It’s no secret the entertainment industry has emotional and financial ups and downs and more than its fair share of difficult personalities. As a career coach, I have heard it all -- from the boss on a business trip in New York, who made her assistant in L.A. order room service for her; to the producer who had to hire a bodyguard so his lead actor couldn’t get to a cocaine stash. I also worked with an executive producer of a hit TV series who was fired from his own show. If you’re lucky enough to have a long career in this industry, I guarantee you will ride a roller coaster of positive and negative experiences. So, how do you not just survive, but thrive when these challenges threaten to derail your career or your sanity?
Handling the emotional roller coaster
- Have a life outside the business. Have at least one close friend who works in a different industry. Put your family first whenever possible. You will never regret it.
- Have a therapist who understands the business. Most in L.A. do.
- Have a trusted confidant or friend who offers more helpful advice than, “Why don’t you just quit?” They know it’s hard to get these jobs.
- If you have a spiritual practice, use it. If it includes meditation, yoga, or something that keeps you present and centered, all the better.
- Keep perspective. Academy and Emmy Award-winning writer Alan Ball said in an interview I did with him, “It’s just a TV show, it’s not worth getting sick over.”
Managing financial ups and downs
Mazel tov, you just scored your first job in the business! DON’T BUY A HOUSE. This is a freelance industry. Even the most talented creative professionals don’t always work non-stop. There can be long gaps in employment. Don’t put yourself under the financial stress of buying a house until you have a substantial nest egg. Even executives are not immune. They often move from job to job, company to company. In the words of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “People come and go so quickly here!”
How to survive, divas, depressives, and downright crazies
Learn to develop a super thick skin. It sucks to be screamed at or accused of things you didn’t do, but do your best not to take it personally. Of course, no one deserves to be abused, but the reality is, there are some certifiably crazy people in this business. The best thing to do is stay calm, don’t react in the moment, and express your anger and frustration after work. There’s no crying in baseball or show business. Extra points if you can keep your sense of humor. The way you handle a difficult situation can make a great impression on people who can help you in the future. Once you calm down, start thinking about how to get the hell out of that job with a recommendation. Sometimes that’s not possible, even if you did great work. Just chalk it up to experience and move on.
It’s important to remember the entertainment industry has specific challenges. Make sure you go into it with your eyes open, plan ahead, and use these tools to take it all in stride while you succeed.
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.