Ah, summer reading. Whether it’s your high school’s cadre of classics like The Scarlet Letter or Invisible Man, or an editorial’s best beach reads replete with Sophie Kinsella and Jennifer Weiner’s latests, something about the summer makes us want to read, read, and read some more.
And if you work or want to work in the entertainment industry, there are certain books you must read. We have a full list of our favorites on the resources page of our website, but we wanted to highlight a few top picks for you to add to your bookshelves this summer!
FOR INTERNS AND ASSISTANTS: The Hollywood Assistants Handbook is a quick and easy guide to becoming a kick-ass assistant in Hollywood. It’s funny, accessible, and co-written by Peter Nowalk (creator of How to Get Away With Murder) -- so you know his tips work!
FOR TV HISTORY BUFFS: Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV by Warren Littlefield takes you back to Thursdays on NBC, before there were a zillion streaming platforms and 500 shows in “peak TV.” This insider history of the broadcast network at its height will not only take you down memory lane, but educate you on how the TV business works. Another interesting read that will give you a better sense of how theHollywood studio system operates is DisneyWar by James B. Stewart.
FOR LA NEWBIES & RECENT GRADS: For good measure, you should probably read The Mailroom by David Rensin, the book every person employed in the industry read when they were first starting out. For something a little broader and more fun, check out Adult Stuff: Things You Need to Know to Win at Real Life by Matt Moore and Robert Boesel. It’s cheeky but helpful -- full of hard truths about what it’s like to have student loans, a low-paying job, and live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Adulting is hard! Cuddle up with it when you need that fun friend who just gets you.
FOR ANYONE WORKING IN TELEVISION: What the heck is a rating? No, seriously...for something that makes or breaks a TV show and is responsible for the livelihood of hundreds of people, you’d think we’d all have a better understanding of it! The TV business is complicated, but Chad Gervich breaks it down in layman’s terms in Small Screen, Big Picture.
FOR STORYTELLERS: Save. The. Cat. Seriously, if you’re a writer, development executive, producer, agent, manager -- or aspiring to be any of the above -- you need to understand storytelling and specifically, storytelling within a screenplay. There are a ton of books that do this, but none more tried, true, and easy-to-read as Blake Snyder's Save The Cat. This is the screenwriting book you’ll pull off your shelf on a regular basis throughout your career for quick dose of inspiration and sanity.
FOR INSPIRATION: Speaking of inspiration and sanity, sometimes you need a book that’s a little less “How To…” and a little more “Someday, that’ll be me!” We have a tie here, and it was hard to narrow this down to two. But there’s no limit to how much you can read! Created By is a great anthology of interviews with TV creators. It’s an inside look into how different writers mastered their craft and some behind the scenes stories from some of your favorite shows. Our other favorite is Sit, Ubu, Sit. You may remember that as the vanity card from Family Ties -- but it’s also the title of writer/showrunner Gary David Goldberg’s memoir. When you’re pondering how you’ll ever make it in the industry, just think about a man who lived in his van, struggling beyond struggle, but went on to create beloved TV shows and movies. Plus, there’s a dog in the story! And if you follow us on Facebook, you know we’re big dog fans here at Hollywood Resumes!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Are you one of the many entertainment industry professionals that works primarily on a freelance basis? If so, you may have experienced some frustration when trying to craft your LinkedIn profile. When you've got a list of 20 credits, it's really hard to align your experience with a LinkedIn template. Your instinct might be to keep your profile as thin as possible, and that’s certainly an option -- but if you’re looking to transition from freelance to full-time, if you’re pursuing jobs outside of the industry, or if you’re looking to build more of an online presence, you’ll probably want something more robust.
There are a few ways to go about this, but the key is that the most important information must be at the top. Meaning, your professional summary is critical in setting up your work history and goals. Highlight a few key skills and achievements in this section, and consider name-dropping your most impressive credits. If you're looking for a job, you can say so, or take a moment to note what type of content you're most passionate about. Many people won't read past your summary and first couple of entries in the experience section, so make sure this part shines.
As for the experience section, if you’ve primarily worked on projects that might not have name recognition, you can organize everything by job title or job function -- i.e. "freelance story producer." In each section, you can list credits and your main job responsibilities. It's also helpful to give a little description of the projects for context.
If you’ve worked on notable content, you’ll want to highlight those bigger credits more clearly. We suggest putting your job title and the show name together as your “Title” (for example, Story Producer, REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS) and the production company name as the company. Your instinct might be to include the network here because it’s more recognizable, but don’t! By linking yourself to a production company, you’ll become more searchable when people look for connections at that company, and you’ll pop up as a suggestion to more people you may know. Too many people work at a network or studio for that to be useful for you.
When it comes to dates, you’ll want to lump all seasons of any given show together, even if there’s overlap. Your profile will be too long and confusing if you separate each season of a show as its own job and intersperse those credits with jobs you took over hiatus. If you’re seeking entertainment industry jobs, you can rest assured that people understand the seasonal nature of your jobs -- and if you’re looking outside of the industry, you just need to be clear in your job descriptions.
Often, freelance job descriptions will get repetitive, because you’ll have been hired to do the same thing on multiple shows. We find it’s best to include some top-level skills in your first few jobs and offer some highlights about working on the show. But as you get deeper into your work history (and into the “Show 5 more experiences” section of your profile), it’s okay to get more fragmented and just list high level information about the show itself.
Overall, don’t let the LinkedIn template freak you out. Your freelance experience is no less valuable than that of someone working a more corporate job -- it just takes a little more creativity and finesse to display online!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
This months's "Industry Spotlight," features Andrew Roxby, an assistant to an agent at one of Hollywood's top talent agencies. An agency assistant job is one of the best places to start your career in Hollywood -- so if you're curious what one actually does, read on!
