Today’s guest is Carole Kirschner. Carole was at CBS Comedy and then hired as Vice President of Steven Spielberg’s first Amblin Television. During that time, Carole heard more than 3,000 pitches, bought hundreds of scripts, and was involved in developing dozens of television series.
In all, she probably read about 5,000 scripts. She created the CBS Diversity Institute Writers Mentoring Program, which she has run for 14 years. Soon after, Carole was asked to help Jeff Melvoin (creator of the WGA Showrunner Training Program) develop the program’s curriculum. She has also been running that program for the past 13 years.
Carole Kirschner wrote a book revealing the “inside,” unwritten truth about what it takes to succeed in this business. [easyazon_link identifier=”1615930868″ locale=“US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Hollywood Game Plan: How to Land a Job in Film, TV and Digital Entertainment[/easyazon_link] has been enthusiastically received and is used in many colleges and universities across the country.
We discuss breaking into the business, working with Steven Speilberg and how to create a career in Hollywood.
Enjoy my conversation with Carole Kirschner.
Alex Ferrari 3:24
I like to welcome the show Carole Kirschner, thank you so much for being on the show.
Carole Kirschner 3:28
Hi, I'm excited to be here.
Alex Ferrari 3:30
I'm excited to have you on as well, because you you are unique guests because you work with writers but yet you also coach a lot about how to make it in the business and you you have the street cred to back that statement up.
Carole Kirschner 3:45
Well, I I do do a lot of things. It's true.
Alex Ferrari 3:48
Yes, you are. You are a jack of all trades. And I think we all have to be a little bit of that nowadays, to even survive in this business or in the world in general. So first and foremost, how did you get into the business?
Carole Kirschner 4:01
Well, the first thing I did in the business was I was a stand up comic. And I loved it, but it was really clear that I wasn't Whoopi Goldberg or you know, Sarah Silverman, and if you're not one of them, your life is a stand up comic is traveling 300 days a year and being treated like dirt. So
Alex Ferrari 4:24
Yeah,I have a lot of friends who are stand ups, it's brutal.
Carole Kirschner 4:27
It is brutal and, and I needed more respect. So I am I went to the other side of the desk, I was with a small television production company. Then I went to CBS in comedy development. And from there I was asked to start Steven Spielberg's first amblin television department
Alex Ferrari 4:50
Who's this Steven Spielberg you speak of?
Carole Kirschner 4:53
Nobody. Nobody Nobody knows him.
Alex Ferrari 4:55
No one knows if he sees that he's a young up and comer got it.
Carole Kirschner 4:58
He's an up and comer and The interesting thing when I was there was I realized the three most powerful words in the entertainment industry are Stephen would like, and doors open like crazy?
Alex Ferrari 5:10
Yes, it's true. That's, that's great. Those are very powerful words.
Carole Kirschner 5:15
Yeah. And so after that I worked at a couple of international companies being their us development department, and then became a consultant because my kid was two years old. I was traveling all the time and said, Why am I a mom, if I can't be with my kids, so became a consultant. And as a consultant, I created the CBS diversity writers program, which I'm very proud of, like 100 people have gone through it. And we've launched the career of 60 writers of color. And we now have in our alumni, three showrunners, five people that have pilots, including a script commitment at HBO, and a lot of CO APS and people that are coming up the ranks. And because of my work with CBS, I was asked to help Jeff Melvoin create the curriculum for the W ga showrunner training program. And because of that, I was asked to be the director of the humanitas new voices program. So CBS is for baby writers. humanitas is for emerging writers, and the WSJ showrunner training program is for the highest people in the television business. And I'm also an author and a speaker and and entertainment career coach, I work with lots of screenwriters and other kinds of filmmakers.
Alex Ferrari 6:42
So during your time at all of these, these companies, I'm sure you heard a couple of pitches.
Carole Kirschner 6:48
Yeah, you know, just one or two. But when I added it up, it was kind of shocking. I've heard more than 3000 pitches, I've read more than 5000 scripts. I have been involved in buying hundreds of scripts and developing dozens of television series.
Alex Ferrari 7:10
That's insane. So what are some of the key elements you look for? In a pitch?
Carole Kirschner 7:17
Great question. You know, everybody says passion, and I absolutely look for passion.
Alex Ferrari 7:23
That's only get you so far,
Carole Kirschner 7:24
It'll only get you so far. The thing to remember is that a pitch is a carefully crafted performance. And what I look for in a television pitch are the first thing is the characters, you know, first and foremost. And can these characters and the conflict between the characters sustain 100 episodes that that is what's different between TV pitch and a film pitch? And can the central concept and the conflict that's inherent in the central conflict, support 100 episodes, then I look for an end going back to characters you know, it's it's truly a fresh character, it's a fresh take on a character. And one of the things not to do in a pitch when you're talking about your characters, is do a laundry list. You know, Alex Ferrari is a quirky filmmaker, and his stay at home wife is very interested in playing the piano. And the way you want to introduce characters is through a story, set them in a scene, and then you want to talk about the hook. And the hook has to be why would people watch this in a universe of 485 television series that are scripted, and you need a strong hook? Then you need to talk about the world. And why is this a new take on the world? Super important is the tone and the genre. And most writers don't really get what tone is. And when you're describing tone, it's really helpful to talk about or reference other films or TV shows. People often when they do that, they think, Oh, this is a procedural so I'm going to talk about another procedural but that's not the tone at and forgive me, for people who know this. It's just so many people I work with don't really understand this. tone is how you tell the story. Are you NCIS Los Angeles, or are you Ray Donovan? There's a very different tone. Right. And you know, if you're it's a TV series, you want to know what your pilot story is, but you're not going to go beat by beat when I was at CBS. amblin when people did that, my eyes would glaze over. And and I'd say, Please stop internally, you know,
Alex Ferrari 10:09
You always try to be as nice as possible.
