Guest Post by Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan, Co-Founders, Hollywood Resumes
If you’re an aspiring writer and have spent any time researching the Hollywood job market or have begun the application process, you already understand that landing a writers’ assistant position is incredibly difficult. As a result, many writers start off their careers on an agency or development desk. These jobs are a little bit easier to come by and will help you gain assistant experience, develop strong storytelling skills, and build up a network of contacts that can eventually land you one of those coveted writers’ assistant positions. If you’re considering applying to standard Hollywood assistant jobs, you’ll need to revamp your resume a bit — some elements of a writer’s resume could actually hurt you when applying to other positions. These tips will help you put together a clear and effective assistant resume.
If you’re a recent grad, put education at the top of your resume. You want your resume to tell a story, so it’s good to call attention to the fact that you held internships or filmed projects while you were also juggling schoolwork — it shows an employer that you’re motivated and good at managing your time. In this section, you must include your university and date of graduation, as well as the degree you’ve received. If your resume looks sparse, add honors, leadership, or relevant coursework. But don’t include your GPA — it’s irrelevant to employers in Hollywood.
The second section of your resume will be “experience.” (Note: If you’ve had over two years of work experience post-college, you should lead with this section.) List each position you’ve held by company name, and include location, title, and dates. Then, create a list of concise bullet points describing your job responsibilities at each company. If possible, try to get your bullet points onto one line, and avoid using large chunks of text (kind of like a screenplay!).
Finally, you should include a “profile” or “skills” section. List any computer skills, languages, and other special training you’ve had. You may also want to add any professional or volunteer organizations you’re affiliated with, as well as personal interests — these are always great conversation starters in an interview. But remember, only list tangible skills in this section; words like “excellent communicator” and “detail-oriented” are meaningless to a potential employer.
When crafting your resume, the most important thing to remember is that you should tailor it to the job posting. Look at the skills the employer is asking for and try to think of bullet points that demonstrate each one. And be sure to start each bullet point with a strong action verb! In standard Hollywood assistant positions, whether or not it is listed on the posting, you’ll want to highlight administrative experience within your bullet points. An assistant’s main priority is to support his or her boss, so you’ll need to get this across in your resume. Make sure you list any experience you’ve had with phones, scheduling, travel, expenses, client services, and office organization to show that you’ll be able to make a smooth transition onto the desk.
As a screenwriter, you’ve probably written several screenplays or produced your own short films, but you should think twice about including these on your resume when applying for non-writing assistant positions. Most hiring managers like to hire employees that want to move up within the company, so if they know your goal is to become a screenwriter, they’re likely to give the position to someone who wants to get on the agency, development, or production track. If you include a list of credits on your resume, you’ll give yourself away. At the same time, employers appreciate passion and creativity, so if you’ve completed any significant personal film projects or won any major awards (think: Student Academy Award), you can list them, but keep it minimal, and make sure credits and insignificant prizes aren’t overshadowing your other experience.
Finally, DO NOT submit a writing sample along with your resume in a job application. As mentioned above, this is a dead giveaway that your ultimate goal is to be a screenwriter, but it’s also in poor taste. Executives and hiring managers are busy enough as it is — it’s already tough to get them to review your resume in great detail, so you can be assured that they’re not going to read your screenplay. What they will do is assume that you’re presumptuous and cocky. If the hiring manager wants to get a better sense of your writing, they may ask you to write script coverage at some point during the interview process. Save your screenplays for when you start looking for representation.
Remember that your main goal at this point is to get the assistant job and use it as a learning experience. Most writers spend a few years (or longer) writing without being paid. It might seem counterintuitive — and hard to explain to your friends/family back home — but working as an assistant is like grad school for a writer. You grow your contacts, discover how the business works, and read enough scripts to improve your writing. At the start of your career, it’s your resume, not your screenplay, that’s your calling card into Hollywood.
Hollywood Resumes is a resume writing service dedicated to entertainment industry job applicants. For more career advice, sign up for the Hollywood Resumes newsletter, and get free tips delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.