Majors and Minors

A fellow Webster student writes:

I’m addicted to your blog. I am an aspiring writer, and I am about to start my first semester at Webster University in the spring. I know I want to be a writer or work in television production. However, I find myself overwhelmed. Like most people I want to be “hirable” after college. What are studios looking for in the way of majors and minors on a potential candidate’s resumes? I was thinking about majoring in film production; would that be attractive to potential employers?

The honest truth: Your degree matters less than your experience. My sister, for instance, attended one semester of community college before moving to LA and landing a job in the industry. That said, by the time she graduated high school, she had assisted local casting directors and served as a lighting designer or stage manager for over 55 shows at the high school, college, and local theatre level.

She also had a great connection.

But let’s assume you don’t have a great connection. Or any connection at all. Let’s assume you’re an incoming college freshman, have no prior industry experience, and want to work in Hollywood. What can you do in the next two to four years to increase your chances of landing a job after graduation?

You don’t have to major or minor in film production or scriptwriting to get a job, but you do need to gain experience in the field — participate in internships, student films, local theatre, etc. College is a great networking opportunity. Not only will you meet fellow film and television students, but alumni working in the industry as well. One of my film production teachers referred me to her friend who hired me to work for the St. Louis Film Festival; I later listed the experience on my resume.

A potential employer will spend less than one minute looking at your resume. They are not only looking for your field experience, but your professional experience as well. Have you worked in an office before? Does your resume indicate that you know how to send a fax? Use a copy machine? Deal with difficult personalities? A former employer of mine once hired an intern from Harvard and gave her the job of three hole punching a stack of scripts. She three hole punched them down the right side of the paper…

Does working in a movie theatre part-time look better on a resume than working at a bank? No. Employers simply want to know you’ve had experience working in a professional environment. For more tips on Hollywood resume writing, click here.

An important thing to remember is that simply studying movies and television will not make you a good writer. Take a history or literature or psychology class; study abroad. If you plan to be a writer, a theatre degree is just as useful, if not more so than a production degree. An understanding of the essentials of storytelling learned through playwriting will only benefit you in your career as a television and film writer.

Above all, be well-rounded person. Turn off the TV and go out! If all you do is study film, you may know how to write a script, but you’ll have nothing to write about. The most important attribute for an aspiring writer or producer is life experience.

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