Flavia Barger, Nick Barger and Yamá Castilho (center) cut the SBDC ribbon for their business venture Brazilian Munchies along with Karan Waigand, U.S. Small Business Administration Pittsburgh District; Solomon Wheeler, U.S. Small Business Administration Eastern PA District (left) and Jennifer Riden, business consultant for the Penn State SBDC and Kimberlee MacMullen, director of the Penn State SBDC (right). Photo from Facebook.

The concerns of the artistic entrepreneur also were a key component of PSU’s Global Entrepreneurship Week. The SBDC partnered with GEW to present a panel discussion on November 12 entitled, “Heading to Hollywood and Making It in the Entertainment Industry!”


Real World Insights
For those contemplating success in the entertainment capital, the panel offered real insight by industry insiders – Praveen Pandian, a television agent with Creative Artists Agency; Brittany Lentz, an account director with IMRE, a marketing communications agency with expertise in social, digital, creative, public relations and paid media; and Austin Sepulveda, the founder of Watchmakers Entertainment. A good‑sized crowd gathered to hear the insights of the panelists on the expectations and the reality of launching a career in the entertainment industry.

As Praveen Pandian noted, there are different levels of success. “A lot of people come to Hollywood convinced that they are going to be the next movie star, music sensation or supermodel.” Talent and perseverance can take you far, he observed, but an individual needs to be realistic about what they can achieve, especially when starting an independent endeavor. Tens of thousands of people work in film and music industry in Hollywood, and have successful, rewarding careers “without becoming a superstar.” One of the most important factors is to have a clear idea of what your goals are and what you can realistically hope to accomplish. Especially when starting an independent business or service, it is fundamental to have a clear view of what resources are needed and to make use of assistance and guidance. “Events like this are important for giving anyone interested in the entertainment industry a straight‑forward idea of what is required for success.”
Picking up on this thread, Ms. Lentz highlighted the importance of networking and contacts in the industry. “There are many people with a lot of talent and good ideas, but if they don’t know how to put those ideas and talent forward, they are never going to get anywhere.” She noted that the rise of social media has made it much easier for budding entrepreneurs to reach out into the marketplace, but unless they have the expertise and guidance to effectively target and reach their audience, whether it be a large group or one individual, their efforts will be unsuccessful. “This is a business of people and relationships. It is also an open business. So the person with a good idea can get ahead if they know how to move forward.” She noted that ideas sell in Hollywood and the artistic entrepreneur must be willing to sell themselves, rather than waiting to be discovered.

Austin Sepulveda, the founder of his own company, Watchmakers Entertainment, emphasized that the drive and commitment necessary for any successful entrepreneurial endeavor is more intense in the entertainment industry. “Anyone trying to start up a new business of any kind in entertainment or the arts has to be present to that business all the time. It’s all or nothing.” Because “big breaks” in show business are so rare, the entertainment entrepreneur must create their own opportunities. He noted that actors and directors will write their own scripts to create projects for themselves and that creating opportunities “is as important, or more important” than finding them. “Anyone with their own business finds out that it’s a 24 hour, 7 days a week, 365 days a year job. But if you love it, you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else.”

Participants Benefit
The interaction between the panel and the audience was lively and enlightening. Many asked detailed and specific questions about aspects of succeeding in the entertainment industry, as well as broader questions about the skills and mindset necessary to pursue success. The exchanges were candid and revealing, and the audience came away with a sense of encouragement and purpose. As one put it, “I have a much more realistic view now of what it takes. That doesn’t make me less hopeful, just more determined.”