To help meet our clients' needs, Hollywood Resumes is now offering career coaching services! We offer three types of coaching services:
1. Career Coaching Sessions -- These hour-long sessions are personalized toward your career goals. During our free 30 minute consultation, we'll come up with a coaching plan for you and recommend the number of sessions we think you'll need to help you achieve your career goals.
2. Interview Coaching Sessions -- In these hour-long sessions, we'll conduct a virtual mock interview. Beforehand, we'll send you a packet of instructions to help you prepare, and then we'll conduct a 30- minute interview as if we were the employer, followed by 30 minutes of feedback and practice.
3. Assistant Coaching Program -- This four-session program is designed for entry-level employees and applicants seeking to build their assistant skills, including phones, scheduling, tracking projects, story evaluation, and navigating the Hollywood hierarchy. We'll customize this program depending on your career goals and background.
So, why have we started this service?
As much as we enjoy helping our clients craft their resumes and cover letters, we know that strong application materials aren't always enough to get you hired. You also need a clear vision of the type of role you're looking for, an understanding of how your skills make you qualified for those roles, and a job search strategy that will get your resume into the right hands. Looking for a job can be scary and lonely in the best of times, and with the new anxieties brought on by COVID and the 2021 economy, those feelings are compounded. But a career coach can help you get out of your own way, give you tools to create an effective job search, and help hold you accountable. A career coach is someone who can listen to your frustrations with the job search and design a program based on proven exercises and strategies to help you unlock your own potential.
Not every job seeker needs to work with a career coach, but there are many reasons why it might be right for you. We've rounded up a few of the most popular:
1. You're not happy with your current job/career path, but you aren't sure what other fields might make sense given your background.
2. You love working in entertainment, but for personal reasons are considering moving to an area that doesn't have a large industry presence, and you aren't sure what types of jobs will interest you or what roles you're qualified for.
3. You're unemployed and want to take this opportunity to discover if the career path you're on is the one you want to stay on, or if there are other jobs that might have more hiring/growth potential.
4. You know what job you want, but you're not sure how to conduct your job search or haven't had luck in your current job search.
5. You know what job you want, but you aren't sure you're qualified for it, and you don't know what steps to take to build your qualifications.
6. You like your job but have stopped growing in it, and you aren't sure how to take the next step toward growth, either internally or externally.
If any of these sound like you, you may want to consider our personalized coaching service, which includes a free 30-minute consultation call. Most importantly, know that you are not alone in your job search, and you won't be stuck in career limbo forever. You got this. And we're excited to help!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
A boss who makes you keep your Zoom on all day to make sure you're actually working. A coworker who constantly passes her work along to you and takes all the credit for its completion. A supervisor who gives you zero direction for a project and screams bloody murder at you when you turn in something slightly different from what they imagined.
These are examples of toxic workplaces. And unfortunately, they are endemic in Hollywood.
Though The Hollywood Commission recently reported that a majority of survey respondents have seen less abusive workplace behavior in recent years, instances of abuse are still troublingly common. There are a ton of problems associated with working in a bad environment, but one that's especially concerning is the fear of how to describe your job when you're finally able to leave its clutches. If toxic jobs and job interviews weren't tough on their own, they can be even more stressful when you put them together! But have no fear: We're here for you with some tried and true experience and answers to the three most common questions we get from job candidates seeking freedom:
How do you respond to an interviewer who asks you why you left your last job without badmouthing your boss and/or turning your interview into a therapy session?
Even if your boss is known to have a difficult personality, or your company has the reputation of being a hot mess, you want to come off as even-keeled and professional in your interview. Instead of focusing on the negative and the past, tell the interviewer why you're excited for the opportunity they're presenting. In general, the best interview tactic is to reiterate why you'd be great for the role at hand. Whether you acknowledge that you left (or are planning on leaving) because the previous role "wasn't a fit" or refer to the company's dissolution, make sure the bulk of your answer focuses on what excites you most about the job you're applying for and why you've applied. If your interviewer pushes you to gossip, resist, and consider whether this new job may also be a little toxic.
When asked about challenges you faced at work or a time you had to resolve a conflict at work, how can you answer honestly without disclosing too much about your awful colleagues?
