Navigating the Entertainment Industry

Entertainment is a wild, crazy, keep-you-on-your-toes industry. Unlike other career paths, like law, medicine or even entrepreneurship, the journey down the path to an entertainment-related career can sometimes be near impossible to find, which is why it’s important to not be afraid of forging your own.

I may be dating myself a little, but from the time I became a fan of TRL– the prime MTV music video show of yesteryear in high school (back when the network actually played music videos) – I knew that working in entertainment (preferably as an MTV VJ) was the career path for me. Since those days, however, the MTV VJ has met its end and entertainment has expanded into so many different aspects of life, that there’s a plethora of entertainment-related careers to choose from, but again, figuring out how to get from ideation to reality can be tricky

LESSON #1: Forge Your Own Path

By the time I entered college, entertainment was still the world that I was interested in—but now, the career path that caught my eye in high school had a name: entertainment journalism. When E! Network became a thing, I was exposed to people whose careers revolved around interviewing celebrities, attending exciting events, discussing the lighter side of life and traveling. This was like the MTV VJ but better! It was also during college that I noticed my first bump in the entertainment road- my major was journalism, so naturally I was taught all the basics of reporting and being a thorough and ethical journalist, even some marketing classes, but there was nothing entertainment-focused, only hard news. 

In order to gain some media experience in that realm, I interned at a popular radio station. Only problem there was that this particular station wasn’t in the business of nurturing their interns’ interests. Remember that bit about forging your own path? This was when I first gave it a shot. I took what I learned between school and my internship, and co-created an Internet radio station with 3 friends, giving myself the on-air and interview experience that I otherwise would have had to move to a mini-market for an undetermined period of time to receive.

LESSON #2: Always Feed Your Passion

About 8 months after I graduated, I was offered a Production Assistant job working for the production company that makes FX’s animated series Archer, which is when I learned another lesson about navigating the entertainment industry— there’s usually a bit of luck required, somewhere down the line. It wasn’t a glamorous position and had the pay to match, but I was working on a real television show that would give me real, paid experience. I also got to be a model for one of the characters and worked with a fantastic bunch of talented people, which never hurts. Before long I was promoted and now I get to tell people that I have an IMDB page, so that’s an added bonus.

Not wanting to abandon my entertainment media passions while working on the show, I also started doing some writing on the side for SpoilerTV and later Alloy Entertainment. Having your main job to keep your life afloat is important, but working on your passion in your free-time is how it eventually becomes your full time.

LESSON #3: Take Chances

While working for the production company, I met a young lady who came in to interview my bosses, the executive producers of the show, and she later went on to become one of my closest friends— she also happened to run an entertainment news site and marketing agency. After a while, she was ready to hire her first full-time employee, so I left the show in a leap of faith and joined her. That’s when I learned another lesson about navigating this industry: everything is connected and you never know how one job or opportunity could help you down your career path. Had I turned down Archer because it wasn’t the exact job I wanted, I never would have met my good friend and future boss who did offer me the exact job I wanted. This is not an industry for those who are afraid to take chances.

My time working as Associate Editor for the entertainment news site and Social Media Manager for the marketing company taught me a few lessons. I gained career-related experience in interviewing— press conferences, one on ones, round-tables, red carpets, you name it. I was thrown into the deep end of the pool and I loved every minute of it. I also gained valuable writing experience and got an inside look at how to run and maintain a successful entertainment news site.

On the flip side of things, however, that job was also my first real introduction to the negative side of working in the industry.

LESSON #4: Every Industry Has Positives…and Negatives

We were given the very cool opportunity to work and travel with a popular fan convention, which started off like a dream-great interviews, fun crowds, it was amazing- but it all ended once we asked to be compensated like the professionals we were. That was when I learned to be careful of the opportunities you take, even if they seem amazing. It’s all about the people behind them and what their true intentions are. Some people, if given the chance, will try to diminish your value, take advantage of your talent, and if you don’t comply, they’ll simply let you go and replace you. Along with being professional and good at what you do, knowing your value and sticking to your guns will help guide you towards working with the right people.

LESSON #5: Be Adaptable

Shortly after that little speed bump, I found my way to my next opportunity, a niche marketing/ad agency. Although my time there was short before ending up here at Definition 6, it wasn’t so short that I couldn’t learn another lesson about navigating entertainment: adapting to the needs of your job is a requirement. While there, I maintained and wrote for 3 websites— one focusing on black news, a multicultural and celebrity mom blog, and an autism resource site. 3 different audiences, 3 different voices, 3 different tones that I had to adapt to.  I also ended up in an ad for one of our clients— a part of my job that I wasn’t expecting, but had to adapt myself for.

Which brings me to where I am today- the awesome Def6, where I still get to work in entertainment and flex my creative muscles. I’m still learning new things each day, which is part of what I love about the industry: it’s ever-changing with many ins and outs, and there will always be something new to be educated about.

I haven’t mastered the journey yet, but my level of anxiety about not being able to establish and maintain a career in such a fickle business has subsided, so now, as I continue to navigate…I’ll do it (mostly) stress-free and with confidence.