In Hollywood, many job openings require that you apply via email. For these types of job applications, you should always send a cover email -- that is, a short email indicating your intention in applying and interest in the role. While a cover email is not a formally required piece of a job application (you’ll never see it requested in the application instructions), it is one of the most important factors in getting your resume opened by a hiring manager. Especially for freelance or entry-level roles that are posted widely, hiring managers receive so many job applications that they tend to consider only the candidates who have articulated their intention in applying in a concise and friendly way in the body of the email.
The good news is, writing a cover email is a quick and simple process! Ideally, you’ll address the email to an actual person (“Hi Jane,”), but if the email address is generic, “Hi,” or “Dear Hiring Manager,” is appropriate. Then, you’ll write a short paragraph stating your interest in a particular role, who you are/what you are doing now, any key selling points, and then indicate your desire to schedule an interview. In total, the cover email should be about 3-4 sentences. You can write conversationally – keep it professional of course, but the tone you would use in a regular work email will work here too.
We’ve found that a good cover email makes all the difference in your chances of getting an interview – no one likes opening an email from a total stranger that just has an attachment, or the very stand-offish "Resume attached." Make sure you don't skip this step when you apply for roles via email, even if you're also attaching a formal cover letter per the application instructions.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
One of the best pieces of advice for succeeding as an assistant in Hollywood is to never say no. But unfortunately, this can-do attitude can sometimes lead to a warped perception of where your boundaries should be that can carry over into the later stages of your career. Overstepped boundaries will inevitably lead to burnout and dissatisfaction, so it’s really important to know where your lines are and how to establish them. Entertainment, like any competitive, passion-driven career, should bring you joy, but if you hate your job because you’re too overworked and pushed down, you might find yourself fantasizing about a more lucrative, more stable, more boring career. Not that there’s anything wrong with leaving entertainment, but before you do, consider these strategies to make your dream career your dream job by setting boundaries:
Say no to abuse. There is no reason anyone should get physically or verbally aggressive with you ever, and certainly not in the workplace. Yet, there are plenty of people in Hollywood who are toxic and will take liberties with your safety because they’ve been enabled in the past. This isn’t okay, and the culture is shifting to allow more room for people to walk away from these environments without consequences. If you work at a company with an HR department, document any abusive behaviors by writing down the date, time, and circumstances of the occurrence, and share that with your HR team. If you work at a smaller firm, your only option may be to confront your boss. If your boss isn't the perpetrator, you can report the perpetrator in the same manner you would with a formal HR department. But if your boss is the one being abusive, you may have to quit. They may threaten that you’ll never work in this town again, but that kind of threat doesn’t hold weight – for one thing, this abusive person would never have been a good reference for you anyway, because they are selfish and narcissistic. But also, there are plenty of communities within entertainment that rally around people who have escaped toxic environments. Tell your friends and network what happened. You may not be able to report to HR, but you can report to the wider community. Anyone who thinks you should have stayed and suffered is not a good person and not someone you want to work with in the future, so do not give their terrible opinion any weight at all.
Know what parts of a project you control, and what parts you don’t. Making movies and TV shows is really fun and creatively rewarding…most of the time. It’s easy to get wrapped up in wanting to put absolutely amazing art into the world, especially if your name is going to be on the project. But at the end of the day, you can only work with what you have. If the network isn’t giving you the budget to make the director’s vision come to life in the absolute perfect way, and you’ve already clearly explained the situation to the people above you and proposed a creative alternative solution, that’s all you can do. You don’t deserve to be screamed at for not making it work, you don’t need to work longer hours to get the shoot done, and you don’t need to take money from your pocket to make it work. It’s okay if the project isn’t perfect. Remember that you are being paid to spend your time – whether that’s 40 hours a week, 60 hours a week, or 10-12 hours a day on set – utilizing a specific set of skills. If someone commands you to work unpaid overtime or at a level above your title “or else the project will suffer,” it’s up to that same someone to decide whether they want to pay (you, or additional personnel) to get the results they want, or if they want to conserve money/resources and get a different result.
Communicate clearly and stay firm. Once you’ve assessed that a situation crosses one of your boundaries, you have to communicate that you will not move forward. The best way to do this is to be extremely clear. Don’t try to soften your language or leave someone thinking you maybe sorta kinda can get the project done. Instead, be firm. For example, if your boss consistently waits until 6pm to give you notes on cuts and expects same-day turnaround, you can say something like, “I’ve noticed that every time a cut is due, you wait until the evening to give me the first set of notes, which means I’m forced to pull an all-nighter to make the edits. I’m unable to continue pulling all-nighters. Can you make sure to get me notes during working hours, so I can finalize the cuts to meet our deadlines within working hours?” You have to advocate for yourself, and you can’t assume people are mind readers who can guess your boundaries, even if they seem perfectly normal and obvious to you. Otherwise, you will continue to be taken advantage of.