It's super hard to think clearly about difficulties at work when the majority of your time at work was difficult! You're going to need to practice answers to this question before your interview, so your emotions don't get the best of you. If you can, pick a challenge or conflict from a previous role that wasn't toxic -- the point of the question isn't to understand your immediate work history, but rather to get a sense of how you've handled problems throughout your career. If the toxic job is your first or most relevant job, find an innocuous example that isn't going to lead you down the path of badmouthing. For instance, if your micromanaging boss had an anger problem, you can say something like, "My last boss had very specific preferences for how he wanted work turned in, and that meant I often had to redo tasks, especially early on. I learned to get more detailed instructions before starting the project, and when that wasn't an option, I made sure to turn a draft in early so that any revisions wouldn't stop us from meeting a deadline." Inside, you might be seething about that one time he berated you in front of the entire office for using Calibri instead of Helvetica and called you Calibri Cathy for a month, but by practicing a polished, surface-level answer to the question, you'll be able to keep your calm in an interview.
*We highly recommend sharing your actual stories with trusted friends and/or mental health professionals to get the emotional support and validation you need -- that'll also help you control what you say "publicly."
If your current boss would freak out if they knew you were interviewing, do you have to ask your interviewer to keep it on the DL?
Some toxic bosses understand that you are not obligated to suffer under their thumb for the rest of your life. But many will absolutely lose it if you try to leave. They may attempt to sabotage your potential (or even firm!) job offer, threaten to blacklist you if you don't stay until they're ready for you to leave (even if that's beyond an appropriate 2-week notice), fire you on the spot if they hear you've been interviewing, or force you to resign unless you sign a contract that you won't go on any more interviews. None of this is acceptable, and some of it may not be entirely legal, either. But that doesn't make it any less scary! If this happens to you, remember that this kind of behavior is exactly why you need a new job. Do not let your boss's scare tactics intimidate you. It's not really necessary to mention anything to your interviewer, and it could teeter into awkward territory. Instead, know that most hiring managers won't call a reference that isn't listed on your reference list, and it's not a huge red flag if your current boss isn't on there -- in fact, it's a quiet signal that you may not have told your boss you're looking.
But the most important thing here is to focus on getting the new job and not about the repercussions from your terrible boss. You do not need to stay at a job that is so abusive you're afraid to leave it. If possible, try to save up a bit of money so you'll be okay if you don't get the job you're interviewing for and your boss does fire you. If saving isn't an option, commit to yourself that you come first, and you'll find a way to make ends meet with a temp job if you need to. Don't let yourself be held back by an abuser any longer. And if you did get the offer, know that 2-week notice is a courtesy, not a rule, and if your boss tries to sabotage your offer, leave. They will never be helpful to you in the future anyway, and the relationship is not worth preserving; there are good people in Hollywood whose referrals and respect means something, but your boss is not among them.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Ask anyone how to get a job in entertainment, and they'll tell you to start as an assistant, preferably at a talent agency.
But is that good advice?
Sometimes. But for many, a different route may be a better approach. Let us break it down for you...
If you're seeking your first entertainment job at the beginning of your career, getting a job as some type of assistant is the most straightforward path to success. In particular, working at an agency will help you form relationships with a "class" of peers who grow in their careers alongside you, hone your skills on a rigorously-paced desk, and expose you to the nuances of multiple aspects of the business -- that's why it's such a popular suggestion. But plenty of people launch their careers in Hollywood without doing a year on an agency desk. We're proof! Especially now, when agencies aren't hiring floater pools, there's no reason to focus your search exclusively on agency desks unless, of course, you want to be an agent.
That said, not all assistant jobs are the same, and they won't all lead you down the same path. If you want to work in development at a network, you'll likely need to prove yourself as an assistant for a year at a smaller company -- a network executive's assistant is expected to understand the business of Hollywood and have mastered the basic assistant tasks. If you ultimately want to be an editor, a post-PA job will be more beneficial to you than a year at an agency, and similarly, a writers' PA job will get you to a staff writing job faster than a production company desk will. As we always say, target your job search. Focus on those assistant positions that will get you closer to your long-term goal faster.
But what about those who have been working in entertainment for many years and are looking to make a career transition to a new side of the industry? Is an assistant position the right move? No! If you have several years of entertainment experience under your belt, you should not be seeking assistant jobs! Unfortunately, we work with many clients who have been told they need to start their careers all over again as an assistant in order to make a career transition. But that's simply bad advice. You don't need to throw 10 years of field producing experience out the window and start as an agency assistant in order to become a development executive. In fact, no one will take you seriously if you attempt that; they'll think your resume got lost in the wrong pile. It's not always easy to move from one side of the industry to another, but you can do it by highlighting the added value your unique background will bring to a role and taking the time to craft a strong job search strategy.
