My first foray into the entertainment industry began with Writer’s Block. I was writing a novel, but no matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t make it work. At about the same time I read two screenplays; Matrix Reloaded and The Piano. Since I had a general idea of how the format worked, I tried writing the story as a screenplay and it worked!
I had always enjoyed movies, but now I was hooked; I wanted real experience working in the industry. Fortunately, my first opportunity arrived a couple of years later while a stay-at-home parent for several months. Since my schedule was reasonably flexible, I was able to work as a Background Performer/Movie Extra for television series and made-for-television movies. That’s how I learned about Set Etiquette; as a Background Performer I was allowed to ask questions of the Production Assistants and Assistant Director, but I wasn’t allowed to speak to the Director. Observing how much was involved in shooting a single, ten minute scene, I began to understand why it’s so costly to make movies.
My next opportunity came, unexpectedly, through church. After moving to a large city, I spent several years as a Volunteer Video Camera Operator. It was a huge church (by Canadian standards) with three jumbo screens at the front of the auditorium and four Camera Operators for each service. It was a professional operation; when you arrived at the scheduled call time, you went to a production meeting, where the order of service was discussed. Once you were live, you followed the instructions of the Video Director, telling you who to focus on. With worship teams consisting of as many as six musicians, it could become quite demanding; panning, zooming, and focusing, on keyboards, guitars, drums, bass and singers.
Three books that I’ve found helpful in learning about the entertainment industry are; What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting by Marc Norman, On The Set: The Hidden Rules of Movie Making Etiquette by Paul J. Salamoff, and Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency by James A. Miller. I’ve also read over fifty screenplays. Although it’s tedious, if you really want to understand what’s involved in making movies, read a movie budget line by line.
I remain involved in the entertainment industry, as you do, by writing. After all, whether you’re a novelist, short story writer, playwright, or screenwriter, you’re a storyteller. And that’s really what the entertainment industry is all about; storytelling.
Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper