By Jonathan Chaupin, originally published in Entrepreneur on 3/29/2017.
The entertainment business is one of the most cutthroat industries to break into whether you are in front of or behind the camera. I spent a grueling decade working under some of the top film producers in the game as I slowly evolved from an eager intern to an executive officer and partner of a multi-million dollar company. I wanted to see how these high-profile individuals operated daily and what I could learn from them to advance myself, as well as my career.
If you want to be a world-class professional, you have to look and act the part. For one particular producer, we opened up a London office, in addition to one in Beverly Hills. The office was located near the world-famous Piccadilly Circle, which meant nothing to me as a 20-year-old kid from a small town in Texas.
I was in charge of making sure all marketing materials and company digital assets included the new office address, so I correctly included that we were located on the second floor, Suite B, right on Piccadilly. I got reamed by the producer and told to remove the floor and suite number and only list the building address. Mentioning that we are a measly suite in an office building made us seem small when asking for global investors and actors to join our film projects.
While we can’t all afford an office building in Beverly Hills or London, world-class perception can be achieved through the way your business is presented in emails, on websites, through employee management and the strategic location of your headquarters.
Typos, scheduling errors and plain old forgetting to follow-up on action items are all mistakes that are not tolerated by producers and top-tier talent agencies because they can grow into an epidemic and ruin your business and reputation. Get the essential details right and start from the top. If you are complacent with mistakes, your employees will follow suit and customers will take notice.
It wasn’t uncommon for assistants to be released after making just a few errors; sometimes even one. All of these producers at one point started as an assistant or protégé and worked their way up to managing $100 million productions. The HBO show Entourage is not too far off when depicting the relationship between top Hollywood agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) and Lloyd (Rex Lee). These individuals need their team to not only operate flawlessly but also be one step ahead at all times. Embrace the intense culture of the entertainment industry for better results and productivity, but don’t pull an Ari Gold on anyone.
Working in film development and sales for more than five years, I learned that everyone is consumed with finding the next hottest script or book adaptation to make a movie — a “golden goose” if you will. What holds many companies back is the failure to pay attention to the evolving marketplace and what future audiences might be looking for. It may not be difficult to stick to a checklist of what currently works, but innovators focus on the latest trends and keep their eyes open for new opportunities.
One day, in the back office of one company, several assistants and I discussed one of our favorite cult classic films, Django, a grimy, violent, Italian western movie originally shot back in 1966. When we presented the film to our development executives as a potential remake opportunity, it was ignored, and we were told that western movies were no longer popular among audiences. Years later, the classic film was scooped up by Quentin Tarantino’s team and, to this day, remains his top-grossing film of all time, earning more than $100 million worldwide.
I continue to empower my team and challenge them to present solutions to problems on a daily basis. Listen to your team and acknowledge that their contributions to the growth of the business and industry as a whole are important. Your internal team is a great resource, not only for conducting day-to-day business, but also for acting as added eyes and ears to potential new revenue and opportunities.
Despite the glitz and glam, a lot goes on behind the scenes in the entertainment industry that prepares these professionals for their careers. Although some may only have stints in the industry, they quickly learn the importance of brand perception, attention to detail and advancing innovation to achieve success.