From the box-office smash “The Avengers” to the summer hit “Madagascar 3” reigniting the 3-D craze, movie lovers are more enthralled than ever with film magic, and many fantasize about becoming a part of it. Their annual Westward migration from every film and acting and writing school in the country is as active as ever as they seek their chance to wield the Hollywood wand.
In such a competitive and crowded circus tent, how can a person ensure they catch that elusive trapeze?
Here are five tips from film director Guy Magar, picked up over 30 years making movies and TV shows and teaching through Action/Cut Filmmaking Seminars, the educational course he founded. Magar is also the author of the new Hollywood memoir and love story, Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot, about his years in Hollywood which is a must-read for all who love movies (www.kissmequickbeforeishoot.com).
- Find out if you really love it. “The movie business demands passion and dedication; the work is difficult and exhausting, the journey fraught with disappointments and financial stress,” he says. “So you better find out if this is truly something you want and you’re ready to sacrifice whatever it takes.” The best place to do that is at a film school or a university filmmaking program. “This is where I fell in love with the cinema and forged my commitment to the craft,” he says.
- Find out if you’re any good at it. When you discover that less than 5 percent of the 125,000 actors in the Screen Actors Guild ever make a livable wage in any one year, the reality check about how competitive this business is can be quite intimidating, Magar says. So it’s not enough to love it – you have to have an aptitude for the craft if you want a chance at bat. “You better be one of the very best directors or writers or cameramen or actors wherever you’re studying and developing your work, so you can gain the self-confidence to throw your talent in a very crowded ring,” he says.
- Get your showreel ready! No one is going to hire you unless they can see what you can do. For a director, you better have an award-winning “wow” short. If you’re a writer, have some dazzling, unique screenplays. Actors need a great reel with diverse scenes showing range from comedy to drama. Cameraman? You need a reel that sizzles with cinematic visuals. Don’t come to Los Angeles without a reel. It shows who you are, what you can do — and why you’re worth paying to do it.
- Networking! Networking! Networking! “The movie business is first and foremost a people business,” Magar says. “Regardless of your talent, you better be good at schmoozing and an extrovert at heart.” It’s all about who you know, who can introduce you to whom, who likes you, who is willing to help you move forward, he says. If you’re a great networker, you have a better chance at a career than if you’re talented with no social skills. Introverts do not apply!
- Enjoy your journey or the dream will be a nightmare. Don’t put off having a life until you “get there,” he says. The big secret is to enjoy the journey and to have a life in the industry, regardless of the amount of work and accolades that may or may not come your way. You must commit to making a fulfilling life for yourself if you’re to find happiness in Tinseltown. Family, friends and a soulmate are as important and fulfilling as career gains. “They will sustain you in much deeper emotional ways than winning a spot on a softer toilet paper commercial,” he says.
Magar says his career in Hollywood was an exciting, gratifying one. “Between the words ‘action’ and ‘cut’, I get to make my magic … my visual storytelling,” he says. “I fell in love with making movies and have continued loving it for more than 100 production credits in my career.”
“If you share that passion to make film, have a terrific sense of humor to balance the obstacles, and can manage the five tips above, then welcome to Hollywood. Break a leg!”