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Old April 8th, 2008, 06:29 PM   #1
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Los Angeles, California
Posts: 4
A humbled - but not defeated - student, seeks advice.

Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a rant, rather, a way of seeking out those who have been helpful in the past. I am a long time viewer and now a first time poster. Sorry for the length. (If this belongs in a different forum I apologize - feel free to move it)

I want everyone on this board, a few in particular, to know that your time sharing ideas, stories, and advice has been a gift in my life. One I don't easily know how to repay.

I guess I should introduce the protagonist of this story. I am a 21 year old kid and film student. I, like many of you, have felt inspired by this medium. I was so inspired that I recently moved from a relatively small(er) city of Omaha, Nebraska to Los Angeles. I left all my family, friends and most of my possessions in Omaha. There, life is measured by weather forecasts, football games and neighborhood gossip.

I have quickly learned that Omaha - is not Los Angeles. This city can be unforgiving. People can and will take advantage of you at every corner. I can't deny that the naivety of a Midwestern upbringing is partly responsible. But I would never ask for anything different.

So here I am, a young guy with gallons of hope and a dream to be apart of this industry - "Hollywood" or otherwise. By this I mean I would gladly work in the jungles of Madagascar or the sound stages of Warner Bros. - as long as I was doing what I love.

So here's where the protagonist learns of his problem.

I am terrified.

Terrified that the journey I have embarked on is nothing more than a lottery ticket. That no matter how hard I study, how many hours I put in, or how early I show up - it all amounts to whether your number gets called. Past experiences tell me this is wrong. That hard work does pay off, eventually.

But I have hit the wall. I get offered almost every internship I interview for but they are all unpaid - this unfortunately does not help an already struggling student. On a side note, living off Ramen noodles is miserable and humiliating.

So I have recently sought out part-time jobs that are related to the film/tv industry - editing, shooting, coverage... damn near anything that doesn't need 3-5 years of professional experience. These are a little more promising, however I quickly find how difficult it is to swim in a pool with fifty-thousand other people. If you know what I mean.

So I ask this community for advice. I know I am not the first to go through this and it doesn't always end up how you want or think it will. But those of you who have graduated film school, did having perfect grades or a great reel, really make a difference?

I have been told by many that it is who you know that counts. So I have been seeking out those who I can help in hopes that when I graduate they can help me. But so far my attempts have been fruitless, and it is slowly demoralizing me.

I guess maybe I just need a pep talk. Life in LA is not the apple pie of the Midwest.


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Old April 8th, 2008, 11:18 PM   #2
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Hollywood, CA
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Networking. Networking, networking networking networking. Networking.

It's alllll about who you know. You can study film your entire life but if you never make it out and meet every person possible and call in favors and ask ask ask ask for opportunities, you'll simply never get anywhere. Yes, sometimes luck plays a part. Experience gets the lead. But don't give up--there's room enough for everyone in this industry.

Just be thankful you're not an actor--now that's really tooling with fate. Sometimes you'll get hired because you can sneeze right on cue, and other times you'll get fired because you remind the director of his ex-girlfriend. At least behind the scenes you're not as heavily scrutinized.
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Old April 8th, 2008, 11:23 PM   #3
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My Two Cents

About 25 years ago I left a tiny town in Ohio (and my entire family) and moved to New York City where I knew absolutely no one. I had been accepted into the NYU / Tisch School of the Arts screenwriting program where I planned to fulfill my dreams of becoming a famous TV writer (like Norman Lear).

I remember the cab ride from JFK to a house in Queens where I was renting a basement from a family I’d never met. With my hopeful and naïve face pressed against the back window of the cab, I couldn’t help but think: What the hell did I just do?! Why didn’t I stay my cowardly butt in Ohio? New York City looked like a giant slum – just like the movies. New Yorkers looked just like the criminals I’d seen on TV. My God! What have I done?!

All by my cowardly self, I learned the subway, learned the streets and made friends at Tisch. I stayed in New York City for 18 years after that. I’ve heard tell that God takes care of children and fools. I think I’m in there somewhere.

A career in the arts is not for the faint of heart. As you are discovering, it’s filled with fear, uncertainty and self-doubt. You may invest years and come up empty handed. You may invest years and become the next Steven Spielberg. You never know. It's a crap shoot. But isn’t it better to have tried than not to have tried at all? Surely you can go back home now but could you live with that for the rest of your life? That "what if" thing. If you are a true artist, probably not. And while you may be gripped by fear right now, keep in mind that you are braver than you think. Making the move was already an incredibly brave thing to do. After all, you could have stayed home with Mommy, but you didn't. Congratulate yourself for that.

