It’s no secret that the entertainment industry has had its fair share of gatekeepers, and many folks with a passion for storytelling may not have considered entertainment as a viable career path earlier in their professional lives. We work with many clients who, for one reason or another, start pursuing their entertainment careers later in life. It’s not an easy path, but it is doable, if you approach your transition thoughtfully and strategically.
First, be very honest and clear with yourself about what you want to do within the industry. If you want to be a writer or director, you may not need to spend time “paying your dues” on the assistant track. You can certainly try applying for entry-level assistant jobs, but the reality is that many hiring managers are looking for younger candidates fresh out of school, and there are no guarantees that being a great assistant (whether on a desk or in a writers’ room) will lead to a creative role. Be realistic about your financial needs and how much time you can devote to dues-paying. If being an assistant doesn’t work for your life, consider the many other ways to obtain these creative positions – applying for fellowships, submitting your work to contests and film festivals, writing other forms of media (short fiction, novels, newsletters, personal essays, humor blogs), directing independent projects in other formats (web series, spec commercials, short films, plays), etc. Prioritize attending workshops and networking events and collaborating with other creatives. You might also consider getting a full-time role within the industry that aligns with skills from your previous work that will allow you to integrate into Hollywood while honing your craft – for example, if you worked in sales, you might apply for jobs in the ad sales department of a network. Your day job will still be somewhat siloed from the creatives, but you will likely meet more people who can introduce you to folks who can check out your work.
If you’re hoping to get on the producer, executive, or agent/manager track, starting as an assistant is more important. It’s unlikely that you can move laterally from your previous field into a mid-level or senior-level role in these coveted areas, unless you’re coming from a similarly creative role that involved storytelling (think: video games, publishing). Hiring managers want to make sure you understand the nuances of the industry and have a strong network of contacts before they’ll hand you a multi-million dollar production to oversee. Applying for Hollywood assistant jobs is a pretty unique process – you’ll want to highlight your administrative acumen and have a resume that focuses on your ability to answer phones, handle heavy scheduling, maintain organization, provide customer service, and process various types of paperwork. It’s okay to show some achievements, and you definitely want to highlight how your unique perspective will make you an asset to the organization, but make sure your resume clearly indicates that you understand the role of an assistant, and that your cover letter expresses your humility. You may still find some ageist hiring managers -- this is an unfortunate reality of the business that is hopefully changing but not yet changed -- but all you need is one to take a chance on you.
Breaking into Hollywood later in life is difficult, but not impossible. And as the industry opens up to include more historically marginalized perspectives, we hope it will also make room for people who didn’t have the opportunity to pursue their entertainment dreams at 23. If you’re a storyteller, you’ll find a way to tell your story – and we’re here, excited to help however we can!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
With two strikes and a slew of recent layoffs, Hollywood is about as slow as it has ever been. We know the job market is tough right now, and are hearing stories of hundreds more applicants than usual for open roles. If you're looking for a new job, it might take a little longer than expected to find a new one, so you'll want to find ways to make yourself stand out. And if you're on strike and can't work, now is a good time to focus on yourself. If you haven't already, consider exploring various professional development opportunities, like taking an online course to build your skills. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
If you're hoping to make a career transition, online courses can help boost your resume. Coursera and edX offer a ton of free college courses, where you can learn about topics like marketing, negotiation, computer science, and other fields. LinkedIn Learning offers a range of courses and suggests classes that may interest you based on your profile. The platform even has software training courses, so you can learn Adobe Creative Suite and other industry-prominent programs. Local libraries, including the Los Angeles Public Library, also have resources for free courses, including language courses -- we're often told by clients that they wish they could include foreign language proficiency on their resumes, so now's a great time to learn those skills! And if you're willing to spend a bit of money, you could try platforms like Udemy, where you can learn about pretty much everything under the sun. Even if you're not trying to make a career move, it doesn't hurt to try something new!
