Veteran Producers on Best Way to Break Into Hollywood: ‘Be Indispensable’ (Video)

Breaking Into the Business: Industry experts spoke with USC students to discuss the best way to make a splash in the film industry.

How do you set yourself apart in the film and television industry when everybody else is trying to do the exact same thing? You have to be willing to start small — and make yourself stand out.

Several dozen USC students learned that lesson Thursday night at a panel of four industry veterans as part of TheWrap’s “Breaking Into the Business” series.

Shelby Stone, production president at Common’s Freedom Road Productions, said that one of her first jobs was as an assistant to a woman whom she described as like Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada,” and that included picking up dog poop.

“I didn’t realize until two months in that she was actually a great mentor,” Stone said. “It’s about becoming indispensable.”

Kyle Tekiela, who co-founded Artimage Entertainment and executive produced the Sundance phenom “Mudbound,” agreed that there’s a value in taking risks and getting dirty. Tekiela dropped out of college in Illinois to move to L.A. and begin a “long, long grind” to produce features.

“It’s leveraging relationships, doing a lot of things for free, but knowing it’s all for the greater benefit,” he said. “Eventually they’re going to realize you’re an asset.”

You might not start off with the connections (most people don’t), but Perrin Chiles and Brittany Turner, from Adaptive Studios, echoed that making yourself indispensable will help you to make them. Be prepared when going into meetings, do research on the people in your industry, and make sure you have something to give to people.

“Flattery will get you everywhere but also being indispensable… you know those details that can be really impactful to the person sitting across from you,” Chiles said.

And most importantly, be yourself.

“People really have this idea that you need to be a raging asshole to succeed in this business,” Turner said. “You have to conform to fit, but for the most part if you stick to being yourself people will appreciate that about you.”

Watch the full talk above.