Getting a foot in the door: Entertainment industry execs share their advice

SCAD Savannah Film Festival

Meet the Industry Experts panel at SCAD Savannah Film Festival

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – On day three of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival‘s eight-day celebration, Gutstein Gallery welcomed students near and far to a Meet the Industry Experts panel.

It was a completely packed house for the panel, which featured entertainment industry executives specializing in casting, film and television and talent management.

Among the industry experts featured were Teri Dean, Senior Vice President of casting at NBC, Jessica Boucher, director of development at Greer Shephard Productions, Lauren Williams, manager at Echo Lake Entertainment and Chelsea Benson, literary manager, also with Echo Lake Entertainment.

(Left to Right) Jessica Boucher, Teri Dean, Lauren Williams and Chelsea Benson.

The audience was able to get insight on how to get representation, how the Los Angeles audition process works and how to develop a pitch.

The first topic of discussion was the common mistakes that executives see people making as they take their first steps into the industry.

“I think that the common mistake is going too fast and trying to do too much before you’re ready,” Dean told the crowd. “So there really is something to be said for starting with small things and gaining each job you go along. Take that experience and build and build.”

“You are trying to make an impression and first impressions mean a lot. Be self-aware of where you are and what you’re capable of,” said Dean.

Jessica Boucher focused on letting the crowd know not to get fixated on having to have a particular path on how you can get to where you want to be in your career.

“There are a lot of different ways in and turning down opportunities means you may miss out on knowledge that will accumulate to your overall knowledge and skills to where you want to be,” said Boucher.

Students seated in the Gutstein Gallery waiting for the panel to start.

Being in development, Boucher was asked to discuss what does she look for in terms of entry material. Working for Greer Shephard Productions, she said they have a defined product they are looking for.

Typically, what Greer Shephard does is different than most production companies, which means they are not market-driven and don’t ask the question of “what are people buying right now.”

“We are really about finding writers that we respond to who have a distinct perspective, a unique story and a good approach to storytelling. Things that haven’t been done in television before are what draws us in,” explained Boucher.

Among the many topics discussed, most wanted to know what is the best piece of advice the experts received as they were entering into their careers.

Dean opened the floor jokingly saying, “I didn’t get any,” met with a laugh from the crowd.

“I just went out to LA with zero idea of what I wanted to do, I just knew I wanted to be in entertainment,” said Dean.

Some of the other ladies on the panel had a different experience where they were told to start somewhere even if it’s small.

“Everyone starts out as an assistant of some sort, that’s just how it works,” said Williams. “The best advice I have received was to get a job at an agency. I sent my resume blindly to every agency and I got lucky.”

Williams went on to explain that it sometimes is about luck because there is no one path. She said it’s all about perseverance, being confident and doing the work.

Benson stressed that it’s about being open and that there are plenty of jobs in the industry that you don’t even know exist.

“I didn’t know that you could be a television executive or a casting director, but by going the assistant route you’re able to learn about all those different types of opportunities and in turn, you find what you’re passionate about,” Benson added.

This was certainly a women empowerment moment as all panelists were women holding top positions in a male-dominated industry.

SCAD student asking Lauren Williams a question after the event.

Following the discussion, some of the women of the panel took time for a few one on one questions with audience members.

The biggest takeaways: always go above and beyond and be open to doing smaller jobs.

For more coverage of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival, visit here. The festival will run through Saturday, Nov. 2.

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