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When Your Career Stalls – Just Rev Up the Engine


Every so often, I get a question to do with the industry that goes like this:  “Lisa, I’ve done all the right things. I’ve had feedback that I have a fantastic resume, great reel - I make all the right contacts and follow up with people. But nothing is happening for me, I feel stuck - what do I do?”

Okay, first thing – don’t panic. It’s just that this industry is incredibly difficult to break into. The entertainment industry doesn’t have a straight path (heck, sometimes there isn’t even a path) to getting ahead. It’s not like nursing or teaching where you take courses and then A follows B follows C. Not at all. Also, in this technology-driven, ever-mutating era, things are not like they used to be where you worked at a company for 35 years and then got a gold watch at the end.

Second, look at the world as full of opportunities and you’ll begin to find them everywhere. How do I know? Because I just got asked to come up with ideas for reality shows for a major cable channel (where I didn’t even have a connection).

It all came about when I had to miss a day-long entertainment business conference a few months ago. I decided to call up several speakers and ask them what they talked about – I was genuinely interested in what they thought and what they had to say as well. I managed to speak to five people (most were the heads of companies) and one person at a cable channel asked me to come up with ideas for a reality show. I just submitted a sample video of one of my ideas to the company. Who knew?

Most of the time, opportunities aren’t that obvious or may even be there in the midst of a problem. Below are some ways that may head you in the right direction of something, I know it did me:

  1. Train Your Brain. Yes, it’s possible – your unconscious is on all the time, so anything you ask it to do, it’s going to think about how to do it. If you are thinking, “how do I become the best producer since Ron Howard” continuously, this will spark your unconscious to think of ways to do that 24/7, believe me. You’ll probably wake up in the morning with things popping into your head, or just walking the dog or texting. In fact, it might be hard to turn your brain off.
  2. Read About People Who Made It. There are plenty of stories about how to get into the industry, and it wouldn’t hurt to study them. Read up on Vin Diesel and how he made a semi-autobiographical film which got selected for the Cannes Film Festival. I also know of two people who were awarded an Academy Nicholl Fellowship Award for Screenwriting, which set them on the road to success. Great examples are everywhere on the Internet, which may spark ideas for you.
  3. Get Together. Form what’s called a “Mastermind” group to think of ideas for each other and track your progress. I had my interns brainstorm for just 10 minutes, and they ended up having fantastic ideas for one another’s future career. That’s also how Henry Ford and Walt Disney had a lot of success – they brought many creative people together to come up with amazing things.
  4. Start a Company. Adam Saunders moved from New York to Los Angeles to act, and found himself in the midst of the Writers Guild strike in 2007. He formed a production company called Footprints Features that is now developing projects like “About Alex,” which starred Jason Ritter.
  5. DYOP – Do Your Own Project. Like Chazz Palminteri and Nia Vardalos did – they created stage plays based on their lives (“A Bronx Tale” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) where they attracted enough major interest (Robert De Niro for the first project and Rita Wilson for the second) to make the plays into films.
  6. Find An Interest. Nicole Perlman, co-writer of the “The Guardians of the Galaxy,” had a big interest in science, which got her first script noticed, and her interest later on down the line got her noticed by Marvel. I was interested in the details of a film/television conference, which got me noticed by the cable channel. So an enthusiasm for a subject can be tremendously helpful.

All of this above is just to say that there are more ways to succeed than may be obvious – if you have any other ways, please let me know in the comments.


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Lisa Carroll is a contributing writer for HRTS.

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1 Responses »

  1. Thanks Lisa for some great tips on moving forward I especially like 'train your brain, your own experience of being able to submit a sample video is equally inspiring.

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