008 – Different Ways To Break Into Hollywood

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Michael and Phil talk about different ways to break into Hollywood and most of it isn't what you'd think. Learn how Michael broke in, how Phil broke in, and the right way to think about accessing Hollywood.

Shownotes

Warner Brother’s Writer’s Workshop - https://televisionworkshop.warnerbros.com/writers-workshop/
Marc Maron - http://www.wtfpod.com/
Rhett & Link - https://mythical.com/
Joe Rogan - https://www.joerogan.com/
Sarah Cooper’s Netflix Show - https://www.netflix.com/title/81314070
Sarah Cooper’s CBS Pilot - https://deadline.com/2021/04/amy-york-rubin-to-direct-sarah-cooper-cindy-chupack-cbs-comedy-pilot-1234726403/
Blaire Erskine - https://www.instagram.com/blaire.erskine/?hl=en
TwirlyGirl - https://www.twirlygirlshop.com/

Michael (00:00):
Even though that experience wasn't great for me, I would still recommend the Warner Brothers Writing Program to people because it's, it's an in so great. You know, for us, it worked out well. We, we didn't have to make a third of our salary and we got to be on a great show, but for, for somebody else, it's still a better opportunity than none at all.

Michael (00:25):
All right. Welcome everyone today. We're talking about different paths to break into Hollywood, cuz you all wanna break into Hollywood, right? Yeah. That's the goal. That's the goal. So there's just so many different ways. Like people say, well, how do I get in? And there's, there's really no, obviously there's no one way. It's not like becoming a doctor where you go to Med School and that's what you, you know, eventually you become a, I guess you become a Resident, then you an Intern. And then, you know, you, you, you work your way as, as a, become a, a Physician or a Surgeon or whatever. There's no one way. And, uh, which is good, but it's a little it's must be a little frustrating too for people.

Phil (01:00):
Yeah. And I would say that this is, you know, if I go back to like 2000, I've known I wanted to be a writer since I was like 12 years old. Um, but when I go back and think about when I first started seriously studying screenwriting, that was, uh, I was trying to learn how to write a screenplay. I was learning formatting. I was using my software and using like, figuring out to do all that stuff. But the majority of my time was how do I get an agent? How do I break into Hollywood? What do I need to do to work in television or film?

Michael (01:28):
Yeah. And, and even like, thinking about like, let's see, like, let's see. When I, when I, I wanted to be a TV writer when I watched Cheers and I thought back then, this is how little I knew I was in high school. Well maybe if I start out as a grip, I can work my way up to writer. Like it doesn't even work that

Phil (01:42):
Way. You knew what a grip was. At least

Michael (01:44):
I didn't, I, I just saw that name. I didn't know what a grip did, but obviously, and it's not even, that's not even working your way up. Like people that's their job and they're happy. They don't wanna be writers that they wanna be grips. That's what they, that's what they want. So it's not like working your way up. It's not like grips below writer. It's like, that's, that's crazy. Um, but, and so, and then some people think, well, I just have to get an agent and an agent will get me work. It's like, no, the agent doesn't wanna have to work for you. The agent wants, basically wants you to do the work yourself and take 10%. That's every agent they want to, you know, they don't wanna have to hustle. They want someone who already is hustling and they can just make money from and like, well, that doesn't sound right. Well, but if you were an agent you'd want the same thing, you don't like, we all, no one wants to work hard. They want, they want something to come easy. So the agent's the same thing. The agent wants to have someone who's just on the cusp of breaking in. So there's a number of ways that people talk about. And I think one way we can talk about, uh, I think a lot of people put a lot of time and energy into our, our screenplay contests.

Phil (02:42):
Yeah. Screenplay contests, film fell, festival screenplay, contests, and, um, pitch fests are kind of the big three things that I see a lot of people in your group, as well as, you know, other writers I know, and things that were recommended ways to break in. Mm-hmm, we're doing these types of things and you know, I'm sure we're probably gonna get a lot of flack for this, from the people in these industries. If we haven't already at this point with some of the podcast content we've put out. Um, but it does not seem from a professional perspective that these are venues and avenues to get into the industry.

Michael (03:13):
Yeah. I don't want, I, I talked about, we talked about this a couple days, a couple episodes ago, so I don't want to hit on it too much, but yeah. I mean, it seems, I'll just real fast. Say like if you were, there are these festivals or pitch fest where like they'll take unknowns and let you pitch to Hollywood insiders. So just think about it from the other way around. If you were Hollywood insider and you wanted to make a, have a project put up, you had money to make a movie or a TV show, like why would you go out to a, an unknown, you just put a call out to a Hollywood agent. Hey, I want to get a show off the ground. Uh, send me some writers. Like you wouldn't go, you know, you wouldn't go to a pitch fest, you'd take, you want a professional. Why would you want an in an amateur, someone hasn't done it before.