Similarly, if you've held jobs in adjacent industries and want to break into entertainment, you don't necessarily need to start anew. For example, someone who has been working in event planning can probably get a job as a production coordinator or production manager for event broadcasts, instead of starting as a PA. Or, an ad agency executive may be able to transition to a role in integrated marketing at a network. Before you discard your past experience, consider how it may translate to the new role you're looking for.
There are cases when your experience simply won't cut it for higher level entertainment roles, and in those instances, you'll need to think about what you value most in your career -- is a pay cut worth it to pursue your passion? If the assistant path doesn't align with your lifestyle, consider if there's a blended role that may be more satisfying (i.e. if you've worked in social media marketing and want to get into scripted development, a job at a branded content firm may scratch your creative itch without requiring you to relive your 20s). But if you're truly committed to a 100% career overhaul, go for it!
The next time someone tells you to start out as an assistant, consider whether they fully understand your current situation. A lot of people assume that everyone has to take the same path to success, and this often results in generic advice. But your career trajectory may look different, and that's ok! Just remember that starting as an assistant can be a great way to get your foot in the door -- but if your foot is already in the door, you should probably keep walking through.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
"Industry Spotlight" is our newsletter series where we interview professionals from across the entertainment industry about their current jobs and career trajectories. Our hope is that you will learn more about the positions you're already interested in, discover new roles you may not have considered, and utilize the wisdom of those who've paved the way before you to forge your own path for success.
This month, we sat down with Amy Thurlow, who has worked as a writers' assistant and script coordinator on SLEEPY HOLLOW (Fox), KRYPTON (Syfy), AMERICANAH (HBO Max), and is currently working on TWO SENTENCE HORROR STORY (CW).
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: Tell us about the role of a writers' assistant.
AMY: A writers’ assistant is responsible for taking notes while the writers break story, and then organizing the notes, so everyone knows what the room discussed that day. They create a record of the work that’s being done and track what ideas the writers "land" on and help create a blueprint of what the room discussed for the writers to reference as they go to script.
When I’m a writers’ assistant, my day-to-day is nonstop note taking and keeping up with the story breaking conversation. The writers’ assistant job is an art form, because you have to really understand story to keep up and make sense of everything when you organize the notes. You also have to pay attention 100% of the time, which seems easy, but oftentimes the writers themselves aren’t this focused. At the end of the day, I organize the notes and send them out to the writers.
HR: Tell us about the role of a script coordinator.
AMY: The script coordinator is the keeper of the script. They make sure that everything is proofed and formatted correctly for production and that it gets to the right people at the right time. They keep track of all the files for the show and versions of the scripts and are a walking reference guide for the show.
As a script coordinator, every day is a little different, depending on the show’s needs. If I get a script, I’m uber focused on proofing/formatting and generally making sure everything makes sense for several hours, then I’m asking clarifying questions to the showrunner to ensure that we’re on the same page, and eventually distributing the script to the departments that need it. Script coordinating is a hard job to describe, because there are so many layers in between each step. For example, you might need to alert a department head of script changes or flag overall mythology inconsistencies. It really changes from show to show. Script coordinators are also responsible for important WGA paperwork and sometimes even writer contracts.
HR: What are the skills someone would need to succeed in your position?
AMY: A good attitude. No one wants to be around someone who thinks they’re better than getting coffee. Everyone has to start somewhere and chip in. TV writing is a lot of teamwork. It’s about supporting the process no matter what level you’re at.
HR: What do you like most about your job?
AMY: I love TV writing, and I love being around the process. Whether I’m in the room while we’re breaking story, or I’m prepping a draft, I love seeing what decisions are being made about story. If you live and breathe story and character and love being part of a creative team, you don’t mind the other parts of the job that are less fun.
HR: If you don't like _______________, you won't like my job.
AMY: Being flexible! Assistants and script coordinators need to be flexible. You might have to take your laptop with you to the movies or a friend’s birthday. Things are constantly changing, so you need to be able to roll with the punches.
HR: What's something you do in your job that an outsider wouldn't expect (and maybe you didn't before you took the job)?
AMY: How much goes into to TV writing. I don’t think I ever realized the extent to which stories are discussed before I saw it in action.
HR: What's the key to finding time to write when you're working as support staff in a room?
AMY: This is a huge challenge, since shows are so engrossing. I struggle with time management, and a thing that’s really helped me is scheduling everything, including my writing sessions. Recently, I joined an online productivity program called CaveDay that really helps me unplug and focus.
HR: How did you get your current job?
