Dream Job: Film Studio Executive

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It’s Showtime, Folks!

Picture yourself in your office, feet up, remote in hand, watching a movie on your company-provided, state-of-the-art entertainment center. Are you goofing off? No, you’re doing your job. For film studio executives, watching movies on the job is just the beginning.

Studio executives live and breathe movies, day in and day out. They read scripts every night and take home as many as ten or more every Friday in a ritual known as Weekend Read. Their meals are paid for, because they dine out morning noon and night with agents, managers, other executives, writers, directors, and producers, all in the pursuit of finding material and establishing relationships. Car allowances can range from $500 to $1,200 and more, because every studio wants to project the image of success at all times. They might spend the afternoon in a plush screening room watching a hot young director’s latest film, and their evening at premieres, schmoozing with celebs and other industry fabulosos.

It’s All About Hits and Misses

Samantha, who’s been in the business nearly ten years, says the job is most rewarding when you find a script, work for years to get it made, and then watch as moviegoers flock to it in droves. “Everyone’s looking for that amazing, special, unique piece of material that will break new ground and get audiences excited and talking about it,” she said.

Then why are there so many copycat movies, you might wonder, if Hollywood supposedly wants original scripts? It’s called playing the odds. Millions of dollars are riding on every green-light decision, and no one wants to buck a trend. “If another studio’s movie about dwarf firefighters in Vegas makes major boxoffice, you’d better get one in development,” said one director, with a slightly weary tone of voice. “You want to be original, but you have to follow the money too.”

It’s this overwhelming fear of taking risks that’s responsible for copycat moves like Volcano and Dante’s Peak, Armageddon and Deep Impact, and the countless comedies about mind/body switches (remember Freaky Friday?).

You’ve Got to Make the Numbers

Burnout is high and job security is only as good as the grosses: you definitely don’t want to be the one responsible for a $100 million movie that makes, say, $15 million at the boxoffice. If you are, you’d better start looking for your next gig.

That said, if you can survive the “audition” process – usually two or three grueling years as an assistant at $300 a week – salaries for studio execs range from $70,000 to about $400,000, and moving up a studio’s ladder usually happens quickly, sometimes in three or four years. That kind of return certainly helps alleviate the stress.

So get yourself some popcorn, sit back, enjoy the show … and dream on!

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