Hollywood director gives students tips on breaking into the biz

May 13, 2011, 12:55 a.m.

On May 10, producer and director Andy Fickman visited Stanford and offered students rare inside tips on how to break into the film industry. Famous for his work on well-known films like “She’s the Man” with Amanda Bynes and “You Again” starring Kristen Bell, Fickman imparted funny and candid advice on how to survive Hollywood.

A clip that was played before the talk showed Fickman being goofy and enthusiastic on the set of “You Again” — a presence he immediately brought to the room as he spoke to students.

Fickman acknowledged how as a director, it can be hard to choose between directing independent films, like his work on the Emmy-winning “Reefer Madness,” or films helmed by large Hollywood studios, like “She’s the Man.” When asked, however, which he preferred more, he answered simply, “I’m a director. I love directing.”

As far as life in Hollywood goes, Fickman was honest, warning students who wanted to break into the industry, “You have to love it, because it will kick your ass every day. You’re literally going to an organization that will never want you.” He noted that even established actors and directors can have a hard time finding work, and new people flow into the business every day looking for their big break, creating a highly competitive environment.

He also addressed how the film industry is struggling to handle the prevalence of Netflix and movie streaming. “Nothing scares Hollywood more,” Fickman said. He pointed out that Hollywood has weathered previous technological developments — from TVs to DVDs — while remaining a billion-dollar industry. However, DVD sales have been dropping and studios are forced to adjust. Fickman predicts that eventually budgets for movies will shrink since returns will drop. He noted that Hollywood studios are likely to cut personnel as well, though he thinks they will survive by simply selling more new technology to consumers — like the recent 3-D TV craze.

Despite the hardships the industry faces, Fickman’s love of the craft shone through. When discussing how he got the role of director for “She’s the Man,” he explained that he could not just sell himself as someone who could direct a teen movie — he had to explain his love and knowledge of everything from Shakespeare to John Hughes to sports movies to convince the studio he had the background for just that one film.

He gave everyone similar advice to succeed: “See every movie. Read every book. Lose any ego you have.” He encouraged people to view their work in Hollywood not as a career, but an artistic journey. Fickman’s bright, hilarious presence is certainly proof that such a journey in Hollywood can be fun and worthwhile.

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