Know Where Youre Going and How Youre Going to Get There

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Just wanting to be in the entertainment industry isn't enough. You need to know what you want to do in the industry and which facet of the business is going to be the best fit for you. These are questions only you can answer, but evaluating your responses to the above-listed questions will help. So will realistically researching your career options and soliciting the advice of those who currently occupy the positions you covet. Also keep in mind that you can change your mind at any time. You can change your mind ten times if you'd like. But right now—today—you should have a decisive goal and direction.

Once you have a goal, a destination, the next step is figuring out how you're going to get there. Just beware that you'll probably be starting at the bottom of the ladder and working your way up; and there's no definitive way of knowing exactly how long it's going to take to progress from one rung to the next. So be patient while you continue to learn, perfect your craft and skills and work your way up. The most important thing is being on the right ladder.

A lot has been said and written about choosing the right career path. I've known individuals who have progressed up certain suggested paths. Some make it all the way, and others don't. And some who make it to the top arrive via alternate routes. There are no guarantees here, nor is anything impossible. You can only give it your best shot and take the route most likely to get you where you want to go.

Common sense plays a big role here. Just think about it . . . if you want to be a writer, working in a production office isn't going to help you much. If you want to be a literary manager, it wouldn't pay for you to take the test to get into the Assistant Director's

Training Program. And if you want to be a casting director, being a script reader isn't where you belong. Be realistic.

• If you want to be a director: Start off as a set PA or become an assistant to a director. And if you possibly can, make your own film (low-low-low budget if need be, and even if it's only 20 minutes long), so you can shop your talent. Many actors move into directing. I've known some first assistant directors and script supervisors who have as well, although those routes are not quite as common.

• For actors: All you can do is practice your craft whenever and wherever possible and put yourself in situations that will create opportunities for you to meet producers, directors, casting directors, agents and managers. Take classes and workshops, join local theatre groups, work with kids who are learning to act, network with other actors and offer to create monologues and read lines with each other. Spend as much time immersed in your craft as possible and stay visible.

• If you want to be a (creative) producer: Start out as a PA, an assistant to a producer, a writer or a script reader, story editor, etc. (via the development track). You might also get some basic production and/or development experience under your belt, form your own company, option and sell a marketable project and attach yourself as a co-producer the first time out. Once you've established some credibility, you can move into a producer capacity.

• If you want to become a production manager or line producer: Get into the DGAby way of the Assistant Director's Training Program or by working the designated number of days as a second assistant director on non-union shows. Then work your way up the ranks of second AD, first A.D., UPM and so on. It's not the easiest route, but you can also work your way up via the production office starting with a job as a production secretary, then assistant production coordinator, production coordinator, production supervisor, nonunion production manager and finally, line producer.

• The post production route: The best place to start is as an apprentice in an editing room; also, as an assistant to a post supervisor or post producer or at an entry-level job at a post production facility.

• If you want to be an agent: You'll probably be starting in an agency mailroom or as an assistant to an agent.

• If you want to write: Start out as a script reader, a development assistant, an assistant to a writer or a script doctor, or get a nine-to-five job, so you have your evenings and weekends free to write. Continue to take screenwriting courses and join a writers support group.

Sometimes you need to possess certain skills and talents before you can land specific jobs. For instance, you wouldn't be hired as a composer if you didn't have the talent to write a musical score. You wouldn't be hired as even an assistant hair stylist unless you already had the training and ability to cut and style hair. And you wouldn't be hired as a script supervisor if you weren't already proficient at that job. But in most instances, you can start out as an intern, mailroom clerk, PA, assistant, apprentice or receptionist, in any department or at any company and work your way up. A beginner in an accounting department starts out as a file clerk but could eventually become a production accountant. An apprentice editor who makes the lab runs and picks up the bagels in the morning could be a highly sought-after editor one day. A second assistant cameraman who loads film magazines, orders raw stock and tallies camera report totals could one day become a well-known and very well-paid director of photography. It doesn't matter what you're doing as much as where you're doing it. Again—it's all about being on the right ladder.

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