Thursday, May 7, 2009

Should I be a tour guide?

Q: I just moved to LA from the east coast about two months ago and, like everyone, I'm trying to get my foot in the door as a writer. I'm currently in the interview process for a tour guide position with one of the studios here in town. I was just wondering if this is a good move career-wise, or should I be looking for something different? Will being a tour guide lead to anything as far my writing career goes?

If you just need to pay your rent, go for it. Unfortunately, I don't see any way that being a tour guide is going to help your writing or lead to any kind of job that would.

If it's at Universal and you could possibly leverage the job into getting into the NBC Page Program, that might be different. The Page Program could lead to a lot of helpful jobs (but it is extremely competitive and tough to get into). But being a tour guide in itself? No. You're going to be meeting tourists. I don't think you're going to have any contact with agents, managers, studio execs, network execs, producers, writers or their assistants. You need to find a job that will give you contact with these people.

That being said, I know sometimes you just need money - so being a tour guide wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. (I worked as a reality PA for a didn't get me anywhere, but it was a paycheck.) But don't fool yourself that working on a studio lot means you're advancing your career.

(If anyone has worked as a tour guide, feel free to comment and shed more light on the opportunities involved.)

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Mike said...

I was a Page, which is a tough program to get into (the common saying is that the program receives 100 applications each day for 60 jobs a year). As such, you basically start out as a tour guide, but then progress to other NBC jobs.

Whatever you wind up doing, be it a tour guide or PA or whatever, the important thing is to network as much as possible. Just being a tour guide won't get you anywhere, resume-wise, but if it does get you into a position where you can interact with producers, on-air talent, whatever, then it's worthwhile. But if you're just yelling at people not to talk pictures and cracking the same lame jokes a dozen times a day, it's not worth your time.

Dan Williams said...

At the companies I've worked for, the mailroom staff got known throughout the company and had lots of chances to network with the exec's. So taking a mailroom job opened lots of doors. You could take the job for six months, say, and see how it goes. And ask lots of questions and see if there's an opening anyplace. It's at least a lot better than going to a social event and trying to break the ice.

Amanda said...

Dan - I started in the mailroom. But a mailroom at an agency I think is quite a bit different than a mailroom at a studio. And beyond that, working as a tour guide is much different than working in a mailroom.

Jen Kucsak said...

Hey Amanda, just found your blog through a random google search and I have to say... LOVE it!!!! I'm actually moving out to LA in just three weeks also to pursue my writing out there. I have no idea how to break in, but hopefully I'll meet the right people and my luck will change. Great blog, I'll be back for more! :)

Dan Williams said...

True, but the question is, can working in the mailroom or as a tour guide lead to better things? Maybe, maybe not, but it most likely will lead to being more informed about the business and what the person has to do to advance in it. Everybody gets different things out of their personal experiences, but just to spend six months will, at the least, be a paycheck and a chance to meet some people.

(I worked at an order desk once. I met nobody and learned nothing because that industry wasn't for me. But I can write about it now, and offer insights to others, so in the long term it worked out well.)

Dave Shepherd said...

Spielberg got his start from "getting lost" on a tour, didn't he?

If you're good enough, it doesn't really matter where you start. Nolan started in film festivals, Rodriguez started by going door to door with a film, Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot started from query letters, Diablo Cody started from a blog...

If you're good (and by good I mean a good writer, a good meeter-of-people etc.) you'll find a way.