Tim Staples started his career in the back room, he told TheWrap CEO Sharon Waxman during a panel at the Breaking Into The Business LIVE series on Thursday night.
The CEO of internet media company Shareability started out with dreams of being a writer and advertiser. And although he had talent, he and other creative types were placed in the back room of the office.
He needed to get to the action.
Sitting in front of a theater of other young, creative and aspiring professionals at Loyola Marymount University, Staples served up his secrets to moving up the ladder.
“Having creative talent is great, but if you can’t sell that talent, you’re literally in the back room,” he said. “For me, the big lesson early on was learn how to sell yourself and learn how to present so you can get in the front room, be the one doing the deals and be the creative one.”
Staples was one of four industry titans who spoke to college-aged students at TheWrap event. In a screening room at IMAX Entertainment’s offices in Playa Vista, the pros shared insight on how to find a job in today’s economic climate and get noticed by power players.
“If you just say, ‘I want to be in the movie business, give me a job, I don’t really care,’ you’ll never get hired,” said Greg Foster, CEO of IMAX Entertainment. “If you tell someone, ‘My entire life, all I wanted to do is work at’ whatever company you’re interviewing at, you’ll have a decent chance of getting it.”
Foster says it’s a matter of doing your due diligence, knowing why your skills are a good fit for that organization and researching to see how interns and other past employees have gotten ahead in the industry as a result.
“Learn how to take initiative in the right way,” said Sophia Dilley, VP of Development & Production at Route One Entertainment. “It’s figuring out how to match your creative aspirations with the right company.”
But in that process, Foster’s colleague Rich Gelfond, CEO of IMAX Corporation, said persistence is key. While he says it requires much less capital to start your own company or get involved in the entertainment industry, young talents need to gain experience along the way.
“Experience is such a good thing, whatever it is. I think you just have to look at your failures as a way to learn,” Gelfond said. “Especially in the entertainment industry, it’s a game of numbers. You have to learn to take ‘no ‘so many times, and it can be debilitating or it can be inspiring.”
All four speakers came from different backgrounds. Dilley started as an intern for Peter Berg on his film “Hancock.” Staples went to journalism school. Foster grew up around the movie industry. And Gelfond spent his twenties owning dry cleaning stores and selling coal wholesale. But for each of them, they found that gaining knowledge and finding mentors willing to help along the way was invaluable.
“I think there’s a big opportunity to put your head down in your twenties when everyone is looking at the stars,” Staples said. “To me, your twenties are all about exposure. Get exposure to the type of people you want to be around, the things you want to learn and the people you want to meet. If you get your twenties right, you’re set to crush your thirties.”
Watch video from the full event above.