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Posted by Patricia Zimmermann at 12:49AM   |  19 comments
Billy Hall

Blog written by Patricia R. Zimmermann, professor of cinema, photography and media arts at Ithaca College and codirector of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival

Prologue: Meet Billy Hall

Billy Hall’s deep insights, generous passions  and scalding honesty filled the corner collaborative room in the Park School of Communications on October 11, 2010.  It was a special honor and pleasure for me to interview Hall for this session. Why? Because he was my student in cinema studies classes in the early 1980s. 

I might add, on a more personal note, he was also a hard student to forget. First, he was one of the most academically engaged students, open to everything. He never shut his mind to any idea or film. He was intellectually voracious. He found theory FUN. Imagine that!

Second, he was the only African American student in the Cinema Department (and maybe the school of communications) at the time. 

Hall is now the VP of programming for TNT and TBS. He schedules for the networks, places all original programming, and manages the programming department budget. About 50 faculty and students participated in his an informal, audience driven, no-holds-barred interactive seminar called “Candid Talk about Navigating an Entertainment Industry Career after IC.” 

Hall has enjoyed a wide-ranging career since graduating from the cinema department at IC in 1984. He’s worked for the Fox Movie Channel, Health and Sciences Network, Lifetime Television, Walt Disney Studios, Disney Channel and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences prior to his VP stint at TNT.

As I interviewed him about his career, I took a lot of notes (old habits die hard—I was a journalist before I went to graduate school for my PhD in communications theory). He deconstructed the glamour of the media industries. He shared the sobering and often difficult realities that minorities and women sometimes encounter but are often never discussed in any public way.

I realized that as the interviewer, I’d need to sum up and bring some resolution to this 90 minutes of non stop, tell-it-like-it-is, wisdom.  So here it is:

Billy Hall’s Entertainment Industry Survival Kit

1.Learn another language. The entertainment industry is GLOBAL.

2.Study liberal arts. You will need it more than you think. Enroll in film/media/new media history, criticism and theory courses.

3.Do an internship. Do another internship.

4.Stay in touch with everyone you meet. Be a grown up about this.

5.Study overseas. Most entertainment companies are global, most nonprofits deal with international issues. Having some experience overseas will help you in more ways than you can know when you are first applying for that visa.

6.Know about different cultures, both in the United States, but most importantly, overseas. Repeat: study overseas.

7.Americans are marketable overseas. You know things. You know your culture. Don’t be afraid to take a job beyond the comfort zones of the USA

8.Youth is a brand. Mobilize your brand. People will want to know what you know. Did I hear Lady Gaga?

9.Sometime in your career, you will be forced to make a big decision in a very hard situation that may be about your race, your ethnicity, your gender, your class, your accent, things you never thought of before. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. No mistake sticks.

10.Join organizations in your field. Network. Network. Network. Learn about what is happening in media. 

11.A career in media (as opposed to a JOB) has its ups and downs: it spikes high and sinks low, and is not a steady line of ascent. Assume that you will have periods when you are unemployed. That’s the business, whether profit or nonprofit.

12.Maintain a large network of friends and colleagues. They will get you through the lows.

13.A career is not a straight trajectory to better and better jobs and more and more fame. It’s an adventure that continually changes direction. Be ready to change!

14.Know that right now, with the global economic recession, it is a very very bad time economically to be trying to get into these industries, whether at the corporate level or at the entrepreneurial level. Remember, you have 40 years to work. Things will happen.

15. When you retire after your great career with its highs, its lows, its unemployment and its successes,  be sure to leave the industry with your soul intact. Integrity is probably the MOST important hands-on skill of all.

 

 


19 Comments

Great guy - and great advice. Thanks to Prof Zimmermann for coordinating his visit and for inspiring his career.

After looking at this list i now know two things. One who Billy Hall is and to respect his knowledge. Twosome really helpful tips for my future...

