Published on October 24, 2019, at 5:30 p.m.
by Gabrielle Sirois.
The entertainment industry is one of the most high-profile industries worldwide. Many people in public relations are drawn to the entertainment industry for a chance to combine their PR skills with another one of their passions, whether it be pop culture, film, theater or music. However, the entertainment industry is known for being a very fast-paced and difficult industry to succeed in. For people who are just starting out, the industry can seem very intimidating. It can be hard to figure out how to get your foot in the door, and what you should be doing in order to be successful.
Three industry professionals, Brynn White, a senior coordinator of field publicity and targeted marketing at Paramount Pictures, Michael May, a film assistant at PMK • BNC, and Olivia Montella, the director of global partnership strategy at BSE Global, weighed in and shared their experiences, advice and knowledge about the industry to provide insights for those who are looking to start their careers in entertainment.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you don’t know.
They say that in entertainment it is all about who you know, but what if you don’t know anyone? If you already have contacts at your potential places of work, then that is fantastic, but for a lot of people starting out, this is not the case. Don’t be afraid to contact someone you don’t know to start a conversation with them about their company and position.
Both Montella and May started their careers in entertainment with internships that they secured simply by making cold calls or emails. They did research to figure out where they wanted to end up, and who they needed to talk to in order to get there. As long as you have done your research and approach things professionally, you really have nothing to lose by taking the first step in making those connections.
“Network, network, network,” Montella said. “Make cold calls or send that LinkedIn message — you won’t always get a response, but don’t get discouraged when you don’t; someone will eventually answer.”
Be open to new opportunities and embrace the unknown.
Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and try something that you aren’t 100% sure about, because it might just be the perfect fit for you. White entered Paramount with no prior background in entertainment or in public relations. She had studied vocal performance and linguistics in college and hadn’t really considered working in entertainment until her friend, who had interned at Paramount, mentioned that there was a job open in the company and that she had recommended White for the role.
Though White was unsure due to her lack of experience, she knew that she had a passion for working events and thrived in fast-paced environments, so she decided to take a chance and interview for the position. She succeeded in the role by being a fast learner with a willingness to try new things.
Know that the entertainment industry never sleeps.
Entertainment is an extremely fast-moving industry, which means that those who are working in PR have to be ready to handle whatever comes their way almost 24/7. In order to be successful within entertainment, you have to be able to make some personal concessions and make yourself available at all times day and night.
White and Montella both mentioned there have been times when they have had to handle work calls or emails while on vacation. While that may sound ludicrous, it is simply the nature of the industry; you never know when something might come up and people need immediate answers from you.
Expect to be doing something different every day.
Another result of the fast pace of the entertainment industry is that there is no typical day for those who work in it. May said that some days he attends screenings or premieres while other days he may work events or spend the day in the office.
White noted that what surprised her most about working in the entertainment industry was the “huge scope of different elements that you always have to be ready for.” She explained, “I think I was just surprised that there really is no day to day, and there really is no ‘this is the definition of your job.’ Even if you are reading a job description online, that is just a small, small, small scope of the things you are going to be asked to do.”
Learn how to work well with others.
Being able to work with people from different backgrounds is important in all industries, but it is especially important in entertainment. The industry is very diverse, comprised of a lot of people with varying backgrounds, viewpoints and personalities. Specifically, with it being entertainment, a lot of these personalities are very large and outspoken. There are going to be difficulties that arise from these differences, so you have to know how to deal with people in a professional manner.
May emphasized how important it is to master the dynamics of working with other people. “You have to find the right people,” he said. “It’s all about people. Just work your way around those difficulties. Know how to deal with them.”
Figure out what is the right role for you.
There are so many facets to the entertainment industry and so many different ways that you can be involved. It is important to do research and gain experience to figure out what role is the best for you, because it may not always be the one you initially think.
From high school on, Montella dreamed of moving to LA and being a talent publicist. She worked hard to make that dream a reality and landed a job as a talent account associate at BWR. However, once she was actually living her dream, she realized that it was not the right fit for her and that her career aspirations would have to change. She had been so focused on this one path for so long that she didn’t know what else was out there, so she had to start from the beginning and figure out what it is she really wanted to do.
Eventually, she stumbled into a role in the Entertainment division of a consumer PR firm called HUNTER. She spent five years there working at the intersection of brands and entertainment. Now Montella works with the Brooklyn Nets to align their brand identity with like-minded sponsors and create “interesting, innovating and fun” partnerships. By working in roles that operate in different segments of the entertainment industry, Montella has been able to hone in on what specific aspects of the industry she enjoys in order to inform her career path moving forward.
Work hard and be resourceful.
In the entertainment industry, you are constantly put into situations where you have to think on your feet and make decisions quickly. White, Montella and May all stressed how important it is for you to be resourceful and make the right decisions.
White highlighted how being able to rely solely on yourself to handle high-pressure situations is necessary, because there isn’t always going to be someone around to help you, and clients are going to expect you to have answers and know what to do. “At the end of the day, everyone is super busy and super slammed most the time, so you are kind of on your own and you have to have confidence in a situation that most people would never feel comfortable with,” she said.
Don’t overlook the simple things.
White noted that tasks as simple as having an organized email or knowing how to properly handle phones go a long way in this industry. Regarding email, she said that “especially in a job as an assistant, it is extremely important to save basically any and every email your boss is sending you with any relevant information because they may ask for it again.” You never want to have to tell your boss that you deleted the email they need.
A lot of the younger professionals entering the workforce might not have experience using phones in a business setting, such as transferring calls. White stressed that for simple tasks like this it is always better to just ask someone to show you how to do it upfront, rather than getting into a situation where you end up messing something important up because you didn’t know how to do it. “At some point, it is just important to admit, ‘I don’t know how to do this, would you please show me,’ she explained. “It is something simple, and people will most likely be happy to show it to you. If you are already working there and already have the job, what do you have to lose?”
It’s not always going to be glamorous, but it will be worth it.
Lots of people are drawn to the glitz and glamour of showbiz, without considering all of the hard work that actually goes into things. The reality is that there is going to be a lot of grunt work involved, especially when you are just starting out.
Everybody has to start somewhere, and in entertainment that usually means as someone’s assistant. Inevitably grunt work will be involved, but, as White noted, the key is to become an assistant to someone who also allows you to work alongside them and ask them questions to learn and grow and eventually take on more tasks. “How you can help yourself get there,” she said, “is by becoming as independent and as resourceful as you possibly can. To really soak up everything that they are saying and giving to you, and any emails that you are copied on, to really be paying attention to them and putting things together piece by piece.”
If you are passionate about working in the entertainment industry, it isn’t going to feel like work at all. May said that he loves that he gets “to work and have a job that is really fun and get paid to do it. In something that I have always loved doing. I can wake up in the morning and be excited about going to my job.” Montella said that the fact that she truly cares about the industry makes the countless hours of work worth it. Her advice is to “understand that there is a ton of grunt work and that it doesn’t ever get easier, but if this is what you’re passionate about, the juice will be worth the squeeze.”