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What If This ISN’T What I Want to Do With My Life?

Laura responded to yesterday’s post:

I don’t want to be the one comment here that sh*ts on your point,1 but I have been in this reader’s position for at least 4 years now and have come across some additional problems after taking a step back and making a decision.

My choice was that I’d be pretty happy doing almost anything in the industry and so, having a lot of experience in administrative assistant type roles, I tried to break away from strictly animation, (my initial dream,) and applied for jobs at talent agencies, publicity, live action TV shows, film, etc.

I got a few interviews and they all ended up rejecting me because of one thing: This is not what I truly wanted to do with my life. They saw right through me. Even though I was widening my horizon, keeping a positive outlook, and trying to open new doors, these people seemed to shove me back and claim I was not welcome. I actually got this TWICE: “I see you have a B.A. in screenwriting and animation, so, why did you apply for this position? We’re a talent agency…” followed by confused look and, before I could open my mouth to answer, rejection. What do I answer to something like that?

This can be a problem. I can’t tell you how many times a coordinator has asked me where I want my career to go, and I responded “I want to have your job in ten years.” Which is not true. At all.

But before I could formulate a proper response, and because I have the best readers in the world, BC replied with some great advice:

I have suggestions! I’ve had a variety of entry-level roles in the industry, and was able to do plenty of jumping around with some good old-fashioned spinning – the lifeblood of Hollywood. When applying for a position that’s outside of my past experience, I stack my resume with relevant experiences, even frankly minimally relevant ones. In your example, maybe highlight ANY things you’ve done that were relevant to working at a talent agency (even just mentioning being thick-skinned, good at multi-tasking, and excellent at taking initiative in your cover letter with some back-up examples might help).

But it sounds like you have the resume thing down. At the interview, before they even ask you that question about your B.A. in animation, they probably ask you this awful question: “So, tell us about yourself,” right? In your case it’s an awesome chance for you to crush their confusion before it’s voiced (which they want, otherwise why would they have called you in for an interview in the first place?). You could say something along the lines of, “You can see that I have a strong background in the industry. The bulk of my experience has been in animation, but this got me excited about [talent management; promos; publicity; whatever] because through that experience I did a lot of… [spinning of whatever skill you think will get them nodding – even if whatever it is is something you did one day for like 20 minutes]. It’s not lying, exactly – just expressing an enthusiasm for the opportunity you’re interviewing for. You know you can do the job. And they just want to know you can both do job and not leave them in the lurch if an opportunity comes along in animation.

There’s also the possibility that they only mention your B.A. because it stands out and they’re not starved for good interview questions. Perhaps your facial expression or response is less than confident, and this is what’s hurting the interview? Project confidence and don’t apologize – it’s amazing how far this goes (almost scary-far).

That’s pretty much what I would’ve said. Thanks for saving me a blog post, BC!

Olivia also replied:

I just want to say, I am going through the same thing right now. I’m not making any money to support myself and feel like I am at a crossroads as to whether I keep on trying to succeed in the entertainment industry or I find something else. The problem is I don’t think I would be happy working in any other industry yet at the same time I am so unhappy in my current job. I don’t feel like I can offer any advice but to say I know how you feel and it sucks.

Empathy is often in short supply in this town. That comment is much appreciated.

* * *

In cheerier news, I’m so happy this exchange happened on Monday

Mike McCarthy says:

If you’ve covered what the responsibilities are that are expected of PA’s and how they can go above and beyond what’s expected of them can you send or post links please? If not could you expand on that? Thank you for your posts and time.

VJ says:

Everything is awwwsooooome!

Mike McCarthy says:

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Liar. 😉
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One Response

  1. Laura and Olivia:

    Reaching such an uneasy plateau — where you just sit and wonder what the hell you’re still doing in Hollywood — is all part of the winnowing process. It forces you to discard whatever romantic illusions about Hollywood and the industry you might still harbor, and brings you face to face with the reality of your situation. Those who do that and can find a way to get past this crisis of doubt will come to terms with the industry and find some measure of success. And maybe a little happiness.

    The rest will just have to look for some other path through life.

    Granted, my ambitions when I hit town were very different from those of most TAPA readers — I had no burning desire to be a screenwriter, director, or producer, but just wanted to get into the movie business and ride that wave wherever it took me. It was a very different time. Still, I experienced the same dark period of doubt when — burned out by the brutal grind of low-budget features, making no money and seeing no clear path beyond that ugly, abusive world — I came very close to quitting the biz altogether. Very, very close… but Hollywood has a way of keeping us on the string — and the damnedest thing is that shortly after hitting the nadir (three years in), my career took a dramatic upward turn. Things got better — a lot better — and after that, I never looked back. There have been several dramatic ups and downs since then, but I never seriously considered leaving the business again.

    Has it been a perfect world where unicorns fart rainbows beneath that big Hollywood sign? No.

    Did everything work out the way I thought/hoped/dreamed it would? Not at all.

    But life very rarely works that way, and I had more unexpected, unpredictable and totally cool adventures than I ever could have dreamed of in my wet-behine-the-ears pre-Hollywood days. Going for that ride is part of the adventure.

    Very few people land here, then take off like a rocket to some emotional/creative heaven. It takes time and hard work to find your place and what’s right for you, and that usually requires equal measures of stubborn determination and patience. Sometimes you have to make a big change to shake things up, but other times it’s better just to let things ride for a while and see what happens — because in such a mercurial business, it can all turn on a dime for you. One day a pauper, the next day a prince. Or princess.

    If you’re totally unhappy and miserable here, then do something else. Otherwise, try to find a way to make this town and the business work for you. If you’re meant to be here, you’ll find that way. Just remember that there is no perfect world or perfect happiness to be found in Hollywood or anywhere else, so you can’t (as the cliche goes) let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    I wish you both the best of luck.

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