The entertainment industry is very popular and competitive. But, it can be very rewarding when all your hard work results in a dream job or a project getting "greenlit" (the go-ahead to be made).
Getting an entry-level job in the industry is definitely easier than getting an official screenwriting or directing job.
It's VERY rare for someone to leave high school or college and immediately become a Screenwriter, Director, Producer, or Agent. People starting out in entertainment typically get a job as a Production Assistant (PA) on a TV show or movie -- working on-set or in the production office. Or, they'll get a job as an Assistant to an Agent, Manager, or Creative Executive.
These entry-level jobs allow you to see everything that goes into making shows and movies, help you make important industry connections, and introduce you to people in similar positions who will "move up" with you in the industry.
The next career step would be an Executive Assistant position -- assisting higher-level Producers, Showrunners, or Directors. Someone on a writing track could move into a TV writers' room as a Writers Assistant or Script Coordinator. Another option is a Jr. Manager, Jr. Agent, or Coordinator position.
Unlike Medical School or Law School, there is no set number of years in the industry before becoming a Screenwriter or Director. Sometimes it takes a few years, sometimes it can take a decade or longer.
Some people go to film school after college to get a Masters in Fine Arts in screenwriting or directing (or both). Programs at the University of Southern California and New York University are very popular and well-known in the entertainment industry.
After leaving these programs, graduates still need to get an Agent or a Manager to help promote their work and get them jobs as a Screenwriter or Director. Producers and Executives at studios usually don't read "unsolicited" work or watch "unsolicited" reels. Unsolicited means anything that's sent from the creator directly and not by an agency or management company.
My advice about writing: Write. Write as many samples you can and try to get as many people in the industry to read your work. That's why it's so important to have these entry-level jobs, so you can build you contacts. Because it's not just who you know, it's who your friends and coworkers know as well. Plus, the more things you create, the higher the chances of someone seeing or reading it, and the better your chances of being "discovered" by representation (an Agent or Manager).
I also recommend you research and enter competitions and diversity writing programs. This gets you exposure to Managers and Agents who are looking for new talent.
Best of luck and please reply with any other questions about the industry!
Jeni recommends the following next steps:
- Check out entry-level jobs on websites like https://www.entertainmentcareers.net/ or Indeed.
- Look into MFA programs in Screenwriting and Directing.
- Look up online or in-person screenwriting classes.
- Research screenwriting competitions or programs like these (https://www.wescreenplay.com/blog/top-10-diversity-screenwriting-programs-in-hollywood/).
- Ask people in your network if they know anyone who works in the entertainment industry. Ask for an introduction so you can learn about their experience and get their advice on starting out in the industry.