Breaking and Entering

By Michael Allen

There are countless books, seminars and classes out there on “How to Break into Show Biz.” Indeed, breaking into show biz has literally become a business unto itself with people shelling out hundreds and thousands of dollars for the “inside secrets.” What amazes me is how many of these books and seminars provide the same advice—correction, the same useless advice. I ended up writing on five TV shows and two pilots by not following any of this so-called “expert” advice.

Breaking into TV, for most people, is very hard. I’ve tried some crazy schemes that would make terrific sitcom plots. Some of my wild stunts worked, some of them didn’t. But I always felt justified in trying almost anything, because, quite frankly, the system is rigged.

You are competing with the people who are already in show biz, their friends, their friends’ friends, and their friends’ friends’ friends! Did I mention you’re also going up against people who have moms, dads, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles in the biz?

In Hollywood, people hire people that they know and like. Not necessarily the most talented people. Why do you think so many TV shows stink? People hire their untalented friends to write on shows, and when that series runs its course, the untalented friends hire their untalented buddies who once hired them.

So we have this cycle of the same writers going from show to show and every fall season the shows are just as lousy as they were last year. Of course all this nepotism and cronyism is wrong, of course it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. So get to work and start making some cronies!

There’s a simple formula for breaking into Hollywood that I have never seen in any book or heard at any seminar:

Agent Assistant Job = Contacts = Who You Know = Get the Job You REALLY Want.

There is no entry level job where you will meet more people in less time than being an agent assistant at a talent/literary agency. I recommend this for anyone who wants a job in show biz. David Geffen, who has more money than God, is a partner with Steven Spielberg at Dreamworks. He started out as a lowly assistant at the William Morris Agency. I recommend you read, or buy, a book called The Mailroom that chronicles the rise of many of Hollywood’s heavy hitters who started at agencies.

How do you get an agency job?

There are several Web job sites such as ShowBizJobs.com, EntertainmentCareers.net , Mandy.com, and Planet Shark. Also there is a job listing called the UTA list that is generated by the United Talent Agency. Get yourself a copy at of the UTA list here.

When you send your resume out, make sure your computer skills at the very top in bold, that’s the first thing they look for.

Now, when you go for an interview at an agency, here are some tips:

DO tell the people who interview you this: “I want to be an agent!” Now, I know what you’re thinking, “But I don’t want to be an agent.” Well, the fact is agents don’t want to be agents! Nobody wants to be an agent! This job is just to pay the bills and make contacts, but you must make them think you’re in it for the long haul.

DO NOT mention your real interests: acting, writing, or directing. If you do, they will cross you off their list with a big fake smile.

DO read the trades before you go to an interview, know exactly what is happening in Hollywood, or at least be able to fake it. Also be prepared to tell them your favorite movies, directors, writers, actors, etc. … and don’t name some artsy guy that nobody knows or films that don’t make money.

DO tell them you can roll calls, answer heavy phones, write coverage, are very organized, detail-oriented, a team player, are computer literate, don’t mind working long hours, are eager to learn, work well under pressure, etc.

If you get the job, do not expect a lot of money. The pay for an agent assistant is between $400 and $500 a week; so you may need a part-time job. If performing in porn or stripping does not interest you, I would suggest becoming a freelance reader: someone who gets paid to read scripts. You can get these jobs through the connections you make at your agency job and/or call up production companies in the Hollywood Creative Directory .

Michael Allen has written for several TV shows and pilots on MTV, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros, and Fox.