How to Land a Career in the Movies
Every year, young hopeful Writers, Actors and Cameramen enthralled by film magic, fantasize and flock to become a part of it. The annual Westward migration from every film and acting and writing school is as active as ever, with no signs of slowing down, as hopefuls seek their chance to wield the Hollywood wand. In such a competitive and crowded circus tent, it can be difficult to find your way, so here are five tips to ensure you catch that elusive trapeze.
First, find out if you really love it.
The movie business demands passion and dedication; the work is difficult and exhausting, the journey fraught with disappointments and financial stress. So you better find out if this is truly something you want and whether or not you’re ready to sacrifice whatever it takes. The best place to do that is at a film school or a university filmmaking program. This is where I fell in love with the cinema and forged my commitment to the craft.
Find out if you’re any good at it.
Less than 5 percent of the 125,000 actors in the Screen Actors Guild ever make a livable wage in any one year. That’s a reality check about just how competitive this business -- it is quite intimidating. So it’s not enough to love it -- you have to have an aptitude for the craft if you want a chance at bat. You better be one of the very best directors or writers or cameramen or actors wherever you’re studying and developing your work, so you can gain the self-confidence to throw your talent into a very crowded ring and have an actual shot at making it.
Get your showreel ready!
No one is going to hire you unless they can see what you can do. For a director, you better have an award-winning “wow” short. If you’re a writer, have some dazzling, unique screenplays. Actors need a great reel with diverse scenes showing range from comedy to drama. Cameraman? You need a reel that sizzles with cinematic visuals. Don’t come to Los Angeles without a reel. It shows who you are, what you can do -- and why you’re worth paying to do it.
Networking! Networking! Networking!
The movie business is first and foremost a people business. Regardless of your talent, you better be good at schmoozing and an extrovert at heart. It’s all about who you know, who can introduce you to whom, who likes you, who is willing to help you move forward. If you’re a great networker, you have a better chance at a career than if you’re talented with no social skills. Introverts do not apply!
Enjoy your journey or the dream will be a nightmare.
Don’t put off having a life until you “get there.” The big secret is to enjoy the journey and to have a life in the industry, regardless of the amount of work and accolades that may or may not come your way. You must commit to making a fulfilling life for yourself if you’re to find any happiness in Tinseltown. Family, friends and a soulmate are as important and fulfilling as career gains. They will sustain you in much deeper emotional ways than winning a spot on a softer toilet paper commercial.
My career in Hollywood was an exciting, gratifying one. I fell in love with making movies and have continued loving it for more than 100 production credits in my career. If you share that passion to make film, have a terrific sense of humor to balance the obstacles, and can manage the five tips above, then try your shot at Hollywood. Break a leg!
About Guy Magar
Film and TV director/writer/producer Guy Magar has worked for more than 30 years in the motion picture industry. He recently published his Hollywood memoir, “Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot: A Filmmaker’s Journey into the Lights of Hollywood and True Love.” (www.kissmequickbeforeishoot.com)
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