Like any good True Detective fan, I was scouring Reddit after the finale of the show for a final round of crazy theories and conspiracies. If you haven’t watched True Detective yet, stop reading this, borrow someone’s HBO Go password, and go watch. Seriously, binge-watch all 8 hours right now.
Back? Ok. So while on Reddit, I came across an interview with the show’s creator, Nic Pizolatto. What struck me most about the interview was not his insight into the show itself, but Nic’s comments about his journey towards a career in television. Now, a career as Showrunner for an insanely popular HBO show is obviously very difficult to come by. Lots of people would love to be in that position, and it struck me that there were some parallels to getting a job in the game industry. Breaking into games is difficult – there is a lot of demand for a limited number of positions. So let’s take a look at some of Nic’s comments, and think about how they might relate to getting a dream job working in games…
The idea of doing something like that for a guy with my class background? It’s ludicrous. You might as well say you want to be a movie star.
Tell me about your class background.
Just growing up in south Louisiana, going to state school for college, and working two jobs. I spent four years bartending in Austin. I never had any money or any window into the world of TV.
So how did you break in?
One of the things with writing is that you don’t need money to do it, and you don’t need other people to do it. You just need paper and a pen. And if you can learn how to do it well enough…
Now, to work on games, you need a little more than pen and paper. A computer and an internet connection, for starters. But there are lots of free tools out there. Lots of free online tutorials. Even if you have a degree from a 4-year college or a game design program, you could always be learning more. And other people are doing just that, and they’re applying for the same jobs you are.
At a conference in Aspen I ran into some people in the TV business. I’d never met anyone who did TV professionally at that point. So I was like, “How do you break into TV?” And they said, “If you write a really good spec script and a really good pilot script for a show, then you can start to get work in this business.” After the conference, I told my wife that the first chance I got to speak to somebody from Los Angeles, I was going to move us out there and we were going to be in the film and TV business and I was not going to be a professor anymore. I knew I could do it.
I love this. He experiences a bit of luck by bumping into these people, but takes advantage of the opportunity. He specifically asks what he can do to get into the industry, but it’s clear that he’s prepared to take drastic measures to act on that advice.
A year later Galveston got published, and it was optioned for very little money. But I got to talk to two agents finally—the agents who had done the option. And they were like, “Do you have any ideas for shows?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’ve got 30 ideas for shows.” And they were like, “Well, you should write some screenplays—have you ever written a screenplay?” And I was like, “No.” And I could tell that they maybe weren’t taking me very seriously. Every novelist they option a novel from, the novelist then asks how he gets to write the script. And they say, “Well, write us some scripts.” And then maybe months go by and they never hear anything.
But before a week was out I’d already sent them two scripts—a spec script and a pilot. I wrote one in two days and one in three days.
Again, he shows incredible initiative to act on advice that he’s given. The advice that he’s given is hard – do something you’ve never done before (write and deliver a screenplay), but he does it. It’s clear that the agents had told this to many people, and they were used to people ignoring that advice. Nic doesn’t ignore the advice, and his action starts to set him apart from other people in similar situations. If you’re looking to break into the industry, you are competing against other people like Nic. Too busy to learn Unity and make your own project? Other people are doing just that. Too busy to watch some Maya tutorials on YouTube and push your skills forward? Other people are doing just that.
I know that Nic Pizolatto is an extreme example, and I realize that everyone’s individual situations will be different. I do think it is an interesting case to consider, and something to keep in mind as you are applying for jobs. Always remember that a person like Nic could be applying for the job that you want. With that in mind, do you feel like you are doing everything you can in order to realize your dream?