Five more tips we learned this year about starting a career in … – Los Angeles Times

Working in Hollywood isn’t just about acting, writing or directing. It can take hundreds of people filling a vast assortment of jobs to create what you see onscreen.
As we’ve built The Times’ guide to breaking into Hollywood over the last two years, we’ve interviewed dozens of people working in many of those jobs. It’s been both gratifying and eye-opening to talk with professionals about what advice they’d give to newcomers, what they wish they’d known when they started.
Last year, we tackled some of the basics of building a career in entertainment: where to start, how to pay your bills, how to avoid scams and how to protect your mental health.
Do you have big Hollywood dreams? This article is part of a series on starting and building entertainment industry careers. Read on.
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And in December 2021, we collected the five best pieces of advice we heard that year about starting a career in Hollywood:

This year, we expanded on our series. We dug into various jobs in the industry that aren’t often given the spotlight — from location manager to music supervisor to costume designer to casting director.
Here are five more tips we learned in the process.
Networking is important in Hollywood because you’re often relying on the connections you make to tell you about job openings. So it’s best to be both likable and reliable.
How you perform on the job reflects back on the person who helped you land the gig. No one wants to jeopardize other people’s trust in them by acting as a reference for someone who turns out to be unpleasant on set or cannot get the work done.
Camille Friend, the hair department head behind “Black Panther” and numerous other Marvel films, has heard people say, “Fake it till you make it.” But that’s a bad idea, she said; it’s more important to be honest.

“If I give you something to do, and you don’t know how to do it, tell me,” Friend told The Times. “And I’ll be so happy to explain it to you and show you exactly how it should be done, instead of [you] not knowing how to do it, and I give you a $10,000 wig and you ruin it.”
Although this is true in any department, the stakes are highest in the stunt world, where not only your safety is on the line but also that of the stunt team and other cast and crew members.
“Typically, you don’t audition for anything,” stunt performer and coordinator Alfred Hsing told The Times. “You just get called and hired. So it’s important for people to vouch for you.”

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Want to fly, crash, catch fire, fall, fight and get paid the whole time? That’s the life of a Hollywood stunt performer, and it is a lifestyle, experts agree.

The industry is always changing, and many experts encourage aspiring creatives to think of learning new skills as an opportunity to empower themselves.
Writer William Yu assumed he wouldn’t get the opportunity to direct for years. But learning the business side of filmmaking — through mounting a crowd-funding campaign — allowed him to direct his first short film, “Good Boy.”

“Ms. Marvel” and “Cobra Kai” stuntman Noah Garret’s ability to choreograph and film “previz stunts,” which give a director a sense of the action before shooting, helped him get into stunt coordinating.
Actors DaJuan Johnson and Anna LaMadrid see learning behind-the-camera skills for self-taped auditions as a way for performers to take back control of the process. “Now we can literally submit our best take,” Johnson said. “It actually democratizes it for everyone,” LaMadrid added.
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Actors have to do a little behind-the-camera work for auditions these days. Don’t worry — creating your self-tape audition is not as hard as it seems.

When you start out in the industry, most people will tell you to take whatever job you can get. But it’s worth thinking about your future goals.
If you love fashion and movies, is your goal to become a costume designer — where you’d be in charge of the entire department in a managerial position — or would you rather be on set as a costumer? Do you eventually want to work on projects where you’re shopping for contemporary clothing, or would you rather be building costumes for fantasy, sci-fi and/or period films from scratch?
Treat all your experiences — big and small, good and bad — as building up to your eventual goal. And that goal could change once you learn more about the industry and yourself.
Veteran location scout Lori Balton (“Top Gun: Maverick,” “Pirates of the Caribbean”) worked up to becoming a location manager before realizing she’s rather stick to scouting. Rae Deslich (“Promising Young Woman”) worked as a production designer before deciding they preferred being a set decorator. “Mostly I just want to decorate bigger and weirder projects,” they said.

Jessica Daniels, vice president of casting at Disney Television Studios, said that when she hires her casting team, she wants someone with tastes and interests that differ from her own. “That gives me a wider swath of top talent to discover,” she said.
If you’re a composer, don’t try to impress people with a demo that sounds like John Williams, said Zach Robinson, who composed music for “Cobra Kai.” The industry already has a John Williams.

“Go deep on your own style,” composer Genevieve Vincent (“The Broken Hearts Gallery”) told The Times. “Spend as much time writing music for yourself as you can so you know what your musical language and your style is.”

There’s a lot of politics in Hollywood, said Robin Urdang, the music supervisor behind “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Marry Me.”

“You have to please a lot of people…. You have to be open,” she said. “You can’t take things personally. You can’t have an ego.”
Hollywood is also competitive, and many of the decisions are subjective. Chanda Dancy, the composer on the film “Devotion,” said it’s helpful to have thick skin because you’ll get a lot of criticism. But the pushback is often not about the music itself. It’s about whether the work fits into the overall project.
Josh Ropiequet from Lowry-Johnson/Goldstein Casting, which cast “Yellowjackets,” said even casting directors don’t have control over the final decision. “We’ve had to start from square one in a few cases, because one producer or one executive somewhere just can’t see it,” he said.

It can be difficult to not take things personally when the rejection is about your art, which you may see as an extension of yourself. But creating a separation between your work and your self-worth will be better for your mental health.
Factors outside your control are the ones with the most influence over these decisions, experts working in Hollywood often reminded us over the last year.
We hope you’ll continue telling us what you want to know about working in Hollywood so we can help you find answers.

Inside the business of entertainment
The Wide Shot brings you news, analysis and insights on everything from streaming wars to production — and what it all means for the future.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
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Ada Tseng is an assistant editor on the Utility Journalism team at the Los Angeles Times. The team publishes stories and information that help people solve problems, answer questions and make big decisions about life in and around Los Angeles. She previously led coverage of Orange County as TimesOC’s entertainment editor, and she co-hosts the Asian American pop culture history podcast “Saturday School.”

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