I definitely agree with his first tip but i think is should be more specific, certain languages will not help you in the entertainment industry. Like my academic counselor says, I should do many internships and I fully agree with this one. A lot of his advice relates to being knowledgeable about foreign affairs and to take opportunities oversees. It also emphasizes the importance of networking which I didn't think was all that important but it appears who you know can help you more than what you know. There are also two big bits of advice that really stuck out to me. One is good advice for life as a whole; don't be afraid to make a mistake, no mistake sticks with you forever. And the other bit of advice is to be true to yourself which although it is very cheesy is very true.
I would recommend any student going into the entertainment industry to read this informative and helpful post.

The best language in not the one that an entertainment industry executive TELLS you to take, it's the one you yourself are PASSIONATE about and want to engage in! It's not so prescriptive!

Learning a language that not many people may be willing to learn may take you places that many have not been. This could lead to new inspiration, new knowledge, and original ideas.

Going to this discussion was an extremely enlightening experience. It is so different hearing what the entertainment industry from the perspective of an actual member of the industry. These tips are useful and from what I've heard before pretty common, but hearing these yet again is important. These are something we should constantly be reminded about.

Now, to jump into the conversation about language, it really doesn't matter what language you learn, like Dr. Zimmermann said, "it's the one you yourself are PASSIONATE about." Even knowing another language will help you get a job anywhere, it shows that you have an interest in the world outside of your home.
I believe in any industry passion is what is important, not necessarily knowledge. But, who you know and what you know is what helps you get jobs, keep jobs, and move up in the industry.

The most important thing, however, is maintaining our integrity. This is the most important thing Billy Hall said in this discussion. This is what we can absolutely not forget. But, now we should be learning how we are going to market our own brand and help get into the industry, hopefully we take these great tips to heart and live great lives.

I attended Mr. Hall's presentation and I thought it was great. The information given was very useful.

I definitely agree with number 11 on the Survival Kit list. I think a lot of film students think that they can just easily become a director and make a Hollywood film and win awards. That is at least how I perceived things a couple years ago.

I know have learned more about the Hollywood style and what it takes to truly "make it in this business".

For me this blog post greatly resonated with an International Business course I had taken. The professor constantly stressed the growth of globalization and how important it is to avoid ethnocentrism. His kids were below the age of ten and already spoke another language beside English. When I took that course I never really understood the relation being globally fluent had to do with film. After reading Bally Hall's 15 Tips, I now see how pertinent those lessons from International Business were and how media is an international endeavor. I also liked how this article emphasized the importance of networking and how a profession is more than just a job. It is an adventure.

I attended Billy Hall's presentation on October 11th as well, and I thought it was a great balance between inspiration and a reality-check. For me, numbers three and four resonate the most. I understand that internships are a great way to open up your world, career-wise. It is even more important to keep those contacts close even after the internship has finished.

Even though these are great survival tips I still get worried that I won't be able to practically apply them in the film industry today. Hopefully we will all be able to learn what it truly takes to "make it".

These are great tips for anyone wanting to get into this business. Numbers 11 and 13 are making me think a lot about my future. I did not become a television major for the job stability, although it is probably more stable than, say, acting! However, I have a lot of fear about being unemployed. The prospect of that just terrifies me. But perhaps this list will help me realize that I might not have a job for a while, and that is ok, as long as I keep trying. I also appreciate number 15. Integrity really is the most important thing we have, and if we begin to make concessions it will slowly flee away!

I also attended Billy Hall's presentation in Park 220, and to be completely honest I originally just went for the extra credit (which I stupidly forgot to turn in anyway). BUt I couldn't care less that I didn't turn in the paper, because going and listening to Mr. Hall was one of the best decisions I've made this past semester. Hearing "Reel Truths" from someone who is actually in the business without any sugarcoating is really what students need in my opinion. So many people come into majors like cinema and TV-R with fantasies about what their careers will be like, it's nice to hear what it really entails.

I will never forget Mr. Hall's list of survival tips will stick with me for the rest of my life, particularly number 15. A career in media isn't about jumping to the top right away, I want to experience every high point, low point, sharp point, dull point, and any other point imaginable.