Carole Kirschner 10:11
I was I was pretty nice. And then the last thing is knowing what the basic arcs are for five seasons, all you need is a short paragraph on what happens in that season. You know, what, how the character moves from the beginning to the end, and of that season? And how the storyline evolves from the beginning to the end of that season.
Alex Ferrari 10:40
Okay, and so yeah, so for tones, like a perfect example would be like Modern Family and Big Bang, are both very different. They're both number one comedies, and they're both 30 minute comedies. But the tones are completely different.
Carole Kirschner 10:55
Completely different. It's like the difference between New Girl and insecure, totally different
Alex Ferrari 11:05
Right! Now, when you were working with Steven Spielberg at amblin, what were some of the things you learned from that experience that you can kind of give us as as tips?
Carole Kirschner 11:17
Sure, other than the three most powerful words are Stephen would like,
Alex Ferrari 11:21
And you have to have some sort of connection between Stephen with that for that to work.
Carole Kirschner 11:26
Yes, yeah. Well, if you're running his television division, then yes, have that excuse me one second. What did I learn? Well, I learned that Stephen has a very short attention span. I mean, he's brilliant, but you have to grab him in the first minute or two. Um, and he's really only interested in high quality concepts and series ideas, something he would be proud to put his name on.
Alex Ferrari 12:00
What, what years, were you there with him?
Carole Kirschner 12:03
I was there from 1988 to 1990. So it was a very it was 100 years ago. And it was
Alex Ferrari 12:09
Was that during the that was before or after amazing stories.
Carole Kirschner 12:13
That was right after amazing stories. Amazing Stories did well, yeah. And what happened is that he was at Universal, and they loved him. Of course, they wanted him to be happy. And so they said, Why don't you start a television division? And here's the interesting thing. He was hoping I mean, the company was hoping that there were a number of films that could be turned into television series. And the network's are very excited because they thought they were gonna get Indiana Jones and he was thinking more Harry and the Hendersons. So there was a little there was a little disconnect there. But and we did do Harry and the Hendersons
Alex Ferrari 13:00
Was was their show every instance. There was there was it was on a cable channel. And we did tiny tunes, which was actually Yes, yeah, it was really you want to know how it started? Please, please, I'd love to know that story of that, because that that was pretty groundbreaking and pretty edgy. For what for that?
Carole Kirschner 13:26
So the guy that was head of merchandising for universal came in and said plush toys. And I went, yes. And he said, if we did Looney Tunes, as small characters as young young characters, think about more of the plush toys we could sell. And that that was the genesis of it. And then we had great writers come in and, and wonderful artists, and every character design was approved by Steven, one day, I had to take seven flights in one day to get to his remote location to have him sign off on a character design.
Alex Ferrari 14:13
This before before the internet,
Carole Kirschner 14:15
Way before the internet. The internet wasn't even a twinkle in a millennials. So you know, his hand is really on everything. And, and we had a private chef, so that was really nice. That's, I'm trying to think answering your question what else I learned there? I learned that you have to be discerning. You don't throw a lot of stuff against the wall with Steven you really, really really go through and carefully determine which ones to bring to him because he has so much going on. Tom Yes. And he really respects writers and he respects things that are fun and entertaining. You can totally get him in raptured if you have a concept that he's interested in,
Alex Ferrari 15:16
Now what what saw during your tenure there, I'm assuming you had some some hits. And I'm assuming you had some not so big hits. What did you learn from the failures, and from the end from the successes during during your tenure?
Carole Kirschner 15:31
Well, you know what, I go back to what the pitches what the project is, because even if you're at amblin, there's amblin, shows that don't succeed, it is the difference between them. Our shows that succeed are characters that we haven't seen in that way before. And the stories that are being told, are being told, in a fresh way, there's not that many new stories, but it's what the approach is. And it's really having a concept. And characters. This is so obvious, you know, that connect with the audience, but that is entertaining. What, you know, I think there's two kinds of shows, and probably two kinds of movies as well. And one is the should watch, like, this is important with a capital I. And then there's half to watch want to watch because it's so entertaining. And you don't want to go for the half to watch, you can put half to watch elements into must watch wanna watch? Um, can't wait to watch. But you don't want to leave with important with the capital
Alex Ferrari 16:55
No you don't know so much. Because then turns into like a school project.
Carole Kirschner 17:00
Yes, yes. And a lesson and people don't turn to entertainment for lessons for the most part. You know, there's exceptions to everything.
Alex Ferrari 17:11
If you're if you're a good writer, you can sneak some of that stuff in.
Carole Kirschner 17:14
Absolutely not. And you should it makes it it gives it depth, but but don't lead with it.
Alex Ferrari 17:22
Absolutely. Now, what is what are some of the biggest mistakes you see beginning writers make?
