“Secrets of the Entertainment Industry” Speaker Panel at Berkeley

Clubbing in Entertainment

While GIANT Filmmakers takes care of the creative aspect, there is two clubs on the UC Berkeley campus that take care of the “industry” side of entertainment:

SUPERB – Entertainment Events on Campus; they are a fairly old organization (founded in 1964) and run various free or for-cost events on campus – like concerts or film screenings. They run their club like a company, with subdivisions in different areas – and boom musicians, rent equipment etc., like a real event organization company would do it. facebook

BCEC – Business Careers in Entertainment;  they are also divided up in different entertainment industries and invite speakers, talk among themselves and try to advance their knowledge about jobs and internships in Gaming, Music, Film and Animation. They focus on the business and finance aspect of these industries. facebook

These two clubs together with a student-taught DeCal called “Introduction to the Entertainment Business” organized a nice speaker panel in Mid-March 2013.

At the event "Secrets of the Entertainment Industry", right during the film midterm week - definitively worth skipping some study time to learn something for the "real life".

At the event “Secrets of the Entertainment Industry”, right during the film midterm week – definitively worth skipping some study time to learn something for the “real life”.

The Club Disconnect, and Opportunity Cost of Missed Collaboration

I found a flyer on the ground, and went. To my suprise – I now know about 100 film students at Berkeley with face and some names – I didn’t recognize a single person at the event.
This is a simple proof that these clubs have so little collaboration – both Superb, BCEC and GIANT Filmmakers would benefit enormously if they appointed liaison positions within their organizations whose sole purpose is to interact and collaborate with other clubs of similar interests. Sharing events, people, equipment, resources etc. would just result in a fantastic symbiosis – but seemingly everyone’s too busy with being insular.

Well, regardless what club you are from, here is what I took with me from the event – in terms of life lessons, knowledge and tips.

“Secrets of Entertainment” Panel – Bullet Point Highlights

There was eight speakers at the panel:

  1. One former Cal Student who skipped lots of classes to work on SUPERB, and ended up being hired after an internship – he’s now events manager for the biggest music event organizing company in the Bay Area.
  2. A current Cal Student who has a contract to work for an Indie Game distributor after graduation; he worked his way through internships, hustled like crazy, and got involved in as many off-campus activities as possible.
  3. A guy working relatively high up in PR for Ubisoft; launched Games like Assassin’s Creed. He worked through various full-time jobs in order to get there, and started in internships as well.
  4. The Lead AI Programmer for EA’s “The Sims”; he worked for many different companies in many different areas, went through very rough spots in his career but ended up where he was by following his passion.
  5. An public relations manager for a PR firm who got to his position through working his way up
  6. A producer for nonfictional television in the Bay Area who said Grad School was pretty much a waste of money, and found her way through experiencing various jobs
  7. A production manager for Pixar that works in the Animation department – he graduated from Cal and got to Pixar through three different internships, being hired straight from his last one at Pixar
  8. A videographer that works for Dreamworks’ internal videography needs – i.e. doing training videos or BTS documentaries – and got there through different internships, also graduated from Berkeley

Many good questions were posed by the organizers as well as the crowd. Here is the cumulative highlights of the feedback or advice they gave:

  • It is incredibly important to identify the one thing you want to dedicate your entire life to. The earlier you find it, the better your chances of getting there. Expose yourself and explore, become part of organizations or just train your own curiosity. To make sure that this is really the thing you want to dedicate your life to, ask yourself: Would I work on this at 4am on a Friday night when everyone else is out partying – and I don’t get paid overtime? If the answer is yes, then you probably found your passion.
  • You often see successful people and only see them in their present state of success and achievement, but lots of hard work, possibly even year-long depression, joblessness or unhappiness are hidden in their wrinkles. If you encounter hardship yourself, you need to remind yourself why you want to do what you are aiming for, and keep in pursuit.
  • If you apply for a job (or an internship), and you really want it, don’t just apply once. And don’t just apply through one channel. Apply three or four times. With different cover letters. Via email, via personal connections, knock on their door, send it in the mail – persistence leaves a mark, and people will remember you once they need to look for someone.
  • Also, when you want something from someone, write them not just once. Follow up 3-4 times if they don’t answer. Usually, no answer means “I am busy”, not “I don’t like you”.
  • Cover letters NEED to be specific to each company. Don’t waste your time re-formatting one cover letter and just replacing company name and job wish – write a completely original cover letter for each company you are applying for, and study that company. You might need to do this 100 times, and each cover letter and research will take you at least 2 hours to do – but that is necessary to actually make someone feel like you care about that job. Most of the panelists said they are extremely turned off by generic, templatic cover letters where just the company name and employee name are custom-tailored.
  • Grad School might be a waste of time and lots of money. Consider wisely, in Entertainment nearly nobody cares about your title or what you studied in college. Most of the panelists said that they care much more about what you get involved in or which projects you do, than what you studied or what grades you got. So, be ambitious in creating your own best possible outcome by being proactive and self-motivated to go far beyond “just going to school”.
  • Keep a resume short. Keep it simple. Keep the attention span for the things that are really important – things where you showed independent motivation and interest, things that you achieved on your own, or important jobs/internships you did in the past.
  • “Side Projects” are THE thing that will get you a job in the Gaming Industry. If you are a Computer Science major, nobody cares. If you programmed 20 games and one or two had some success, people who hire at gaming places do care. As the EA programmer said: “There will be two stacks of applications – the one with side projects, and the one without. If you are not on the first stack, I won’t even look at your resume.”
  • One Internship often leads to another, or to actual employment. If you are interning for a reputable company, an internship is often the way into their door (i.e. Pixar, which is incredibly competitive and receives thousands of job applications for new job openings from all around the world) – internal hiring is often preferred because they known that you can be a good team player. This was the experience (on both ends of the hiring scenario) of many panelists.

Live Impression

Anna Beatrice Carlos covered the event in a short CalTV segment. The relevant segment starts at 0:45.

Another article at the DailyCal: Link