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Breaking Into the Biz
Creating a television sitcom, starring in a hit Broadway show, and negotiating contracts as an agent to the stars are just a few of the potential career paths in the entertainment industry.
Actors, dancers, singers, musicians, and models are some of the most common, but by no means only, types of performers out there. Since the experience and talent so crucial to a performer's chances of building a sustainable career doesn't guarantee anything, there is no one path to fame, fortune, or even a steady income. Performers face heated competition, an unforgiving, dollar-driven business, and a potential lack of steady work. Success may mean getting a job that lasts for three months. Therefore, the first objective of a performer is to gain experience and exposure, whether by hiring an agent, attending open calls and auditions, or getting work in local and regional productions or venues. And since entertainment is often all about who you know, making as many connections as possible is essential.
Development and Production
A multitude of jobs fall under the umbrella of production, which encompass all the various stages a project undergoes. For the film and television industries especially, they can range from people who greenlight, develop, and oversee the project (producers and production executives) to those who implement its physical and creative aspects (set designers, location scouts, costume designers, makeup artists) to those who shoot, edit, and refine the finished product (directors, engineers, film editors, special effects and animation specialists). Television and radio networks and stations require film editors, sound engineers, and program directors- production and engineering, the biggest departments at public stations, are especially important.
Two common starting points within the production field are production assistant or assistant in the art department. Being a production assistant is particularly valuable because it teaches you about every aspect of a production.
Every form of entertainment- whether it's television, film, music, or even commercials- depends on writers to produce its content, and there are many opportunities for parlaying stellar writing skills and a love for entertainment into a career in the industry. Screenwriters create screenplays and teleplays, television writers author sitcom episodes, reality show scripts, and newscasts, and songwriters pen musical lyrics. Just like every other aspect of the industry, it's ultra-competitive; a lucky few score full-time positions with studios or on specific TV shows, but many more must write independently and try to land an agent to further their chances of getting their work into production. Taking classes or having a degree in screenwriting or dramatic writing is a good place to begin.
For those who may not want to be in the limelight but are good at capturing it for others, becoming a talent agent puts you front and center. All major stars have an agent to ace their deals, polish their personas, and generally make them come across as the desirable commodities that they are, but talent management is far from limited to the rich and famous. Obtaining an agent is the first step for most actors, singers, and models starting out in the business-agents work to get their clients booked by dealing with the producers, casting directors, and other professionals who hire for movies, productions, or shoots. Agents can represent performers in a variety of fields or they can specialize in certain areas, such as theater or voice-over work.
Click here to learn about alternative routes within the entertainment industry.
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