Carole Kirschner 17:29
Oh, I love that question. Um, I mean that I love that question. Because I, I don't want people to make mistakes. And if I can help them not make mistakes. One of the mistakes is giving people is getting your script out before it's ready. And thinking, you know what, that, you know, this is a draft and and there's other things I'm going to do. But I want to get this to this mate manager agent right away. Don't do that. Have your script vetted by a number of people before you do that golden opportunity, because the truth is you have one shot, and you
Alex Ferrari 18:10
Would you agree the same thing would go for a film, once it's done, don't rush it out to a festival or rush it out to a producer. without sound without color. Make sure that cuts tight, make sure you see a lot of a lot of people watch it and take notes and things like that.
Carole Kirschner 18:23
Absolutely. Make sure your soundtrack is there. There's always the one you're going to use I you know, the music, the the cues, I mean, any material, you know, I call it being blazing hot. And it doesn't matter whether it's a script, a web series, a short or a feature. It has to be incredible. It has you know, good work sometimes goes unnoticed, but great work never does. And you want your project to be great blazing hot before you get it out there. You should have a community, a group of people who you trust, who will be honest with you, hopefully kind but honest. And you know, it's ready when everybody that you show it to goes, Wow, that's great. You're there.
Alex Ferrari 19:21
And in all honesty, I think kind is when it comes in that world kind is a bit overrated. If you have some friends who can tell you the truth, because the world is not going to be kind to you if you don't send it out in the proper way. It's true, but you don't have to decimate Absolutely, I get what you say constructive, constructive,
Carole Kirschner 19:38
It should be constructive. It should be honest, you shouldn't hold back, but don't be Don't be abusive. Don't be Don't be a dick,
Alex Ferrari 19:46
I think that's the best. That is the best advice out of anything anyone's ever said in this business. Just don't be a dick.
Carole Kirschner 19:53
Don't be a dick. Because, you know, producers executives will We have the lightest to shortlist. And if you get on that you're not gonna get more than one chance.
Alex Ferrari 20:07
Oh, that's great. That's a great Term Life is to shortlist because you're right even. And I'm sure you've met these people the most talented, what? Like, just genius kind of talents and experience, but they're dicks. And
Carole Kirschner 20:22
Yeah, it's the l. i. t. s list. Lit's, life is too short, and you get one shot.
Alex Ferrari 20:33
Now, you talk a lot about the unwritten rules in the film business, can you can you share a few of these unwritten rules?
Carole Kirschner 20:41
Yes, I certainly can't. One of them is understanding that this is a business. Um, it looks really casual. Everybody loves you. And I always have a saying, in this town. Nobody likes anything. They love it until I stop returning your calls. The unwritten rule is another unwritten rule is you never back somebody into a corner by asking them for something, you always give them a gracious out. Will you read my script? That's, that's bad. What you want to say is I know how busy you are? Or will you look at my real, we watch my web series. You say something like, I know how busy you are. If you have the time, and and you can spare the time, if you'd be willing to look at my fill in the blank and give me your thoughts. Whenever you have the time. I really appreciate it. And if you don't have the time, if there's someone in your office, that would look at it, I would really appreciate that, too. So it's don't back somebody into a corner. It's knowing your story and being memorable. Everybody in this business, you know, filmmakers, directors, writers, producers, you're storytellers. So your personal story should be memorable. And people that don't know what their story is. And I work a lot with clients and my people at CBS on how you craft what I call your personal a story, which, which is a chronological narrative of your life with you as the protagonist, highlighting what's colorful and successes. Another mistake that people make is being too intimate too quickly. And I'm not talking about being sexually intimate. I'm talking about telling
Alex Ferrari 22:49
Carole Kirschner 22:50
Too familiar? Hi, let me tell you about my eating disorder. Hi, you know, I'm bipolar. But that doesn't get in the way of my work. You, you, you don't want to do that. It's really important to follow up. I think that thinks so many people feel self conscious about following up because it feels uncomfortable. You don't want to bug people. But there's there's the right way to follow up. And you definitely want to stay on people's radar. Another mistake is those obnoxious people at parties and networking events that just talk non stop being you that just do monologues? Yeah, it's, you know, no one wants to be with you. People will say I've got to go to the bathroom, you know, just because it should be a dialogue all the time.
Alex Ferrari 23:41
And would you agree that in those in those party situations, you when you find someone who's just non stop talking about themselves, and do not even care a bit about who you are or even what you're interested in, they're just there to hear themselves speak. I'm sure you've run into a couple of those during your tenure.
Carole Kirschner 24:01
Yes. And it makes me want to run the other way. Actually, it makes me want to smack them and say stop it. No one cares about what you
Alex Ferrari 24:11
I'm curious, though, do you find people that are successful in the business doing that as well as people trying to break into the business doing that at a party, let's say, you know, there are narcissists everywhere. And yes, there? Yes, there are.
Carole Kirschner 24:27
I think our business has a bigger share of it perhaps than others. Okay, and very successful. You know, super successful people, generally, are more willing to have an on, you know, not an honest conversation because nobody's really honest, but to have a casual conversation, but there are people that have had some success, who are so full of themselves. And they don't understand social manners. And so yeah, you'll get that. I see it in newcomers, I see it in. Unfortunately, an experienced professionals as well, it's more of a personality disorder if you ask me and, and manners.
Alex Ferrari 25:18
Just again, just don't be a dick.
Carole Kirschner 25:20
Don't be. Just don't be. And I don't mean just man, I mean women to, you know, don't be nobody should be there
Alex Ferrari 25:27
Period period. Now what are some key elements you see in people who not only are able to break into the business but able to thrive in the business?
