Thursday, August 23

My interview at William Morris Endeavor

At exactly 10:25 AM, I waltzed past the Equinox desk that I've become so familiar with these past three years, gave a little wave, and proudly pressed the digital keypad for the elevators labeled WME, floor 3.  I am finally going up!

My interview lasted roughly 10 minutes, but I'd like to recount it... mostly for my own self reflection, but also for anyone who is curious about what really goes down at the coveted William Morris Entertainment.

The building is absolutely gorgeous.  The elevators are so fancy that there aren't even buttons to press inside, the receptionist has already programmed it to elevate you to the desired floor.  Clean, modern and chic, I couldn't picture a better headquarters for the worlds biggest and oldest global agency.

I met with Carol Kutz.  Her gorgeous bombshell of an assistant whisked me into Carol's corner office overlooking Beverly Hills.  With all the confidence I could muster, I strode into the space, only to have her eyes swiftly sweep over me  with a slight flicker of disdain. She was pleasant, but to the point; pretty, but plain. The room smelt vaguely like cookies, which she attributed to her perfume when I complimented the inviting smell.  The office was busy but organized and I was instructed to rest on a small white love seat against the wall.

Her shpeal was more than rehearsed.  It was a monotonous rundown that she clearly has said thousands of times before and will most likely say thousands of times in the future. Its funny to think of how many great agents have sat in a similar couch, getting the same well planned speech. I wonder what crossed their minds as they absorbed what sounds more like their sentencing for the next four to five years than the glamorous job they had envisioned.

She asked me where I was from, what my parents did for work and where I went to college, making a bitter jab that I am still quite young.  I interrupted to elaborate on my success at Model Club, but to no avail.  No matter the prior experience, everyone at WME starts in the same place.  The mailroom.

If I email Carol back saying I would like to be employed, this is how the next four long years would look.

I'd wake at 7am to be pushing around a mailcart from 8 to 5.  After a few months of slave labor for 10 dollars an hour and health care, I would be eligible to fill in for assistants who are on vacation.

Another few grueling months and I've been at WME, pushing mail and answering phones at foreign desks, for nearly a year.  Ready to quit, HR decides I'm ready to start interviewing for a real desk.

At any other company in the world, I would be horrified to be on the cusp of my 26th birthday and only being considered for a bottom feeding assistant's desk.

A year of getting coffee and scheduling dog grooming appointments (Carol's exact words) with an occasional contract to look over and I finally gain entrance into the coveted agent training program. Alas, I am still making 10 measly dollars an hour, and now I am on the cusp of 27.

Over the next year or so I'd bounce from department to department absorbing as much as I can, networking my toosh off, and reading more scripts then humanly possible on my "time off".  I'm still making peanuts, but at least my goal of being a WME agent finally feels attainable.

After the training, I am asked whether I would like to be promoted to agent when a position becomes available or if I would like them to help me find employment elsewhere.  I mean with a WME graduate degree, the sky is the limit.


I really liked Carol, she is quick witted and doesn't sugar coat.  And I had done my research, so I knew what to expect.   But laying it out like that made me shiver as I fumbled with the elevator keypad to take me back down to reality.  Yes, I loved working at Model Club, and I flourish in the fast paced environment of the entertainment industry, but this feels much more like selling my soul to a corporate life of misery than landing my dream job.  I would love to see the inner workings of my most esteemed company, but at the price of my life? I'm not quite sure.  Especially considering I would have to officially give up my dream of stardom, something that I cant quite fathom parting with just yet (no matter how many rejections I face..).   So that's that.  This is a big fork in my road, and one I'm not 100% confident I'm thinking clearly about, but what I do know with certainty is that enjoying this part of my life is much more important than any job.. and the paycheck that will eventually come with it.

To the employees of William Morris, I have a new founded respect for each and every one of you.  Perhaps someday I'll make it big enough to grace your talent list.  Or who knows maybe I'll be the 1 in a million that gets poached from another agency to come work with you.  But the mailroom isn't something I can commit to a month or so away from my 25th birthday.


11 comments:

  1. I can appreciate what you're trying to say, but working your way up is just how Hollywood is. There are people with degrees from Harvard who start in the mailroom, and you can work your way up pretty quickly if you prove yourself. The fact that you got an interview puts you leaps ahead of other people. If I was you, I would do it, because you may look back in 5 years and wonder why you didn't start now, why you didn't start working at arguably THE most important agency in Hollywood when you had the chance. The connections you can make there are invaluable. It may feel like "selling your soul" but all you are really doing is proving to them that you have the backbone to do what others may not. There are plenty of people out there (myself included) who would be ecstatic to get a job in the mailroom of WME. I'm now realizing that this was written in 2012 and wondering.... do you wish you took the job?

