Monthly Archives: February 2016

A Life Lived Well…

Having had the pleasure of meeting with so many of you, of focusing on and trying to help you gain entry into the career you have worked so hard to prepare for and are determined to achieve, I have been given a surprising gift by you – and that is to ask what’s really mattered in my life BEYOND “career.”

Actor?  Production Crew Member?  Producers Personal Assistant?  Writer?  Producer?   Executive Producer?  I have been all of these things, and have – like you – an ever evolving resume and bio that tells this tale.

But who am I other than my work history?  More to the point, what part of that journey is always left out by the studio or network publicists who post the requisite blurbs whenever I am fortune enough to get a movie made?  

 “…The father of two and a proud grandfather, Howard is married to Studio Executive, Disney Imagineer, and Film and Television Producer, Donna Burkons…”

Even though this reference’s Donna’s professional credits, my “people” find my marriage and children and grandkids too personal, off point, and thus inappropriate.  Heck, I even left this out in my “About” page for this blog.

But what I am, what matters most, is that Donna has blessedly been “with” me for 44 years and counting.  Our friends, extended family, and most of all our adult “kids” and now grandkids, are our life.  

So it came as a pleasant surprise that I stumbled on this TED talk to share with you this AM, one with a message I hope you will file away and take with you as you pursue and achieve all of your career “dreams and aspirations.”

What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness | Robert Waldinger | TED Talks

Published on Jan 25, 2016

What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken. As the director of 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.


SO BAD IT’S GOOD – TV’s Money Game

“Breaking Bad” is a series I suspect we all watched.  As such I found this article to be an excellent one offering a good hard look at the numbers, the hows, the whys and the wherefores of a TV Series, and how a “HIT” can change the lives of everyone, especially the network and studio, “lucky” enough to “own” it.

If you only read one thing I post on TV, this would be a top choice.


The Economics of a Hit TV Show

Photo Credit:  Lewis Jacobs / AMC

Ten million Americans can recall where they were the night of September 29th, 2013. They were watching the series finale of Breaking Bad. And they were watching it on AMC, a cable channel that once cut its teeth airing reruns of black-and-white movies.

The suits at the network were prepared. Like Walter White, the show’s ruthlessly efficient meth dealer, they knew they had a quality product on their hands. And they charged their customers accordingly. AMC extended the runtime of the last two episodes from 44 to 54 minutes – 75 minutes apiece with commercials – and raised its advertising rates to as much as $400,000 per 30-second spot. The 21 minutes of commercial airtime in “Felina,” the show’s final episode, may have earned the network $7-8 million in advertising revenue.

But keeping Breaking Bad on the air was a big investment. Shooting the show cost about $3 million per episode in 2010, and $3.5 million per episode in its final season. The show’s last 16 episodes cost approximately $56 million to produce.

And finding a hit like Breaking Bad – or even finding a viable show to put on the air in the first place – often costs networks hundreds of millions of dollars each year in development costs and pricey, failed pilot projects.

Things could get even more expensive. Breaking Bad uberfan Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder of Dreamworks, reportedly offered to pay $25 million per episode to produce three more episodes. That’s a total of $75 million, at an average of $568,000 per minuteof final air length. Continue reading SO BAD IT’S GOOD – TV’s Money Game

“No Money No Honey”

The above quote was first said to me by a Sushi Chef who had practically become a member of my family (after all, I was supporting him, his wife and kids with all the Omakase dinners I devoured), and it gets right to the heart of a point we talked about – that you have to make a living  in order to survive, and the more money the better the life you and your future loved ones will count on and enjoy.

This article is geared toward the business side of the industry, and provides a “tasty” snapshot of what you can make starting out in your first, post, non-struggling-assistant position on a desk at an agency or network or studio, and details income figures offering you plenty to incentives to work hard and harder if this career appeals to you as the rewards are ample and exciting.

Once again, this is from Producer Gavin Palone, and you are going to want to read past the big shot salaries and pay special attention to the “entry level” salaries of Rookie Development Executives and Baby Agents:

Polone: So How Much Do Hollywood Players Make?


