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Super-agent turned CEO: How to get a job in Hollywood in 3 simple steps

Hollywood can feel unreachable, like anyone who makes it in the industry must be in on some well-kept secret. But that's not the case.

So argues Charles D. King, the CEO of Macro Ventures, a media company that finances and produces multicultural content. He broke into the industry with nothing but "some lint and a few coins" in his pocket, he tells CNBC Make It. He has since gone on to work with stars like Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, both of whom won awards for their roles in "Fences."

His success wasn't easy or even likely. But he made it happen, and his passion was key. "In this industry," he says, "you literally have to have that feeling like I'm going to die if I don't do this."

King began with an entry-level job in the mail room at the legendary talent agency now known as William Morris Endeavor. He went on to make history as a partner there before leaving to make more history with his own company.

If you too want a job in Hollywood, he says, here's what to do.

1. Read everything

As is the case in any industry, you should know what you're getting into. "Read the trades, read the publications, read the blogs," says King.

He doesn't just mean the tabloids or celebrity news, he explains: "I'm talking about Daily Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Ad Age — all of the smart, thoughtful blogs about what's happening."

Educating yourself, he says, is how you familiarize yourself with "the older traditional ecosystem of Hollywood," as well as something just as important: the future of the industry.

You need to understand the emerging platforms, he says, which means understanding the role of social media, as well as technologies altering the way we perceive entertainment, such as virtual reality and augmented reality. Hollywood is changing, and it is key to have foresight on how nontraditional, up-and-coming technologies might change the game.

Actors Viola Davis and Denzel Washington speak onstage during The 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards
Kevin Winter | Getty Images
Actors Viola Davis and Denzel Washington speak onstage during The 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards

2. Understand who the players are

Once you've developed that solid foundation from everything you've read, King says it's time to understand "the dynamics of how everything is interrelated."

The means figuring out who runs the show and how they run it. "Understand the landscape of all the media companies," he says, "of the agencies, the management, and how they all interconnect."

In other words, make sure you know how to break everything down. Develop an intricate understanding of who it is that funds a projects versus who puts it together. Know who promotes and who sells. "Know they players," says King.

3. Get to know the up-and-comers

This point, he says, is so important and yet is still neglected by many. According to King, people will say, "I just want to know the head of CAA, or the head of WME, or who's the CEO of Disney."

While it is important to know these big names, you can't stop there. King says you should be asking questions like, "Who are the young executives?" and "Who are the young people in the trainee programs?"

"Those are your peers who you are going to come up with," he says. "In 10, fifteen, twenty years, you guys will be the one's running the industry." That's why it's so important to build those relationships ahead of time.

Charles D. King
Thos Robinson | Getty Images
Charles D. King

Finally, he adds, once you've made it, "be nice to the assistants."

"They are the gatekeepers," says King, by which he means they will have key information, organize your day and connect you with others. "It's crucial" to maintain good relationships with them, he says, and yet "so many people in the industry don't do that."

Often, once people reach a certain level, he says, "all of a sudden they're too good to speak to the assistants." It's an arrogant mistake and one with consequences.

"You can learn from people in every single position," he says. And if you want to land a job in Hollywood and excel, as King did, that's exactly what you need to do.

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