We know this isn’t always easy, and you might ruffle some feathers along the way. But your happiness matters. How you spend your days matters. If your work is getting in the way of you living your life happily, it’s unsustainable. So when someone pushes back or tells you you aren’t good enough, committed enough, or thick-skinned enough to hack it, remember that the more you cave, the sooner you will burn out, which will put you even further away from realizing your dreams.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
A professional summary is a brief section at the beginning of your resume that outlines your primary qualifications for a role. It's a very helpful section when used correctly, but it can also get you into trouble if you don't need one or don't use it properly. Here's a breakdown by career-level of whether you should include this section in your resume.
Entry-level: Entry-level resumes almost never need a professional summary. Very often, an entry-level resume will lead with the education section, which gives the reader enough context that the applicant is a recent grad and looking for an entry-level role. Since most entry-level candidates don’t have a proven track record of achievements in the industry, there’s not much to call out in a professional summary that's not obvious from the education, experience, or skills sections. If you're tempted to use this section to wax poetic about your perspective on the arts or to state an objective, don't do it! Your resume should be 100% focused on tangible, provable skills. Plus, your objective is obvious -- to get the job you're applying for. The only time we recommend an entry-level candidate include a professional summary is if they have previous work experience in another sector and are making a career transition – in this case, a summary could be used to indicate the desire for a transition and to call out transferable skills.
Mid-level: Mid-level candidates can sometimes benefit from a professional summary, especially if they have had a lot of varied experience and need a quick blurb to tie it all together. For instance, if you've spent several years in development, followed by a few in distribution, and are hoping to leverage both skillsets for a role in content strategy, a professional summary can help tell that story. Freelancers may also want to add a summary to the top of their credits lists to call out specific areas of expertise (i.e. a lot of experience in one particular genre) or to highlight awards or achievements. Additionally, if there's a very specific piece of information that showcases your unique capabilities for the role -- like a history of volunteer work with an organization that's aligned with the company's content mission or a track record of working across multiple genres -- you may want to highlight it in a summary to make sure the hiring manager doesn't miss it. However, if your career trajectory has been very linear, and it’s obvious from your experience section that the role you are applying for is a natural next step, you don’t need to bother with a professional summary -- your experience will speak for itself.
Senior-level: Most of the time, we recommend that senior executives include a professional summary in their resumes. Because senior executive resumes are often two pages long, a summary can give the hiring manager a quick overview of the candidate's main selling points without forcing them to read too much text. It’s also a good way to get the most important information at the top -- for example, if a very notable achievement (like an Emmy award) is buried three entries down in the experience section, a call-out in the summary will make it clear from the get-go. It can also be helpful to include some leadership capabilities in this section, like your passion for mentorship or your background supervising crews of over 100 people. However, if your experience is really straightforward, and your most important accomplishments are in your most recent role, you might find that this section is redundant. In that case, we recommend adding a core skills or areas of expertise section to the top of the resume to highlight some specific keywords in bold. This will help frame your experience without overwhelming the reader.
One thing to remember about professional summaries is that they must be tailored to the job posting. If you're applying for multiple very similar roles, you can likely have one summary and make minor tweaks, but if you are applying for different types of roles, you will want to make sure you are calling out the most relevant pieces of information in the summary for each one. If you choose to include a summary, always take the time to cross-reference it with the job posting at hand. If you don't have the bandwidth to revise this section for each application, a core skills section or even a simple headline under your name might be a better bet.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
LinkedIn is a social media platform, which means that it’s meant to showcase your authentic professional self! When using LinkedIn, you want to write in your own voice, so others can understand what it’s like to do business with you, and ideally, get a little insight into the "why" behind your career choices. Here are a few style tips for crafting an effective profile:
1. Write in first person. On Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and any other social media platform, you're posting as yourself, so why should LinkedIn be any different? It’s best to use complete sentences to describe yourself and your experience on LinkedIn and write in first person. This will allow you to write as if you were speaking to someone directly and sounds the most natural and authentic. Remember, you want to come across as friendly and easy to do business with.
2. Avoid sounding too sales-y. Even though you might use your LinkedIn profile to generate business or catch a recruiter's attention, it’s not meant to be the voice of your business or replicate your resume. Help readers understand why you are passionate about your work and what your main strengths are, and they’ll want to work with you. Don't fill up your profile with marketing copy – save that for your website.
3. Expand beyond what’s on your resume. LinkedIn is the place to dig into your passions and interests and share anecdotes about what you enjoyed about your previous projects. Because you have more space than a one or two line bullet point, you can actually share interesting stories and achievements that wouldn’t make sense on a resume. These can give context to what’s on your resume if you are actively searching for jobs, so you want to make sure this personal branding tool is supplemental to your other documents – not a copy-paste of your resume.
4. Consider your target audience. Who do you hope is clicking on your profile? Write to those people! If you’re applying for jobs, include what the hiring manager wants to hear. If you are seeking new clients or business partners, who do you think they want to work with? Make sure you are covering the appropriate topics and writing in a tone that appeals to those people.
Keep in mind that the amount of detail you go into on LinkedIn is specific to you. Write whatever feels natural to your personality, and you’ll be on the right track!
-- Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan