Welcome. You’re invited to have a virtual drink with my friends. Each week, I’ll serve up a brief interview with a Hollywood insider. I’ll talk with writers, directors, producers, studio and network executives, and other industry professionals about how they keep their glasses half-full in a town that can be draining. I chose each because he or she always has an awesome attitude and is just a good person – someone you’d love to have a drink with. You’ll find there are plenty of talented, lovely people working in entertainment.
Today, I’m delighted to introduce Carole Kirschner, a successful TV veteran and entertainment career consultant.
It’s good to remember: Hollywood dreams do come true. Years ago, an ecstatic Carole Kirschner, newly hired as VP of development for Amblin Entertainment, called her mother from Steven Spielberg’s screening room. With “Raiders of the Lost Ark” playing in the background, she said, “Mom, I’ve made it!”
Carole’s mother agreed, even musing that maybe Carole didn’t need that back-up career as a court reporter after all. Now Carole Kirschner, successful TV exec and co-founder and administrator of two phenomenal career-propelling programs – the WGA Showrunner Training Program and the CBS Writers Mentoring Program – helps others realize their Hollywood dreams.
I first met Carole at an invitation-only seminar at CBS called “The No Bullsh*t Approach to Hollywood.” Carole led that seminar, and she remains a charismatic straight-shooter. Carole was one of the first people to pull back the mystifying curtain on the industry for me. With 16 years as a TV executive, she had the perfect pedigree to do so.
Carole’s senior development executive career included stints at Amblin Entertainment and CBS. She helped develop “Murphy Brown” “Designing Women,” and “Steven Spielberg presents Tiny Toon Adventures.” However, Carole wasn’t always on the buying side of table. She actually started out as a stand-up comic. She performed gigs in LA and New York. She even starred in a pilot. (“The cheapest pilot anyone could ever make,” she said.)
Experienced as both a performer and an executive, Carole understood the everyday struggles between the creative and business sides of the industry. When she decided to switch roles from a TV development exec to Hollywood career consultant, she wanted the opportunity to help people at all levels in entertainment. Today, she helps others through her personal consulting practice, a new book – more about that in a moment – and the two powerhouse industry programs she co-founded.
The WGA Showrunner Training Program identifies rising showrunners and guides them through the tricky pilot process. Carole, along with Jeff Melvoin (“Army Wives”) and Yvette Lee Bowser (“Living Single”), helps show creators transition into the role of running their own shows. Program alumni include Matt Nix (“Burn Notice”), Veena Sud (“The Killing”), Glen Mazzara (“Walking Dead”), Aaron Korsh (“Suits”), and Leo Chu and Eric Garcia (“Supah Ninjas”). Star showrunner/creators including Michael Patrick King, Vince Gilligan, and David Shore share their wisdom at each program session. In the clip below, Carole interviews “True Blood”/”Six Feet Under” showrunner and Academy Award winner Alan Ball about hiring writers.
Carole also champions TV writers who are just starting out. Through the CBS Writers Mentoring Program, she works with baby writers from diverse backgrounds. Despite the challenges, she tirelessly works to help new writers land their first gigs.
“It’s so easy to work hard for people you believe in, who you know are really talented, who you know are gonna work their a**es off, who you know will make you look good, and who you know will help the person you are selling them to,” Carole said.
TV’s among the most competitive industries in the world, and Carole’s got a great track record when it comes to getting writers staffed. Still, Carole does get frustrated when a writer she believes in doesn’t get the nod. “There are probably 50-60 people for each one of those few staff writer spots,” she said. “I vow I’m gonna do everything I can do to get my mentees noticed by the industry.”
Last year, Carole wrote a book called “Hollywood Game Plan.” Released in March 2012, her book is a terrific distillation of her advice for anyone – writers, directors, producers, editors, DPs – who wants to land a job in the entertainment industry.
This was Carole’s first time sitting down as a writer. “I’ve worked with writers for 25 years,” Carole said. “I’ve always appreciated them. Now I have a whole new level of appreciation for them, because there I was in my pajamas at 5:30 in the morning going, ‘This sucks.’ I found writing very challenging but sort of exhilarating after I’d get a chunk of the book done.”
After writing in the morning, Carole would recharge her creative power cells by going to the matinee movies. “I sat in the dark and watched a lot of movies because it’s transportive. The escapism heals you to come back to the page and say, ‘Okay, let’s get some more writing done or fix these issues.’”
I’ve been blessed to have Carole’s help at every step along my career, including both the CBS Writers Mentoring Program and the WGA Showrunner Training Program. Even after these programs ended, Carole remained my mentor and became a close friend. In fact, when I sold my first pilots, I called my agent, my husband, then Carole. She continues to be my go-to industry guru, because she not only understands what it’s like to be a studio and network executive, she also understands what it’s like to be a creative artist.
Now Carole provides her services on a larger scale through her book and her expanded consulting practice. She offers webinars and one-on-one consultation. Her number-one takeaway tip: Always be authentic to your own voice and take risks.
“While it may seem like a good choice to please a lot of people with your work, to take the slightly safer road, it pays to go really deep and be bold,” Carole says. “The people who do something that’s both bold and smart, people who take a risk – those are the ones you say, ‘That’s a person worth pursuing.’”
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