Why You Should Become a Film or TV Studio Executive

One of the perplexing things about speaking at the film and media departments at numerous Christian universities across the country is discovering the vast majority of the students want to be in production – and most of that group want to be actors or directors. It’s understandable because those are the positions that get the most publicity and celebrity worship. But the truth is, if you’re a Christian interested in movies or TV – particularly to impact culture – your most influential career choice could be the studio executive suite.

My friend and movie producer Ralph Winter has said many times that he’s spent his career producing $150-$200 million movies, but before he can do anything, he has to get the “green light” or go-ahead from a studio executive. You’ll hear that from plenty of other highly regarded filmmakers in Hollywood as well.

Certainly if you’re at the pinnacle of the industry and have the influence of a Steven Spielberg or Christopher Nolan, you’ll have a lot more choices. But with the 99% of actors, directors, and producers in the industry, if a studio or other major funding source isn’t behind your project, you’re on your own.

Sadly most Christian universities don’t understand the importance of studio executives, but if yours doesn’t, at least take some business classes as well as your media classes, subscribe to an industry journal, look for a media/business internship, and start learning how it works.

Stick with it, and years from now, you may have more influence and authority than most other Christians in Hollywood combined.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Richard

    Phil,
    Thanks for the challenge. Are there any resources you would recommend for someone who desires to take this path? Books, articles, courses, internships? Thank you!

    • Great question Richard. The Act One Program in Hollywood is a highly respected and Christian based program that has a track for entertainment executives:
      http://actoneprogram.com/producing-entertainment-executive-program/

      • Richard

        Thank you for the information. I spoke with Mr. Duke at Act One just last week and plan to apply to the Producing and Entertainment Executive Program when they open applications in December.

        • Seth Bergen

          I did the Producing program in the summer of 2016 and it was awesome! I would definitely recommend it and Jimmy is awesome!

  • Kimberly Robinson

    Amen! Having worked in the studio system for over 5 years, I’ve seen first-hand the Creatives, Production Execs, and Finance Execs with the “green light” power. The Creative Exec path is a tricky one – you’ll need industry relationships with writers..the Studios rely on their Creative Execs to bring in the content. But, I believe the true “green light” power comes from Production Finance! Every Creative Exec has to pitch their project – and there are finance teams working to crunch Production budget numbers, estimate Box Office Returns, Tax Incentives, ect… Not to mention legal, business affairs, marketing, distribution. There are so many ways within the studio system to get a seat at the table.

  • gfisher

    Good suggestions. Like you said, for many 18-year-olds this career path is not in their frame of reference. I am trying to get information to freshman to consider this option. We are hoping to grow this important area of study precisely because of its long term influence.

  • Kenton Creative

    Phil, thanks for empowering and igniting vision! I have sit with a bit more and continue to press into honing in on my “one thing.”

    What I am reading into this is the call for TRANSFORMERS and big picture people in the industry and people with guts to lead and make things happen.

    Are we dreaming too small as followers Jesus? What’s holding us back? How can we encourage people young and old listen deeply and dream/aspire places of influence and power and live, thrive and work in that space courageously and with character?

    I really want to get there and produce/make stories are beautiful, authentic, exposing truth and common humanity and done well. And I don’t need an agenda because a great story shared well bears fruit that brings hope, healing, courage, and change.

    Thanks for the challenge as well.

    Where to go, who to learn from, who to dream with is where I am at.

    Thanks for the links and resources reply by the way. I will definitely look into that.

    FYI: Ralph was a total surprise gift visiting our church in Vancouver long ago and some of us got to sit down after for lunch to pick his brain just a little. It got me dreaming thinking outside the Christian culture and dreaming in the right direction. Lots of learning still to go. I have a list of producers here whom have some faith backgrounds that I am hoping to meet to pick their brain real soon.

  • Dean Batali

    If your Christian university doesn’t understand the importance of studio executives then you should drop out right now and go somewhere not run by idiots.

  • Kathy Sindorf

    What media/business internships do you know of that are available to students?

    • See my note to Richard in this thread. The Act One Program is terrific, and Jimmy Duke, who runs that program will have some great resources for you.

  • Richard

    Phil,
    I’m reading Roaring Lambs by Bob Briner and in the book he discusses the idea of having a great script with a biblical message produced in Hollywood. Only, he never defines what a great script is.
    Is there a one or two sentence definition of what makes a great script that would be produced in Hollywood?
    Thanks