Carole Kirschner 25:37
That is a great a great question. The first that when I sort of studied people who were enormously successful now over all these years, I decided I wanted to know, there's four things that they all have in common. And number one is blazing hot material, their material is exceptional. And if it's not, it means their aunt is the president of a studio or network. There's that there's that. So blazing hot material, and then a really smart self marketing strategy. They know how to talk about themselves. And again, when I work with clients, I break it into three categories. There's your personal logline, which is what do you do? And that's your answer when you're in when you're at a party or a networking event, or meeting. And then there's the longer one, which is a personal a story I talked about, which which answers a question. So tell me about yourself. And then there's something I call your personal nuggets, which is the anecdotes of your life, that show why you're different, why you're memorable, because, you know, as an executive, I would meet with six or seven people in a day, and what you want when you walk out of that doors for me to remember who you are. And so it's blazing hot material, a smart self marketing strategy, and then a vibrant community of people where you have mutually beneficial relationships. And then being industry savvy, you know, not being tone deaf about what's going on, knowing who the players are, knowing what the trends are.
Alex Ferrari 27:26
So So I shouldn't be pitching Harvey Weinstein right now is what you're saying.
Carole Kirschner 27:29
You know Whedon? unless you're willing to go to the island? That is?
Alex Ferrari 27:34
Yes. Yeah, right. He's not gonna get Sundance this year. Not so much. Maybe not. But that's a perfect, but we laugh, but that's a perfect example of someone you know, that, you know, is completely tone deaf about what's going on in the business?
Carole Kirschner 27:53
Yeah, yeah. Um, you, you, yeah. Yeah. It's, it's being smart. And if you have all those four categories going for you, you in my opinion, are going to be successful. And you're not a dick, you're going to be successful.
Alex Ferrari 28:10
I was I was in a meeting once with an agent at one of the highfalutin agencies. And they, they said, what I'm looking for in a director is a politician, an artist, a politician, and a businessman. And that's absolutely, and that's why Spielberg and Cameron and Del Toro and Nolan these guys have all three of those things. And I couldn't agree with you more. It's It's true, right? It's like you really do need to be, you have to understand you have to be an artist first. But you have to understand business. And you also have to be a politician. Because you can't, you can't just kind of go in there and just, you know, throw your weight around. Until like, you know, now James Cameron can do that, because he's James Cameron. Steven Spielberg can do that Nolan could do that, you know, they they're at a certain level in the business that if they want, they can go throw their weight around a little bit, because they have a track record. But generally speaking on the way up, and even while you're there, you should always have be those three people. And I think Spielberg, Steven is probably the poster child for that, because I think he has that do. Would you agree?
Carole Kirschner 29:17
Yes, absolutely. He is a businessman. I mean, clearly, he's an artist. We know his artists straight. Yes. He's a really shrewd businessman. And he's, he's not a dad. He's a pleasure to be around. You know, he's nice. He's self effacing. He's soft spoken.
Alex Ferrari 29:37
He's great. I mean, but those are those elements that you really should look into as, as core elements of even a writer, as well as a director or producer. Those are three elements you really have to understand and embrace, would you
Carole Kirschner 29:54
Absolutely and I couldn't agree more and and another part of that is knowing how to manage To drop and manage down though you so you, so you are treating your producer or your executive? Well, but you're also treating the assistant. Well.
Alex Ferrari 30:12
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Carole Kirschner 30:23
Because I'll tell you a story when I was hiring a head of development for, for for amblin. There was a guy who had great credentials, but he was really a jerk to my assistant. And she told me about it. And even though we had a really good meeting, I didn't hire him. Right, because, and, and what that's one of the reasons because assistants are the gatekeepers to their boss. And the other is, everybody starts in this business as an assistant. And another story is when I was at CBS, there was a big time showrunner, who came in and every meeting we had with him, he said, Hi, nice to meet you. Hey, he didn't remember who I was. And then when I went to amblin, he wanted to set up a meeting. And I didn't say I don't remember who you are. I had the meeting, but I wasn't predisposed to buy from him.
Alex Ferrari 31:21
Right. Right. And that was a political move as well to get to take the meeting, because you'd really didn't want to meet with him, I'm assuming back then.
Carole Kirschner 31:29
I wasn't enthusiastic about it. But of course, I was going to meet with him. Because it's by
Alex Ferrari 31:34
Politics, you have to do certain things like that sometimes.
Carole Kirschner 31:38
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I'll tell you a mistake I made. Because I made a lot, which is why I wrote my book. Because I, I wanted somebody to teach me how to do it. So I wouldn't step on landmines because I stepped on plenty of them. Ultimately, I learned because I moved up in the business. But here's an example of what not to do. I was doing a general meeting, because when I left that small production company that I started at, I waged a campaign to get my next job. And that's what you have to do. And I met with a very high up well, I met with the president of Fox Television. And when this very nice woman came in, I asked her for Diet Coke. And I could see, I could see, it turned out to be Andrew Baines, who was the president of Fox at the time.
Alex Ferrari 32:40
And how that made him go.
Carole Kirschner 32:42
I wasn't the only person in the meeting. So I was saying with my bosses, so that made it even worse. Oh, but you know what, I apologize profusely. I sent her a funny note. And she and I actually became friends. And she was a mentor of mine after that,
Alex Ferrari 32:57
Oh, that's great. That's great. But that's genius over that happens. That definitely happens. Oh, God, you really need to know, do your homework, I guess before you go into meetings like that, or into environments like that you should know those things. Would you agree?
