What Are Your Chances Of Getting In


Mr. Hollywood

  • 750 GMAT (Q: 48 (80%) V: 44 (97%)
  • 3.2 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from Vanderbilt University
  • Work experience includes five years at a major movie studio, part of a Fortune 100 company; started at entry level and have been promoted through four levels to an analyst
  • Extracurricular involvement as a producer of several short films, including one invited to the L.A. Shorts Festival; produced a couple of spec commercials and am working on a business plan for a feature length film; self-taught trumpet player
  • Goal: To get into production finance or international distribution
  • Long-term goal: “My plan is to run an international office of a studio or production/distribution company en route to the position of President of an international division and eventually head of a major movie studio
  • 27-year-old white male (enough Hispanic to claim, but personally don’t identify with it too much)

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30+%

Stanford: 20%

Wharton: 40%

Kellogg: 40% to 50%

Chicago: 40% to 50%

Columbia: 40%

New York: 50% to 60%

Tuck: 40% to 50%

UCLA: 50% to 60%

INSEAD: 60+%

London: 60+%

Sandy’s Analysis: HBS and Stanford LOVE Hollywood Studio kids, although the usual career path is Ivy + two years IB + applying in your 2nd-year at Biz Development at Disney (adcoms love Disney for some reason, Pixar makes them feel digital, Steve Jobs overhang?). Your career seems a bit different, and as noted often, a lot will turn on how selective adcoms think your job and your career has been.

You say, “started at entry level position . . .” Do people still start in the mailroom? Or were you doing “coverage” for scripts from the slush pile? Anyway, if you were part of some selective rotational program, make that clear. I myself am a bit baffled by how someone with a 3.2 from Vanderbilt, a fine school, but not one known for its Hollywood connections, gets a studio gig in the first place, and so might those curious adcoms.

Your goal is being an international mogul and money man and finance-creative hypen-ate, and ultimate studio head? Well, that is rich bowl of whipped cream and super premium vanilla Haagen-Dazs, but sure, why not? If not you, who? I would not quite pose those goals with the “Mike Todd” brio your original profile had–you can look Mr. Todd up, but here is just a taste of his Wikipedia bio: “In 1945, Todd floated the idea of holding the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in newly-liberated Berlin. . . The game was finally cancelled due to wartime travel restrictions.  In 1952, Todd made a production of the Johann Strauss II operetta A Night in Venice, complete with floating gondolas  . . . . In 1950, Mike Todd formed Cinerama . . . .”

Instead, I would present a knowing and structured goal path that includes leadership positions in media and its future permutations. You say, “I would like to get into production finance or international distribution straight from graduate school.” Is that plausible? Do kids do that? Or can you make a case for you doing so, based on your “gonnections,” to quote one Meyer Wolfsheim, a more Broadway than Hollywood  type, who was alleged to have fixed the World Series (calling Wikipedia)?

You add, “My plan is to run an international office of a studio or production/distribution company en route to the position of President of an international division and eventually head of a major movie studio.” Hmmmm, last time I looked there were not too many heads of major movie studios, well, not at one time. They seem to turnover with some frequency, but still you might be better off framing this in more conventional terms as a goal to be “an impactful leader in an established or emerging media company” and mention some peeps you admire, and why (because they are taking risks, serving new markets, only making six sequels of hits when the studio average is nine).

OK, enough froth. What we got here is a 3.2 Vandy guy (we will get to ethnic box checking later) with a 750 GMAT and a not-clear-in-terms-of-selectivity job with a major studio as an “analyst.” I am not sure how your side gigs as film short creator and commercial maker figure into this story, but I would not go all ga-ga over that and just use it as a learning experience with respect to how to boot-strap financing, planning, personnel, and multi-tasking. All are needed in modern film business at the production level and are a set of ground skills you have.  If your short film was about any topic dear to the hearts of adcoms (victims, under-represented groups, diseases, bullying, the badness of energy and agribusiness companies, etc.) you should work that in to your story as the kind of narrative this world needs more of.

Drum-roll and the envelopes, please: Stanford and HBS, as noted, are real soft on studio kids, and a good deal may spin on what they think of YOUR studio, and what your actual job progression has been. The 750 makes up for the 3.2 if they want it too, but the danger here is that your goals are so far removed from your actual role as an analyst, that this begins to read like the soon-to-released remake of Walter Mitty. In order to crack those places, you will need, much like the Boy Scout above you, a tight braid of your actual full-time work, the PC-value added shtick of doing something besides saying you want to create blockbusters and the small living proof that you have in fact done that.

Having your recommenders be semi big-shots (in terms of the business side of the studio, we don’t need boldface names) would also help, as would rave recs. If the schools get the idea that you are some wannabe film-maker doing scut analysis work for nobodies, well, finis for you. At Wharton and Kellogg, there just might be enough gold dust here to slip by. That 750 is really helping you. Columbia considers itself as part of the communications and media in-crowd, if not films per se, and a well-told story based on learning finance and leadership skills might work there.

Booth, dunno, they like offbeat types, and you are a hipster with a dull job and a 750 GMAT. Some adcoms really go for that mix. Booth might.  I think Anderson is real solid.  I am not sure you should consider Euro schools in light of your goals. You can visit the capitals of Europe later, as studio head. Going to INSEAD or LBS won’t help you get any studio or media gigs.

As to being “enough Hispanic to claim, but personally don’t identify with it too much . . . .”  sweetheart, if that is the hardest thing you will ever be called upon to do in Hollywood, consider it easy. You mentioned you are a “self-taught trumpet player.” Good one, blowing one’s own horn, and the horns of others as well, is an excellent skill in most business and Hollywood contexts.

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