Alumni Profile - Film
emily engler, a&s class of 1998
You work for a film production company, right? Which one, and what do they produce?
I work for a film production company called Beacon Communications. Although they are a fairly small company, they are growing fast. They produced Air Force One and, as a result, they now have a deal with Universal. Basically, we produce 3-5 films a year, and Universal gets to look at them all first (while we are developing them) and decide if they want to be in on it. If they do, they put up part of the money in exchange for certain distribution rights (foreign or domestic). If they don't want to be involved with that movie, we look for other studios or production companies who would like to produce it with us.
You wanted to work as a production assistant on the set. Are you doing that?
I work in the production office as an assistant to the VP of Production. Basically, I help facilitate aspects of all our productions. I don't get to work on-set, which is what I would really like to be doing (although I get to visit set sometimes when they shoot locally).
However, this is a really great entry-level job to get into the film industry because it allows me to work with an up-and-coming company and to meet a lot of people in the industry. Moreover, it's giving me experience in areas of film production that I never thought I'd be involved with. Now I know that to really succeed in this industry, I need to know and understand as much as possible. My job is giving me invaluable experience and I really enjoy it.
How did you get your job?
I got the job through a trade magazine (more or less). When I graduated, I began sending my resume to films that were going into production. The Hollywood Reporter has an issue every other Tuesday that lists films in pre-production and production. I guess I sent my resume to one of the films that Beacon was about to start shooting. (I don't really remember because I sent my resume to so many films.) Anyway, they didn't hire me to work on the crew, but they kept my resume on file and when they needed help in the office they called me.
One benefit of my job which I never anticipated is that I've been hired on a more permanent basis than if I had just been hired to work on a crew. I get to work on several films, not just one because our company has multiple films in production, pre-production and development. Plus, my job doesn't end when one film stops shooting because there is always another one just around the corner. This means more experience, more contacts and more stability.
A lot of my job search involved looking through the trades to get ideas and the rest was basically trying to network and find contacts. I had several interviews as a result of a friend who works in the TV industry and sent me a list of jobs which was circulated through her office weekly. I also had a chance to be a "day player" on a TV series that shoots in San Diego (basically that means I just worked one day when they needed some extra help) as a result of someone my mom knew.
On a day-to-day basis in your job, do you use the skills you developed at BC?
Because I work in an office, I use a lot of basic skills that I learned in college: critical thinking, organizational skills, research skills, people skills, etc. I wish I had more technical experience, but I'm learning a lot of that on the job.
I think that, in general, my education helped me get the job because the guy who hired me was looking for someone to really support him in the areas he felt weak -- like spelling. I'm a good speller and he's not. Also, he was really impressed that I had bullets on my resume because he said most people can't figure out how to get bullets on computer programs. In a lot of ways, it was really the little, seemingly insignificant things that helped me get the job.
What advice would you have for BC students who want to work in the film and entertainment industry?
BE PERSISTENT! This also helped me get the job. My boss wasn't even going to interview me because when he realized that I lived in San Diego. He was worried because I would have to move to LA. He thought moving would conflict with my job performance. I had to keep calling him and letting him know I was interested in order to even get the interview.
Then, I had to convince him that I could move quickly, start right away, and not allow the changes in my life to affect my job performance. I even looked at apartments in the area on the day I interviewed so that in my thank-you letter I could assure him that I would be able to move right away. And I did. I interviewed on a Wednesday, he gave me the job on Friday, I came to LA and signed a lease on Saturday, moved on Sunday, and started work on Monday.
BE THICK-SKINNED. It's sort of cliche in this business, but you really can't take anything personal. A lot of people just don't have time to return phone calls or have personal contact with job applicants. They get thousands of resumes sometimes and it's just not possible to hire everyone. I had to send a ton of resumes before I even got a bite. And sometimes they jerk you around for no reason at all. You can't take it personal or let it get you down.
BE PATIENT. I sent my resume to somewhere in the range of 70-100 companies and only heard back from a handful. A lot of times, companies will keep your resume on file for when they have something available. You might get a call 3 or 6 months later (sometimes even longer) from a company you can't remember sending your resume to, but they didn't have anything available at the time.
Where you would you like to be in five years?
I think my BC experience was valuable in broadening my horizons so that now I am more open to the many options that are available to me in the film industry. I don't know what I'll be doing in 5 years. I just know that I want to be working in film. I may be a producer, a director of photography, a writer, or just a member of the camera crew. I might do all of those things in the course of my career.
I'm not narrowing down my options to one position or one course of action. BC has given me a broad background of education and work experiences. Now I'm getting the on-the-job experience and making the contacts that will allow me to move forward and use that education in any of a variety of areas.