Crafting a successful career in the entertainment industry

The entertainment industry has been growing rapidly over time as technology and creative ideas have evolved. Once it comprised a handful of genres, with performers and technicians working in theatre, music and dance. Broadly speaking, entertainment focused on plays, ballet and classical music. On the visual arts side painters and sculptors exhibited their work in galleries and museums, while crafts became increasingly popular.

Over the centuries new disciplines were added – such as contemporary dance, mime, comedy and highly stylized performance art. Vaudeville and musical theater joined film as popular kinds of show business. Music boundaries were broadened to include a vast array of alternative options, including jazz, folk, pop, rock and then sub-categories such as heavy metal plus many others.

Today you can choose from all these and more. Broadcasting has blossomed with radio and TV attracting millions daily all over the world. Programs can be streamed to personal computers while gaming has evolved into a sophisticated section of the entertainment industry. You can include theme parks, fashion, clubs and discos, and many spectator sports in the same category.

Given that there is such a wide range of activities from which you can choose it follows that there are many types of career in the entertainment industry. Here are a few tips on how to craft your own successful career.

Getting experience

A major barrier is getting started at all. It’s a drawback in the entertainment industry that you’re often told you need experience to get a job, and conversely you need a job to gain experience. The first tip is to try breaking into the discipline of your choice at ground level. For example, if film and TV or performing arts is where you’d like to cut your teeth you can do one of four things, or indeed all of them if you like. The options are:

  1. Volunteering
  2. Internships
  3. Temporary posts
  4. Go solo.

Volunteer work is unpaid, however, if you offer to work for a little while for free, doors may be opened across a variety of departments, for example in makeup or with the camera crew.

Internship programs are especially popular in writing, development, directing and programming. Usually advertised on corporate websites under jobs, some are directed at specific minorities and others are open to all.

Temp agencies can help you find work for short periods in a variety of different places. Often this will be administrative or reception work but if this gets you on to the studio lot or into a media organization they are a useful beginning.

Striking out on your own is a road less traveled, however, many of the greatest entrepreneurs in the entertainment industry did that right from the start.

Expert entrepreneurs

If you’re attracted by the idea of going it alone in the gaming industry take heart from some great achievements of those who have done just that. For example, renowned businessman Bobby Kotick first started to work on software when at college. He was a keen video gaming enthusiast and soon started to develop software for Apple. When Steve Jobs advised him to pursue a solo career he dropped out of college, sought start up investment for his new venture and has never looked back. Currently, he is CEO of Activision Blizzard and Founder of The Call of Duty Endowment. You can read more about Bobby Kotick on Twitter.

The same principles apply to entertainers who want to hone their skills as performers. Often self-taught performers and composers, such as Frank Zappa, carve out their own unique career in the entertainment industry to great acclaim. So, if you decide your personal creativity needs an outlet look out for events and support networks for solo performing artists, such as actors, comedians, dancers, poets, musicians and storytellers. These networks can help you find and get work and often they organize programs on different topics, for example:

  1. How to create a show for touring
  2. Selecting a professional team
  3. Understanding union versus non-union working.

Finally, no matter which section of the entertainment industry you want to join, your chance of success will be heightened if you are passionate about what you do and totally committed to being the best. It may not all be plain sailing by any means, however, as both Queen Elizabeth the first of England and General Custer allegedly said (at different times) ‘faint heart never won fair lady.’ In other words, you must be truly determined, and sometimes very courageous, to make progress and succeed in entertainment.

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