For entertainment-focused learning opportunities, professional organizations and guilds can be great resources. If you're a member of any of these organizations, keep an eye on their newsletters and social feeds -- many host webinars and online workshops for entertainment professionals. You could also consider joining Stage 32, an entertainment industry social networking platform that offers webinars on a range of topics, like screenwriting, independent filmmaking, and production. MasterClass is another online resource that offers a few entertainment-related classes. The HiveMind Unified offers many free resources to boost your entertainment career, too.
In addition to taking courses, you can focus on building skills and knowledge on your own. Read the trades and watch buzzy films or TV shows to stay on top of industry happenings and trends. Or hone in on your story evaluation skills by reading scripts -- try catching up on the end-of-year lists like The Black List or The Blood List.
Any of these options are good ways to grow your career during this difficult time. But if you're feeling stressed out, there's also nothing wrong with kicking back with a good book, movie, TV show, or podcast to rest and relax. As we've said many times, consuming content is a big part of being in this industry because it allows you to develop your taste. Lean into your interests and take a mental note of what brings you satisfaction on screen -- when you're ready to look for a new job, you'll want to tap back into that and target companies that create content you enjoy. And for now, you'll have some quality screen time.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
We work with many clients seeking to make a career transition out of entertainment, and we’re often asked “what industry should I pivot to?” Our answer is always that it’s a very personal decision based on your individual skills, interests, financial goals, location desires, family obligations, and ability to return to school. There’s no one-size-fits all approach to a career transition! That said, there are some common paths we’ve seen our clients land on and thrive in. We’ve rounded up the top sectors here, and if you’re looking to make a transition but don’t know where to start, consider if any of these options sound exciting to you. (And if they don’t – that’s totally okay – there are tons of careers out there!).
Live Events. Producing large-scale live events or planning corporate or personal events utilizes a lot of the same skills as producing content. You’ll need to ideate an event concept or theme, hire vendors and event staff, source decor and other rentals, solve last-minute problems, map out a schedule, and make sure everything runs smoothly on site.
Corporate Video / Advertising. Many brands are leaning more into video for their internal communications and marketing. The same skills that go into making film and TV content apply here – writing scripts, directing shoots, creative collaboration, overseeing production, editing, and supervising post-production. There are opportunities both at content agencies servicing a roster of clients as well as internally at the brands themselves, as many companies are bringing creative services in-house.
Recruiting. Recruiting is similar to casting -- you’re looking to match the right talent to the right role. In these roles, you’ll scout for potential job candidates, tapping into those online research skills you’ve used to find new reality stars or influencer talent. You’ll also work closely with hiring managers to vet candidates, conduct interviews, provide selects, liaise with the applicant pool, and support contract negotiations.
Sales. Sales is less of an industry and more of a role type - practically every field needs salespeople! But these roles employ a lot of the same skills development executives, producers, agents, and managers use already. Think: curating prospective client lists (like compiling writer/director/talent lists), building and maintaining relationships, creating pitch decks and proposals (like treatments!), and pitching in the room.
Video Games / Board Games / Experiential Content. There are so many new avenues for storytellers, as the landscape of stories expands. These sectors can be pretty tough to break into but may scratch that same creative itch as film and TV. Video games and interactive AR/VR experiences need writers, directors, producers, and talent. Similarly, board games often have writers and creative teams, as do escape rooms.
Design. If your expertise is in the visual arts, there may be avenues in design that spark your interest! Graphic design, data visualization, and UX/UI design are all growing sectors, and if you know the right software, your eye for visual aesthetics, project management, and client relations skills may apply really well to these roles. Interior design is also a potential avenue if you have experience with art departments and client relations.
Project Management. Production management is a form of project management -- making sure you have the right people assigned to the right tasks, creating schedules and roadmaps, allocating budgets, overseeing deliverables, and communicating with executives or clients to refine project scopes and get feedback. This is a very obvious transition in terms of your skill set, but you will likely need to invest in professional development to make yourself attractive to hiring managers in this competitive field. For example, you may want to learn specific software (like Jira, Airtable, Asana, ClickUp, Insightly, etc.), principles of Agile project management, basic business practices, and basic tech systems/coding principles.
