The entertainment industry poses many opportunities for graduating students, but what to expect can be uncertain in such a volatile industry.
Providing valuable insight into this and the future of the entertainment industry, three SDA Board of Councilor shared their expertise and experience on how the industry is changing during a CareerSeries@SDA event in the fall. Speakers included Sony Pictures Entertainment Executive Vice President of Visual Effects Lori Furie; CEO of Legendary Pictures Josh Grode, who is also the SDA Board of Councilors chair; and producer Brad Fuller (A Quiet Place, The Purge series, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan). The conversation was moderated by current SDA senior Alejandra Villanueva.
For Grode, monetization and the way producers get paid is going to change significantly. “The multiple ways. We get paid is going to change. Which means we have to make the remaining types of way we monetize our content more valuable. And so that’s causing us to make whole new range of decisions on the type of content we make and how to market that content.”
Furie and Fuller also pointed to the unprecedented number of films being shelved due to the widespread closure of movie theaters. “The films that studios believe have a lot of juice in them, the studios will hold,” said Fuller. “But nobody knows when things will open back up.”
Although the eventual reopening of theaters will make the risk that studios are undertaking worth it, there are other considerations to keep in mind. “It will be a really interesting traffic jam when theaters open up,” added Furie. “Does it make sense to release a movie when you can only have 30 percent of an audience?”
This is one of the many newfound business considerations that can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic’s unforeseen changes on the entertainment industry.
COVID’s affect on the entertainment industry
The three guests all agreed that the pandemic has accelerated prevalent shifts in the entertainment landscape.
As many Americans are working and learning from home, the entertainment industry has had to do the same. For Furie, this was exhibited by post-production and editing of films being done out of editors’ homes. “Visual effects kind of led the charge for working from home when the shutdown happened,” shared Furie.
In addition, other areas of the entertainment industry, such as auditions, have become remote. Despite the initial inconvenience presented by self-tapes, Grode sees digital auditions as an opportunity. “The ability to understand how to do that as a performance, and deliver a performance through something like this and have people pick up on it, [is] invaluable,” said Grode.
Despite these breakthroughs, other areas of the industry have not transitioned as easily. According to Fuller, “The theatrical business is on hold.” The producer recently had to pause production of his TV show Jack Ryan due to Greece and Hungary, the countries they planned to shoot in, beginning another shutdown.
Despite the hardships presented by the pandemic, all three could agree that it will eventually pass and reassured students that the entertainment industry still holds many opportunities for graduates of the School of Dramatic Arts.
Fuller emphasized the breadth of resources available to students. The first being SDA’s location in Los Angeles, which Fuller calls “an incredible resource.” On top of that, “Your classmates are your biggest resource,” suggested Fuller. “And when you find people that you like and you can work together, those relationships can last for decades.”
Furie encouraged students to not be discouraged by the industry. “I don’t think there’s one right path … Where you start may not be where you end up.” Furie continued, “If you start in TV, it doesn’t mean you can’t work in movies. If you start in theatre, it doesn’t mean you can’t work in TV. There’s a lot of crossing back and forth these days.”
Adding on to Fuller and Furie’s previous sentiments, Grode revealed to students that “The day you got accepted into the School of Dramatic Arts was your first day in the industry.” To him, students should focus on what they want to do within the industry, instead of thinking how to enter it. “Now that you’re in it, the people that you know have gotten a lot larger. You collaborate with those people to move yourself forward and help you realize what you want to accomplish.”