Film Courage: Your book Hollywood Game Plan…so you’ve written a lot of things about how people can get their foot in the door, thank you notes and other useful information. I want to talk about the over 40 population and their approach [to finding a job in Hollywood]. Maybe they are new to the industry, here (in Hollywood) from somewhere else or another line of work. Do those same rules apply? What is working for a person over 40? What is working against them and how do they combat what’s not working?
Carole Kirschner: That’s a good question. Ageism totally exists in this business. To say it doesn’t would be to say a lie. However, the way you can protect yourself against it is with your material. There are two things. One is having great material that is undeniable. People don’t care if it’s (again I’m thinking about screenwriters let’s say) on the page, it doesn’t matter.
The other thing is to stay contemporary. If you don’t know what Reddit is or what LinkedIn or (I can’t imagine anybody who doesn’t know what Twitter is?) but if you don’t know what is happening then that ages you.
I’ve told a lot of writers who are over 40, make a web series. Show that you know what is going on and it’s a way to make you undeniable.
Ageism is there but there’s a lot of people who say “We’re looking for somebody who has some life experience. I’m not looking for somebody who just got out of USC, who made three student films, has had no life and has only consumed entertainment and doesn’t have any life experience.” So I think that the only person that is going to get in the way is you if you’re thinking “I’m too old.”
If your material is there, if you’re contemporary with what’s going on in the business and trends in society, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.
Film Courage: So then look at the [news] headlines, research what companies are doing well, what is the latest social media app…like for me with SnapChat I’m still learning about it. I don’t really know how to use it and I feel like that dates me because so many people that are under 25, they’re all about SnapChat. And so there’s a demographic, there’s a population that I don’t know about, I don’t know how to work it and all the things that are a part of it.
Let’s say someone wants to get an entry level (a mailroom) position or an administrative assistant or receptionist, being 40?
Carole Kirschner: It’s harder. It’s going to be tougher. I know one guy who was a lawyer but all he wanted to do was be a writer and he ended up getting a job as the assistant to the Showrunner on SVU. He did that for two years. He was the most overqualified assistant that ever existed! And then he got a job as a staff writer and he was in his 40’s.
It is very hard to get an entry-level job. What I recommend that people do…somebody just emailed me and said “What can I do? I want to be an executive. I’m 48.” And I said “Be a producer first. Have a body of work under your belt. Come in with material. Come in showing that you can produce work. But I think it’s really hard unless you’ve been a professional administrative assistant to get a job as an administrative when you’re over 40. It’s not impossible because some people don’t care but it’s more challenging. It’s definitely more challenging.
Film Courage: Well not to advocate lying on a resume, but do you leave off…let’s suppose I have so much work experience to show them [in my head I’m thinking] they are definitely going to want to hire me, maybe that works against you?
Carole Kirschner: It does work against you! Don’t go back more than 10 years. I definitely tell my clients, they don’t need to see anything from 2002. Absolutely not! And what I also tell my clients is tell me how old you really are and then if they are over a certain age I say “Don’t tell anybody else.”
Film Courage: Interesting. Even if you get to know co-workers?
Carole Kirschner: If you get to know co-workers and you’re close, you can. But actually…I’d keep it pretty close to the vest.
Film Courage: Interesting. I’ve known people for years. I have no idea what their ages are and I never ask. But then some people are much more free with information. Do you think being free with it hurts you?
Carole Kirschner: I wouldn’t be free with it. If you are older than most of the people you’re working with, I wouldn’t sling that around. I just wouldn’t make a deal of it.
Film Courage: Right…okay.
Question for the Viewers: Do you have any stories of people making it in Hollywood later in life?
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