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  2. Hi Emily, I ended up working for a boutique agency as a theatrical agent for a few years and then quitting to pursue acting and hosting. I don't regret my decision to decline the invitation to work at WME or at ICM. Something in my gut was telling me that it wasn't the right path for me, and I truly believe everything happens for a reason.

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  3. Hi Chelsea, I really enjoyed your blog. It was very insightful and something to consider as I pursue an interview with WME as well. If you care to share, would you like to explain how you were you able to get insight regarding the organization that allowed you to be considered a candidate? I know most people search the web, but there is not much about the big time agencies on here. It's kind of like they are a secret society. Did you use LinkedIn to network with current agents or trainees? As far as your experience with WME & ICM, what kind of candidate do you believe they are looking for the trainee position?

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    1. Hi Dre!

      I actually knew a few people already working there. If I were you I would check linked in to see if you have any connections at either company, and then reach out to have your resume passed along.

      They are looking for someone who is motivated first and foremost. Someone who is realistic about the arduous step ladder at these firms and will be humble in the mailroom. I believe it's important to go into the interview having an idea of what avenue of agency life you want to go into. Be proud of your past accomplishments and show confidence that you will excel at their fast-pace environments and you'll do just fine.

      Good Luck, xo

      Chelsea

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  4. in order to run a company at the top, you have to know the bottom. ray kroc knew every aspect of his company...McDonalds. your refusal to work in the mailroom at WME means your naive about the way to run any business, let alone learning the trade secrets of a Hollywood Behemoth. if you have pride, stay out of hollywood! you got the interview because they say your potential, but you don't know your potential.

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  5. in order to run any company at the top, you have to know the bottom. ray kroc knew every aspect of his company...McDonalds. your refusal to work in the mailroom at WME means you're naive about the way to run any business, let alone learning the trade secrets of a Hollywood Behemoth. if you have pride, stay out of hollywood! you got the interview because they saw your potential, but you don't know your potential.

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    1. Perhaps that is true, but three years later I could not be happier with my decision to pursue other dreams. Being an agent can be financially rewarding if you have the motivation to scrap your way to the top, but it is also a soul-sucking profession, no matter what agency you are affiliated with. This post is in no way diminishing the esteem of being employed at WME, just simply a POV from an interviewee.

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  6. Everything in the film industry is soul sucking honestly. Reading this... I know how you must have felt Chelsea. I just left the production side of the film industry because after five years of working I had a movement where I saw the next 40 years laid out infront of me and it wasn't exactly what I wanted. You come to realize the mainstream industry on all fronts is a massive machine picking people up, thrashing them for all their worth and then throwing them out. Like watching my amazing boss tell me one day I'll be in his chair only to then watch him get yelled at and humiliated by the dick of a producer because of some little, inconsequential thing that was completely out of productions control. Its such a heartless business so much of the time and I always found that part (the lying, cheating and stealing aspect of making movies) hard to reconcile with.
    Also the way the older crew members would talk about how much they hated what the industry had become and how they all feel dispensable. Plus oh my god don't get me started on the freelance aspect of it. Always being terrified that the work isn't going to come, not working during winter (hola east coast) and just generally not being able to plan anything more than a week ahead of time because I don't know if I'm going to work.
    But anyway enough of my bitching. I was curious about other peoples experiences in the entertainment industry and I stumbled upon your post. Thanks for writing it.

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  7. Hi Chelsea!

    You are amazing! I loved that you decided to follow your gut. Knowing that in the end, it would all work out. I am currently a Law student at a low ranked law school. I hope to move to L.A. next December (2017) and hope to by some miracle get in at the ground floor. I've worked in entertainment for the past 6 years, mainly local and in Chicago. However, 90-100 hours a week, working 7 days a week. Do you have any additional advice that you can provide on how to get my proverbial foot in the door? Thanks!

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  8. I am a 62 year old man with grown children and a grandson.I have worked kn sales for 40 years. I think it would be fun to learn a new business from the ground up but I wonder if I would be descriminated against because of my age.I would appreciate any feedback,thank you,Joe.

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