An Interview with Carole Kirschner
by Ann Baldwin
Carole Kirschner is highly respected among her peers and worked as a senior-level creative television executive for sixteen years, including stints at CBS and as Vice President of Television at Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, where she helped to develop Murphy Brown, Designing Women, and Steven Spielberg Presents Tiny Toon Adventures. She then became an educator, teaching at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and UCLA Extension. She created and runs two innovative training programs: The CBS Diversity Institute Writers Mentoring and The Hollywood Assistant Training Program. She worked with writer/producer Jeffrey Melvoin to develop curriculum for the Writers Guild of America Show-runner Training Program and as the director, is responsible for overseeing it. Carole leads popular industry seminars on networking, pitching, and self-marketing for creative professionals. Through her career consulting practice, she teaches clients what they need to do to succeed. She is the author of Hollywood Game Plan: How to Land a Job in Film, TV, or Digital Entertainment (Michael Wiese Productions 2012).
Hollywood has always been one of the most challenging to break into. Most of the film industry people from the past and long-time veterans, still in the business, had to learn the ropes through trial and error (The School of Hard Knocks), because there were no books, classes, seminars, or set of rules to guide you on how to do it. What little knowledge there was seemed like guarded secrets and very few people knew about them.
I’m always grateful, when I have the opportunity to interview seasoned professionals like Carole Kirschner who’re willing to share their experience to help guide the rest of us as we journey into our new careers in Hollywood.
Ann: There are so many creative opportunities within the industry; what do you recommend for people who are older and/or seasoned professionals from a different field of work, who are entering into the film, TV, and digital entertainment industry?
Carole: If you’re an aspiring writer, producer, actor, or director practice your craft until you are blazing hot at it and then people will have to pay attention to you. Or another way to do it is to go with your strength. The best idea, if possible, is to transfer existing experience and expertise (i.e. public relations, marketing, law etc.) into that job within the entertainment industry. Once you’ve established yourself in your field within Hollywood it’s easier to transfer to the creative side of the business.
Ann: In your book, Hollywood Game Plan, you talk about three elements that create a unique personal pitch; can you share a little about them and give us an example?
Carole: There’s the Personal Log Line (which is the answer to the question: “what do you do”?), your Personal “A-Story” (which is the answer to the question: “tell me about yourself”) and what I call Personal Nuggets, which are personal anecdotes (which is a way to make yourself memorable, which is incredibly important when decision makers are meeting new people all the time). An example of a personal log line is: “I’m the luckiest woman in show business. I get to do what I love, which is help people. Because of my background as a development executive and an educator I get to run two cool TV career development programs and through my career coaching practice, Park on the Lot, I get to help even more people.”
Ann: You mention three types of mentors that you encourage people to seek-out and nurture a relationship with; can you tell us about them and explain how you activated your support team of mentors to help you land your job at Amblin Entertainment?
Carole: There’s a peer mentor (someone at your level who’s happy to share information and help you). An advisor mentor (someone further along in their career who’s willing to make a call and give you a leg up) and a guru mentor (someone well established and respected in the business with many contacts who’s willing – very occasionally – to vouch for you). For the Amblin job, I reached out to two of my advisor mentors and had them call Kathleen Kennedy, the woman who ran Steven’s company and say nice things about me. Then I had my guru mentor who was a partner at the top talent agency in Hollywood and asked him to call her and let her know that the agency would be excited for me to get the job and would support me in that position… all of them helped me land that gig.
Ann: Who are a few of the people in the industry who’ve inspired you through-out your career and why?
Carole: My first boss, television writer/producer, James Hirsch, taught me how to read a script and the right way to give a writer notes. Motion picture producer, Kathleen Kennedy, is an extremely creative and powerful woman and is supportive of people coming up when they impress her. Television director, Lesli Linka Glatter, is incredibly talented, funny, kind, and very generous. Television writer/producer, Kam Miller, is a mentee of mine and inspires me with her talent, amazing work ethic, and generosity.
Ann: What is the most fulfilling aspect of the work you do?
Carole: I get to help people. I love to watch as they thrive and their careers grow.
Ann: If you had one piece of advice or a motivational quote to impart to people entering the industry, what would it be?
Carole: Connect with lots of other people in a mutually beneficial way. Know that the way to get lucky is by looking at the person to your right and the person to your left and working harder than both of them. And finally, as soon as you’ve achieved any kind of success be generous and give back.
Ann: Do you have any upcoming projects, books, or events you can share with us that we can look forward to?
Carole: I’ll be doing a workshop at the Great American Pitch Fest on June 20th. Its insider tips for creating your own Hollywood Game Plan. Then on the 21st Kathie Fong Yoneda, Laurie Scheer, and I will be speaking at the Fest about what executives and decision makers are really looking for in pitches and projects. On September 5th and 6th I’ll be speaking at Story Expo on Marketing Your TV Career and 5 Tips for a Killer Pitch.
Ann: Thank you Carole for taking the time to interview with me.
To connect with Carole Kirschner, you can visit her website at www.hollywoodgameplan.com and purchase a copy of her book, Hollywood Game Plan, at Michael Wiese Productions or Amazon. You can also read my book review of Hollywood Game Plan on my blog page A Higher Frequency.