There are no guarantees in this business. A lot of your success might depend on a lot of dumb luck. A lot of your failures may also have to do with dumb luck, no fault of your own. It’s that kind of crazy business. And that’s what I love about it. Hollywood is truly like a box of chocolate -- from day to day, you never know what you're going to get, or who you're going to meet. And that's what makes the journey so fun and worth the highs and lows.

I sold a script to an old NBC sitcom when I was 20 years old. It wasn’t because I was all that good. I was all that lucky – the right script got to the right person on the right day! I love it! Another time, I was in talks to write an episode for a show on Fox. The meeting went great. The show was canceled two days after our meeting. This business is nuts! But I love it!

Yes, it’s scary. Times will be tough. You’ll work jobs you hate. You’ll work jobs you love, but work them all. It's God's way of preparing you for your shot. And it will come. If you stay in the game long enough, you will get plenty of opportunities.

Sure, it’s often a Who You Know Business. But who you know will only get you in the door. Your character, skill and knowledge will keep you there.

I can’t make you stay in LA. I won’t even try to convince you. Only you can do that. But if this business is in your blood, truly in your blood, you won’t be able to walk away from it.

I’ve been writing now for 30 years. I’ve had a few successes, a lot of misses, and a great journey. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But you know what, starting a new script is as exciting for me now (at age 47) as it was at age 17 when I would lock myself in my bedroom with a crappy typewriter and bang out an episode of “Starsky and Hutch” meets “Charlies Angels”. Then I’d call Aaron Spelling’s office from Ohio and beg them to read it. Of course they said no, but that was the fun of it.

I love this business!

You are at the beginning of such a cool journey, one I'd love to relive (with a few adjustments). Good luck, my friend. Stay in the game. One day you'll have some cool stories to tell.
Brian Keith Moody, Writer / Director
Canon XH-A1 - PowerMac G5 - Final Cut Pro - Shake
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Old April 8th, 2008, 11:29 PM   #4
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Central Coast - NSW, Australia
Posts: 1,549
So.. grasshopper (old TV series joke) you want to be part of the industry?

Your story is all too familiar, from actors to writers so at least you're not alone.

Perhaps we can start by defining what you want (I'm 53 and I still don't know) Do you want be a director or DP, Gaffer, writer? you need to be specific.

That becomes your objective - write it down, stick it on your wall.

Great! now just relax and wait for that call...

well not quite, you need to come up with some goals to help you reach your objective. Goals in this situation are like milestones or markers, something you can tick off when you've achieved it and move on to the next.

Then there are plans, these are day by day and week by week things you need to do and keep doing to reach each goal.

If you have taken your time and thought it out you will be able to see a complete plan - all you have to do is the day by day things and if you get them all done and continue doing them you'll reach your goal and then you can move on the the next goal and if you achieve all your goals you'll have reached your objective.

Sounds simple but it's years of hard work and struggle - no way around that.

I think the first thing you need to do (apart from sorting out your objectives, goals and plans) is to get a job that puts food on the table - any job. then while you're thinking about your future direction and how to achieve it - join with some other young and hopefuls and start making short films. You'll be doing what you love, okay you won't be getting paid but you will be getting experience and maybe some recognition.

That could even form part of your plan, and if you get offered an opportunity withing the industry, take it - as long as if fits in with your plan.

What's the old chesnut "if you fail to plan - you're planning to fail"

Now you better get started if you're going to offer me a role in your first feature, I'm getting older by the minute!
Cheers - Paul M.
www.relivetheday.com.au : www.perbenyik.com

Last edited by Paul Mailath; April 9th, 2008 at 01:01 AM.
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Old April 9th, 2008, 01:47 AM   #5
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Congrats on making the move... that's a difficult step to take for most people.

This is just my perspective...

We're at a point in time where job competitiveness is just ridiculous, and everyones getting specialized - finding their niche, so they can wriggle down to where there's not as much competition.

So before one pursues something, they need to take a good long look in the mirror and REALLY ask themselves if they have what it takes. Do they have the core foundation of skill and trait that can be among the best in that area? So many people nowadays are so far in the clouds it's ridiculous (ever watch the American Idol auditions?). And this industry is no stranger to that. Some people have natural aptitude and some don't. And some people have no skill but the ability, self-awareness and devotion to develop a skill. And some people just don't have either. Having the correct, grounded understanding of who you are and how you and your skills come off to other people is essential.

So, There are basically 3 ways you can succeed at just about anything.