There are two topics in which we are all endlessly interested: sex and money. Specifically, how much of both other people are getting and from whom. While we get to hear quite a lot about these topics when it comes to celebrities, I’m far more interested in hearing about how much the more regular people with whom I regularly interact are getting — well, not so much the sex part, but certainly how much money they’re making. I don’t feel competitive with Adam Sandler, but there is certainly a part of me that wants to gauge myself against my peers, and while it is easy to gain some estimate of what Mr. Sandler makes in a year by doing a quick Google search, there isn’t much said about the earnings of the executives, attorneys, and agents whom I talk to all day long. So, to satisfy my curiosity, I did an unscientific survey of about ten top lawyers, agents, and executives who would have direct knowledge of compensation at their own firms, as well as many others. From these interviews, I was able to estimate compensation ranges for each job category. (I gave more weight to information that came from those who had more experience with specific deals: agents talking about what people are paid at their agency; lawyers explaining deals they’ve negotiated on behalf of studio executives, etc.) Here is my guide to Hollywood’s one percent: Except where noted, the following are “all-in” numbers, including salary, bonus, and stock awards. Continue reading “No Money No Honey”

Working in Development…

I am posting this piece that describes the JOB of working in Development for the FILM SPARK Students I spoke to in “Welcome to Hollywood,” that fantastic course taught by Professor Collis as part of “ASU in Hollywood,” as well as for all the amazing young film, television, and all-media artists and future agents and executives (you know who you are) I just had the honor of meeting at ASU Tempe.

It’s a pretty straightforward and will be followed by more pieces in this area.  



by Rona Edwards and Monica Skerbelis

What exactly is a Development Executive anyway?

They are hard-working individuals who look for stories, screenplays, and material for their production companies, studios and/or networks. They oversee the writer(s) and give notes on the material in order to elevate the screenplay to production.

Development executives are hired for their opinions and their tastes. They are articulate individuals with a passion for movies, can look at material and see what works and what doesn’t work, and are able to work with both writers and producers to improve the stories and screenplays.

Development executives read and read and read. They form an opinion on the material, discuss it with their colleagues and/or bosses, deciding on whether the material is right for their company or studio. Everyone has an opinion about what they read or see at the movies – from assistants who want to get ahead to the Chairman of the Motion Picture Group. The development executive must have more than an opinion – they must be able to convey whether the material is marketable, castable, fills a niche for their company, and, above all, tells a good story.

Development executives at both production companies and studios have broad tastes in movies and contribute to a wide range of development projects to create a slate of films for their company to produce. They need to be open to a variety of material not just the blockbuster tent-pole movies (i.e., summer event movies) or mainstream commercial fare. They also must pay attention to the domestic market as well as the international marketplace in order to decipher what kinds of movies sell to that market.

In addition to developing material, development executives network with agents, managers, and producers. They attend breakfast, lunch, drinks and dinner meetings. They are aware of material (spec scripts and/or manuscripts) going out to the town via the agencies. They display a keen knowledge of actors, directors, and writers, and are aware of new directing, writing, and acting talent. They watch directors’ reels and read writing samples. They attend movie screenings, oversee dailies of their movies when they go into production, and take pitch meetings from writers and producers.

Oftentimes, being a development executive is a jumping off point to becoming a producer. After spending time developing projects, networking with industry professionals, establishing relationships with talent, and seeing their projects through to production, affords the development exec the experience necessary to produce their own films.


Continue reading Working in Development…

Who & What You “Do…”

Imagine if a RESUME with this JOB LISTING came across your desk:

Clerk, Circle K: stocked shelves, ran the cash register, cleaned the restrooms.                        

You very well might, if you needed a clerk for your new business, consider this candidate for a job.   However, what if this JOB LISTING was presented instead:

Customer Service Representative, Circle K: As the first point of contact with our customers, I represented our mission – be the best and most convenient place to shop – to everyone who walked through the door. Each shift I worked, I helped ensure our store environment was clean and safe, and our inventory was orderly and up-to-date. I made sure purchases for my customers were completed in a fast and friendly manner. During my employment tenure, I received the company’s in-store customer service award 4 times.