Phil (03:53):
Now this is something I'm thinking about that I've not thought about in a while. But one of the best classes I had in film school was actually taught by my buddy rich. He was, he became my friend after. Um, but he had a class that was like the business of film and television. And he would bring in industry professionals who were working in New Mexico at the time or visiting because they were shooting a show in New Mexico. He would bring them in and we'd spend an hour and he would interview them for us. And I thought it was probably one of the most valuable things because you're hearing these people talk about what they look for. And at the end, he would give us an opportunity to pitch. If that person was a producer, if that person was a director and there were a couple times I'd pitch something and afterwards, those people would come up to me and give me their cards and say, I would love to read your script. Right, right. Now, nothing came of them. And five, six years down the road, I understand why I just wasn't ready. The script wasn't good enough to produce. Although the idea was good and enough, good enough to get them interested. The execution wasn't there.

Michael (04:54):
Yeah. It's all about the execution.

Phil (04:55):
Yeah. Yeah. So, so I definitely have seen that happen at some lower film as well, where you sit down and you sit with these industry professionals. And I think there's a lot of value in meeting those people, but it's typically those people are independent producers and independent directors and they're out trying to get their stuff made just as much as you are.

Michael (05:17):
They're hustling as much as you are. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So they're not gonna, they're not in a position to set you up. Right. Right, right. Then there are other programs that like, let's say like Warner Brothers has like, or Warner Brothers Writing Program, like that's different. Uh, and Disney has like, like fellowships and stuff like that. And those are definitely worth pursuing. And those could be a great entry way

Phil (05:37):
To, and you won you and, uh, your writing partner won the Warner Brothers.

Michael (05:39):
No, we didn't win. We, we got into, we were accepted to the Warner Brothers Writing Program.

Phil (05:44):
I call that a win person.

Michael (05:47):
But this is how it was. And this was many, many years ago and things have changed. But basically what you did back then was, uh, you get accepted, which is, which is hard. It's hard to get accepted. And then you have to pay Warner brothers. I think we paid maybe $400 each or something. I'm sure it's a lot more now. And we paid Warner brothers for the right to be accepted to this class to sign. And, and if you were to the top graduate of this class, uh, you would, they would try to place you on one of their shows. And back then Warner Brothers had a ton of sitcoms. Like they had a, they had, they just had like the Friday night block, they had so many shows that it was like, the odds were not terrible. Like they would try to place you on one of their shows. But if you, if they did, because you were graduate of the class, you would be earning the contracts that you'd earn like a third of Writer's Guild minimum. It was something like something really terrible like that. And so here only in Hollywood, do you pay to have a contract to sign a contract that gives you a third of what everyone else is getting paid and, and you're paying for this terrible contract. Like, that's crazy.

Phil (06:48):
That's fascinating. But I think that speaks to the competitiveness of this industry. Yeah. Because everyone thinks they have a good story idea. Everyone thinks they're a writer and it's so competitive you're literally paying people for opportunities to work for less money. It's insane.

Michael (07:03):
Yeah. And then we, didn't what happened was that class, you know, there, I remain friends with several people from that, from that, that, that core group of people that were maybe with 30 or 40 of us and only a handful of went on to actually be, become professional writers, everyone else kind of flamed out at one point or the other, uh, cause it is hard to break in. But, um, you know, we were, I, I do remain friends, but they, they chose a golden child. There was a golden child who's chosen pretty early the executives of the program. They, I think they decided that's the golden one. That's the one who will get work. And everyone else is like, well, but, but that, and, and so pretty early on, it was my partner and I could tell that, um, that we were not gonna be the golden people.

Michael (07:45):
And so we were not chosen when we graduated the class, they didn't try staffing us. It just so happened that our script, uh, man, our, that we had a script that was read, um, by the, by Steve Levitan who was at that time created brand new show called Just Shoot Me. And he read our script because our, his assistant read it and liked it and passed it on to him. And so he hired us. He goes, Hey, yeah, we wanna hire, I wanna hire you, uh, to be on, Just Shoot Me. And then we had to go back to, so we tell the people at Warner Brothers. Yeah. So, you know, our contracts is up and they're like, wait, well, not so fast. Now that, that Steve, Leviton's interested in you let's see if, let's see if we can get you on one of our you know, crappy TV shows and pay you a third. And then, so we basically had to bribe our way out that contract because, uh, you know, suddenly, suddenly they were interested in us, but only because someone else was interested in us, but before, before that they were not interested.

Phil (08:37):
Yeah, this is like the, the guy girl situation where the girls overlooked until someone else is interested. All of a sudden my eyes are open and I realized I never realized what was right before me this entire time. Except in this case, it's motivated by dollars.

