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
It's time for another "Industry Spotlight," our monthly 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 Greg Morrison, Supervising Producer of Content and Development at Nitro Circus.
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: In one sentence, how would you define your job?
GREG: Part creative, part problem solver, part firefighter, part babysitter.
HR: What is your day-to-day like?
GREG: My day consists of many different things that keep it moving at a breakneck speed. Throughout any given day, I’ll have in-person meetings to discuss ongoing productions. This will consist of gathering and dispensing updates from our production, post production, and legal teams and deciding upon next steps. There are also meetings to discuss ongoing and future development projects/ideas with our team in the office and pitches for these development ideas with network executives at their offices. When I finally have a moment to sit down in front of my laptop, it’s time to write. Before anything gets pitched to a network or gets produced by one of our teams, I write it and re-write it. That includes writing and producing the sizzle reels that we use to pitch our shows. I work closely with our post production team to make sure that these sizzle reels are sales-ready. Also, I eat lunch. I never skip lunch. No one likes me when I’m hangry.
HR: What do you like most about your job?
GREG: What I like most about my job is finding creative and fun ways to tell stories. At the end of the day, all good content comes down to telling a good story.
HR: How did you get your current job?
GREG: I spent eight years freelancing as a producer all over Los Angeles, and through a former boss, I was recommended to Nitro Circus to be the Supervising Producer of their first History Channel special. It was a match made in heaven, and we all loved working together. We loved it so much that they offered me full-time employment heading up their development department and overseeing current productions.
HR: What was your first job in Hollywood?
GREG: My first entertainment industry job was a 4-week gig as a research assistant at LMNO Productions. I spent my days creating binders full of research for their development and production executives.
HR: What are the skills someone would need to succeed in your position?
GREG: Quick thinking, a lot of energy, a positive attitude, patience (of which I don’t have enough), and confidence.
HR: If you don't like _____________, you won't like my job.
GREG: Problem solving.
HR: What’s a mistake you made early on in your career?
GREG: Rushing. I was rushing to bring a hard drive to my boss, but in trying to move too fast, I unplugged the wrong drive and corrupted the entire project. It took 48 hours to get everything back up and running and put us two days behind schedule. No matter how quickly something needs to be done, there’s always an extra few seconds to stop, breathe, and make sure you don’t unplug the wrong thing, press the wrong button, send the wrong email, or say the wrong thing to the wrong person.
HR: If you could give one piece of advice to someone trying to break in/move up in the industry, what would it be?
GREG: Make friends everywhere you work. It will be your connections with the people you work with that ensure you always find your next job and that you get that promotion over someone else with the same qualifications.
HR: Thanks, Greg!
Think hiring managers are just looking at the materials you submit in your job applications? Think again. Once a hiring manager decides your resume and cover letter are up to snuff, they’ll continue to check you out to make sure you’re a good fit for the role. Whether this happens before they set the interview or after they’ve narrowed their choices down to a handful of candidates, they are going to Google you. Same goes for writers/producers/directors taking general meetings for potential employment down the line. It should go without saying that you should be mindful of your social media presence. We’ve talked about the role of social media in the job search, but you should also check to see what else the search engines have on you on a regular basis.
Ideally, information that shows up online won't contradict anything you've sent to the employer. Does your current or previous employer’s website still list you as an employee? If so, make sure the job title online matches the one you use on your resume. Do any YouTube videos you uploaded in college come up? You may not want employers looking at your student films and judging your taste level and skill from your early work. It may not be possible to alter your digital footprint too much, but if you know what potential employers see, you can think about ways to get ahead of it. And, if some really good things come up -- like the charity event you organized or your festival-worthy Vimeo short -- you can find ways to amplify those successes as well.
The key is not to overthink anything you might find online, but to be aware of what’s there. Look at yourself through the eyes of the hiring manager and understand that your online presence is a part of the fuller picture of your candidacy.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
You're probably wondering: What is a professional bio, and do I need one? Have I not been getting calls for interviews because I'm sending an old fashioned resume and cover letter, and hiring managers are looking for newfangled materials?
A professional bio doesn't replace a resume in any way, and you should absolutely, unequivocally, never submit one in lieu of a professional resume or cover letter when applying for a job. Rather, a bio is a supplemental tool that will help you present yourself to your colleagues in a variety of settings and boost your career in a more general sense.
In particular, a bio can be useful for writers, directors, or other creative-types when sent as a precursor to general meetings (generally, an agent or manager would send it for you). Resumes for these types of professionals typically take the form of a credits list, but a bio will allow you to showcase some information that might not make it into the resume -- awards, fellowships, uncredited development experience, interesting personal anecdotes, and even some humor. By sending a short bio in advance of a meeting, you save executives from Googling you and trying to piece your story together themselves.
Bios also make up a part of your online presence. Many companies feature C-level executive bios on their websites, and some smaller firms have short blurbs on every person at the company! If you have a personal website, you should certainly include a bio somewhere on it. It allows you to summarize both your personal and work experience in one place, and it will help a viewer decide whether they want to learn more about you and guide them to the parts of your portfolio that are most relevant. Additionally, if you’ve ever been asked to speak at an event or contribute an article to a website, you’ll probably need a bio that will likely live online somewhere. This can only help you in your professional career -- having your bio posted on another organization’s site will inevitably give you some extra credibility. Bios are also a component of fellowship applications, and if you’re accepted, your bio will typically be featured on the program’s site. Needless to say, given the public nature of a bio, it’s important that you make it GREAT!
But writing a bio can be tricky. You want something well-written that flows nicely, so if grammar or written storytelling aren’t your forte, you’d do well to have someone write your bio for you. Plus, an outsider can often help you identify the most impressive aspects of your career and lay them out in an organized way. Writing a bio can sometimes feel like you’re being forced to brag about yourself, and most people are uncomfortable doing so. Remember those awkward times that your professors asked you to write your own letters of recommendation for them to sign? Bio writing can sometimes feel a lot like that. At the very least, we suggest having a friend or family member help you with your bio. But that’s why we’re starting our new service -- to help you with this very important component of your professional career.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan