Breaking Into Games is Like Breaking Into TV

by Darius Kazemi on February 20, 2007

in breakingin

Actress Jenna Fischer, who plays Pam on the U.S. version of The Office, has written a fantastic column about how to break into the film and TV industry. Much of the advice holds true for people trying to break into the game industry. I’m going to excerpt parts of her column and show how they relate to the games business.

My first piece of advice to someone who is serious about being a professional television or film actor is this: Move to Los Angeles.

This echoes one of the first things a person who wants to make video games must do: move somewhere that there’s a lot of game companies. Even if you don’t have a job there. You’ve got to take that leap, and if you’re not willing to take that leap then you’re not passionate enough about the industry in the first place: you’ll do yourself a favor by finding another kind of job.

I had a college professor who said, “If you can think of anything else you are passionate about besides acting, do that. Your life will be better for it.”

Replace “acting” with “making video games” (not playing: making) and you have some good advice right there.

It isn’t “who you know.” It just doesn’t work that way.

I’ll have to respectfully disagree on this one. Maybe the film industry is different than every other industry in the world? I doubt it. Actually, she refutes herself in the next paragraph anyway:

Here is how I got “discovered.” I had been living in L.A. for about two years when a friend wrote a TV script and wanted to do a live stage version as a way of attracting TV producers. He asked me to play a small role. It meant lots of rehearsal for very little stage time and no pay. Along the way I questioned why I had agreed to do it, but it was very funny and he was a friend, so I agreed. After our third performance, his manager approached me and asked if I had representation. [emphasis mine]

So there you go. It was a friend who helped her break in. I think what she meant was that you don’t need to know a movie producer or something. But knowing your fellow n00bs is very important.

Now that sounds easy, right? Well, that was after two years of working as a temp, doing every acting gig I could find for free, borrowing money to buy a new engine for my car, and wearing a pair of shoes with a hole in them because I couldn’t afford anything else.

Reminds me of when I was working in QA.

I developed a relationship with [a casting person]— not because I met her at a party and we “schmoozed,” but because I had proven to her over the course of many years that I was a reliable and serious actor capable of providing a consistent body of work.

Yeah! Networking is about building relationships, not sucking up to people.

I have a great acting coach who says that success in Hollywood is based on one thing: opportunity meets readiness. You cannot always control the opportunities, but you can control the readiness. So study your craft, take it seriously. Do every play, every showcase, every short film, every student film you can get. Swallow your pride. Be willing to work for nothing in things you think are stupid. Make work for yourself. Make your own luck. Don’t complain. Hopefully, the work will find you if you are ready.

Holy shit. Make Your Own Luck. That is so important. That’s going to be the title of a future networking article here.

But yes: build mods, take every small contract job you can get, volunteer, do whatever it takes. Just go out there and work, even if nobody is asking for the work.

{ 1 comment }

Patrick February 21, 2007 at 1:06 am

Its not who you know, its who knows you.

I heard that at a panel at Slamdance.

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