Congratulations! Your student film/independent film/spec screenplay won a ton of awards. That’s awesome -- it means you’ve got some raw talent, and on nights when you’re in the office til way past your dinner (or bed) time, you’ll need to remember that there’s a reason you’re in this industry. But that’s pretty much all it should mean as you make your foray into Hollywood.
Listing too many accolades, especially if they aren’t from the top contests or first place wins, makes you seem like an amateur who doesn’t know what counts in this business. Plus, if you’re applying for an assistant job, the last thing your future boss wants to see is a list of “why I’m the best filmmaker in the world.” Does that boss think she’ll get a good assistant who takes his job seriously, or an assistant who can’t wait to “be discovered” -- or worse, already thinks he has been? Don't let awards pull the focus from the skills that show you can do the job.
Look, if you were nominated for a Student Academy Award, go ahead and list it. But if you placed as a quarterfinalist in Scriptapalooza, leave it off.
Some people are born knowing they want to work in Hollywood and have never really explored any other path. But the rest of us haven’t necessarily spent our entire college or post-college career with a one-track goal (or the right one-track goal). In an entry-level job application, achievements that might stand out to your college career counselor -- like being student body president, writing articles for thoughtcatalog, or interning at Morgan Stanley -- may not stand out in the same way to your future boss. Where’s your experience answering the phone? Are you humble and focused enough to work tirelessly as an assistant? Will your learning curve be too great?
Sometimes, advanced, diverse experience can make it seem like you don't have the administrative skills required for the job, so you'll want to craft your resume to tell the most relevant story. Did you do admin work at Morgan Stanley while you balanced some of the more exciting tasks there? Make sure you get it on your resume. Know your audience.
Oh, and that’s a rule for making good content, too.
Informational interviews with bigwigs who went to college with your mom’s best friend’s sister are great, and you’ll probably learn a lot from talking to someone who’s been around the block a few times. But the chances are slim that said bigwig is going to be in the loop about entry-level positions or remember to pass your resume along.
As you begin the job hunt, don’t forget to network with your peers. People a rung or two above or below you are the class you’ll come up with in Hollywood. These people are more likely to become your actual friends (as opposed to that VP you met once for 30 minutes), and you’ll have each other’s backs when you look for jobs.
Ask for informationals with people who have the jobs you want right now, not just the jobs you want someday. And that unpaid intern you met at a bar last weekend? Next week, she might land a job at CAA where she can pass your resume along to HR. Seth Rogen and James Franco were nobodies together, and now they’re stars together. The same is true for behind-the-scenes folk.
While it's never okay to tell a big lie in your interview (like claiming that at your last internship you basically discovered the next big blockbuster, when all you really did was photocopy the script), there are times when a white lie will actually do you some good.
If you're interviewing for an assistant position, you'll likely get asked about your long term goals. Maybe you want to be a screenwriter, but you know that starting off at an agency could help you build the connections that will lead to a writer's assistant job. Now you're in a bind: Do you give the most transparent answer and lose the job to someone who's in for life, or do you spin the truth?
If you want the job, you should definitely choose the latter. Say something like: "I've typically been partial to writing, but I'm really interested in X about representation and could see myself in that role as well. I'm open to whatever the future might hold and will be completely committed to the position and to supporting my boss." The X should be something true, and, if you think about it, you haven't technically lied -- you never know when you might change your mind.
But be careful: when you're applying for internships, you don't want to use this spin. In fact, you want to be as clear about your future goals as possible, so your supervisor will know what your expectations are and what to teach you when you get the job.