A Concise Explanation of How To Make It in Hollywood

I woke up the other day with the most amazing comment on the UTA joblist page. It’s short, but amazingly helpful. I’m a little mad I didn’t write it myself.

As someone who moved to LA in 2010 from another state who has:

  1. 1) No film or entertainment related degree (BA in Political Science)
  2. No family (direct or otherwise) connections to the business
  3. Made the move to LA without a job offer in place (but with money saved for this reason)
  4. Worked (in a different order) as an unpaid intern, background actor (non-union and later union),
    stand-in, production assistant, agency assistant, executive/development assistant, and network
  5. Applied to jobs using the UTA joblist (rarely heard back)
  6. Posted a job to the UTA joblist

I’d like to encourage everyone on here that truly anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Without a job and low on cash? Head down to Central Casting (prepared-print the paperwork beforehand. Google is your friend. So is Fedex Office) with $25, a free day, some form of ID, patience, and a good attitude. Enlist a calling service (Again, Google is your friend). If you meticulously follow every instruction, you will be on set in weeks. If you’re an actor quietly study the principal cast. You’d rather work in Production? Show the PA’s that you’re reliable and can be counted on (wouldn’t hurt to have resumes in your backpack). Work for 6 months and you’ll start to see familiar faces across every department. You’d be amazed at how quickly a 400 person crew production on a big budget Film or TV show halts on a dime because the 2nd 2nd AD can’t find the waiter with the red bowtie for the turnaround after lunch (he or she is probably at crafty. Don’t be that person). Be that useful background actor who can help the PA’s “keep eyes” (without being creepy or obvious) on certain people who are important to any particular shot. Befriend someone (without interrupting their work flow or being obnoxious) in your department of choice. Choose an appropriate time to ask if they would accept your resume for consideration. Production is the best place to start.

Does the representation/development/business side interest you more? Get an unpaid internship at a production company (maybe 2 days a week). Learn the players in town. Become indispensable. Split time between background work and that internship until your boss feels comfortable referring you to an Agent Trainee program. If you’re persistent enough, you will get in. Agency HR people love applicants who won’t (within reason) take “No” for an answer. Those people will probably make great agents, they figure. Put in at least a year and doors previously inaccessible will begin to open.

Most importantly, be a good person in a town lacking them. Treat everyone with kindness and respect. Understand that this is Hollywood and that not one person “knows it all”. The phrase “There’s no business like showbusiness” doesn’t exist because it rhymes.

A well respected and iconic entertainment multi-hyphenate once gave me the single most important industry-related piece of advice I’ve ever been given (before any of the above (1-6) happened).

“Follow your heart, believe in yourself, and go for it”

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10 Responses

  1. As an extra, is giving an AD or other production person appropriate? I’ve thought about it many a time since I do background from time to time, but I also don’t want to get in trouble with Central or it be in bad taste.

  2. Reading this blog post was (hopefully) my first step in becoming a PA. Thank you for passing on these well needed words of encouragement!

  3. Great information! But what is a “calling service”? I’ve googled and googled and can’t find anything that seems to apply to this situation. Thanks!

    1. A calling service, or call-in service, books you for bg jobs so you don’t have to spend time watching Central’s FB posts and calling in yourself, in their weird radio station contest system. The service just texts with your job info for the next day, unless you have booked out on their calendar. Usually costs $60-70/month, tax-deductible costs, btw. Great idea if you want to work 4-5 days/week. I book myself bc I only want to work part time.

      Oh, and registration at Central is now free. Get there early bc there is always a line!

    1. I’m in the same boat. Paid work usually goes to interns after they have earned their stripes. At least that is my observation from being here the last 7 years. Unless of course you win the lottery and find a paid position on your own, or have a friend who is on the inside and might be able to hook you up when the time comes. No easy way to slice it. Someone I know (who writes for a network show) told me it’s all about being tenacious and your ability to withstand the bullshit. I had a survival job for a while until I realized I needed to survive from that environment. I can’t do unpaid work either, but I’m driving for Uber and taking whatever temp jobs I can get on the side. I think the only thing I haven’t done is the background stuff.

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