Carole Kirschner 33:12
I, you know, there's a whole section in the book. And when I work with clients about how you prepare for meetings, it's essential. And here's another mistake I made. I'm sort of mortified by it. I was meeting with somebody who was high up at ABC because I was interested and when I got my CBS job, I got an offer from ABC as well as CBS although after this meeting, I have no idea why. So I wanted to impress upon her how knowledgeable I was about the business and how I knew things that you know, just regular people didn't know. And I sort of said something about a woman another executive and I said you know, she doesn't return calls and she doesn't you know, nobody is really happy with her and turned out it was the executive I met with best friend It was like, Oh my god, so don't gossip that's another one that I feel but gosh
Alex Ferrari 34:09
Yeah, cuz you never know who knows who it's such a small business. It's so minuscule I can't is
Carole Kirschner 34:17
it and you know, just back away from it. Just don't get him and you know, television writers that are in writers rooms. Oh, they can be really political. And so you want to do you want to make sure you're Switzerland and you don't go with either side. And it's hard. It's, you know, with my CBS mentees and writers we talk about that a lot because it's a that's a landmine, you know, so it's, you know, being nice, but not getting into the fray.
Alex Ferrari 34:51
Right now. How do you feel about internships,
Carole Kirschner 34:55
Internships, they're the best. They're fantastic. My daughter who is a senior at UCLA in playwriting, but as an aspiring comedy writer, she's had four internships and her last was at Funny or Die. And because she works so hard, and she's fun to be around, and she's funny, even though I'm a mom, I can say that, you know, her, she worked at Sony to, they said, we'll help you get a job when you get out of school. So internships are great for making connections, assuming that you're not a jerk about it. And people go, oh, man, she's just sick sucking up to me because she wants to have a connection. And their way to prove your work ethic and their way to get jobs out of internships, many people get offered jobs, because companies and production companies would rather hire somebody they know who is really good for that entry level position, then have to go out to new people.
Alex Ferrari 35:59
That's exactly how I got my first job. I interned for four months at a production company in Miami. And while my boss quit, like, well, that gets been here for four months, give him the job. And then I was all of a sudden, I was the head of dubbing tech support at a big production company. So but that's how I did it. And just by by coming in every day, and I would also add, I would think that make sure who you're interning for. And because there's a lot of abuse in regards to internships and what you've done. And if you're not learning and are there, you're literally just you know, if you're working at a big company, it's different. But if you're looking for a smaller production company, and all they've got you doing is picking up laundry 24 seven, do you agree that's probably not the best idea.
Carole Kirschner 36:42
I couldn't agree more I as I like to say not all internships are created equal that the first internship my daughter had, they sat her in a corner in a white wall, in front of a white wall, and never asked, she kept saying, Can I do this? Can I do that? No, no, no, it's covered. And so I encouraged her to not to leave, because it what and she did it really politically correctly? Um, but no, you're absolutely right. If If you are just doing runs all the time, you're not learning anything. If they if they have you in a corner, if you're picking up laundry, as you said all the time, if somebody is abusing you, or ignoring you, then then that's not the right internship. And don't stay, you know, leave on a good note, because you never know, but don't stay.
Alex Ferrari 37:36
Now. What advice would you give people on how to network properly?
Carole Kirschner 37:41
Oh, good question. First of all, I hate the word networking it when I think about it, I think about smarmy agents, you know, here's my card.
Alex Ferrari 37:54
How you doing? We got to do is I got to do? Yes, here, look at my look at my reel on my phone, boom, here you go watch it in the corner. In the corner make?
Carole Kirschner 38:11
Oh, how do you get out of that you just go I see my friend and you run away. The right way, in my opinion, is to think about it as connecting rather than networking. Right. And so it's finding people, it's connecting with people that you have a genuine connection with. And my number one rule for connecting with people is to focus on what you can do for them. Why? You know, people when you say you need to go network, they go, let me just die now is because they're afraid they're going to be that smarmy person and and be trying to get something out of somebody. But if you go in with the mindset, how can I help this person that I'm talking to? You know, how can I be absurd? What do I yeah, you know, they need a sound engineer. Do I know somebody who's, who's willing to do that and give them the name. I once had lunch with a showrunner, who been through the showrunner program, but we became friends and he was talking about doing his new project was on serial killers. I said, You know, I just listened to a show on NPR, about an interesting serial killer. Let me send you the link. It's a smallest that the other is having that personal logline and a story you know, knowing it well enough so that when you talk to somebody, you can say what you do in a way that's interesting and compelling and memorable without being obnoxious about it. And then following up is so important. And if you have a genuine connection with somebody, you know, wait a week and then reach out and say You want to grab a coffee, you want to go to movie, you want to come over to my bad movie night or my poker game it and, and it's doing events if you're that kind of person, it's it's putting on social kinds of, you know small events, a brunch, a poker night
Alex Ferrari 40:20
Screening of the room
Carole Kirschner 40:22
Screening of the room, bad movie night screening of the room. And what I tell my clients is, you know, put on an event like that, and say to your friends, bring somebody with you that I don't know, that's the price of admission. I have a writer client who I go back to Poker because there's a lot of poker going around with writers. And she started a bi monthly poker game. And she said, You can come You can drink my beer, you can eat my chips, you can lose money, you can win money. But the price of admission is you got to bring somebody I don't know. And after six months, she had a much expanded circle of friends and contacts.
