When you’re starting your screenwriting career, you’re hopeful, excited, and pretty confused on how to get ahead, so of course you’d jump at the chance of having a Hollywood mentor take you under her or his wing. Now, for the question everyone’s asking: how do I get one? First, let’s discuss the three types of mentors and where you can find them—they’re often much closer than you think.
Peer mentors are… well, your peers. They’re your friends, classmates (if you’re a recent grad), members of your writers group or perhaps coworkers toiling alongside you at entry-level jobs. Some are looking for their first gig and some are already working. They are the ones at a similar point on their career timeline as you, and are the most likely to understand your writing and advancement dilemmas since they are trying to make the same progress.
An advisor mentor is someone that has been working in the business a couple years, has a good network of contacts, and is willing to help you. You can find them through friends, colleagues, relatives and I know one writer who’s met a number of advisor mentors through social media (but be careful - don’t be a stalker!). You are going to have to do the work of reaching out and asking for help, but it’s important to do it the right way. Be respectful of their time, ask about their journey, then ask for advice.
Guru mentors are rare, but not impossible to find. They can be showrunners, produced screenwriters, producers or executives. They are well established in the entertainment industry with a strong track record and a deep bench of contacts. Forming a meaningful relationship with a guru is a longer process, but certainly a Hollywood mentor worth investing your time and effort in.
Now, back to the question I hear over and over: how do I ask someone to be my Hollywood mentor? Answer: you don’t. A good mentor-mentee relationship evolves. If you’re appreciative and respectful of a potential mentor’s time, a relationship will develop naturally. If she or he likes you or finds you impressive, they’ll want to help you. If they grow to like you, believe in your talent and you have the right attitude, they may just be the fairy godmother or godfather to recommend you for a great job or project down the road.
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Director of WGA's Showrunner Training Program, creator & Director of the CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program, international speaker and a leading expert on entertainment career strategies, Carole Kirschner teaches creative professionals how to navigate the often mystifying landscape of show business. Her book, Hollywood Game Plan: How to Land a Job in Film, TV and Digital Entertainment is a primer on how to break in and move up in the entertainment industry. Through her popular workshops, Carole teaches writers, producers, directors and executives the real world strategies that will help them not just succeed, but thrive.