Michael (08:49):
Yeah. Right. And so we got out of that, that, that was that made, that was history for us, like, okay, great. Now we're gonna Just Shoot Me now. We're basically set us off on our career path. But so that, but even still, like, you know, even though that experience wasn't great for me, I would still recommend the Warner Brothers Writing Program to people because it's, it's an in so great. You know, for us, it worked out well. We, we didn't have to make a third of our salary and we've got to be on a great show, but for it, for somebody else, it's still a better opportunity than none

Phil (09:17):
At all. I don't see that any different than, you know, I talked about the writers Guild foundation and the golden ticket that they have. Where you get invited to every single event, guaranteed seats. You just RSVP to say, you're gonna be there. They have your name on a seat. You show up front row and you have extra opportunity to interact and network with these people. And I met some amazing people. There was a guy from Canada who was down here, they were shooting the pilot of his show. I sat next to him at an event, talked to him. He asked for my script, he read my script. He sent me notes that were very helpful. That's that's nice. So, so I don't see any difference it's again, it's an investment in yourself. You're just is taking that opportunity. And, and I want to point out here too, because you know, there are a lot of people in your social media and I see the kind of mindset.

Phil (10:05):
"Well, I don't have any money." "I work as a PA barely get by, etc. etc," look ultimately it's about making sacrifices and sacrifice. You know, the way we define sacrifice from a theological perspective is "to make holy", like you're taking something to make what and you're to make holy holy I'm giving up something because I find this other thing more valuable. It is more sacred that's interest to me. Okay. So if you take the approach. Yeah. So if you're taking the approach of my writing career is sacred to me because it is really why I am here on this planet is to be a writer, then stop drinking Starbucks for a month. Yeah. Seven bucks a day, times 30 days. It's a lot of money, right. Even if it's only once a day, once a week, you're going, yeah. That stuff adds up. There are ways to win in the margins, as we say, in the, in the accounting world. Yeah. Like you can win in the margins and, and save up and you can get a license to Final Draft and learn how to do that. So you can be a Writer's Assistant. You can afford these Golden Ticket opportunities. The, that I think is just you approach. It is you have war chest there's funds there. And it is to be invested to help me pursue my reason for being on the planet. Right.

Michael (11:16):
Yeah. Yeah. And that, and, and so I've worked with so many inspiring people who couldn't get a break, so they made their own break and that's how they got into Hollywood. And I, I'm gonna list them because they're all incredibly successful people. The first one was Marc Maron, who he had a show IFC and my partner, Sivert and I, we, we ran that show for four years. And Marc is an interesting guy, cuz he was a, he was a comedian and he worked for a while in, in radio. And then I think he got, I dunno if he got fired or he left radio or whatever. But, um, he was basically cold. He couldn't book rooms, he was cold. And so, but he's a creative type and he had a create. And so this is back then, he, there was a thing called podcasting.

Michael (12:01):
No one knew what podcasts were and it was just a forum for him to talk into a microphone. And God knows if anyone was gonna listen, but he was gonna put on his little show and, and uh, interview people. And he's really, you know, he's good at interviewing. And uh, and that was it. But no one knew how he was gonna monetize, but he just did it because he, you know, he was putting, putting himself out there and eventually that podcast and his is one of the, one of the most successful podcasts out there. It's always in like the top five on apple. Yeah.

Phil (12:29):
He interviewed Barack Obama.

Michael (12:30):
Yeah. In his garage, in his garage President, The President

Phil (12:34):
Garage, The President of the United States came here and went to someone's garage to be on a podcast.

Michael (12:39):
Yeah. And because that podcast blew up, uh, Marc his, that reignited his comedy career and it got him a chance to get a, a TV show on IFC. That was the one we ran called Maron. And because that show kind of did really well, it got him on Glow. And then because of Glow, he gots all these other opportunities. Yeah. But it's not because he was begging Hollywood, let me in, he's like, screw it. I'm doing, I'm making something worthwhile and I will build an audience that way.

Phil (13:06):
Well, it summed up as he provided so much value people couldn't ignore it.

Michael (13:10):
Yeah. Right. And he did right. He just created on his owning, but he made it is creation good. The same, another example, um, were Rhett & Link. So re link where these two guys, we ran their show, which you worked on, uh, uh, they had a show on YouTube Red and it was a sitcom, but they're not com they're not TV writers. So they needed to have, uh, they created this show, but they needed to showrunners to actually write the episodes and kind of do all that work. And so they hired me, my partner to run their show, but who I who's written link. These are just two guys out in, I think from North Carolina, they just like, they were just two, no ones who started a YouTube channel. Um, and that was it. They did. And it, this is before YouTube was really a big thing.