Making a career transition is a big decision. If it’s something you’re thinking about, be sure to connect with people in the fields/roles that interest you to learn more about what they do and build your network. The possibilities are endless, and we encourage you to take time to really think about what will make you happy professionally, so you can find the right path for you.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
For several months now, we’ve seen a dramatic slow-down in work across the entertainment industry (not to mention a plethora of layoffs), and with the current writers’ strike, things are really uncertain. It’s possible that some areas of the industry – like reality TV, animation, and independent film – will see an uptick in work, but we don’t know what the future of the business will look like as this all plays out. This moment is big, and the feelings that go along with it (ranging from outrage to fear to anxiety to kinship to hope and everything in between) are totally valid. There’s a lot going on right now that’s beyond any individual’s control, even as the industry’s shift affects each of us very personally.
The good news is that there are some things that are in your control. In fact, while work is slow, there’s an opportunity to focus on the things you don’t usually have time for when you’re putting in 10-12 hour days. Here are some ideas for how to invest in your professional future when the industry’s future is so uncertain.
Cultivate your personal brand. Look over your LinkedIn, StaffMeUp, IMDB, and other profiles and make sure they are up to date with your current professional story. You can also build or refresh your personal website, reels, and portfolios. Think about how you want people in the industry to view you and your work, and hone in on what makes you unique. If you’ve been meaning to share your expertise with the world as a thought leader or mentor, you can take this moment to create content and/or collaborate with industry organizations to offer your wisdom through mentorship programs or panels.
Re-evaluate your long-term goals. We recommend doing a personal inventory every 6 months or so to make sure you’re still passionate about your work, and now is the perfect moment to think critically about your future. Are the dreams you had when you first started out in the industry the same dreams you have now? Do you like the work you’ve been doing? Is there something else that interests you? Have you been circling the idea of making a career transition but aren’t sure where to start? Check out our free resource, “Essential Questions to Guide Your Job Search,” a helpful tool for digging into what makes you tick professionally and personally, or reach out to schedule a career coaching session for a more personalized approach.
Take a professional development course to learn a new skill. We’re big proponents of lifelong learning, and with so many online courses, it’s easier than ever to develop new skills. You can learn a new software, or explore an area of the industry that’s interested you but never quite applied to your day-to-day work (audience metrics, marketing, screenwriting, improv, film finance, etc.). You can also take courses in areas of interest that don’t have anything to do with your career, but may make you a better storyteller by understanding a niche topic. We also offer a suite of learning opportunities to help you cultivate skills to improve your job search, like our resume and cover letter writing course, Hollywood Resumes Essentials and our hour-long webinars, The Hollywood Job Search, LinkedIn for Your Entertainment Career, and Applying for Entertainment Jobs.
Work on your passion project. You may not be able to do work for the major studios and signatory companies right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to put your creativity on hold! You can still write a screenplay, as long as you don’t send it out to signatory companies. You can shoot an indie film or web series. Write that memoir. Shoot that photography series. Develop a reality show pitch. Practice your stand-up routine. Create those dream hair and makeup looks for your social feeds. Record a podcast. It’s possible none of this will make you any money, but you never know, and in the meantime, you will feed your soul.
Start a side hustle. Money is important, and you may need to lean on other sources of income if your area of the industry is at a hiring standstill. It’s totally okay to take on side gigs – don’t worry about how they’ll look on your resume down the line, as you may not even need to include them. Just like in 2008 and 2020, gaps from times when the industry wasn’t hiring are very explainable to employers. If you have that entrepreneurial spirit, you may also consider creating your own business or consultancy, whether it’s industry-adjacent or totally outside.
We know that this strike affects each of us differently, but we are all impacted in one way or another – you’re not alone. But you also don’t have to wait for permission or external opportunities to take control of your career. You have that agency right now, even when things are slow. And we’re here to help, however we can.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan