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Talent agency interview
July 18, 2011 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Job interview filter: why would someone want to become a talent agent? (Bonus morality question inside!)

I don't want to be a talent agent; I want to be a screenwriter.

Multiple people have told me, however, that the ideal job to get to make contacts in the industry, get a feel for how the business works, talk to producers and directors and writers etc., is at the mailroom of a talent agency.

I have an informational interview at a major LA talent agency coming up shortly (yay!).

Multiple people have also told me that the only conceivable way I could get this sort of job is to hide the fact that I want to be a writer and tell them that I want to become an agent. The bonus morality question is this -- is it OK to lie? Is the fact that "everyone does this" an excuse?

[My current answer -- OK, 1) not really and 2) not really, BUT... I currently know very little about the entertainment industry from a practical, first-hand, real-world perspective (just moved here!), so it would be unwise to close off potential avenues. It is *conceivable* that I could fall in love with this side of the industry, and I don't have a desire to NOT become an agent, so I've at this point resigned myself to being okay with lying.]

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The central question is this: What should I tell them the interviewer they ask, "Why do you want to become a talent agent?"

My current answer is something along the lines of "I want to work with creative people. I want to help develop their ideas, and be the balance between the business and creative side of the industry. One of my favorite parts of movies is watching the credits -- not just the big names, but the hundreds or even thousands of people who are credited in a major production, all of whom have devoted time to becoming a small part in a large creation. Coming from my limited background, the fact that people see even small movies from the page to the screen is a little mind-boggling to me, so the scope and scale of big movies, the countless mass of people -- from production assistants to VFX artists to extras to directors to stars who all play a part in bringing ideas to a mass audience -- is a little bit awe-inspiring. Out of nothing --> something."

That's more or less true, though I'm not sure how convincing it is, or how relevant. I recently saw a movie in a film festival in which the director writes, directs, markets, and *distributes* the whole thing. His movies, honestly, aren't anything special (though they are successful at their level), but actually seeing the ENTIRE process through takes an amount of drive and force of character that is impressive to me. There are so many levels behind even the smallest-budgeted films: the fact that people actually get shit down, and continue to do so, inspires me.

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So, any other thoughts or general advice about this (just informational, though I'm planning on doing the suit-and-tie thing!) interview. What would YOU say?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hmm. I'm not an entertainment industry guy, but I'm decent at interviews. Your response, while believable, does not seem career focused. I think you really need to research what this talent agency does, and more specifically what a "talent agent" actually is. Remember: at an informational interview, a lot of the perogative is on you to ask questions of them, not necessarily the other way around.

As far as "ying about your career goals: I don't think it's lying to say you want to be a "talent agent". Because, as of this time, you do want to be a talent agent. Who cares if you are using it to serve further goals, who isn't? You wouldn't be interviewing with them if you didn't actually want to work there.
posted by Think_Long at 1:17 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


If this is an INFORMATIONAL interview, is there necessarily anything wrong with just saying "Multiple people have told me that the ideal job to get to make contacts in the industry is at a talent agency"? I mean, presumably since this an informational interview they weren't going to hire you anyway.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:24 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure "using my skills as a social connector to help get the right people in touch with each other to everyone's benefit as a means to support myself" is a perfectly valid answer.
posted by Jon_Evil at 1:26 PM on July 18, 2011


I agree I wouldn't worry too much about the "lying about your career goals" - it's not the lying so much as it is your guilt over lying will prevent you from coming off as sincere. It probably is a great way to learn about all things Hollywood plus it might actually pay something since a screenwriting career probably won't.
posted by lkfwilson at 1:33 PM on July 18, 2011


Your answer sounds really, really naive. Not necessarily a bad thing, but assume you are competing with every aspiring agent in hollywood and think about what might make you appear savvy and smart. My sense of agencies is that the skills really needed there are networking, being social and making friends easily, and selling.

Agreed that your current answer does not sound like you have a burning passion to be paid nothing in order to be near the movers and shakers of hollywood at an agency. If I heard your answer I would ask why you aren't looking for work as a PA? (that's where you would meet all of the people in the credits). That's where stuff gets done and the movie is actually produced. Agencies are where creative projects might get conceived and sold - not at all where they are actually made.

An info interview is for you to get information - so I don't know if lying about your true purpose is a good idea. This is a low stakes situation because it is not a job interview at all. It could lead to a job, but it doesn't have to.

Why not see what this person who works at an agency thinks about the idea of working at an agency to eventually become a writer?

I'm not totally convinced you are getting great advice on that front (do something that you don't want to do to be able to do what you DO want to do is never great advice in my book.) I'd suggest more honest inquiry before you run full throttle towards this particular interim goal. Have you had any info interviews with successful working writers in hollywood?

Just my opinion, but... talent agencies are horrendous places to work where hundreds of new college grads are working at essentially minimum wage in menial jobs while hoping to win the lottery of actually becoming a high paid agent. I'd suggest temping at an agency as a desk assistant for a few weeks to see if you think this is a good path. (Try the Friedman Agency - as you can see from their yelp reviews they are horrible people, but will likely get you into one of the agencies on a temp basis). I know there is a mythology of the mail room, but not sure it's actually super helpful to work in one.

Any entry level job in entertainment will eventually help you achieve your goal of meeting people and learning how the business works. I personally think studios are much more pleasant. I'd suggest applying for an assistant job for one of the creative execs at a studio. Of course, agency experience very well may help you get that kind of job, so you will want to do your own due diligence.
posted by rainydayfilms at 1:38 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


This gig isn't going to advance you in your goal of being a writer. It's a good step for a producer, but not a writer. No one will care that you like to watch the crawl. An agency is a business, and stressing how you love the creatives isn't going to impress anyone. (Do you watch Entourage? You should, if you haven't.)

I doubt that anyone is going to ask you why you want to be an agent. They just assume that everyone wants to work at an agency, and be in on the beating heart of entertainment--most people who work at agencies don't go on to be actual agents---they become VPs of development, or work at a studio or switch to management. Agents don't develop scripts, they sell scripts.

Saturday Night story.
The Mailroom by David Rensin.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:41 PM on July 18, 2011


This guy asked about getting into William Morris. And apparently he got the job. Might be something useful in those threads.
posted by mullacc at 1:42 PM on July 18, 2011


I have an informational interview at a major LA talent agency coming up shortly (yay!).

Multiple people have also told me that the only conceivable way I could get this sort of job


It sounds like you're unclear about what an informational interview is. It is not for a job; it is so that you can get information on a given field or career. I made myself available to some folks who asked for information interviews some years ago when I was in the corporate world. Had they been surreptitiously looking for a job in my department, they would have been wasting my time and theirs -- mine because I didn't have any openings, and theirs because they would have blown a good opportunity to ask honest questions about how to get a job and advance in the field. TL;DR: be upfront about your career goals and learn all you can from the talent agency's point of view.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:07 PM on July 18, 2011


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