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: What is your job and how would describe it one sentence?
ANDREW: I’m an assistant to a television lit agent at a major Hollywood agency.
HR: What is your day-to-day like?
ANDREW: In general, it consists of answering calls, sending emails, setting meetings for clients, and setting phone calls for my boss. I also do quite a bit of sending out materials to educate various buyers on our clients.
HR: What do you like most about your job?
ANDREW: Getting to read our clients' work and getting to learn about the television industry as a whole -- who its various players are, how the process works, and how the deals are structured.
HR: How did you get your current job?
ANDREW: I interviewed for my current desk after working on a difficult desk in the motion picture lit department. My first job at the agency was in the mailroom, a job I got by meeting as many people as I could through anyone I happened to know who might have a connection to someone who worked at an agency.
HR: What was your first job in Hollywood?
ANDREW: Production Assistant on The Talking Dead.
HR: What are the skills someone would need to succeed in your position?
ANDREW: Ability to "read the room" is key and perhaps paramount. Work ethic, resilience, and the infamous "thick skin" -- meaning the will and ambition to work through anything, even when it means dealing with difficult personalities. Adaptability and the drive to learn and adjust on a daily basis are also key.
HR: What’s something you do in your job that an outsider wouldn’t expect (and maybe you didn’t expect before you took the job!)?
ANDREW: Quite a bit of drinking alcohol after work in professional meetings with other up-and-coming assistants around town.
HR: What’s a mistake you made early on in your career?
ANDREW: Taking a desk I didn’t want because I was under time pressure. Always insist on time to consider decisions.
HR: Where do you see yourself in X years, and what are you learning in your current position to get you there?
ANDREW: Running a company. I’m learning exactly how and what deals get made in this industry!
HR: If you could give one piece of advice to someone trying to break in/move up in the industry, what would it be?
ANDREW: Keep going, be polite, genuine, and hardworking. Authenticity open doors.
HR: Thanks, Andrew!
It’s your first day as an assistant, and you walk in ready to show off the amazing skill sets you’ve developed during college and previous internships. But your superior analytical skills, business knowledge, or producing experience isn’t what your boss is looking for at this point. Although you’ll need these skills later on in your career, your current job is to support your boss. And if you can’t do that well, you’ll never get to move up the Hollywood ladder. So let’s take a step back for a moment and discuss the qualities you'll need as an assistant to help you succeed. In Hollywood, the best assistants are...
Resourceful. Are you constantly asking your boss and other team members questions? Is it taking you a long time to get projects done? Do you frequently find yourself telling your boss that “it can’t be done?” If so, you may want to reevaluate your approach. From a boss’s perspective, great assistants are the types of people who can make “magic” happen. These assistants come across as ultra-confident and can always complete a task or find an answer without ever letting their bosses know what steps they took to get there. So before you start asking others how to complete a process or find information, make sure you’ve exhausted all your resources. Take a moment to think things through. Did you check Google first? Do your best to keep your boss blissfully unaware of the majority of the tasks that you complete. Save all this info for your performance review – you’ll surely surprise and impress him.
Available. One of the things that sucks the most about assistant life is being tied to the desk. Especially when you’re in the office, you’re always on call (and in many cases, you’ll be on call 24/7). But this is something you’re just going to have to deal with if you want to move forward in your career. You should make it your goal never to miss a call or be away from the desk when your boss calls your name. And if that means skipping lunch, do it. Remember: It’s only temporary. Everything gets better once you finally get that well-deserved promotion to coordinator, and this will happen a lot faster if you show your boss how dedicated you are by always being there when you’re needed.
Thick-skinned. You’ll see the term “thick-skinned” as a requirement on many job postings, and there’s a reason for this: As an assistant, you’ve got to be able to handle working in a high-pressure environment without having a mental breakdown. Yes, you are going to make mistakes in your career, and yes, your boss will probably yell at you. Even the “nice” ones have their own ways of expressing disappointment. But there’s no reason to cry. Just pick up and learn from each mistake – it will make you better at your job in the long run.
Organized. You’ll never survive an assistant position without impeccable organizational skills. At least 80% of your job will involve some combination of scheduling, booking travel, maintaining a phone sheet, compiling reports and lists, filing documents, and tracking projects. So figure out some type of organizational system that works for you, and do it fast. Everyone has a different strategy — some people love post-its; others swear by Outlook reminders — there’s no wrong way to go about it . . . as long as it works. Never let anything slip through the cracks.
Aware. As an assistant, you are pretty much the go-to person for the whole department. All internal and external questions will be directed to you, and it’s best if you’re able to answer them without asking your boss or other team members (this also goes along with the idea of being resourceful). Scheduling meetings and listening in on your boss’s calls gives you a huge advantage here – make sure you read all the scheduling emails to know what each meeting is about and take detailed notes on every call. You should also familiarize yourself with your team’s projects – read scripts, watch cuts, whatever it takes. You’ll make yourself invaluable if you can become your department’s primary knowledge base. And don’t be afraid to share your knowledge! If you hear something on a call that you think your other team members might find useful, you should let them know. It will only encourage them to keep coming back to you for information.
If you can remember to put your boss’s needs before your own, a lot of this will come naturally. Or you may develop these qualities the hard way – by making mistakes and learning from them. But don’t worry, all of us have been through it. Once these traits have become ingrained into your overall work persona, you’ll find it easier to take on the more difficult tasks that will eventually earn you a promotion.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan