"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 Tiffanie Young Lofton, founder of college exit program Young in the Arts and SVP of Production at nonscripted production company Rock Shrimp Productions.
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: In one sentence, how would you define what a production executive does?
TIFFANIE: I keep the production moving by negotiating, solving problems, and making smart decisions.
HR: What is your day-to-day like?
TIFFANIE: It's a lot of strategizing, be it budgets, logistics, schedules, legal, etc. Every day I'm planning, executing, and multitasking. Usually, I'm in production meetings while also emailing, budgeting, approving payroll, making deals, and more.
HR: What was your first job in Hollywood?
TIFFANIE: Budget coordinator for Lifetime Television.
HR: What are some of the skills someone would need to succeed in your position?
TIFFANIE: You must be detail-oriented, a quick thinker, a strong negotiator, and you absolutely have to listen. Listen to what's being spoken, but more importantly, listen to what's not being said.
HR: If you don't like ______________, you won't like my job.
TIFFANIE: Compromising. In production, you can't say no even when the real answer is no. It's a constant negotiation, which equals compromise. You will not always get your way and you have to accept that.
HR: What's something you do in your job that an outsider wouldn't expect -- and maybe you didn't before you started!
TIFFANIE: Memory. It amazes me how much my company and my team relies on my memory. I have entire budgets and cost trackers in my head (multiple at that) and I have to be ready to make money decisions on the fly. I also have to remember names, rates, hirings, firings, negotiations, contracts, vendors, schedules, etc. for current and past shows. Sure, I can say "I don't know" if I don't remember something and I've had to do that more with age, but production moves faster when I remember details. It's an asset I didn't know I needed, but I'm very glad I have.
HR: What's a mistake you made early on in your career?
TIFFANIE: I got emotional on my first TV job and let people's words get to me. When I reacted, they used it against me. But what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. I quickly learned to leave my emotions at the door and keep it all about business at work. I'm human, though -- so do my emotions still creep in sometimes? Yes, but I know how to manage it and use it to produce an effective outcome.
HR: If you could give one piece of advice for someone trying to break in/move up in the industry, what would it be?
TIFFANIE: Know how you're going to exit the business before you even enter it. Why? Two reasons: 1. How do you attain your dream if you don't know what it is? Know what you want and strategize how to get it. And note that your dream isn't the first step. Your dream is the end game. Dream big! 2. The entertainment business is competitive. You will face rejection and you will want to quit. But if you decide now what your exit is and commit to it, you won't quit until you get there.
HR: Tell us about Young in the Arts. Who is the program for and what do you hope to achieve with it?
TIFFANIE: Young In The Arts grew out of my passion for mentoring. It is an exit program for college juniors and seniors seeking to enter the tv/film industry. We meet virtually twice a month for a total of 8 sessions where I guide the students in Career Planning, Financial Planning, Resume Building/Networking, and Entry Level Training. My tagline is "Guiding the Next Generation of Creative Minds." I've seen too many young people start in this industry and then quit because they felt lost. My goal is to give them real-life tips and tricks to keep going and succeed.
HR: What are some of the challenges you see facing recent grads trying to break in to the industry?
TIFFANIE: COVID definitely made it harder to break in. Why would someone hire a new person with no experience when so many experienced people were unemployed? During COVID, people who were rarely ever free were suddenly available for booking. But, thankfully, things are better now. Hollywood has figured out how to shoot during COVID so experienced people are back to being booked and opportunities are becoming available again for newbies. Now more than ever, it's important to make those connections and make sure someone in the business knows your name.
HR: You're an expert on budgets from your production management work. Do you have any budgeting tips for job seekers or freelancers trying to make ends meet during hiatus?
TIFFANIE: Flexibility. You must have an adjustable budget, one you spend when things are great and one you spend when things are hard. And, go easy on yourself. In Hollywood, our success depends on creativity and creativity is stifled by stress. If you can't be creative, you can't make money, so adjust your budget, relax, and let the creative juices flow.
HR: Thanks, Tiffanie!