Michael (13:51):
They just started putting up these shows and they, and they, these their, so they have good chemistry and they just kind of do wacky things. They would sit in a giant vat of oatmeal and do kind of like kind of all little mini contests with each other. And they had good chemistry and that show kind of blew up and became so big on YouTube that YouTube said to them, Hey, you guys are amazing. Uh, we'll give you your own TV show. And, but it wasn't like they weren't be, they didn't be YouTube. They just did their own thing. And Hollywood came to them and there's so many instances of Hollywood instead of people begging, you know, please Hollywood, let me in. They create something so amazing that Hollywood comes to them.

Phil (14:30):
Yeah. I think you could look at Joe Rogan. I think you could look at most of these people. I mean, you can split it off and it goes back to what we talked about in another podcast about "nicheing down: and finding your niche and owning that. Like, that's really how you break through these things. Those guys were, are advertisers, marketers. Yeah. And they, they leveraged that medium to make fake commercials. They do free commercials for businesses and they're so wild that's how they broke through on YouTube early on.

Michael (14:55):
Yeah. Because they were doing, no one was paying 'em to do this. No. Right. They just did it on their own. There's a woman over who I discovered at the beginning of the pandemic named Sarah Cooper. And I, I found her on, I think Twitter, but she was probably on all the platforms. And she would just, basically, she was a struggling actor, comedic actor who could not get arrested. She couldn't get anything, any kind of work. And so she'd says, screw it. And so she would basically take these speeches that Trump would make and kind of lip sync it. But wasn't, she was doing more than lip sync and she was adding, uh, her own personal touches and making it funny and doing things in the background and her funny facial expressions really plus it. So it wasn't just like standard, uh, lip syncing. She really, she put a lot of craft into it and because these things were so good, it was like, she was... You know, everyone had a noticer you, you could not watch this and think, wow. Like it was amazing her skill and her talent that she brought to it. And because of that, she, she became so big that Hollywood came her and gave her a Netflix special. And then they gave her, I think it was a show on CBS, a pilot that I didn't think I got to air, but she got all these opportunities, uh, because she just was like, screw it. I'm gonna be the master of my own domain here. I'm gonna, I'm gonna do it myself. Yeah.

Phil (16:06):
Yeah. It's seizing the opportunity. The old saying, "fortune favors the bold."

Michael (16:10):
Yeah. Creating an opportunity. And there's so many people like that. Another woman, Blaire Erskine, I think, I think that's how I pronounce her name. And I discovered her on, uh, on, uh, she would make these kind of funny, uh, videos on Twitter and they, but they were so good that that got discovered. Eventually. I think she's now a, uh, a writer on Kimel like, that's how she broke in. And she was not anyone she's like, screw it. I'm gonna do it myself. But it was good. Content was good.

Michael (16:37):
Hi guys, Michael Jamen here. I wanted to take a break from talking and talk just a little bit more. I think a lot of you guys are getting bad advice on the internet. I know this because I'm getting tagged. One guy tagged me with this. He said, "I heard from a script reader in the industry." And I was like, wait, what?

Michael (16:56):
Hold on, stop. My head blew up. I blacked out. And when I finally came to, I was like, listen, dude, there are no script readers in the industry by definition. These are people on the outside of the industry. They work part-time. They give their right arm to be in the industry. And instead they're giving you advice on what to do and you're for this. I mean, that just made me nuts, man. These people are unqualified to give my dog advice. And by the way, her script is, is coming along quite nicely. And oh, and I'm not done. Another thing when I work with TV writers who are new on, on writing staffs, a lot of these guys flame out after 13 episodes. So they get this big break. They finally get in and then they flame out because they don't know what is expected of them on the job. And that's sad because you know, it's not gonna happen again. So to fight all this, to flush all this bad stuff outta your head, I post daily tips on social media. You can find me on Instagram and TikTok and Facebook @MichaelJaminWriter. If you don't have time, two minutes a day to devote towards improving your craft guys, it's not gonna happen. Let's just be honest. So go find me, make it happen. All right. Now, back to my previous rant.

Phil (18:02):
So let's say that you're a writer and you're not like an on camera talent. You don't necessarily care to put yourself out there. That way. There might be some trepidation, you know, for me, I have, um, uh, an agent and I get auditions all the time and I have to self tape and I get just tremendous anxiety every time I have to be in front of the camera. Yeah. You know, it's just something I'm working through. And I, and I do it and I force myself to do those things because it's something I want to do. Um, but let's say I'm not, let's say that. I'm just, you know, someone who wants to rise up through a traditional route and let's say I'm a PA, right. What kinds of things do you think make a PA stand out to forge that path or create their own path?

