Panelists dispensed advice last week in Long Beach on how to get freelance work in the entertainment industry. Moderated and organized by Shaene Siders, “How to Get More Freelance Work” was the second of three panel discussions I attended at last week’s Long Beach Comic Expo. Other panelists were Ralph Miranda, Christian Gossett, Steven L. Sears, and Brooks Wachtel. Although from the title, the scope of which fields of freelance work were going to be discussed was unspecified, once the panel began, it was clear that they were speaking about freelance work in the entertainment field, primarily as a writer, but it could be as an artist or other similar creative fields.
Ralph Miranda advised not to hang out just with your own kind – such as illustrators hanging out with other illustrators, but to expand your social circles, perhaps to directors, editors, etc., because usually someone else is looking for an illustrator (and not another illustrator). He also said that personality goes a long way and, despite how the industry is portrayed, backstabbing is not healthy – you can actually get further by helping out other people and connecting them with others. That positivity reflects back positively on you and, if people see you helping others out, they are more likely to help you out.
Christian Gossett advised that, even when not hired at any given moment, it’s important – especially for illustrators like him – to be working on “output, output, output; it’s #1 for me. It’s easy to forget that” you have other projects want to be working on when you are focussed on “trying to get into the castle.” This “trying to get into the castle” metaphor became widespread amongst the panelists – it can definitely seem like a challenge to break into working in entertainment if you’re not already in it.
Sears said you “have to set the value of the work” you have turned out; for instance, “if someone asks you for a free script, ask them if anyone else is doing work for free.” Gossett advised that “if they disregard you/your work from the first dime, they never will” – meaning that they will never [financially] value it enough to financially remunerate you what they should be.
The panel, mostly, was the Steven L. Sears and Brooks Wachtel show, which was actually interesting, in that Sears had a lot of useful advice from his vantage point as a writer and television executive producer, while Wachtel dispensed more sagely advice in smaller bites.
Some of Wachtel’s advice included: “Don’t just try to go to the top” in your social interactions – it’s important also to focus on those with you in your similar situation – “it’s those with you now” who [hopefully] will be coming up with you.
Wachtel was also adamant about interacting socially in a normal sort of way, rather than to “look at someone and say, ‘What can they do for me?'” It’s important to “network and meet the people you want to meet to learn and to get to know – not to use them.”
When networking and trying to meet key people, “you have to do it with no less sincerity than with ‘normal people’,” said Sears. You “genuinely have to be curious about other people” and you should not be “just trying to get something out of them.”
“The industry thrives on new blood,” said Sears. “I want to enjoy working with you” as someone who is hiring. “Sell me your talent; not your arrogance: the more aggressive you are, the more walls we put up.”
“Make sure you’re giddy when you talk about something you are excited about, because people will want to know more about it, advised Sears. You need to “find your passion – you need to have one direction that will pull you forward.” However, when you are trying to get new opportunities, you need to “open yourself up to other work.”
Wachtel also advised that “you should hire an entertainment lawyer, so you don’t have to be the bad guy” when negotiating a contract. Sears added, “these companies do not have all these lawyers just to be fair”, which drew quite a laugh out of the audience.
Long Beach Comic Expo is an annual event held at the Long Beach Convention Center every spring. It’s a celebration of comic books and pop culture that showcases the exceptional works of talented writers, artists, illustrators and creators of all types of pop culture.