Alex Ferrari 41:09
Ofcourse, that's a genius way of doing it actually. Yeah, but that's smart. you're providing a value to people right off the bat. That's an entertainment of, of getting away of, of gambling, having having a poker night. And it's that's a very subtle way of making connections.
Carole Kirschner 41:26
Absolutely. And, you know, that came out of the fact that before I met my husband, some girlfriends and I were sitting around saying we can't meet any men. And so we decided to have a bring your old boyfriend party just because you don't want him doesn't mean somebody else might not genius.
Alex Ferrari 41:43
That's a movie right there. That's a pitch there. Yeah, that's a pitch. And what happened?
Carole Kirschner 41:51
People met you know, there was no marriages that came out of it. The people met somebody and dated and stuff like that.
Alex Ferrari 41:58
Sure, sir. It was but it was it was a network, it was a connection. It was a connection, it was a connection of it. Now, do you have any tips on how to handle rejections?
Carole Kirschner 42:09
I do as a matter of fact, because I've certainly experienced it myself. At amblin, they didn't pick up my contract for a second term, I was devastated. And what they actually did is they sort of shut down the department but but it doesn't matter, you know, for a while but doesn't matter. And I would I bought a lot of shoes, I drove around, listening to this r&b song called smoke gets in your eyes crying, weeping. And you know, and there was some ice cream involved and all this too much. And so what I tell people is apps and my husband even taught me this to feel the feelings wallow in that rejection and that pain. And do it for two or three days. You know, you don't have to leave your house, you don't have to get out of your pajamas just feel bad. And then move on. Move on, reach out to people say I'm back in the world, say I'm looking for a new gig. Do you want to get coffee, go back out and be social and move on and have sort of a game plan for what you want to do. But don't deny the feelings, feel them. But then move on. And I think that's the best way to handle reach and no going in. Everybody gets rejected. Everybody gets it.
Alex Ferrari 43:43
I remember I remember going back to Steve and he took him forever to get Lincoln off the ground. No one would finance it knew Steve. It was Steven Spielberg. And exactly. And no one wanted to finance Schindler's List for that matter, you know, either. So yeah, to do it themselves, but people get rejected all the time. Everyone does.
Carole Kirschner 44:01
And and if you have the expectation that I'm different, and I'm never going to get rejected, I think the pain of it, the shock of it will be enormous. But if you go in going, Okay, that's one down. Oh, here's another thing when you get rejected, do not smack talk do not bad talk, right? The people that rejected you. You know, I know that there's lots of assistants that work for people that are jerks. And what I say to them is when people say hey, how was that because there are some, you know, well known jerks. You just say, you know, I learned how to deal with big personalities. And when they say why did you leave you say you know what, it just wasn't a fit. And that's enough.
Alex Ferrari 44:54
That's that's a very Hollywood that's so Hollywood. Those two lines are perfect though, but they're political. Well, that's that's what the that's what that's what it is you have to be kind of pull. The word is political, I think more than anything else, you have to be able to maneuver your way nicely. If you cannot afford it.
Carole Kirschner 45:14
Yes. And you don't want to sever any ties and listen, if you're bad mouthing somebody, it's gonna get back to them. Right gonna get back to them. And, you know, political is not a bad thing. You know, it's so peep artists go, but I'm above that, but you're not. This is a business. I'm sure people on your show said show business show is the art and business is the politics. And you need both.
Alex Ferrari 45:43
It's a it's a real, it's a you have to understand the whole ecosystem. The whole exactly the whole, the circle of life. akuna Matata. Exactly, the entire business. And it is just that and I've run into so many filmmakers and screenwriters that don't get the business. They just have this passion of the art, and this and that. And a friend of mine, Suzanne Lyons, she, she says the word show, and there's the word business and the word business has twice as many letters as the word show. Oh, I love that I'm gonna steal that I stole it from her. And I told her I told her that like, and that's how important the business side is. Because without death business, the art goes nowhere.
Carole Kirschner 46:23
That's That's exactly right. And remember, with few exceptions, people buyers are in business to make money. It does not in some are just for the art, but you can't stay afloat unless you're independently wealthy. So another thing about pitching another thing about selling is put yourself in their shoes. What is going to work for them? What works for their brand? What works? What do they need? Not just, you're gonna love this, but really what do they need? And you have, and that's just true. That's true. When you're connecting with people. It's true with everything,
Alex Ferrari 47:07
Do your homework.
Carole Kirschner 47:08
Do your homework. No, no. You know, how you how you can be of help, how you can be their solution to what their problem is.
Alex Ferrari 47:19
Right! In other words, don't go to Disney and pitch a slasher movie. It's not it's not a good and Disney is everywhere now. So they own everything, don't they? I think they own everything now. I think they're gonna rule the world. Yeah, I mean, it's insane what Disney's it's smart business. I mean, yeah, it's it's smart business. But you know, buying 20 Century Fox, that's a pretty big,
Carole Kirschner 47:45
I mean, that's a big buy. And, you know, on some hand, it makes me sad because, you know, we need individual voices we really do. I mean, is
Alex Ferrari 47:54
there going to be you know, is there a predator in the new 20 Century Fox? Is there you know, an aliens franchise is it all these amazing franchises that 20 Century Fox created? Are they going to be created now under Disney? Are they gonna have their same Adam entity that Pixar and Marvel and Star Wars has?
