What's A Hollywood Professional To Do?by David Brownstein
Here’s a question I received from a colleague recently
“Hi there. I’ve been an independent casting director for over 30 years, casting mostly studio feature films with a few indies and TV pilots thrown in.
“Independent,” meaning I don’t work for a studio and I’m freelance. Things have been going very well until the last couple of years when the “perfect storm” hit the business.
The Writer’s strike, the de-facto SAG strike, followed by the economy tanking last year. Studios have stockpiled projects and have almost stopped green-lighting films, or they are green-lighting fewer and fewer films.
The traditional resources to go to for financing for indies has also shifted greatly. People are scared. Seems like the business model for studio and indie film distribution, financing, etc. has completely changed…. but I’m not quite sure what it’s going to change into.
What do you think the adjustment (or fall-out!) will be in this end of the business?
How’s a girl supposed to make a living as a casting director with so few films being green-lit?!”
Here’s My Reply
A lot of people ARE getting out of the business. And also based on the calls and emails I’m getting a lot of people are still deciding to get INTO the business now.
But everyone must reinvent themselves to some extent right now.
People who were making good livings, or great livings, or just moderate livings are being forced to ask themselves:
- What am I really doing in the business?
- How did I get here?
- Where am I going?
- How will I pay my rent or mortgage? (or student loans.)
But to go back to the question here are the simple answer to the questions.
There Are Really Three Answers To The Questions
- Get a day job.
- Find a way to morph or expand your business in a way that builds on what you’ve done in the past and leads in the direction of a trend you see coming in the future.
- Start generating your own projects. (i.e. put on your entrepreneur hat, i.e. become a producer.)
In the “good old days” we’d work for a few years figuring out what part of the industry we’d want to fit into, do some apprenticeship, then find our way into a niche of the industry and focus on that.
We either found opportunities or left the business.
Some loved the good times so much that we tolerated or suffered through the bad times.
When I was working in production, I always felt like being on a production was the “vacation” in my life: the respite from the constant job hunting and resume sending and hoping and waiting. It was so amazing to be actually working in my chosen field that it truly felt like the vacation. (Can you relate?)
Now, it’s obviously a slow dark time in Hollywood. (And in the whole world too, as my Dad likes to remind me.)
SO WE’RE ALL ON THIS STRANGE JOURNEY TOGETHER
The good news is that many of us have woken up and found ourselves living and working in Hollywood and on the journey of realizing the life and work that we want to live and experience.
The bad news: little production. Little work.
Here’s the question: When you separate your need to make a living from your desire to work in Hollywood, what’s left.?
Do you still want to be in the entertainment industry enough to weather what could be a few more years of feeling lost in the desert?
I think for people just getting into the business, the answer may be closer to “Get a day job that’ll get you closer, and start developing projects”
And I think the answer for people who’ve been in the biz for a while is “Reinvent yourself and revisit your skill set and… start developing projects”
And for all of us, it’s less about waiting for the phone to ring and the opportunities to find us. It’s more about identifying people you want to work with and want to be in relationship with and getting to know them.
I think at this point, it’s in everyone’s best interest to start acting like a producer and start hustling and making your own opportunities.
As Shlomo Carlebach said: “Some people sleep until morning. Others know they have to bring the morning.”