College was a wonderful experience for me. It literally transformed my life. In those days, I was a film and television major, but I’m sad to say, that was the only area my university failed me. Professors teach you knowledge about your field, but they don’t often teach about the relational or practical issues of your field. So after more than three decades working as a professional in the media, and living out what I majored in college, here’s the ten things I wish I’d known back then that would have made a dramatic difference in my career:
1. Know this: Hollywood doesn’t care about you. Silicon Valley doesn’t care about you. The Studios don’t care about you. Nobody cares about you. You have to earn it.
2. Demo reels and portfolios matter far more than resumes. (Spec work is very helpful as well).
3. Write more, and learn to recognize good writing. (It’s all about writing.)
4. Show Runners are what REALLY drive network television. (And guess what – they write.)
5. You can work for others to get started, but when it comes to your career, never forget to pursue YOUR vision, not someone else’s.
6. Learn the importance of starting in a niche. Become the best in the world at a really narrow niche. (At the start, don’t try to be the best director in Hollywood. Become the best director of a certain type of film, or a certain budget or genre. That’s how you get noticed. See my book: “One Big Thing.”)
7. Being someone’s assistant can jumpstart your career. (My last assistant is now an assistant director on shows like NBC’s The Office. My assistant before that is in film finance at a major studio. Assistants learn how the business works, meet the right people, and learn to work under pressure.)
8. Being a Christian isn’t the biggest challenge for a successful career in Hollywood. Being lousy at what you do is.
9. We don’t need more Christian movies, we need more Christians making good movies.
10. Learn the importance of networking. (People like working with people they know. Simple as that. The more people you know, the more likely you’ll make the kind of connections that will help your career.)
If I had learned these 10 things at the beginning, it would have given me an entirely new perspective on the industry. What about you? Any of these resonate with you? Or do you have some of your own? I’d love to add to the list….