Help me get into William Morris' agent trainee program.
October 31, 2006 7:35 PM   Subscribe

Help me get into William Morris' agent trainee program.

I'm applying next spring. I've got the industry connections, I think I've got an impressive enough resume*, and I can hold my own in an interview. What I don't have, however, is any knowledge about:

(1) How the selection process works (what type of applicant are they looking for).
(2) If I'm graduating in May, when is the best time to formally apply?
(3) What specifically to expect in the interview?
(4) How soon they'll let me know.
(5) What to expect if I get accepted (what the program is really like)?


If anyone out there knows anything about the program, or knows anyone who does, I'd be forever indebted for some help answering these questions. Also, any general advice is more than welcome.

*Here is a link to my resume. I include it only to solicit advice on how effective this resume will be for this specific job.
posted by JPowers to Work & Money (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Better be rich. My cousin did this and they pay for shit.
posted by rbs at 7:36 PM on October 31, 2006

Response by poster: Better be rich. My cousin did this and they pay for shit.

I'm certainly not rich, but having a wife who is a teacher (which actually is a pretty decent paying job in LA with great benefits) really helps.
posted by JPowers at 7:43 PM on October 31, 2006

Best answer: Why are your jobs getting less important as you go on? Seems like you haven't done anything"important" since 2002 by the way you set up your resume. I am not sure that I would list them in order of importance. Rather, I would list them in chronological order and emphasize the 2002 Immortal Entertainment gig by making it the biggest section with the most detail. YMMV
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:02 PM on October 31, 2006

Response by poster: Why are your jobs getting less important as you go on?

You're the second person to suggest this, which means: I'm changing it. Thanks.
posted by JPowers at 8:10 PM on October 31, 2006

Best answer: Here are some picky comments on your resume; they're brief and un-sugarcoated just because I should be doing something else right now. Hope they're useful...

- In the first section, did you do any special master's or undergrad thesis project? If so put its title immediately under the info about your degree.

- Your work experience is arranged non-chronologically, which is confusing -- especially since the years are the first item of info listed for each. I assume you're listing things this way to put your industry experience first. If so, put the job titles first and the years second. Then it's not so strange for them to be out of chronological order. (NOTE: I'm not in your industry, so if you get contradictory advice on this from someone who knows better than me, listen to them.)

Summer 2002:
- You say "adequately" juggling. That sounds horrible -- sounds like you were just barely getting by. Take out the word "adequately". You could also rephrase if you want to say something stronger about how complex your job was. Did you have "sole responsibility" for these functions? Did you "coordinate all daily logistics and communications"?
- Also, should you give the actual name of your specific employer? I find it weird that you don't, but maybe this isn't standard within the industry?

Summer 2004
- You say "created"...."compiling". I would say "created"... "compiled".

Spring 2006
- This is a bit vague as to what you actually did. Did you make any of the proposal materials? Did you deliver any part of the proposal yourself? Did you make conversation with bigwigs? Were you working a booth? Did you save the day at the last minute in any way? (If you did unimpressive-sounding stuff, leave as is. But if some specifics would be impressive, provide them.)

- Were you sole instructor/lecturer on any of these courses? (If so, say so.)
- "Dedicated a detailed section of the course"... I would rephrase this. Did you design this part of the course afresh? Did you pioneer it? "Designed new curriculum module on new media"? "Served as expert on New Media, lecturing and designing course materials on..."? If this stuff wasn't your own special contribution, then just add it to the description in the previous bullet point about what the course standardly includes. If some of these topics were your own specialty and some weren't, separate them. As it stands there's a mishmash of items under this second bullet, they don't seem to make a logical course unit so I can't tell what they're all doing together.
- You say "i.e. the rise of YouTube..". I think you might mean "e.g. the rise of YouTube." Either way, I would remove the "etc" at the end of that list.

-What did you *do*? (Again, if nothing impressive, then maybe there's not a lot you can say here. But as it is, it suggests to me that you were a coffee runner.)

2001-2007 tech support:
-What's "ultra" proficient? I get the picture of what you mean, but it sounds like baloney. If you want a word more forceful than "proficient", pick a more forceful single word.
-Here you do not capitalize "web" in "web 2.0". But in the listing about your graduate teaching, you did capitalize it. These should match. I would say capitalize them both.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:16 PM on October 31, 2006

Also, and I say this with love in my heart, spellcheck your blog if it's going to be findable by people you want to professionally impress. You have a lot of spelling errors on there right now.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:22 PM on October 31, 2006

On thinking about it more, I think JohnnyGunn's suggestion about how to arrange jobs is spot on.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:29 PM on October 31, 2006

I've got the industry connections

No, you don't.

