant Cameraman). On that shoot we had a 24 hour work day, and he still had a good attitude at the end of that torture (I however was fried).
This resume of a person I worked with falls into my lap, and I liked the guy. I placed his -- and only his -- resume in the UPM’s lap. She called him immediately, liked him on the phone, arranged an interview, liked him in person, called his references and they were all glowing, the director liked him, and then we hired him after two days of very thoughtful deliberation.
But his resume alone would not have gotten him the job. Was he qualified? Yes, absolutely, but there were other equally qualified candidates – some with better credits on their resume. It was my positive working relationship with him on the set of that no-budget film that set the wheels in motion.
That’s what people mean when they say it’s all about who you know. Which means, he would not have been hired solely on my recommendation. Or even if the UPM herself had vouched for him. This guy was thoroughly vetted. Every reference was called, and every question was asked. If he had been unqualified, he would not have been hired and my judgment would’ve been called into question for even recommending him.
So not only do you need to know a lot of people, but you must be prepared to play in the big leagues when called.
The other person applied and was hired for the job within 45 minutes. Our Prop Master was looking for an assistant since his normal personnel were all working. I offered to place an ad for him on Craigslist, and he agreed, but was skeptical of how effective it could be. I put the ad up and the first person to apply was unusually qualified for the position. I called her to make sure she was available for the filming dates, and she said she was. I called the Prop Master and he hired her based on that conversation. The ad went up at 5:01PM and she was hired by 5:42PM. Done and done.
That’s more of the right place right time thing. I’ve received a few other applications, but none have been as qualified that first applicant. She still had to be qualified, but she also had great timing.
A few points. Connections only get you so far. You not only have to have the connection, but you have to not suck. If someone uses their connection to get you hired and you are a disappointment, you will never be recommended again – by anyone.
That’s why I recommend to folks to stay where they are and learn their craft at home where it’s much cheaper to do so. It’s very expensive to live out here, and no one cares where you get the skills, as long as you have them when you move here. Also don’t move here if you want to be a director or actor. There are a million wannabes here (including myself). Direct your films, act in your friend’s movies, and get experience. When you can’t bear it any longer, and must move here, wait a little longer and be sure.