Working in the Entertainment Industry is the ultimate career goal for some. The Glitz, the Glamour, and the Gluttony beckon folks from far and wide to Hollywood, New York, Canada, London, and even Bollywood to work. It is a well-known truism that breaking into this super-fortified fortress of employment is not just difficult, it’s notoriously the most impossible industry in the world to catch a break and get your foot in the door. How can you find a way in?
In the old days, nepotism ruled, and if your father or mother worked for a film studio, for example, then you had a shot.
This was only exacerbated by the unions, exclusive clubs which still rule the film industry today. But what if your desire is to work away from the film set, and ultimately land a job deep behind the scenes, perhaps at the home office of a major studio, where all the accounting, finance and strategy work is done? Perhaps an MBA from a top school is the ticket? After all, the Harvard Business School directory is lousy with industry professionals, and other top schools have found tremendous success in sending alumni to Disney, Paramount, Universal and the like. I mean, somebody has to actually run the business behind the hullabaloo and brouhaha, right?
We have good news and bad news.
The good news is, there are plenty of jobs for MBAs in the film industry, and studios do indeed have openings for applicants with a preference for MBAs. The bad news is, it’s just as competitive as the more “creative” roles in the industry and there is also plenty of resistance in the film industry in particular against the highly educated. Whether it be insecurity, intimidation or “they need to put in the blood sweat and tears like I did” attitude, the “biz” is replete with folks eager to reject newly minted MBA holders and thereby exact their revenge on a world, perhaps, where they had been rejected themselves at some point.
One thing we have seen very practically demonstrated through our own consulting clients, however, is that the better the school, the better the chances you have at landing a cushy job in the corner cubicle at Hollywood and Vine.
The subtle nuances that make your story shine with the Adcoms will likely also be what will help you appeal to Entertainment Industry hiring managers. Demonstrating an extra measure of passion, creativity and even whimsy will provide the uniqueness that works both in MBA admissions and in Hollywood. Standing out means getting in—on both fronts. Never underestimate the power of a good school’s network, but don’t think that there is one specific school out there that will increase your odds of breaking in either. It’s way more about you than your school at the end of the day.
Another thought: The Entertainment Industry has expanded well beyond Hollywood since the digital revolution, so if you long for a career amongst the creative, don’t forget about gaming, podcasting, digital distribution and virtual reality, to name just a few of the myriad options out there.
There has never been a better time to blend your MBA for a career in entertainment, just be wise in your course selection and build you own original qualifications check sheet, ideally leveraging coursework outside the MBA to prepare you for this unique world. Most MBA programs will allow for electives across the university—another good reason to aim for a top program, where the offerings will be both high quality, and known by recruiters. But getting that top MBA is the first step. If you want to read more about how to use an MBA to crack the Hollywood nut, we recommend a book called “Wannabe: A Would-Be Player’s Misadventures in Hollywood,” by Everett Weinberger, who tried to leverage his Ivy League education and MBA to get into the production side of film.