Wow-wow-wow!   What a difference!  

With an applicant’s “job experience” presented like this – equally truthful and direct but with a very positive and complete presentation and description of the services performed, or “spin” if you will – a word I want you to learn to love and embrace – you might see this “clerk” you need to hire as an –

  • assistant manager
  • sales rep
  • receptionist at a talent agency
  • indy or major studio or network entry level employee

Now, I wish I could take credit for this simply brilliant illustration, but this pearl of resume wisdom came from Susan Dodd, a fellow ASU Alum from my Class of ’76.  In preparation for our first round of coffee sessions, I reached out to my dear friend and asked the overly modest Susan to tell you a little about herself, and she kindly shared:

After 27 years , Susan retired from Intel Corporation as the IT Director of Sourcing & Services Solutions. Her career was devoted to working with her customers to simplify work processes and automate work flows where it made sound business sense. In addition, she was the Senior Sponsor for the “Women at Intel” Diversity Organization.

Susan graduated from ASU with a Masters in Business Administration, and undergraduate degrees in Theatre and Broadcasting/Communications.

What Susan doesn’t say, is how whip smart she is and always was, how kind and generous and loyal a friend it has been my honor to know, and how without her insanely strong management skills and detailed note taking (when we were barely 18), I would have never made the A grades I did at ASU.

I turned to Susan on the subject of resumes as I knew she had a rich business background and had hired and interviewed and mentored many job seekers in her long and successful career, and as I suspected, Susan did not disappoint.  

From Susan’s mind to yours, I give you, The Resume:

Resumes are merely a tool to direct potential employees to information about you that will help you stand out and be selected for a job over all other applicants. While it includes work history, the intent is not to communicate just work history (remember: most job applications require job history data – dates & duties – so if your resume is merely relaying this same information you are wasting an opportunity). A resume should compliment a job application.

Look on line for formats and find one that you think will best enable you to highlight who you are. It is not a one size fits all.
Continue reading Who & What You “Do…”

Life in LA

So… I was poking around, looking for something any one of you could have made (and with no critical opinion or review offered) that would be easy to watch, might even be a bit funny (and comedy is always in the eye of the beholder), but that would somehow speak to moving to and living in LA.  This was what I found:

Only in HelLA is a comedic web series about the perils of living in Los Angeles… From awkward celebrity run-ins to gluten-free homeless men, each episode highlights an ‘Only in LA’ type moment.

HelLA is the brainchild of la native, Rory uphold. Before she could legally rent a car, Rory had a dermatologist suggest “Preventative Botox”. She’s been “Fifteen Minutes Late” her whole life. And based on the amount of parking tickets she’s paid off, Rory’s pretty sure she owns a piece of sunset blvd. Regardless, she wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. This is her love/hate letter to the city she calls home.



Production Assistants – The Backbone of the Industry.

PAs come in many flavors: Set PA, Truck PA, Locations PA, Office PA, or just plain PA or, back in my day, the Gopher.

Best and worst job I ever held, often on the same day, when I started out in LA after leaving ASU. A job where you are able to shine, or not, with every task you are assigned, or better yet, take on because it needed doing before being assigned (as long as the policies and politics of the gig allow for self-starters).

This is a job YOU can get. Really. It is there if you want it, in some form or fashion, depending on your strengths and area of interests, today.

And thankfully, there are numerous places to find out about and get into this critical part of the Industry, at such sites as Indeed (and Entertainment Careers and Monster other sites like it that combine many jobs available) where I found this gig moments ago:

DreamWorks – Glendale, CA. ‪Provides overall general ‪Production Assistance to the Prod Coord, TV, Prod Sup, TV and/or ‪Production Manager, TV and crew…

Or this job at HBO for someone with a bit more experience who is looking for an Executive Assistant reporting to Vice President, HBO Films.

And then their are websites offering places to network, discuss and complain about PA work, too, sites like Anonymous Production Assistant Blog that I would have loved to have available when I was first starting out.