AMY: I got the job on CW's TWO SENTENCE HORROR STORY through a mentor and friend I worked with on KRYPTON.
HR: What was your first job in Hollywood?
AMY: I worked at a 2D to 3D conversion company as a Stereoscopic PA/Coordinator for two years while I was trying to get hired in TV.
HR: What's a mistake you made early on in your career?
AMY: When I was a writers’ PA, there were writers that wanted to help me, but I had just started writing TV. I was really nervous about sending them my pilot, so instead I wasted a bunch of time paying for evaluations to tell me if I was ready. But writing is subjective, and they didn’t really give me an answer. Most show relationships fade after the show ends. I wish I’d trusted myself and my work more.
HR: Tell us about the #PayUpHollywood movement and why it's particularly important for people in your role.
AMY: TV is a changing landscape. It used to be you got a job as a WA or SC and you spent maybe a season or two doing it before proving you were ready to staff. The staff writer role used to be more of an apprenticeship. Now, what we’re seeing is that staffs are smaller, so staff writers are expected to operate at a much, much higher level. There are a lot more shows than ever before (which is great!), but they also have fewer episode orders. The WGA mandates freelance episodes be given out on shows with 20 episodes (or the show pays a penalty). Those freelance episodes regularly went to support staff as a way to prove their ability to write for the show and eventually get promoted to staff. They also supplemented the poor wages. Freelance assignments are still given out by generous showrunners, but there are a lot fewer of them available with shorter episode orders.
Along with fewer freelance opportunities, the vast majority of shows don’t make it more than one or two seasons. Miniseries are bigger than ever. The progression generally used to be put in 1 season as WA or SC, write a freelance in season 2 and staff in season 3. That progression has become pretty rare. So even though there are more writer jobs than ever before, the ability to move up the ranks as a WA or SC is harder, and people are stuck in support staff roles for a lot longer. It may be feasible for someone to suck it up and defer their student loans for a year or two, but the financial burden compounds when people are in these roles for 5 years or more.
Since the 2008 crisis, there’s been a steady crack down on how much these roles pay, and just as cost of living sharply increased in LA, studios were pushing to pay less and less. With COVID, they're trying to tighten their belts even more, which ultimately results in actual wage theft. Studios often try to pay these jobs as part-time roles, even though they’re full-time jobs. A show recently tried to pay their script coordinator for only 3 days per month. Aside from this being in violation of our union contract, there’s no version of that job that can be done in so few hours. Likewise, we’re seeing the cutting of overtime from a 60/hr week to a 40 or 50/hr week. But we don’t operate 9-5 -- we have to be available 24/7, so cutting the overtime means that we’re available off the clock for the show. When you work on a show, you can’t work a second job, so ultimately, only people who can afford to be paid less than base cost of living can afford to work. This is exacerbated by the fact that this is all freelance. Even on the most successful shows, there are typically 6-10 weeks of hiatus per year where you’re not paid (including the two weeks at Christmas where you don’t get paid). Other freelance positions that have comparable duties like Assistant Editors and Script Supervisors make about 3-4 times as much as we do. They’ve been unionized a lot longer, but even so, the difference is staggering.
Studios often try to act like our jobs are a luxury to the writers, but the reality is that our jobs are crucial. Why would a studio pay a room of writers upwards of $100k per episode if there’s no one taking notes on what they’re saying? My twitter thread tried to highlight how much money and responsibility rests on the script coordinator’s shoulders considering how little they make. On top of it all, the pay rate is exclusionary, and unfortunately, BIPOC are excluded at a higher rate from these jobs. The #PayUpHollywood movement is about changing representation from the ground up.
HR: If you could give one piece of advice to someone trying to break in/move up in the industry, what would it be?
AMY: Really evaluate why you want to be in this area of the industry. At the end of the day, you have to really love it, and if you don’t, you’ll be unhappy. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met that think "TV writing pays a lot and is fun/easy." It’s not really that simple. Yes, the schedule of minimums on the WGA site looks high, but it’s not like being a doctor, where you put time in at med school and then make a steady amount of money for the rest of your life. You may put in 5-10 years as an assistant, going into debt, then be staffed for only one season. The same things that make it difficult for assistants to move up in rank are also making it harder for writers to move up in rank. It’s a lot of instability to deal with even if you really love the work. I also see a lot of people who are introverts who want to be TV writers. If that’s you, then you might want to reconsider. The job is literally being in a room talking all day with people. If you’re a writer who likes to be out on script, then maybe features or novels are a better fit.
HR: Thanks, Amy!