Your resume screams "wannabe." It's screaming "wannabe from red-state Baylor University with a whole nine months' worth of real-world experience."

I think you need to move to Hollywood and get a real job on a real production. Something, anything. Work it for a year. Hell, call up William Morris right now and ask to open the mail. The William Morris site has 10 openings posted for real jobs right now.

Barring that, at least get the words "intern" and "personal assistant" off that resume. "Provided coverage" and "helped facilitate" are meaningless. You need a hell of a lot more sizzle here. I wanna hear about the time you carried on three simultaneous cell phone conversations while bailing your famous producer-employer out of jail without losing his dry cleaning.

Good luck, kid.
posted by frogan at 8:34 PM on October 31, 2006

Response by poster: Also, and I say this with love in my heart, spellcheck your blog...

Damn! You're right. Just went through all my posts (and other pages) and fixed a bunch of mistakes. Thanks.

(This should become less of a problem now thanks to Firefox 2.0's auto-spell checking feature.)
posted by JPowers at 8:47 PM on October 31, 2006

Having looked at the link you provided, I think it answers a lot of the questions you ask in your post. It says that once they offer you a job, they expect you to take it within a week or so. (So, I would only apply once you're actually graduated and living out there.) It says they are looking only for people who already have connections in the industry, for people who are ready to work very hard, etc. It says quite a bit about what the program is like, too.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:53 PM on October 31, 2006

Best answer: Give me 24 hours and I'll post an extensive answer here from a friend even closer to the trenches, but here's my go, as a person who has had, well, some experience with WMA.

First off... the training program really doesn't pay. I mean really. At all. A couple years ago, I recall someone mentioning 18 grand a year. Maybe they've increased it. I hope they have. You're young. That's good. You're not quite young enough (they prefer you to be right out of college), but that's not too much of a problem. You're married, which, as far as I know, could be an issue. I wouldn't tell them that, and I'd do my best to erase any on-line connection between you and your wife. I don't know how google-rific HR is, but you can bet whatever agent you interview with (and you'll meet with one or two during the interview process) will have an assistant who'll be data-mining you like crazy. Actually, I'd suggest you make yourself as un-google-able as possible. Don't mention your blog. Take your name off your blog. That way, when they google you, they'll just think you're an Iraq war vet and a Canuck squash player!

As for the interview process, you'll meet with HR and, as I said above, at least one agent. When you interview, dress in a tie and slacks and a blue shirt, nothing too expensive. Get a haircut. Don't look like a nerd -- look like a frat guy interviewing for a job in finance at a small firm in St. Louis. Does that make sense? Every guy in the trainee program I know dresses like Jim on The Office. Actually, some look like mini-me agents, but they're the ones nobody trusts, because they seem like they're gonna strangle an agent and take his office in a bloody coup at any moment.

On working at WMA... it's a brutal place. Expect lots of attrition, though HR will say that's not true. You'll slog it out for a long time, first in the mailroom, then as a floater, filling in for various assistants around the agency who're on vacation and such.

I gotta go put on my sailor uniform and Halloween this mofo, but I'll continue this later or in the AM.
posted by incessant at 8:58 PM on October 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Incessant: this is exactly the type of stuff I'm looking for. Thanks.
posted by JPowers at 9:07 PM on October 31, 2006

Best answer: I earned $300/wk in NYC at William Morris in the agent-in-training program eight years ago. I can't even think about without laughing now. What a crock. But I wouldn't trade it. Have you seen "Swimming with Sharks"? I can't tell you how spot-on that was. And in real life it wasn't funny. But it is now.
posted by gingembre at 9:21 PM on October 31, 2006

As a side note, I would recommend removing the word "Waco" from your resume. It has bad connotations. Just say Texas.
posted by matkline at 9:43 PM on October 31, 2006

As someone in the industry I have to agree with some of the folks so far: applying FROM Los Angeles with a production background goes SO much further than doing so without it.

Seriously. You can get a reality TV PA gig without much effort these days. Which is good training. Because if you get the trainee gig you'll be working slightly longer hours for substantially less pay.

And PA's get squat.

In the short term? You will suffer. Tremendously. In the long term? it is the most effective, most darwinian way to actually separate those who will make it from those who won't.
posted by rileyray3000 at 10:05 PM on October 31, 2006

skip the PA recommendation. nobody important talks to a PA and contacts are what you want to get out of this. not much better of a situation at this position though.

I'd take it for a couple months though just to see if I could get face time with someone interesting. be persistent, just get stuf done and demonstrate that you're the one to go to when people don't want to have to worry about it.

set yourself a deadline. if nothing happens within four months, jump ship.
posted by krautland at 10:23 PM on October 31, 2006

Find a hooker based in LA, god knows the connections those gals have got...