Michael (18:41):
You know, we... we've talked... you're I think an excellent example of this, because you always say yes. When someone has a question or a problem. Yes, I will fix it. I will take care of it. No, relax, it's done already. It's already done relax. And so there are a number of instances I can think of you where, especially when it comes to tech, when it comes to something computer-related, because you would know so much about that. If a writer is having a problem with their comp, like you will show up, I I'll fix that for you. I will take care of, and you'll, I maybe you'll, you'll expand on, on that a little bit more, but, um, it's offering, what else do you offer? So even if it's not writing stuff, you offer these other skills that you have and you offer them freely. And because of that, you endear, you endear yourself to people and people wanna help you in exchange for that.

Phil (19:23):
Yeah. And I, and I think that it's an important note here, too, that when I do that, it is sincere that I just want to help. I am not doing it. It with any expectation that something is gonna come from it, right. It is that I understand that the best way for me to stick around is to be so valuable that I am invaluable. I, I, right. I, they want me around because I solve so many headaches for them.

Michael (19:46):
And you weren't charge you weren't you weren't saying, Hey, this is outside of my pay grade. I should get paid extra for this. You're like, no, I will gladly do it.

Phil (19:53):
Yeah. Yeah. Because, you know, I view it this way. Like, I'm not a member of a union. There are no union rules dictating what I can and can't do. And so I have opportunity now to over serve people.

Michael (20:05):
Let me, let me jump in here, Phil, cuz a lot of people don't know how you and I met. So we we've known each other probably since maybe 2010 or so.

Phil (20:14):
10, 10. Yeah, probably 10 or 11 somewhere there.

Michael (20:15):
So you were a stranger to me and my wife has a business, an online, uh, she sells, she, she manufactures girls dresses called TwirlyGirl. And so she at the time needed to build a website. She found a company that was gonna build a website. It was kind of a custom made site. It was, we found this place that over pro almost and underdelivered and uh, and Phil was working there. And uh, maybe I don't wanna tell a story wrong, but this is how I remember it is Cynthia, my wife was really kind of distraught was like, well, we paid all this money and you're not giving us what we want. And, and you got at some point, I don't know how you got on the phone.

Phil (20:49):
You were, I can tell you how so I was in sales at that company at the time. And I kind of saw the writing on the wall that they were gonna downsize my department and I didn't want to be there. What I wanted to do was work with the guy who was teaching all the things I was selling and he ran the other department or the account management department. So I went in and applied for a position there. I got hired and they transitioned me to account management. And your account, your wife's account was the first account I was handed. And they were like, we're giving you this account, do whatever you need to, to make this person happy because the sales rep oversold them to like, to a, a far extent promised way too much. Right. And so that's how I got on the phone with Cynthia.

Michael (21:32):
And then from what I remember, we were pretty and you're like, listen, I can't, uh, and this, you were overpromised and underdelivered. I'm gonna fix this as best as I can on my own, on my own dime. That's how I remember it. I will do whatever it takes. And because I just feel bad. I wanna make this right for you.

Phil (21:51):
Yeah. It, it ultimately ended up being some nights and weekends. And you know, I remember one experience where I got a call from your wife and she was in tears because she had accidentally deleted like a fat chunk of your website. Right. And I was actually up at Sundance where I was volunteering, cuz that's how I was in the industry at the time. Right. I just needed to be involved somehow. And I come down off the mountain and I've got this voicemail from Cynthia and I call her back and she's literally in tears cuz she thinks she has just deleted half of her website. Yeah, I remember that. And I was, and I was like, I was like, I promise you, like, we're gonna figure this out. I don't know what we can do, but let me see what we can do. And so, because I took the same approach, at work too where I would go in to the engineering department and I would say, what do you need from me as a sales rep to make your job easier? And then as an account manager, what do you, what do you need me to get you so that you can be as efficient as possible? I called one of the engineers on a weekend and I said, "Hey look, this client has made this mistake. Do we have any old versions?" And he was so ingratiated to me that he got in on his time on a Saturday night at like 10 o'clock at night, found the old version of the site and restored over the weekend.

Michael (23:01):
For her. Right. And so, and that, and you were a hero and you fixed it right away because of, and so because of that, now my wife felt indebted to you because you had done this great thing, you know, and you made her stop crying in this.

Phil (23:13):
At the same point, that to be clear to everybody listening, I have no idea who Cynthia is. Right. I have never talked to Michael at this point. Right. I just know here's someone who was sold a bill of goods that they, we couldn't honor. And I needed to do anything I could to feel ethically okay about this.

Michael (23:29):
Right. And so Cynthia says over the next couple weeks or whatever, she's talking with you and you somehow the conversation turns to what you want. You wanna become a TV or a screenwriter.

