"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 PGA member and EVOLVE mentor Jen Sall, who has produced features, web series, branded content, and more. Her recent film Me.N.A. is currently available on Hulu, and she was recently 1 of 8 participants selected to the Australian International Screen Forum's 2020 Women in Screen Workshop.
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: As a scripted content producer, what is your day-to-day like?
JEN: No two days are the same, and it depends on the type of production. But some of the main things my job entails are: development (writing scripts, editing treatments, pitching, setting up meetings, deal memos, securing cast); budgeting (prepping for shooting and post, figuring out budgets for international shoots); production partnerships (creating agreements with co-creators, rights sharing, option agreements, and development deals); hiring crew (finding the best people to collaborate with while staying within the resources of each project budget); production (location scouting, managing resources, promotional partners, in-kind services, and talent); post-production (negotiating with post houses, getting rates and schedules, managing data and workflow); and distribution (PR, publicity, festivals).
HR: What are some of the main skills someone would need to succeed in your role?
JEN: Organization -- you have to keep track of many moving parts and make sure each department head is staying within budget and doing their job. You're steering the ship. You also need to be flexible, a problem solver, and resourceful -- expect that even with the best laid plans, changes will happen (the day is cloudy, there's an alarm going off for an hour and you can't find the owner to shut it off...and so on). You also have to be a team player. On smaller productions, I've taken care of scouting, casting, pickups, carrying equipment -- whatever help is needed! No job is too small if it means keeping on schedule. It's important to be proactive and think ahead. For instance, if the sun is setting, and you only have the location for one day, you can't wait until there's no light to make a plan. And have a thick skin and positive attitude! The producer is the person everyone seeks out when there is a problem, and you're not helping yourself or the project if you take things personally. Of course, creativity helps with all of the above and then some.
HR: What was your first job in Hollywood?
JEN: My very first job was in PR at Rogers and Cowan, and one of my earliest production jobs was as an office PA and then coordinator on a Beats commercial produced by Ridley Scott. My main transition into production was by producing a short for FunnyOrDie.com called "Cafe Attitude." To make that happen, I hustled, asked for A LOT of favors, created the concept, worked with a writer on the script, and then produced. The short was featured on over 30 outlets from HuffPo to the LA Times! It gave me something to show people and talk about.
HR: If you don't like ______________, you won't like my job.
JEN: Going with the flow and rolling with last minute changes.
HR: What's something you do in your job that an outsider wouldn't expect -- and maybe you didn't before you started!
JEN: You can't shoot wherever you want in LA. There's a permit process -- you have to apply, which takes days to process, and that makes shooting very challenging when it comes to last minute decisions or changes.
HR: What's a mistake you made early on in your career?
JEN: Taking things too seriously and personally. You'll hear your fair share of "No" or "Pass" when you're developing content or looking for financing.
HR: If you could give one piece of advice for someone trying to break in/move up in the industry, what would it be?
JEN: Be flexible, be positive, be kind to everyone. I don't forget that and have gone on to hire or refer people who were respectful to me back when I was a PA.
HR: Thanks, Jen!