The movie industry may also be referred to as the entertainment industry, but in Los Angeles, people only know it as “the industry”. While this might seem pretentious and arrogant, when you live in Los Angeles, this is the one industry that people strive to join the most. It is also the most difficult industry to join as competition is fierce not only among actors but also among crew members.
When you start thinking about visiting California and joining the movie industry, there are a few things that you have to keep in mind. While talent and skill are absolutely necessary, unlike jobs in other industries, the movie industry values other skills and traits that are, sometimes, completely overlooked in other industries. For instance, if you start gossiping about your boss at your accounting firm, nobody bats an eyelash, but if you tell your girlfriend that the director had you fetching coffee all day will get you sacked before you can say “cut”.
Anyone who is planning to start their career in this industry, are fresh off the college benches and hungry to get in on the fun, should understand that, while you have the know-how necessary, you also need a few extra qualities that no job description will mention. These are things that you should pay attention to at the start of your career as they can make or break your success.
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it – Warren Buffett
In the movie industry, seeing as many deals and negotiations are verbal, or start through verbal agreements, your word means something. Not only that but your word or reputation isn’t a secret. If you say you’ll do something and you don’t, it won’t take long for the industry to know. Someone who has a well-established career in the movie industry can find all the scoop about you in the blink of an eye. With only a few calls they can find out your history within the industry, projects that you’ve been on, your work ethic, how you treat others, and how you treat your work.
You will have a hard time keeping things secret in the business that talks. You can not hide, so you’d better just run. Still, if people see you as reliable, trustworthy, capable, creative, and easy to work with, you’re in. But if you’re arrogant, difficult to work with, sensitive to criticism, and have a primadonna attitude, it doesn’t matter that you’ve never met the man, he can say no without even missing a beat.
Reputation is everything and while it can make it impossible for someone new to the industry to find a job, it can even affect old-timers. There have been many stories about celebrities that can’t find work or that have been replaced by movie franchises because they were difficult to work with. We aren’t going to give any names, but it won’t take you long for you to think of someone.
Scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back – unknown
In the movie industry, the word “relationship” has another meaning. For movie professionals, relationships are based on history, not on friendships. It refers to people who have gone through something in the past, and know how to work with each other. If a producer may be interested to work with a certain cinematographer, they won’t push to hire that person in particular if they know the director has a “relationship” with another cinematographer.
In this industry, there are new people coming in every day. Actually, people come and go like flocks of birds every season. It’s difficult to break into the industry precisely because there’s a lot of trust involved. So, if a director has worked with a cinematographer in the past and the result was good, they will be inclined to work with them again. Yes, this might not be fair to the newcomer, but it is easier like that. There are many things that can go array on a movie set and knowing that the person you hired will get the job done is important.
Friendship is not necessary for this kind of relationship to work and many filmmaking teams don’t socialize outside of the set. These relationships aren’t about likes and dislikes, but about common goals, strengths, and weaknesses that work well together. It’s all about the end product and many people see it as a “the devil we know” kind of attitude.
Life’s a gamble, so roll the dice – unknown
Your chance to get your first job in this industry will come from the gamble someone is willing to take on you. You can have all the classes, courses, know-how, and expertise outside of this industry, but if someone doesn’t gamble on you, you won’t get it.
It may seem harsh to call it a gamble but until you proved your worth within the industry, it is. Nobody knows you and all you have to show is what you can do, what you did, and what you promise to do. That’s all. Get all the references you can as they can help. If you know someone that knows someone and they can put a word in, that can also help. It’s all about trust and how trustworthy you seem to be before they actually know how trustworthy you are. If someone they trust, trusts you, that’s great. You’re halfway in. It only makes sense. People are more comfortable with the known than with the unknown.
A bad attitude is like a flat tire – Joyce Meyer
Despite what is stated above, newcomers are given their chances. This industry changes and those changes also apply to those who work in it. Talent, brightness, creativity, and abilities will get you there, but the wrong attitude will throw you out in a heartbeat. In this industry, tensions run high. That is why trust and knowing the people that work on your team is so important. You have to know that they will get things done regardless of what obstacles come their way and there are many obstacles that can interfere.
During shooting, days run long, working conditions may not always be ideal, but the shoot still needs to be done before the sunsets. So, if you like to complain, whine and find fault in everything everyone’s doing, nobody will appreciate that. It’s like you’re at someone’s birthday party and you complain about the venue, or the drinks, or the music, or the crowd. If you don’t like it, pack up and leave. No one will take your side even if you’re not the only one that’s unhappy.
The trick is to do anything you can to make things easier for everyone else involved, especially in tense situations. Finding fault and looking for someone to blame will make you stand out and not in a good way. Nobody likes to work for 8 hours in the desert but if the script demands it, you do it. Start a private journal for complaints and keep it to yourself.
You didn’t invent the wheel, no one owes you anything and you’re not smarter than everyone else. Even A-list celebrities can get their careers tarnished because of bad attitudes. Why do you think your starting career will motivate anyone to cut you some slack.
For those starting their careers in the movie industry, stop thinking that people don’t care about behaviors. In truth, behavior is one of the most important things in this industry. Just imagine, working with Spielberg and complaining that the jungle humidity is messing your hair-do or seeing your favorite celebrity and gushing over them as they’re trying to work. Nobody wants to have to deal with that on a movie set.
These suggestions, while they might seem harsh, should not be taken as suggestions for anyone trying to catch their break within the movie industry. These should be golden rules. Yes, you might have to swallow your pride, bite back a few snide remarks, but you might just end up on a movie set along the way. Are those snide remarks that important or is working in this industry more important than your momentary comfort? Think twice, shut up and learn as much as you can.