“Show people you’re serious and they will take you seriously.”
Foot in the Door is a four-part interview series where Alistair Baldwin speaks with early-career screenwriters about breaking into the industry, what entry-level jobs look like and where (ideally) they might lead.
In this part Alistair speaks with Matt Kazacos, junior development executive at Every Cloud Productions. Alistair and Matt also went to uni together, which is an important caveat to help explain the somewhat combative vibe of this interview.
What’s your job - and, more importantly, what does that actually entail?
I’m a junior development executive at Every Cloud Productions in Melbourne. I help track the projects on ECP’s slate and try to ensure that each concept is edging closer to becoming a series or feature or what-have-you!
I also water the plants. My Ficus tree is glorious.
Would you describe it as an ‘entry-level’ job?
How dare you. I work on the second level of ECP. The entry level is where we store our files and spare toaster. I snuck upstairs to a vacant desk weeks ago.
Apologies, mate. How did you get to where you are now?
After uni wrapped up in late 2017, I sent an email to all my lecturers asking if they could send my CV to any friends in the industry who were hiring or needed volunteers.
Not long after that, Every Cloud Productions got in touch asking if I could note-take for a few days. I went along, met some awesome writers and had a ball.
That following year they had me back a few times to do more notes, some research, anything they needed really. I was always happy to return. The small team at Every Cloud were (and still are) such kind and hardworking people.
After a few months of casual work, Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries got picked up by Channel 7 and ECP needed a new full-timer to help out. That was in June 2018 and I’ve been loving it there ever since.
Is it the kind of job within the screen industry you ultimately want to do?
I’d love to write films and/or TV one day. That’s always been the aim.
What lessons are you learning from being Junior Development Executive that you think might help you achieve that aim?
I’m learning lots about the writing and script process when it comes to narrative TV on a major free-to-air network. You have to be fast, clever and reliable. I can muster up at least one of those traits at any given time, but you know, ‘try, try again’ and all that.
By far the most important thing I keep learning over and over is to be enjoyable to work with. It doesn’t matter what department or position you’re aiming for, or how much talent you have. If you’re not a decent human, the work will dwindle, if it ever came at all.
Be friendly. 1.) Because you should be and 2.) because people don’t fire their friends, generally speaking.
Do you think your perspective as a young person is valued?
100%. I’m treated incredibly well at Every Cloud, just like everyone else there. It’s a relatively small staff, but we’re all committed to working hard and as a team.
My colleagues are happy to give me advice and help when I need it, but also encourage me to take on tasks solo and voice my opinion in meetings or plotting rooms. I’m incredibly lucky to be working with people I consider my friends.
Now that you’re in the industry, what was the biggest misconception you had about working in film and television?
To be honest, I thought more people would be jerks. When you’re in school and trying to get connected, the industry feels so far off, competitive and all around unattainable. You can’t help but think that the insiders would want to keep others out.
The last couple years, going from studying, to casual jobs, to now full-time work, has taught me that’s not the case. I’ve met maybe 100 people in the industry so far, across a myriad of different departments and positions and they’ve all been lovely, passionate people. No one’s keeping anyone out.
That’s my problem with the ‘foot in the door’ metaphor.
It gives the impression that you’ve got to physically stick your foot into a door that other people are trying to close from the outside, and then force your way through. In reality, it’s nowhere near as painful.
Think of it more as a revolving door. No one is controlling it. No one can slam it, lock it and keep it shut. You just have to be in the right place at the right time and have the desire to jump in when a spot opens up.
What advice would you give to someone aiming to (I’m sorry, but I committed to this title) get their foot in the door of the industry?
Son of a… Okay, but just to be clear, this is a revolving door we’re talking about.
Luck plays a factor in things panning out for sure, but you can definitely swing the odds in your favor when looking for work. I was always told, make yourself available for anyone asking for help. That’s good advice and it won’t lead you astray.
The only thing I would add is to, if possible, make yourself available for jobs that no one else is putting their hand up for. I cleaned out a storage container for a production company in Melbourne, unpaid, for six days last year. That voluntary task lead to two paying job offers.
Show people you’re serious and they will take you seriously.
Alistair Baldwin is a screenwriter and comedian based in Naarm/Melbourne. He has written for The Weekly, Hard Quiz and Get Krack!n (in which he also appears in as a very tired P.A.). Follow him on Twitter at @baldwinalistair.