Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Your Next Move

It’s that time of the year—Graduation! After four hard years, you now have your film degree. So what is your plan? Sure, you want to make films. But are you ready to go to Los Angeles and start your career in the film industry? And what about your faith? Where does that weigh in? Perhaps, you see yourself as a media missionary. You want to go to Hollywood to make a difference and change the culture for Christ. But the question remains. Are you prepared both professionally and spiritually?

You may find this hard to believe. After four years of hard work in film school, you probably have not learned what you really need to know in order for you to work and be successful in the entertainment industry. Now the real education starts.

Book knowledge is one thing. Practical application is a completely different matter. You have learned a lot of information in theory, but putting it into practice requires a different perspective and a different kind of education. After interviewing and talking to Christians who work in Hollywood as producers, directors, and actors, I want to offer you five key points that can help you with your next move.

Point 1: Know and understand how the system works. If you are planning to come to Hollywood, you need to know that it has its own rules, procedures and protocols. How does this town work? How do you get an agent? How do you network? How do internship programs work? These questions are all a part of understanding how Hollywood works. This is your real education. If you don’t understand the system and know what angles to play, you will fail in Hollywood. In film school they told you film is an art form, but in Hollywood it’s more about business than art. I guess that is why they call it show business. There is no show without the business side. Don’t get me wrong, film should be an art form first and foremost. But the real trick is to find a way to make art that works within the way Hollywood does business.

You should start to learn how the system works here first before you ever think about coming to Los Angeles. My contacts tell me your best strategy is to make a few field trips first before you plan on moving there. Meet with some of ministry leaders. Make some contacts. Find out as much as you can about the industry. In other words, get the lay of the land. A good place to start is with Hollywood connect is a good place to find a mentor, someone who is strong in his/her faith and also works professionally in the industry. Your mentor can be a source of inspiration and knowledge and can offer an inside prospective on how the studio system and the independent model work. You need to know how to find work, understand how film projects are funded and distributed, and how pilots and television series are created. Without this knowledge, you are at a tremendous disadvantage. Often these are the things you do not learn in film school.

What is the relationship between production companies and studios? Should you be employed by a production company or are you better off freelancing? I think you get the picture. The more you know, the better your chances will be. Prepare now and you won’t be sorry. And, of course, the real question you should be asking yourself is am I called to go to Hollywood in the first place?

Point 2: If you are a media missionary, you need to know the mission field you are entering into. If you understand the business side of Hollywood, that’s fine. But you also need to understand the cultural side. As I have discussed on my blog, Hollywood is a mission field with its own unique language, customs and rituals. Think of Hollywood and the people there as a tribe. If you are planning on reaching them, what do you know about them? What do they believe? What about their lifestyle? A media missionary must understand his or her tribe. Do you speak their language?

Point 3: Master your craft. There is no way to sidestep this. Are you good at what you do? Just because you have a film degree will not impress anyone in Hollywood. In fact, I meet many people who have film degrees who have never worked in this business at any level. You must master your craft. Everyone who works in Hollywood is excellent in what they do. Perhaps you should spend two years in your home town preparing. Work on some local projects. Hone your skills. And be honest with yourself. Do you have the talent necessary to compete in a competitive environment such as Hollywood?

Point 4: Are you prepared to pay the price? Sure, everybody knows there’s a price to pay. But whatever you think it is, just multiply it by ten because that will put you closer to reality. You are in for the battle of your life. It could take you years to become established. In fact, for the first two years, you may not even find a paying job in this industry. Are in a position to make that type of sacrifice? Everybody has to pay their dues starting at the bottom. And I do mean the very bottom. Sure, you hear stories of instant success. But that’s like winning the lottery. It’s only one in a million shot. In reality, you will start as a production assistant—probably getting somebody their morning coffee. It will not be glamorous.

You will say to yourself—I spent all this money for my film degree for this. Well that’s the entry price. You need to be the best production assistant you can be. You must excel and go beyond the call of duty. If you want to make it in this business, be a problem solver. If you do this, you will find work, and maybe one day you will get to direct a film.

I know you think you’re good at what you do. But, trust me, you will be challenged. Also, are you willing to accept friendly fire? I’m sure there will be a lot of people who will question your motivation as a Christian who goes off to Hollywood to work professionally in what many consider to be an ungodly environment.

Point 5: They will know us by our love. It all comes down to love. Do you have a love for this industry and can you love the people there? Without love, you cannot be a media missionary. You are going to meet some very difficult people. You will have to love them. If you can’t do that. Stay home. Your love is the essential ingredient in reaching the people in Hollywood. You love them by respecting them and serving them. That requires you to bring the right attitude. Do you have a servant’s heart? If you can do this, I’m convinced you can be successful both spiritually and professionally.

So what is your next move? Are you ready to go? Perhaps, you have some things to think about. Your best move is to seek God’s direction. Put it in His hands and pray for discernment and direction. Take some time to make your next move.

1 comment:

  1. This post contains a lot of wise advice. Thanks Harold for being a voice of reason to those who are pursuing a career in entertainment.