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Building your career: Lessons from Hollywood

Trying to break into the business side of entertainment for two years was unlike anything I had ever encountered in my normal professional environments, consumer products and consulting. Relationships were king. Style often mattered more than substance. Still, I persevered and eventually landed an assignment writing a business plan for a children's entertainment company.
Prior to my good fortune, I had met with over 100 people from the industry, and even enrolled in a university course called "How to Break into Hollywood."At the time, the lessons I learned seemed related solely to entertainment, but looking back now I see how those lessons can help to build a career in marketing, especially in emerging markets.



Trying to break into the business side of entertainment for two years was unlike anything I had ever encountered in my normal professional environments, consumer products and consulting. Relationships were king. Style often mattered more than substance. Still, I persevered and eventually landed an assignment writing a business plan for a children's entertainment company.

Prior to my good fortune, I had met with over 100 people from the industry, and even enrolled in a university course called "How to Break into Hollywood."At the time, the lessons I learned seemed related solely to entertainment, but looking back now I see how those lessons can help to build a career in marketing, especially in emerging markets.

(1) Read the Trades* - In Hollywood, people help you if you demonstrate genuine interest in their business. To do so, you must read the big trade magazines, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, everyday. Practice the same and help your marketing career by regularly scouring industry bibles. Good starts from Slovakia are Strategie, Obchod, The Slovak Spectator and Trend; from the West, Advertising Age and Marketing Week.

(2) Before You Do Rainman, You Have to Do Batman- In Hollywood, as everywhere, you must pay your dues. While "Batman" was a fun movie, it wasn't a great film like "Rainman." But you don't direct "Rainman" right away. You must first shine on a low budget film, then on one like "Batman," and then on to bigger and better projects. Prove yourself first on small brands, projects, or clients. Treat them like they are the most important tasks in the company, then management will choose you first for "Rainman" type projects.

(3) Be Assertive- When discussions were held as to who would play the lead in "Evita," Madonna didn't wait for the outcome. She was convinced she was born to play the role and let everyone in Hollywood know it. Her assertiveness made the difference. Don't be afraid to let management know what you want.

(4) Loyalty is Key- In Hollywood, your consistent loyalty to agents, managers, studios and directors comes back in spades - in a nut shell, additional work. In a complicated world you need the help of other people to get you where you want to go. Stay loyal to your bosses and colleagues and they will stay loyal to you.

(5) It's What You Do With the Opening- When you finally land that opportunity of a lifetime in the entertainment business, you better leverage it, because you're only as good as your last film or promotional campaign. When you get that hard-fought marketing opportunity, do whatever it takes to be successful. It will lead to bigger and better things.

(6) Passion Plus Discipline Equals Being Ready for the Opportunity- A famous motivational speaker preaches, "You Gotta Be Ready." That's what Hollywood is all about. After demonstrating keen discipline by writing hundreds of letters, you receive "the call." Without hesitation, you must passionately pursue the opportunity. Do the same to move your marketing career ahead.

(7) Learn the Weight Room Analogy- The secret to navigating through the confusion of Hollywood is to ask the one "right" person what to do. Let's say you want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of course, you don' go asking Woody Allen for advice. Instead, you go to a gym and spot the biggest monster grunting and groaning as he lifts loaded barbells. Finally work up the courage and ask, "How do I get big like you?" He will probably then sneer out only two words, "weight room." The advice is clear and followable. No need to talk to the world to get marketing advice. Find an expert and act on their guidance.

(8) Learn to Say, "Give Me An Opportunity"- In entertainment, when you are face-to-face with a decision-maker debating whether to give you a break, two lines can serve you well: (1) "I will work harder than anyone else" and (2) "When I'm in a position to help you, I will." How can anyone refuse to hire someone with such an attitude? Try those same lines out to propel your marketing career forward.

(9) If You Give Your Word, Keep It- This is the cardinal rule in Hollywood. Many deals are made orally long before they are ever - if ever - put in writing. The minute you break your word you can just count yourself out of operating at the top tier of the business. As a marketeer, you should live up to every professional promise you make, orally and in writing. If you say you're going to do it, do it. Management will reward you.

(10) Keep Your Eye on the Prize- Building a career in entertainment can be frustrating. In order to get to where you want to be, you often have to work at things that you don't want to do. To combat the negative feeling, "keep your eye on the prize." Focus on where you are going long-term, then make sure you keep moving in that direction. Don't dwell on the day-to-day aggravations of the job. Stay focused on becoming a marketing legend.

* The headers are adapted from the UCLA course given by David Phillips of Corner of the Sky Productions, Los Angeles, formerly with The William Morris Agency. "Marketing in the Trenches" appears monthly. Stewart Glickman is an international consultant, currently based in London. Tel: 0044-181-444-7459. Fax: 0044-171-213-3852.

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