Carole Kirschner 48:17
You know, I think they will retain a lot of their brand because their brands so successful,
Alex Ferrari 48:23
Right! Why would you mess with it? And I think it's it's funny because you look at Fox is because fox is literally like, when you when they bought Marvel, they bought Pixar, they bought Star Wars. They're smaller, huge brands but smaller than themselves. Yes, but when buying Fox, it's like buying Warner Brothers, like you're buying you're equal or close to your equal and how do you treat that and I'm assuming they would hopefully treat it in the same manner that treated Pixar you know, with some some over oversight, but still keep it as its own kind of brand. I'm hoping because Fox did do create some insane insane properties and films over the years.
Carole Kirschner 49:08
I think that's astute. I you know, if a person had a magic, you know, a crystal ball that's what I think's going to happen because that is in Disney's best interest is to have another distribution system that has its own brand.
Alex Ferrari 49:28
Well I touched on was back in the day, that's when you know, Eisner turn touchdown into the our Disney. Mm hmm. Because they had to back in the day. And that was another brand that Disney was able to pump out pretty, pretty raw movies are movies back in the day. So I think I think that will be hopefully what they do with Fox. But anyway, we've gone off topic. So um, can you talk a little bit about your game, hollywood game plan? book, we've mentioned it a times what is the book and and tell us a bit about it?
Carole Kirschner 49:58
Sure. So it's called Hollywood game plan how to land a job in film, TV or digital entertainment. And it's really for people who are breaking in, and people who are in but want to move up a little, who are in for a while and want to move up. And I've had people say it's used in colleges and universities sort of around the country. And I've had people who went to very pricey film school who said, You know what, but we didn't get this information in film school. It's, it's how you get an internship. It's how you do a resume and a cover letter, although you can get some of that online. But it's the unwritten rules that we talked about. It's, if you're coming to LA, it's where to live, it's what to wear, it's how to prepare for a meeting, it's have a follow up without being annoying. It's, it's how you create your own personal, you know, entertainment industry brand. It's about how you maneuver through the world in Hollywood, without making the big mistakes, how you move in, move up, how you, you know, really how you set yourself apart? How you get that first job, what you have to do, where do you meet people? What do you say, when you meet people? How do you make sure that you get asked back? You know, when you're an intern, and that you're asked to work there? How do you make sure that your first job, you're doing a fantastic job? It covers all of that.
Alex Ferrari 51:41
Excellent. And then you also have a course called the Hollywood boot camp, right?
Carole Kirschner 51:45
Yeah, Carol crushers, hollywood boot camp. And some of the material that's in the book is in the boot camp. But what it is, is it's a video course. And it's streaming, you can watch it however you want, you can watch it all at once. there's 20, there's 20 modules, you can watch one at a time, and then go to the grocery store. It covers some of the same material, but it's much more in depth. There's exercises that you can do. And there's lots of stories and examples that help to that help to illuminate what the points are. You know, I talked about great emails, and I read the email so that people know, you know, how do you write the right email to follow up? How do you write the right email to introduce yourself and ask for a general meeting? it's things like that.
Alex Ferrari 52:39
It's really it's basically a blueprint or roadmap on how to maneuver in the business and Hollywood.
Carole Kirschner 52:48
Absolutely. How to break in how to maneuver how not to be a dick.
Alex Ferrari 52:53
I don't know. I don't know if there's a book or a course on how to do that.
Carole Kirschner 52:57
Well, here's all the things to do to not be a dick, but I can't make you not be
Alex Ferrari 53:01
Exactly, exactly. We'll give you the tips, you can lead the horse to water.
Carole Kirschner 53:05
That's right. That's right. But but it's, it's what are the steps? Because a lot of people go, I don't even know where to start. Or I'm in but I've lost traction, how do I get traction again,
Alex Ferrari 53:17
Right. And it's just such a, you know, once you're hot, you're hot, and then it goes away really quickly, and how you keep how you bring traction back. And I went through that with projects of my own where I was being, you know, brought in by the studios and I was hot for a minute. And I didn't prepare properly. And one time I had that script ready. I was over time the light is left that they've moved on and trying to get back in was very difficult. So that was a hard lesson to learn.
Carole Kirschner 53:46
Yeah, yeah, it's, you know, it's funny, because for a while with my clients, I did careered, you know, 911 How do you rehabilitate yourself? And you know, I, I've certainly work with some of my clients about that, too. And it's important to know what you need to be doing what you can be doing on a regular basis to move your career forward. A lot of people just don't know. So the book and the course, talk about what you should be doing sort of daily, on a regular basis to get to what your goals are, and how you set your goals. How in the in the course, in the streaming course, we talk about a mission statement, because a lot of people don't think about that they only think about what's the immediate job I want to get. They don't think about what their core values are, and how to make sure that when they're making their decisions, they're making their decisions based around that. That's sort of esoteric, the other things in our very hands on and very specific.
Alex Ferrari 54:58
Now, I want to ask you, I have a button Two questions I asked all of my a few questions like rapid fire that asked all my guests, I'm going to ask you in a second, but you brought up something that I just I've never had an opportunity to ask anybody with your experience in the business this there and I know it exists. But I want to hear your point of view on this. Something called directors jail, or writers jail or EP jail where they they either have a flop or have multiple flops where the point where they can't even get a meeting, but they had huge successes prior to that. Is that does that exist? And how do you get out of that?
