Breaking Into the Biz: One Strategy to Rule Them All
Two wonderful things have happened in the last several years: Zoom and the entertainment industry opening to aspiring artists of all stripes with reps, producers, directors, studio execs, writers (the list goes on) willing to share their experience and advice about how to get noticed in the business. The result is a cornucopia of resources for aspiring professionals to get the skinny on breaking in, moving up, and having dreams coming true.
If you’re waiting for the “but,” I know you are, there really isn’t one. It’s all good. No “but,” except for one wrinkle: all of us moon-eyed, thirsty seekers of the truth (me included) are now drowning in advice and often left feeling more muddled and mystified then when we started our search for that truth.
Using me as the test case: I have been doing workshops, webinars, Zoom sessions, panels, you-name-it consistently now for two years. For my part, I’m on information-advice overload and I don’t think I’m alone. I can’t slight the information or the information-givers. They are fantastic people for sharing their knowledge and experience.
Even so, there is a clear disconnect between getting informed and being proactive with that information in the most productive way possible.
Where do I start? What advice best fits my situation? How do I resolve conflicts in the very information I’m getting? How do I avoid a misstep and set myself up for a setback? All these questions have run through my head in the last two years.
The result for me has been analysis paralysis. Not knowing how to begin has led to endless sifting through all the advice I’ve put into my spreadsheets and documentation and has led me to the main pitfall that I think awaits us all in the information-gathering hunt we all share, namely: looking for the one-stop-shop answer.
And herein lies our collective problem.
When you sit in any of these Zooms or webinars with industry experts and listen to the questions from participants, almost all of them ask questions looking for the prescriptive cure or that one-stop-shop answer to “how do I break in?”
Consistently, the responses they get back are always varied and wide-spread and diverse, in direct proportion to the number of experts on any Zoom call. In other words, for any question in search of a one-size-fits-all answer there is rarely a common ground that everyone can hang your hat on.
Here’s the truth: There simply is no prescription or “right” way into anything when it comes to the entertainment industry.
This may sound obvious and simplistic, but it is an essential awareness we need to truly grok if we are ever to solidify our personal career goals and professional development strategies. But here’s the good news: There may be no single answer to our inquiry, but there is a strategy we can adopt that can set us up for success in this sea of information.
The strategy has three parts: Stop looking for the one-stop-shop answer, flexibility, and the biggie—adaptation.
1. First, stop looking for the “one-stop-shop” answer and focus on understanding the big picture. This is the hardest in some ways. We must shift our mindset from “give me the answer” to “give me the big picture.” There is no answer, but there are many perspectives. For every executive you listen to, they will each have their own take. Listen to it all and don’t filter it through the magic-bullet sieve. Get comfortable with options and let go of certainty. This is hard to do when you are hungry and ambitious and feel the pressure of that career ticking clock, but it is an essential first step.
2. Next, be flexible. Being flexible doesn’t mean being a pushover or wishy-washy. Being flexible means being willing to bend. This idea captures it perfectly: “have very strong opinions but hold them very loosely.” This implies an open mind and a non-static sense of discernment. You can’t allow for the options if you approach them with an agenda.
3. Last, be adaptable. I got this one from listening to a terrific production company exec talk about his notes process with writers. He was flexible and open to working with every writer in a different way. It hit me that this has to be a two-way street. As writers, we must be ready to adapt to every new opportunity, every new executive or rep, every new producer who has notes or input on our process and abandon any agenda of “doing it my way.” This isn’t about rolling over and abandoning your sense of creative process, no! I’m talking about being flexible and adapting to conditions within your process without abandoning it.
These three nuggets: Giving up the one-stop-shop answer, flexibility, and adaptation helped me to come to peace with my own search for answers. Rather than looking for the one “right” way, they helped me to find my way.
If you’re anything like me, you might have been hoping for the magic silver bullet or the one right answer, but what I’m seeing is that there really isn’t just one way into the industry, and there’s certainly no one right way to work with industry executives. Instead, we must give up this search for The One True Answer and turn our attention on our own flexibility and adaptability to find our own path to where we want to be.