For some, getting into the entertainment industry is like having that impossible dream that’s never going to happen. And the perpetual question everybody’s asking - how to make it in Hollywood?
In this episode, Tim Tortora tells how he conquered Hollywood and made a living out of it. He shares some of the biggest lessons that only the industry can impart and why building a connection is the number one factor for success in this arena.
WHAT DID YOUNG TIM WANT TO BE WHEN HE GREW UP?
With both parents having their own businesses, it’s somewhat expected for Tim to follow their path. But it was during a drive around studios that young Tim realized what he wanted to do in life.
Although the subtle implication was he was going to take over the family’s business as he grows older, Tim vividly remembers telling his dad, “I don’t want to do what you do, I want to work in Hollywood.”
As an undergraduate, he had a job in a recording studio as a tape operator. He eventually had a degree in advertising, and he just never stopped pursuing his passion. Tim was always adamant about creating his own path and always wanted to do the things he was interested in.
He thought that being a musician was for him and as he got close to realizing this dream, Tim saw that there were a lot of guys better than him. In his words, “they were more passionate than me, they played with soul.” He added, “I could play well, but I couldn’t play with soul flawlessly.”
Tim added that the guys who were good at playing music practiced for 6 hours a day. This was just not possible for him as he said, “there are a million other things I’d rather do in 6 hours than sit there and practice drums.”
He had the presence of mind to realize that he had a lot of interests, and he needed to pursue them.
"I'm not interested in your path, I want to go find my own." #chasingdreams
"I had the presence of mind at a young age to realize that I had a lot of interests and I needed to pursue them." #chasingdreams
"I wanted to pursue what I thought was interesting and what I dreamed of doing which was being a musician."
"I just had the presence of mind knowing that I'm not going to be happy following my dad's or my mom's path.”
"I could play well, but I couldn't play with soul flawlessly.
THE VALUE OF HAVING PRESENCE OF MIND
Since he spent most of his college career working in a recording studio, Tim saw firsthand band members who were broke, driving cars in bad conditions thus he was no stranger to the struggle.
He thought to himself, “I don’t want to be that guy, I don’t want to be struggling for art.”
His interesting journey of applying for work started when he sent out a cover letter with two typographical errors on it. Although he was not accepted because of this mistake, he corrected them and sent out another cover letter.
Tim got a job in Columbia Pictures and worked for an ad agency, this is how his 35-year career (and counting) in movies started.
Upon dipping his toes in Hollywood waters, Tim knew that having the same presence of mind will help him figure out his next steps. He realized that staying in an advertising job may let him earn a lot of money, but it’s definitely going to be miserable. He coined this situation as being in a “golden handcuff.”
He adds, “it’s a lot of money, it’s great, but it’s not something that’s going to feed my soul.” Tim wanted to get closer to the actual creation of content. He quit his job and became a personal assistant for a television show.
Tim climbed up the ranks and eventually achieved his goal of being a production executive. He did this by the time he was 30 years old.
By having the presence of mind and following what he thought was best for him, Tim is living his best life with no regrets. He did the work as fast as he could at the highest level that he could and excelled in tasks that were given to him.
"Don't worry about the money you're making, who you're working with, or the title you're going to have, it's all irrelevant." #chasingdreams
"You have to figure out what you're good at, lay into that, do nothing but that and do it at the highest level you possibly can.
TIM’S ADVICE FOR PEOPLE STARTING OUT THEIR HOLLYWOOD CAREER
There are lots of people who want to make their Hollywood dream come true, and it’s not easy to make this into reality. Tim’s general advice for young people is to figure out what they’re good at and do it at the highest level.
He mentions, “you have to worry about who you’re working for, are they high quality, and if they have access to the higher echelon.” Because if these people can’t be the connections you’re going to need to level up then it may not be the best place for you to be in.
For people who want to make it in Hollywood, Tim advises, “you have to figure out how to make a connection with someone who’s actually working in the business for one of the studios or the networks.”
While for those who don’t have this connection, cold outreach is the best option. It’s important to learn how the industry functions with the person you want to connect with. You can do this through informational interviews, and ask the person how he got the job.
Tim emphasizes, “get connected, this is a referral business.” No one is just going to give you an opportunity unless you’re referred by someone who’s actively working in the industry.
"You have to do cold outreach, and you have to get educated about how the industry functions with that person's place in it." #chasingdreams
"You shut up, listen, and you take notes." #chasingdreams
"You have to figure out how to make a connection with someone who's actually working in the business."
"Get connected, this is a referral business."
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT WORKING IN HOLLYWOOD
According to Tim, there are two most common misconceptions about working in Hollywood:
Careers in Hollywood are not just comprised of actors, producers, writers, and directors. In fact, the majority of Hollywood jobs are seen in behind-the-scenes productions such as wardrobe, props, film crew, etc.
Also, you don’t necessarily have to be creative to work in Hollywood. As Tim stated, there are hundreds of different and amazing jobs that you can take. These are labeled below the lines and behind-the-scenes jobs that you can start with and work your way up.
These jobs are not easy, in fact, they demand so much of your time and effort. But Tim highly recommends this for a 20-something who wants a break in Hollywood.
Furthermore, Tim adds, “you don’t have to be connected, but you have to be gregarious.” There should be a fuelling curiosity inside you to meet people and understand their impact on the industry.
When asked if there’s something that people outside the industry will be surprised to know, Tim answered “it is a business.” And it functions like the rest of the business we see and experience.
People from the outside will always have their own set of perceptions but those from the inside experience their own set of reality. Just like any other business, Hollywood is supported by a lot of people who want it to be continuously successful.
Tim says, “it’s a fulfilling and rewarding career that pays really well.”
"You don't have to be connected, but you have to be gregarious."#chasingdreams
"No matter how good your work is, you have to sell them what they're buying." #chasingdreams
"It takes a village to make a movie."
"There's a perception from the outside and there's a reality on the inside."
Guest Recommendation: ONE action for a dream chaser to take –
Build a connection. Hollywood is a referral business that will require you to form connections with people who are actively working in the business. They’ll serve as the key to various opportunities that can help leverage your career.
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With us today is Tim Tortora, an ex-movie-producer and outsource CFO for producers in Hollywood. After 30 years in the film and television industry, working with influential companies such as Harpo Films, Sony Pictures, Disney, TriStar Pictures and Columbia Pictures. Tim uses his expertise to help film and TV writers, directors, actors, producers & crew, learn how to get connected to the real producers in Hollywood so they can build their careers and network.