If you want to work in entertainment

In the last couple of years, I’ve been embracing this whole social networking, internet shit, and making contacts on various social networks. A lot of young people have been following me, and if they have something interesting or cool, I’ll follow them back. A lot of them have videos showing off their various skills: singing, playing music or sports, skateboarding, freestyle BMXing, doing gymnastics, dancing or any other number of things that kids do. I try to pass along an encouraging comment from time to time; to keep developing their talents, be mindful and safe, and so forth. I get the sense that many of them hope to pursue careers in entertainment, and it’s with that in mind that I write this. It’s not meant to be an end all, be all guide to the entertainment industry; it’s just my thoughts based on my experience. I’ll get to the advice, but to put it in context, let me tell you about Will.

Today’s Song of the Day is dedicated to a childhood friend of mine, Will. Will always dreamed of being a standup comedian. He still dreams of it, I suppose. Will’s problem is that he never really wanted to do the work involved in being a standup comedian. He just always assumed, incorrectly, that if he met the right superstar, that person would be like:

Yes, Will, holy shit, you’re the cat I’ve been looking for my entire life! You’re the sword, the stone, the holy grail and the whole enchilada!! How many millions do you want to star in my blockbuster franchise?!?

Don’t get me wrong, networking is definitely a part of the entertainment business. The thing is, you can’t just walk up to someone of stature, a total stranger no less, and ask them to just put you on without any track record, resume, samples of your work and so forth. You gotta show ’em what you got. It’s one thing to audition or invite someone to check out your show if you got one; it’s quite another to beg for the keys to the kingdom. Here’s some examples, right from Will’s Twitter feed:

This next one is the all time classic:

Can you imagine walking up to Mike Tyson and asking him to his face if he was ever afraid? Why the hell you would anyone want to do that on Twitter then? I used to always tell Will he needed to hit some open mike nights, take some classes, do something to get himself out there. These days, it’s easy to put yourself on YouTube telling some jokes. There’s no real excuse not to, but leave it to Will to find one:

Like I said earlier, Will doesn’t want to actually do any of the work involved in being a standup comedian. He doesn’t want to go out and audition, he doesn’t want to take classes of any kind, he doesn’t want to work on his technique, he doesn’t even want to bother writing and developing any material; Will swears he’s just going to get on the mike and be the voice of enlightenment.

I’m not putting Will on the spot to embarrass him or dis him. I’m trying to make a point. Entertainment is very competitive, shit, every job is competitive now. Just like any job, there’s requirements you have to have in order to work consistently in entertainment. For example, a lot of civil service jobs require you to take a test, and if you want that job, you’re gonna study for that test and pass it. If a job requires you to get some kind of paper or certification, if you really want that job, you’re getting that paper. Entertainment is no different. A lot of people want to make excuses; they claim (or believe) that they need a well connected agent, famous contacts, one big break, or any other mythical event or happening to work in entertainment.

When I was at the 2012 ITV Fest/L.A. PopCon, one of the panels I attended featured some of the Power Rangers (yes, I went to the Power Rangers panel). It turned out to be less industry oriented and more geared towards the fans than the other panels I had attended at that point; a lot of parents and kids. When they opened it up to the audience for a Q&A session, one of the boys there, about 5 or 6, asked, “How do you become a Power Ranger?” Without batting an eye or being condescending to the kid, Walter Jones says something along the lines of (I’m paraphrasing from memory, I didn’t write this shit down):

To me, preparation plus opportunity equals success. By that, I mean, if you want to achieve something, you have to work hard at everything it takes to achieve that. Do well in school, learn as much as you can. Try to be the best at whatever you do, whether it’s sports, first aid, cooking, whatever it is, always put your best into it. Always be fair and treat people with respect, because when you do that, people will know that you’re righteous and they will offer you opportunities. This goes back to what I was saying about working hard at being the best, because even if you’re not the best, at least you’ll be prepared for any opportunity that comes along. You may have to be ready for action at a moment’s notice, but if you’re prepared you stand a greater chance to succeed. If you don’t, just keep trying until you do, and if you do succeed, keep working hard to continue to do well.

The kid asked how to be a Power Ranger, but that answer applies to pretty much all walks of life. As far as entertainment goes, if you want to be a comedian, it’s great if you’re funny off the cuff, but you need to have some material that you can work, so a club booker knows what you’re throwing down. If you’re rapper with freestyle skills, that’s great, but you need to have some rhymes on paper, written, so when you meet that producer he knows you got a single or two in you. If you want to make movies, when you walk into film class and tell the professor you want to direct, the first thing the professor is going to ask is, “Where’s your script?” You have to be prepared.

Entertainment is also basically a series of temp jobs. Just like an office temp, you always have to be on point, let people know you’re ready to work, keep your skills sharp and be ready to go when and where they tell you. All facets of entertainment jobs are pretty much structured this way. For actors, maybe you get a job on a film. The film finishes shooting, and you’re out looking for another job. It could be wide variety of things: background work, a voiceover, a commercial, a bit part on a show; they’re all short term gigs. One ends and it’s on to the next one. Even if you get a regular part on a television series, that’s relatively short term. You may know people who have worked the same job for 15 or 20 years; how many television series run that long? You have to get your hustle on.

It used to be harder to put a demo reel of your work together. Now with all of this technology, you can actually film with the camera on your phone and stream it directly to the internet. That’s what I did over here. You should check that out, that’s a girl with her hustle on. Show your skills, but be realistic. You have to be able learn and make adjustments. More often than not, the first thing you put out won’t be great, but you’ll improve over time. That’s the point of working your material, developing your talent. It’s more than just hustling for work. You have to hustle to keep your skills sharp, because if you don’t use them they erode.

I make it sound like hard work, but if you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t seem like work. Dancers dance because they love it, musicians love playing music, athletes love playing sports and so on. If you do what you love, if you put your heart into it, if you do it with honesty and respect, you will achieve greatness in time. If you want to work in entertainment and consistently earn a living, you will probably always have to hustle, whether you blow up to great heights of fame or not. Even Whoopi Goldberg is on Kickstarter.

Let me get back to Will. As you see in the last two tweets of his I embedded above, he has an opportunity to perform standup, but has to put some stuff on YouTube. It makes sense, if a dude is putting you on his stage, he should know what he’s getting, right? The answer is right there, I don’t know how much easier it can be; but instead of getting his ass on YouTube, Will decides to ask the dude from Red Dwarf (I think that’s who he is) to drop whatever the hell he’s doing and give his opinion on the matter.

Will needs to stop making excuses. Just be ready to throw down, get some material together and put it up on YouTube. Promote himself for a change, because the really dumb shit about this is that if you scroll far back enough through Will’s Twitter feed, you’ll see that he was blasting every celebrity he could think of to see this metal video, Through The Flood; which I didn’t even watch, since Will didn’t tweet it @ me, I suppose I wasn’t famous enough to see it. What I don’t understand is, why the fuck doesn’t Will throw some of his own shit on YouTube so when he asks Paul Mooney(!) to be his mentor, at least Mr. Mooney will have a rough idea of what he might be getting into? At the very least, Will has a dude ready to give him a chance, but he needs to hold up his end. Even if Will can’t put something on YouTube for whatever reason, he should get something ready, meet the man and do a set for him right on the spot. It might seem like I’m breaking Will’s balls and I’m not trying to be a dick, but Kayla already has Will beat in the hustle department. So do a lot of the young people I follow of various social networks.

Keep on hustling.

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