Oh and to add to this language conversation Billy Hall totally inspired me to actually take french, which is something I've wanted to do for a while but didn't want to deal with the difficulty, now I know it really is worth it.

I think it's extremely helpful to hear real advice from people in the industry, because like a few of the previous commenters above have said, many people think they will automatically get a job in the industry but that is not the case. The entertainment industry takes dedication, hard work, and passion. The world is changing and is now completely global with all the current technology, and by the time I graduate in 4 years it will be even more so. I knew this before but I didn't realize the importance of studying abroad and traveling, so now after reading this I am positive that I want to pursue studying abroad to learn about different cultures to help me succeed in the future.

I think it's extremely helpful to hear real advice from people in the industry, because like a few of the previous commenters above have said, many people think they will automatically get a job in the industry but that is not the case. The entertainment industry takes dedication, hard work, and passion. The world is changing and is now completely global with all the current technology, and by the time I graduate in 4 years it will be even more so. I knew this before but I didn't realize the importance of studying abroad and traveling, so now after reading this I am positive that I want to pursue studying abroad to learn about different cultures to help me succeed in the future.

This "survival kit" is extremely applicable to the majority of us, for most of us will be pursuing a "career in media" and hope to be the best we can be in this field. I agree with Kristin that these tips have even inspired me to plan on taking certain classes in the future, such as continuing French and possibly beginning Spanish. It has even led me to contemplate a minor in culture and communication, a minor I had previously considered but did not take a close look at until now. I will be sure to keep these tips close as I continue my major in Documentary Studies & Production!

After attending Billy Hall's presentation, I felt as if I was coming out of it with a real knowledge of some of the things that go on in the industry. It can be a very discouraging field to go into, especially for a minority or a woman, so Hall's tips are very helpful! I am already trying to follow through on as much of his advice as possible, including learning another language, getting an internship, and studying liberal arts. I am going to try to remember his advice as I go on in my career. Hopefully this will help me to get a job that I enjoy. I am so glad that Billy Hall came to speak to us at Ithaca College to share his wisdom! I really enjoyed listening to him.

I think that Billy Hall's survival kit is completely accurate. At all of the job fairs and such I have attended, those same principals are repeated. I think that following those guidelines will be extremely helpful in furthering my career, and I aim to do so. Not only are those tips applicable to film students, but really for everyone. Now a days the job hunt is extremely difficult, and staying in touch with people you meet and work for, and being knowledgeable in other languages and cultures is really important, especially since America has many industries and corporations overseas now.

This is a very good article that resonates with me on a deep level. I fear for the future and the career choices that lay ahead. These tips alleviate some of my many anxieties and i plan to tick a few of these things off of my lists soon as i can. I like the part where Bill says " A career in media (as opposed to a JOB)" because i feel a job is something you don't like and want to get rid of and a career is something you want to have and can progress in and enjoy doing.

As I read this article and Billy Hall's 15 tips, I realized how familiar most of these tips sounded. Throughout my first semester of college I have gotten a lot of advice from my different professors. Advice on internships, making mistakes, and importantly in my Film Aesthetics and Analysis class how entertainment, and most other companies are global organizations. I never realized this before how because most companies are global you need to learn new languages, other cultures, and other people. As far as languages go however, what language would you recommend learning as a second language?

If my dream came true, I would be involved in some hot new film movement, whether it is American or foreign. That is why this list of tips really applied to my hopes, and I am taking this knowledge to heart. I went to Europe for the first time this summer, and that trip was a massive eye-opener to different cultures. It was such a radical change in fact that I am positive beyond any doubt that I am leaving the country after college. I always wanted to learn a new language, and it is nice to see professional reinforcement behind that idea. I am also pleased to see that cultural knowledge is so valuable to a professional as well. Americans tend to forget that the Earth is not made up of just us, and I really want to explore in South America.
A career in media sounds very challenging, mostly because it is not structured. I embrace this challenge though, because it involves expanding my mind culturally.

I'm humbled by all the kind words. Thank you.



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