Either be really, really good at something and keep trying until your work gets noticed. (And if you're REALLY that good, then your chances of going unnoticed are pretty slim)

Have such a devotion and passion to a specific thing that you're willing to do whatever it takes to develop the NETWORK and SKILL to succeed. Knowing people can go a LONG way. (remember this has to be combined with enough self-awareness to not dilute yourself).

Or just be crazy lucky.

Of course there are exceptions, and nothing in life is black and white. This is just how i see it. Listen to qualified criticism. (not Mom or Friend) Develop an accurate self-image and then assess your desires vs your capability and attack.

But specialize - and become an EXPERT in that category. Just make sure you're not wasting your time, and also make sure you're either doing what you love or doing what you love is a conceivable outcome.

Hope this helps - sorry if it came of condescending or arrogant.

But most importantly: Hang in there!
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Old April 10th, 2008, 11:02 AM   #6
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Remember also that the 'old' (as in day-before-yesterday) business models are no longer the only route forward. Distribution is no longer the roadblock it used to be, so a real talent has more opportunities to fast-track than ever before. It's hard to survive in this business unless you are a) independently wealthy or b) very talented and utterly addicted to the work. If you're b) then there's never been a better time to be trying to do what we all do. So keep your eyes open and Good Luck!
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Old April 11th, 2008, 10:54 AM   #7
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Dealing with fear

Franklin Roosevelt advised us, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." I know a 90+-year-old lady who hosted Martin Luther King in Selma, who was beaten nearly to death on Bloody Sunday, and who is still travelling the world on her human rights mission today. Her message about fear is the same. Good advice, if not always easy to master.
As a pro photographer for decades, I learned the hard way to 1. turn down jobs I knew I couldn't do well, and, 2. when I knew I hadn't met the client's need properly, to be completely honest and take a financial hit, even when it meant more spaghetti than meat. (By the way, there should be nothing humiliating in being poor; I have been rich and poor at different times in my 56 years, and for me, the humiliation should be felt by those being rich, lazy, and/or selfish, never by those poor and committed.) However, I also learned, that if I studied about techniques and understood them--to emphasize, that I understood the principle involved, I could often take jobs requiring them even if I had not used them before, and apply them successfully.
Take heart--you're in good company.
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Old April 21st, 2008, 11:11 PM   #8
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Been There Not Done That

HEY, I am 53 and just started this as a hobby. I took off from Indiana when I was 19 and moved onto a sail boat. I had less than 2 hours on a sail boat, and took off for the Bahamas. We never made it that trip, but we learned a lot.

I have lots of stories, and would not trade any of them. My next door neighbor in In. stayed home and worked as a shoe salesman for 26 years. He only has one story. (sold a pair to Janet Jackson) It is better to have lived and died, than not to have lived at all.
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Old April 22nd, 2008, 11:09 AM   #9
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Location: Saint Cloud, Florida
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Just the fact that you had the

balls to move to LA with nothing and no definite direction would be enough for me to keep pushing until I dropped or succeeded.

In L.A. life is measured in prestige and material possessions. I'm sure that's a nice culture shock for you. I just left a three day stay in L.A. and every time I go there I get the bug to move there.

Here is something that may motivate you. Go to Venice beach, walk between the Venice pier and the Santa Monica pier. Look for a tall lanky fellow holding a large plastic yellow sign. The sign says "Why lie, I need $11,357,472.75 to make a movie." OR is that guy you? If it is not you, talk to him, find out HIS story. You'll soon realize that you are in the same boat as a great deal of people. My point, you are not alone. What will separate you from the others is the sheer will to press on, talent, and innovation.

I've felt your feelings before and what keeps ME going is motivation to NOT be at this IT job for the rest of my working life. Visualize what you want and use what you don't want to motivate you toward your goal.

Lie, cheat, steal are merely skills to succeed in L.A. :-) I'm not saying be a criminal but some of my best jobs/gigs were had by small fibs about experience or degrees bla bla bla. HOWEVER, I ALWAYS had the intelligence and talent to surpass most of my co-workers or complete a gig with total client satisfaction. Be sure you can put your money where your mouth is.

NOW get out there and press on....
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Old April 22nd, 2008, 11:39 AM   #10
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Friend, I don't really understand. You're currently a student? An undergrad? Are you paying for your own education? Are you racking up a lot of debt? Do you really need the extra money you'd be making at, probably, some menial paying gig? Can you not get college credit for these unpaid internships?

People are saying networking, and I think that's right to an extent. And that's where those internships would come in valuable, assuming they're with the right people. Like I said, I don't really know why you would turn those down if you've got the time and are looking to be involved in film.

I think the other side of it is make your own films, make shorts. If they're good, people will start to come to you.

Good luck.
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