I've applied to different programs ever since my graduation last year, your best bet really is to know someone already inside or someone who knows someone. Check out old contacts from previous jobs to see where they're at. Try LinkedIn and see if there's anyone from your school that's in the industry. Any connection, however small, can be played up with some ass kissing. Besides, you'll need the practice.
posted by Derek at 11:40 PM on October 31, 2006

Best answer: Continued from my last post...

(by the way, the party was fantastic, thanks for asking)...At WMA, no one is your friend and everyone is your friend. There's real camraderie, from what I gather, among the support staff, but everyone always has one eye on the knife you're hiding in your ankle sheath and one eye right between your shoulderblades, where they plan on depositing the kabob skewer from yesterday's lunch at Rose. Thing is, throughout your Hollywood career, the people you meet as an assistant will be the people you'll be wheeling and dealing with for the rest of your career. That's true of wherever you work, but there's definitely a feeling at WMA that you're in the trenches together. (It should be stated that I've never been an assistant at WMA, but I've had a substantial amount of experience interacting with and observing them, so this is what I'm drawing on for my comments.)

So back to particulars about the job... where was I? Oh yeah. First the mailroom, then you'll rotate to different areas of the agency to give you a taste of every part of the business. Music, business affairs, talent, lit, packaging (oh, that's a fun one), and a whole host of others that're far too boring to think about. It's supposed to make you get a feel for which way you want to head. All it really does is solidify your beliefs that you really want to rep directors and actors and writers. Good luck with that, because so does everyone else. You'll also be expected to do script coverage, a couple a week at least, on your own time. You'll get the worst of the worst scripts -- the ones that arrive in manilla envelopes from Des Moines and other such places. Don't worry about being good at the coverage -- all the trainees suck at it, and the agents know it. The smart ones put, in bold on the coverage submission forms, no trainees please. The other agents just have to suffer through your awful writing. That's OK. So as you're rotating around the agency, you'll learn the ropes, and you'll get brought in as a floater to work different desks of different agents. Some are absolute nightmares, and some aren't so bad. Most will make your life a living hell. Just part of the weeding process. Bring a pillow. Lots of nights sleeping under the desk. I'm only half kidding.

Hopefully (sometimes it's six months, sometimes it's a year, sometimes you kill yourself before it happens), you'll find an agent you click with and there's an opening on their desk and you'll apply for the job of their assistant. If you're lucky, you'll get the gig, at which point you'll be out of the trainee program and treated like an assistant. Do a few years on a desk, and then maybe just maybe you might get promoted to agent. By then you're 30 and have a substantial drinking problem, but at least you're an agent!

Some particulars -- sources tell me the wage is only slightly higher than it was a couple years ago -- a tad more than twenty grand a year now. The only thing they're looking for in an applicant is eagerness, and a total lack of desire to do anything but service the agency. They want the agency to be your life, your blood, everything about you from top to bottom. They aren't looking for well-rounded candidates. They're looking for go-getters who have boundless energy and are ready to be molded. Experience is a minus -- ego less so. Desire is top of the pops, baby. Apply after February to start in the summer. Take everything off your resume that doesn't have something to do with the industry, and also remove any mention that you're involved with the creative side of the business. They don't want writers or directors who want to make connections while they craft their opii. They want people who want to be agents. The resume doesn't need to be long -- just show that you've worked somewhere before and can hold down a job, and also include the internships you've had. Don't get cute with describing all the thousands of responsibilities you had in the job. Go for brief and specific over illuminating and verbose. If they ask you when you're moving to Los Angeles, tell them a date a month later than your actual move date. Come here, get settled, figure out where your closest coffee spot is, get to know the area, see the sites, relax on the beach. It'll be the last time you see the sun until you test drive your SUV seven years later.

I asked around. One insider said it's a waste. Another said it's a waste unless you're willing to sacrifice everything and do whatever it takes to make it. It's like college really -- you'll get out of it what you put into it. No one will hold your hand, and most will set you up to fail. If you succeed, you'll succeed big. If you fail, no one will blame you.

Why are you doing this? What makes you interested in pursuing the agent trainee program? What is your final goal? If you really want to be an agent at WMA, then it's a decent way in. If you have other career aspirations, I'm not sure this is the road for you.
posted by incessant at 12:05 AM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Incessant: This is amazing information. I can't tell you how helpful you've been. My email is in my profile. Anything I can ever do for you, let me know.
posted by JPowers at 12:50 PM on November 2, 2006

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