Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Pitfalls of Working in the Entertainment Industry

I think most people within the industry and outside of it can be blinded by the glitz and the glamour of what we do at work each day. There's horror stories, drama, and no shortage of problems that give us pride when we are able to solve them and overcome insurmountable obstacles. The industry isn't for the faint of heart and it takes a particular personality to survive it. The pitfall is revealed once a person leaves their oyster or tries to explore life outside of Hollywood and the entertainment industry. I'll give you three examples.

1) A friend of mine in marketing left his job to relocate. He had a great, cushy job at a studio and decided he wanted to be closer to family so he quit without having anything lined up. He had risen in his career to the mid-level management and has almost been doing his job for 10 years at other well-known companies. His hometown doesn't have an entertainment industry or anything near it although he lives in a major city. As he's been interviewing everyone would ask him the same questions. Did he know about PNL and if he had a MBA. It got to the point where he realized he had no "real world business skills" that were universal to all businesses. His entire career was in entertainment and what he did there was less about money compared to most people in his role at other comparable non-entertainment companies. He got to the point where he decided he had to go back to school.

2) Another friend of mine worked in accounting and collections in the entertainment industry. Before she got too comfortable and old, she thought she needed to leave entertainment and learn what else was out there. She's been working in sales and her business has soared where she gained a lot of valuable skills as Project Manager and overseeing people, working with clients directly, selling them her creative ideas through pitch meetings, and learning how to use programs like Illustrator which she never had exposure to, among numerous others. She likened her Hollywood career to the fun General Ed classes in college that dodn't really prepare you for anything, but were fun and challenging nonetheless.

3) As I'm interviewing around town, I've noticed a lot of roles require expert-level usage of software programs that me or my supervisors never had to use - Quickbooks, Powerpoint, and Excel or bookkeeping, accounting, and sales-related skills. We know how to use the programs on a basic level for expense reports, but the nature of a high-level executive assistant isn't to create decks or spreadsheets or to sell a product. Our bosses are the buyers so they listen to the presentations or on the rare chance that a presentation needs to be made, the CEO approves whatever his Director or executive put together. Our bosses buy films, tv shows, and ideas. Even my role with executive producers - most people would think I have experience with script coverage, notes, or development. However, my EP's were truly focused on E part, overseeing the P part from our CE's. My career is in a niche within a niche. I oversee my CEO's time and update him on the status of projects he inquires about. I'm don't so much as deliver tangible items like memos, reports, and data. I more or less work with the intangible things like managing his time, schedule, and delivering on his requests by carrying out actions he can't. I'm more of a project manager, point person, gate keeper, office manager, problem-solver, and overall go-to person. I am truly his right (and left) hand!

A majority of the positions don't have a straight career path or training program which means it's a little bit more difficult to transfer and explain your job to non-Hollywood people and how it would compare to a role they are trying to fill. Being a location manager, a producer, a celebrity personal assistant doesn't have a uniform job description and skill set. These jobs are very soft skill based whereas most non-Hollywood careers rely upon what you really studied in college. Being in the entertainment industry teaches one how to manage crises, solve complex problems, and work with people from all backgrounds in the most varied situations and locations . As they say, the only thing you need to survive is sheer determination and will. But how can I put that on my resume?

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