Phil (23:39):
It was actually, she's like, Hey my, my husband, Michael's gonna get on while he waits, um, for his next show to start. And I was like, oh, show. She's like, oh yeah, he's gonna be running Marc Maron's new show. Right. And I was like, okay. And that's when things kind of clicked. And so we ended the call and I Googled her name and an IMDB page shows up and I was like, oh, she was tree flower on angry beavers, which I watched. And she was on Admiral monsters and you was on friends. And then I Googled you. And I was like, oh my gosh, he is a writer. And then that's, that's how I approached it was on the next call. Right?

Michael (24:13):
Because you, we owed you so much. Cynthia's like, no, oh my husband, he's happy to help you be more than happy to talk to you about TV and screenwriting and all that stuff. And because of that, because of what you had done, you're attitude, which was, let me give, give, give, now we feel indebted to you and we wanna help you back. And that's how you and I, Mel met. And that's how you ultimately broke into the business. Cause I, I wound up getting you, uh, jobs on two of the shows that I was on. Yep. Right? Yep. Yep. And that's how you got it. And it wasn't because you asked for you didn't beg me, you didn't ask me for anything you gave first and I returned. Yeah.

Phil (24:47):
And, and you know, I'm, I, I am grateful for that. Again, none of that comes from a place of you owe me because I did. Right. Right. Look what I've done for you. It's simply what can I do? And to that same point on that first show where I was a, a PA I was day playing as I've talked about on other episodes. And they ultimately brought me in to be the office PA and I did the same thing. I said, what skill sets do I have to serve the people above me? Like how can I go in this extra time? And I approach it from this perspective, again, like I'm not in a union, there's no one dictating what I can and can't do. And so ultimately I look at it as I have sold 12 hours of my day to these people. Like, I have sold my time. They own me for 12 hours. So what can I do in the next 12 hours to be so productive that they want to keep me around? And I still get my bosses from that first job from Rhett & Link. They call me five years later and they offer me things. Right. Hey, and it's like, Hey, my buddy asked me if I know someone who wants to have this job, no experience to, they're willing to train. I thought of you immediately. Right, right. That kind of stuff. Yeah.

Michael (25:52):
Doors open that way. Right.

Phil (25:53):
Yeah. And so, you know, as I thought a lot about this, and we talked about this in your, in your private group, in your course, um, recently, but there's some questions that I think of, and I would encourage anyone in this situation to go through. So what can I do to serve this person? Like whoever it is, like, whether it's, you know, Carrie Clifford, who's a writer on her on Tacoma, FD. Like she loves tuna. She absolutely loves tuna, but she's also very picky about her tuna. And so I literally kept a whiteboard list of her favorite tuna places. So whenever I'd go around to get lunch, if it was her day to decide, I would remind her which place she liked her tuna from. Right, right. Right.

Michael (26:28):
Little things. Right.

Phil (26:29):
Yeah. Like one of the writers, like these very specific smoked, um, pistachios from Whole Foods. So I would go outta my way to pick those up for him so that he had something he liked in the room. Yeah. And it's not, it's not kissing butt, but it's not sucking up it's again, how can I serve this person? Right. Yeah. Because.

Michael (26:47):
Yeah. Yeah. And that comes, that comes and, and that exactly that comes, it helps it's it's in your own best interest to, to do stuff like that. Right. But people don't think of it like that. They just don't.

Phil (26:57):
They think of it as it seems like a lot of people think of it as how I being taken advantage of,

Michael (27:02):
Or they think advantage of me, or it's also like, what can you do for me? I, I, I need you to help me, help me break into Hollywood, help me, help me, help me instead of the other way around, which is, let me help you.

Phil (27:13):
Yeah. And so, to, to answer that question, the next thing I would ask myself is what are my unique skill sets, right? What, what are my hobbies, passions, and, and what do I have? That's valuable to my chain of command, like thinking up the chain of command, whether it's, you know, I'm the writer's PA and I report to the script coordinator, how can I make the script coordinator's job easier? Mm-hmm <affirmative> how can I do this? And, and I think this mindset a really good way to think about this. I had the opportunity to speak at, uh, a business college a couple years ago. And I sat in, in the class, they just said, I did a presentation for some friends of mine, about a business that I was managing at the time. And the professor said, the best thing you can ask in an interview is how can I relieve a burden, this, a burden off of your shoulder?

Phil (27:59):
What burdens can I relieve from your shoulders? Right. And it seemed a very formal way to think about it. But if you approach everyone above you with that mindset, like, what burdens do you have? Like, how can I help carry some of the weight here? They will gladly give that to you. Yeah. Because it's, and it catches people off guard too, because it's not likely. And so here's just an example of that. So for a wrap gift for season three of Tacoma, um, we got the idea of doing a yearbook. Well, I happened to be on the yearbook staff for two years in my high school. Like, and that I graduated in 2004. Right, so this was 2002, three and four that I was on the staff. I don't remember technically how to use InDesign. I played a little bit with it since, but it came up and I was volunt-told I had to do this.

