Updated: Jul 15, 2020
"Luck? I don't know anything about luck. I've never banked on it and I'm afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: Hard work - and realizing what is opportunity and what isn't." ~ Lucille Ball
A young Charlize Theron yelled at a bank teller in Beverly Hills, and got noticed by the man who would become her manager.
This will not happen to you.
People who become successful in the film industry didn't spend their days sitting in Starbucks, just waiting for a producer to walk up to them and offer them a job. So get to work.
She was a clerk at a Chicago bankruptcy firm, then worked at an ad agency, when she decided to quit to take on life as a full-time stripper. She began to famously blog about the experience under her internet pseudonym Diablo Cody, which she choose to use for internet anonymity — and also so she could make sure that her parents didn’t discover her blogging and alternative lifestyle. Despite blogging for a few years before that, no one ever took notice until she started writing about her stripping life. The blog was so successful that Hollywood came calling, wanting her to write a script. She had never attempted a screenplay but decided to take hold of the opportunity at hand. That first script was Juno. It would go on to become an iconic film and garner her an Academy Award.
One of the most widely recognized filmmakers of all time never attended film school.
At high school Kubrick was chosen to be an official school photographer. After that, he attended evening classes at City College of New York for a short period of time, unable to enter a day-time university program due to poor grades at school. Working as a freelance photographer, he started his filmmaking career by renting a camera and shooting a short documentary Day of the Fight. Inspired by its success, he continued making films, eventually presenting his first featureFear and Desire in 1953. His career in Hollywood started 3 years later, with BAFTA Award winner – The Killing.
The singer-turned-actress has a FedEx employee to thank for the launch of her career. The summer before she began high school, the actress bought some studio time — and the delivery man heard her. “It turned out the delivery guy had a friend of a friend of a friend who was the head of Urban A&R at Epic Records..."
Pete Davidson worked hard to become the youngest Saturday Night Live cast member when he was 20 years old, but he didn’t get there without a little help from his friends.
Pete started performing standup comedy when he was 16 on Staten Island, which led to a series of small television and film roles, including a part in Judd Apatow and Amy Schumer‘s romantic comedy Trainwreck as one of Bill Hader‘s patients.
Everybody knows Stallone’s story, a yet another classic “from rags to riches through hard work” tale. Back in the 1970s, Sylvester Stallone was a dirt-poor struggling actor and screenwriter, who at one point couldn’t even afford rent and had to find places where to sleep. But it all changed when Sylvester was 30 and his script for Rocky (a draft of which he wrote in 3 days) was picked up with him attached in the lead role.
Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith
Karen is an out-of-town success story, having broken through while living in Denver, Colorado of all places. She dabbled in various career jobs outside of the film industry — marketing for an investment firm and public relations for a non-profit.
During this time, she was writing and eventually began to send query letters to L.A. production companies. One of those was received by her eventual writing partner, Karen Smith, who was working in development at CineTel. Smith loved her writing, requested more scripts, and after their first face-to-face meeting they began to collaborate.
They sold their first script that they wrote together, 10 Things I Hate About You, which is now considered a classic. They would go on to write Legally Blonde, which then catapulted them into the studio comedy spotlight.
We all know the story. He worked at a video store for years, surrounded by an endless supply of inspiration. For three years — whenever he had the money — he would shoot footage for an early film. However, he was so poor that he could barely ever process the film he shot. And when it was processed, a fire destroyed more than half of the footage. He wrote True Romance and Natural Born Killers while working at the video store and eventually sold both of those scripts. While many call him an overnight success with the likes of his feature directorial debut, Reservoir Dogs, which he also wrote, the truth is he struggled for almost a decade before success started to come his way.
Are you an actor? Take classes. Build your community. Go on lots of auditions, even the crappy ones, or write your own showcase so you can show yourself off to casting folks. Are you a screenwriter? Be writing. Always. And contact agents. Get feedback on your scripts, and learn how to write well. Are you a director? Make a movie, dammit. Like, a cheap movie. Like, with your iPhone. Just make something.
If you want to work, work. If you want to get fat, sit in Starbucks.