And you have all this and more to get your career started.

Sites you need to be checking out now. Daily. Part of your routine.

 Yes, you likely already know this and may already be doing this.  

And in addition to networking (a future post to come) you have no reason NOT to use these tools, apply often for jobs of interest, and to read stories like…


Just before midnight, as 25-year-old JP Erickson was getting ready to go to bed, his phone buzzed. “Are you available tomorrow at 5:30 a.m.?” The text was from the production coordinator of a low-budget movie offering a day’s work as an unpaid production assistant. First thought: Unpaid and early — still worth going?

Then he looked up the address: A 45-minute drive from my apartment. Not too far. Not close, either. But as a production assistant, commonly known as a PA, Erickson is used to late-night texts, early wake-up calls, low and occasionally no pay as well as the not-so-glamorous tasks of getting coffee and delivering scripts.

Still, PA gigs are resume builders and opportunities for aspiring filmmakers to network. He set his alarm. All right — five hours of sleep. Here we go. Armed with “walkies” — used to listen to conversations between most people on set — production assistants do the necessary but oftentimes overlooked grunt work on TV and film sets. “We’re kind of like the ghosts of the industry,” Erickson said. Production assistants, a step up from film crew interns or extras, are responsible for providing support in almost all areas of production.

The hours are long (12-hour days are the norm), the wages are low (either an hourly minimum-wage rate or daily rate that can be as little as $100, depending on the project) or sometimes nonexistent, the tasks are trivial, and there’s little job security because many PAs are hired as “day pay” freelancers. Continue reading Production Assistants – The Backbone of the Industry.

First Job Advice from Millennials

I’m old. Apparently, re the following article from Fortune, possibly too old to offer twenty-plus-year-olds advice that is applicable to the world you live in today.

Though this piece is clearly not directed at recent film, TV and media grads, there are ideas herein worth considering (which is why I am sharing old as I am).

What this article does well is to point out many simple and (to me) fairly obvious ways of using the new tools available in todays social and digital employment marketplace to get noticed, stay noticed, and make an impression that could lead to a job.

A job the millennials offering advice to you got from, wait for it, someone older than them. Maybe even as old as me.


Fortune interviewed millennials who graduated from college after the advent of Facebook and Twitter to get truthful advice on how recent graduates can navigate today’s job market.

Maybe it’s because we’re taught to find an older mentor. Or maybe it’s because people who are gray around the temples simply look wiser. Whatever the reason, when you’re fresh out of college, it’s tempting to seek career advice from the most accomplished people in the field you’re hoping to break into. But in reality, those execs chalked up most of their accomplishments in an entirely different economic, technological and professional landscape.

So Fortune talked to more recent college graduates — millennials who entered the workforce in the years after the economic crash and the invention of Twitter — about what they wish they’d known about getting a toehold in their career when they were 22. Continue reading First Job Advice from Millennials

Making a Good First Impression

Dear Lord, you are thinking this Howard guy sounds just like my parents. Yeah, yeah, yeah, if you want to get a job, don’t show up for an interview dressed like you’re going to a party, a pool, the Verde River, or any spot where cutoffs and a t-shirt are just fine as long as they don’t look like you slept in them for a week.

Oh, yeah, and have some idea what the job requires and who you are meeting.

I know you know all this, but what I have found surprising it that I can still actually meet someone looking for work and know from the get-go that they haven’t made the slightest effort to make a good first impression, to make me want to remember meeting them, knowing full well other candidates want that job.

I simply want to encourage you to avoid this mistake.

Now, there are MANY sites on the topic of “Making a Good First Impression” – far more than I ever imagined – and I advise you to read others than the one I have selected here as an example if you have the time and inclination.

But at least consider the following…


By Peter Economy / The Leadership Guy @bizzwriter

  1. Be mindful of how you appear to others

From head to toe, you want to be sure that you are portraying the image that presents you in the best possible light. Prepare yourself well ahead of time and put your best self forward–clothing, hair, accessories. This will make you feel your best and ultimately leave a great first impression. Continue reading Making a Good First Impression