Phil (28:44):
And someone was like phone it in, just get a template offline. And there was a very low expectation of this, but what I said is if I'm gonna do this, just let me do it. Right. So I literally, we set up a photo booth. I brought my camera, I took photos of everyone on the staff. We had COVID there monitoring to make sure we were safe. I went through, I photo edited every single one of those. I built the design and the layout inside of InDesign. And I worked with, um, Cindy, our, our 2nd AD, who was taking photos of everyone, all season. And we built an actual hardbound yearbook that we gave to every member of the staff. Right. And it was something that, you know, the people who were in charge of building these gifts, like the production supervisor, the, you, the, the UPM the, uh, Production Office Coordinator, they were grateful that I went the extra mile because it took something and leveled it up. Yeah. Right. But furthermore, and I think this is another key aspect. I went and did extra work to find a place where I could go and save them money, which enabled them to give these really cool heated jackets to everybody. Right. If figure out one of those. Right. I did get one of those. We had the ability to upgrade that, to like a jacket with a heater in it, because I was able to save like three grand on the printing cost by doing this extra stuff.

Michael (29:58):
Right. Right. I didn't know that.

Phil (29:59):
Just little, little, little things that, you know, that you've, you know, acquired throughout life. They go a long way. Like I was listening to another podcast and there was another writer who said, she went in into an interview and she had done her research on IMDB. And she's like, oh, I didn't know you wrote on this show. I really liked that. And the writer's like, well, I actually didn't write on that. That's a mistake on my IMDB and writer was embarrassed. And then afterwards, she went and using her knowledge of IMDB pro fixed their listings, and then emailed them and say, Hey, I just wanna apologize for my mistake. I just wanna let you know, I took care of it for you. Right. And she got hired on that show because she was willing to go that extra mile. Yeah. And she solved a problem for her boss that wasn't even her boss yet. Yeah.

Michael (30:42):
Yeah. Isn't that great. Yeah. Yeah. People don't think like, most people don't think that way, but if you can get into that mindset, like doors will open.

Phil (30:50):
Yeah. And, and like another example, it's like little things. Like one of the Whowrunners came to me and said, Hey, I need to get 13 binders, three, three ring binders, one for every episode. And they're like, and I don't like the D ring, give me a, a full ring. I wrote down my notes. And then I went out and got them. And I, I didn't know what color he wanted. And so I came back and I said, uh, what color do you want? And he said, um, I think, I think he actually wanted a big binder at this time for just, uh, the notes. Um, later I, I got, I got a lot of binders. He really likes binders and highlighters. Yeah. But bold me, like I got these two binders and I was like, I didn't know which color he would want. I got three, I got two black and one white.

Phil (31:30):
And he came out and said, which color do you want? He said, uh, I don't know, black. And I had it ready. I pulled it out. And I already had all the separators, had everything ready and I gave it to him. And I remember he walked into the kitchen where you were, and I overheard him saying, "man, that guy is really good. Like he got it." And then you sang my praises to him. Yeah. But it like a little thing just, which is a stark difference in the previous PA who told him he couldn't have sushi when

Michael (31:53):
He wanted it. Yeah. Yeah. It's just do it with a smile and do just yeah. And all these doors open. Exactly. And so, yeah, I think it's a wonderful, that's not just a lesson for, or Hollywood. It's just a lesson for life, I think. Right.

Phil (32:06):
Yeah. And then to your point, which you talked to a lot of people about, it's like be nice to everyone because everyone knows everybody is a small town. Yeah. These things get around.

Michael (32:15):
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Cool. All right.

Phil (32:19):
So, well, any other thoughts about like path to break into Hollywood? I know you've got a lot of content or social media. You talk about like mail room, which, you know, people accuse of being like an eighties strategy, like yeah. But still works. I know friends, who've grown through the mail room to become agents. Yeah.

Michael (32:33):
And so like, so I, right. So I post, I try to post, I think I do so far daily posts on Instagram @MichaelJaminWriter. And I post about Hollywood, had a break into Hollywood. And so I did one post about, you know, working in a mail room and an agency and how that's a great way to break in. And then I got all these like trolls, I don't know if their trolls or just jerks or whatever. There's like, man, you know, you ever hear a email dude? I was like, well, how do parcels come? When do parcels come through email? Or do they get delivered somewhere? You know? So just jerks, just trying to like, I, I don't know, like, okay, with that attitude, with that attitude, you're never gonna get anywhere in life.

