Trevor Harris left his small town of Washington, Mo., last May to live in Los Angeles, only one week after graduating from Webster University. He received
a bachelor’s degree in screenwriting and a minor in film studies.
Harris said the Midwest was not the place for him if he wanted to write for film or television.
“I’m moving. I’ll be back around Christmas,” Harris told his family and friends before making the two-day drive to LA.
He said the move took years of preparation, such as saving money, making connections and learning the business. Before LA, Harris had never been outside of the Midwest. He had only traveled to Missouri, Illinois and Oklahoma before leaving for California.
“I’m making the biggest leap in life,” Harris said. “This is the biggest thing that I’ve done in my entire life.”
Harris obtained an apartment last February, just months before the move, when a friend who was moving from LA offered Harris his apartment. “Apartment hunting in LA is a full-time job,” Harris said. “That is hard.”
Getting a job
Ashley Lam, who graduated in 2011 from Webster with a photography degree, said the move to LA was easy, because her parents moved there while she attended college. Her main obstacle was finding a job.
Within a month of moving, Lam landed a job in LA with Nick Jr. on a children’s TV show called “The Fresh Beat Band” as a production assistant. Since then, she has worked on 12 other shows. Lam said getting a job is about who you know, because one person refers another person they know when there is an open position.
“I’ve never once gotten a job from submitting my résumé to anyone or sending a writing sample,” Lam said. “It’s always been someone I’ve known, and, actually, most of them are Webster grads.”
Lam’s most recent position was as an executive assistant to the producers on the ABC Family show “Spell-Mageddon.” The show ended in July and she is currently unemployed.
While attending Webster, Harris convinced his academic advisor, Joe Schuster, to give him three credits of practical experience for looking over his peers’
scripts. Schuster said it was the first time he had allowed a student to doctor another student’s work for credit.
“I thought it would be a valuable (role) for him, primarily because he already had a terrific critical eye for evaluating narrative,” Schuster said. “He really is a good reader of other writers’ work, and anything that would give him a chance to refine that even more would be good for his development.”
Harris said he built his reputation at Webster as the “go-to script guy.” He has not found steady work, but he has begun to freelance as a script doctor.
Rebecca Nelson, assistant director of career development, said when looking for a job, starting your search early is the best course possible. She said students should also make connections with other Webster alumni. Nelson said students should use the social networking site LinkedIn to connect with employers and colleagues in different locations. She said the top two problems for recent graduates are money and getting in touch with people.
“People who attended Webster in the past typically are helpful to current Webster students, or at least they want to help them as much as possible,” Nelson said. “That is an amazing group of networks to tap into.”
Harris said Nelson helped him tremendously.
“(Nelson) helped me a lot with post-grad plans and networking,” Harris said. “I definitely think people need to start planning as early as possible.”
Lam created a Facebook group called “Hollywood Gorloks” to connect current Webster students interested in all things LA and alumni in LA. She said it provides a support system for students. The page currently has 167 members.
Lam is also working on getting more film industry magazines into Webster’s library. These magazines give people in Hollywood information about the industry.
“We can see who’s hot, who’s not, who’s moving to a different agency or company, upcoming filmmakers and some great interviews all around,” Lam said. “It’s important for the students wanting to get into Hollywood to read those on a weekly basis so they can keep abreast on what’s going on.”
To wait or not to wait
Schuster said if anyone wants to write for television or film, they may need to move to LA or New York.
“When the right time is (to move) differs from person to person,” Schuster said. “I think it’s better if you can go sooner rather than later, because if you put it off, you may never get there.”
Harris waited only a week before pursuing his career in LA. He said as person from a small town in rural Missouri, there was no way he could live in New York. LA was the place he needed to be. Harris said his biggest obstacle is uncertainty because with his business anything can happen.
“Treat yourself seriously, and be very decisive in your actions,” Harris said. “It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon … You want a long successful career.Don’t burn yourself out.”