Carole Kirschner 55:35
Really good question. Yes, it exists. But the truth is, there's two ways out of it. And well, there's three ways. One is that your material, your next project, your next script, your next web series, is is blazing hot, that can't be denied. The second is that you're a pleasure to work with some people who are not a pleasure to work with when they get into directors, jail or writers jail, people go great, let them stay there, I don't care. And the third is to keep up your connections. And to keep it up in a positive way. So that when you do have that new piece of material, people are willing to take a risk. If you have 20 years of flops, you may want to think about a different business. But everybody has flops. It's it's how you treat people. It's whether or not your next project and the one after that is blazing hot, and fits the marketplace. And then it's making sure that you don't go into a hole and not stay connected to people.
Alex Ferrari 56:50
You know that there was there was a moment in time I remember back in I want to say 80 980-889-9091 where a lot of people and I was still in high school at the during that time, but I heard because I was studying the business back then that a lot of people were saying, Oh Spielberg is he's done. You know, because he had a heart. Right. Right, exactly. But during that time that I heard that, that because you know, he had, he did always which wasn't a hit than he did hook was was a big, big, you know, big budget, and not a hit, which is honestly one of my favorites of his I love. But, and he was just like, Oh, you know, I think the Spielberg thing is over at the end. And that's what people do they talk. And then in 92 had the greatest year ever, for any filmmaker with Jurassic Park. And it was a 92. Right. And I did show 93 I think one of those years. Yeah, he had the biggest movie of the year, financially. And the most awarded movie was Schindler's List, back to back and no one I think has ever done that again. So never, you know, never count anybody, especially when it's out right now.
Carole Kirschner 58:00
Don't count yourself out. That's a terrific example. And that's because Jurassic Park and Schindler's List were terrific. They like blazing, blazing hot. Yeah, blazing hot. And if they hadn't been, then it would have been much harder. But, but he's so genius that that's how that happens.
Alex Ferrari 58:21
Oh, God, can you imagine making Jurassic Park and Schindler's List in the same year? releasing them? I mean, God, that's, it's, it's mind blowing. I really is mind blowing. Okay, so let's, let's get to these final questions. So what advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter trying to break into the business today?
Carole Kirschner 58:39
Um, make sure material, this is what everybody says, I'm sure. Three things, make sure your material is blazing hot. Make sure that you know how to talk about yourself in a way that makes people lean forward and remember you and the third is make sure that you expand your community of contacts.
Alex Ferrari 58:58
Can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?
Carole Kirschner 59:04
Alex Ferrari 59:07
To Shay, fair enough,
Carole Kirschner 59:08
Um, uh, there were a lot and um, you know, adventures in the screen trade by William Goldman was certainly one of them. Um, mailroom was another learning about how the the agents worked. Um, there was another one but I can't remember where it's called right now. So we have to put a pin in that though. So those are those are good books.
Alex Ferrari 59:37
Now what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Carole Kirschner 59:44
Ah, work incredibly hard. Don't. Don't sail by on your charm and your your personality talent, you know, right. Or your talent. You You have to do the work. You have to work harder than anybody else. Because all the people that are successful, they work really hard. Nobody really looks at that. But they work their ass off. And, you know, I sailed by because I was charming. And people liked me for a while. And then I realized, nope. And being political, you know, treating, manage up, manage down, I didn't have a problem managing down, but managing and let go of your ego, you need a healthy ego. But you also need to know when to have it in check.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:35
And three of your favorite films of all time.
Carole Kirschner 1:00:38
All That Jazz. Okay. Schindler's List. All right. And I gotta say right now, Lady Bird.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:47
It's on my list. I got the screen or have to watch that. I got Yeah, I heard it's really, really good. Oh, and also Young Frankenstein. Can't leave that out. I mean, seriously, how can you leave your practice? And where can people find you online?
Carole Kirschner 1:01:01
Um, my website is Carolkirschner.com. And on that website, you can see a link to the book and to the to the course. And you can see about my coaching packages, and blogs. So Carolkirschner.com, the boot camp is ckbootcamp.com. And you can go to Amazon for Hollywood game plan.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:27
I'll put all of those in the show links to all of that stuff in the show notes. Carol, thank you so much. It's an absolute pleasure speaking to you today. Thank you so much for dropping some major knowledge bombs on the indie film hustle tribe today.
Carole Kirschner 1:01:39
Thank you so much, Alex. It was great.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:42
So you guys ready to break into Hollywood after that episode? I am. But no, seriously, thank you, Carol so much for dropping some great knowledge bombs. And if you guys honestly are looking for a consultant or someone to help you kind of guide your career help you break in, in a way or you know, help you rebrand yourself or how to package yourself better. To make yourself look more appetizing to agents to managers, to studios and executives, Carol is the person to go to so just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/249 for the show notes, and there are links to everything she has there including her course Hollywood boot camp and links to her book and to her for consulting and so on. So thanks again, Carol. And if you guys haven't done it already, please head over to filmmakingpodcast.com and leave me a five star review on the show. It really helps to show out a lot I greatly greatly appreciate it now hope you guys are enjoying the summer cuz I am but of course I am busy hustling like a madman and I hope you guys are too and as always keep that also going keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.
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- Carole Kirschner – Official Site
- Carole Kirschner – Hollywood Bootcamp Course
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