Phil (33:09):
Well, you've already, you've given up. Yeah. Right. If you're always looking at the negative you've you've given up on, you're not gonna make it. Yeah. Cause you've already decided you are right.

Michael (33:18):
You've already. Exactly. And it's, it's, self-fulfilling prophecy. There's one woman. I, I had to post and she posted about how Hollywood is an awful place. And uh, people were, she was a PA I, I mentioned it was this post about how to get a job as a PA. And she's like, uh, yeah, P I was a PA don't listen, this guy, I was a PA and people were mean to me. And they were obnoxious and rude and like, listen, I don't know what show she was on. Maybe they were, uh, maybe they were mean and rude to her. Okay. So go get a job at Starbucks. That's a job. That's easier to get. You'll make the same amount of money. And I guarantee you, people will be mean and rude to you. The customers will be mean and rude to you either way it's gonna happen.

Michael (33:53):
So why don't you do it in the area that you want advance in, in Hollywood? Like, what is your problem? Like, okay. People are mean that's life, man. So what do you wanna get your goal? And someone else had another comment and she was, you know, wow. All that. I think it was a woman, all that just to be for all that work and hard effort, just to be a PA, he was like, no, it's not to become a PA it's to become a writer or a producer or a director like PA this is just a temporary job. Yeah. It's all this work for this temporary stepping stone.

Phil (34:21):
Yeah. You know, I had a really good conversation because I've been a PA for six years or so now at this point, and I'm 30 gonna be 36 this year. And I have a wife and kids and, you know, it's, it, it's a grind and it can feel a little heavy.

Michael (34:34):
But in fairness, you you've had opportunities to do other production work, but you just don't want it cuz you want to stay in the screenwriting path.

Phil (34:41):
Correct. I have turned down post-production coordinator jobs. I've, I've done, I've done some other stuff. I was a post PA on a, on a film, like I've done other things. Right. But ultimately the, the niche I've carved for myself is writer. Cuz that's what I want to do. Right. And if other doors open beyond that, after producing directing and great, but right now my purpose plan is to be a writer. Right. Right. So, um, I lost my train of thought.

Michael (35:09):
Because I Interrupted you. But the point is that we were talking about how it's just, it's just a stepping stone and you've been doing PA for a while, but it's not because you have to it's cuz you want right. So,

Phil (35:16):
So I remember now, so I kind of bro, I kind of privately one night, we're shooting super late. Um, it's uh, Friday, we're going into a "Fraturday", which means you're shooting into Saturday morning. So your Friday, Saturday blend. Um, and I was like talking to one of my bosses about, you know, yeah man, I'd really love to get that next step. I just don't know how to approach it. And they said, well, what you have to understand is that people see hard work and they see loyalty and they see effort and they reward that and she said, it's important to know that. Yeah. You're not asking for things, but there will be a time when you get an ask. And when that ask comes, make sure you ask for it. You have to put yourself out there. Yeah. But in general you get the ask because you're not asking.

Phil (35:55):
And I was like, oh, like, and, and it may not seem like it, but people reward hard workers because, and, and I think the word she said is we recognize what we have with you. And I was like, oh, that's a very kind compliment. But I think it goes back to this mindset of how can I cert and I'm by far not the only person, the production secretary on our show and the other office PA the exact same attitude to the point that our boss on our last day, when we wrapped and we were closing up the stages, she said, I would be happy to work with you any other time on any other show, if you, any of you need jobs, please let me know. Yeah. That's great. Cause, cause we all had that attitude. Yeah. And it made it easier because we were all serving each other too. Yeah. Yeah, it does. So good. We talked a lot. We got a lot of stuff in this. This was an informative episode. I think

Phil (36:56):
This has been an episode of Screenwriters Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin and Phil Hudson. If you'd like to support this podcast, please consider subscribing leaving a review, and sharing this podcast with someone who needs to hear today's subject. If you're looking to support yourself, I encourage you to consider investing in Michael's screenwriting course at MichaelJamin.com/course. I've known Michael for over a decade. And in the past seven years, I've begged him to put something together. During the global COVID-19 pandemic. Michael had time. And I have to say, I wish I'd had this course 10 years ago. As someone who has personally invested in most online courses, earned a bachelor's degree, and actively studied screenwriting for over a decade, this course has been more valuable to me than most of the effort I've put in because it focuses on something no one else teaches: story. In his course, Michael pulls back the curtain and shows you exactly what the pros do in a writer's room and that knowledge has made all the difference for me. And I know it will for you too. You can find more information at MichaelJamin.com/course for free daily screenwriting tips. Follow Michael on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @MichaelJaminWriter. You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @PhilAHudson. This episode was produced by Phil Hudson and edited by Dallas Crane. Until next time, keep writing.

Author Details
For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.