For this week’s Cold Call, Diane Chang sat down with Entertainment & Media Club Presidents Morgan Kruger and Chris Schipper to discuss dream jobs in entertainment, meta zombie movies, and KStew/RPatz dramz.
D: Let’s get started with the basics. Give me the background on where you’re from, what you’re interested in…
Morgan: My name is Morgan Kruger, I grew up in Los Angeles, although neither of my parents are involved in the industry, which is a rarity. I went to the college here at Harvard, worked in banking, which was the worst two years of my life, and then worked for Dreamworks the live action film studio.
Chris: I’m Chris, I grew up all over the place, was always kind of into math growing up, studied math in college, and then went into consulting at BCG, but I always had a big interest in entertainment. Now I do some screenwriting and some creative stuff, and I’m hoping to get out to LA long term.
D: So then what brought you both to HBS, since an MBA isn’t the natural segue into entertainment?
M: In Los Angeles, there’s this sort of cabal of MBAs specifically from Harvard, who work at the studios and in entertainment. It’s not very public, but there are a lot of people, so for me, it was wanting to get an MBA and be a part of this network.
C: For me, it was following the standard after consulting – after a couple of years, people do MBAs. But on top of that, all I had ever done was consulting, so I wanted to explore a couple more options, with entertainment really being top of mind.
D: What are you most excited about at this year’s Entertainment & Media conference?
C: I’m very excited about our keynote speaker, Arnon Milchan, mainly because on top of being the chairman of New Regency, he’s just a character. He’s got a side job as a billionaire arms dealer, but he’s known for being a fantastic speaker, and we’re hoping for a great presentation.
M: A true crazy pants. I’m also excited about Jack Sullivan, the head of Broadway Video, as well as one of the top guys from Funny or Die. There are just some really interesting companies to talk about emerging trends.
D: What guidance would you give people who say “I like TV, I could work in TV” versus people who say it’s an interest, but may not have the right personality type?
C: Step one is figure out what you want to do. You mentioned TV, so figure out what you want to do in TV. There are so many different jobs, starting with the fundamental divide between creative side and business side. Creative side is anything that works on the show, business side is “when and where are we going to release,” greenlighting. You want to do what your interest is, and then start networking your face off.
M: It’s a lot about consuming content and trying to come up with really measured opinions about what you’re watching. A lot of people try to get into the business side so they can get into the creative side…
C: That doesn’t work.
M: You have to pick one. If you want to be on the creative side, go do it now.
C: and be ready to start from the bottom.
D: What is your dream entertainment job – 5 or 10 years from now?
M: I would like to be on the business side. I really enjoyed my experience at Dreamworks. Next year I will be going to work for Disney in the corporate strategy group, and in 10 years, my dream job would be the COO of Focus Features.
C: I’ve got a weird situation. I’m definitely more interested in the creative side. I mentioned I do some screenwriting, so I want to keep doing that, but I’m not willing to go work in the mail room, so I’ll treat that as a side job in the near term until something hopefully catches on and can shift to full time from there.
D: Do you want to share your latest screenwriting nugget?
C: So I wrote a zombie feature over the summer – a handheld style movie – one of the unique things is that it is set in our modern world, where everyone knows what a zombie is, so it’s got a little bit of that meta pop culture feel.
D: You’re going to do it better than Walking Dead?
C: Walking Dead is pretty good… but it will get there.
D: In your past working experience in entertainment, what is one of the best stories you have?
M: one of the most interesting questions I ever had – I was interviewing to be Harvey Weinstein’s third assistant, and I was asked in two separate interviews – one after another – “are you a crier” and “how do you deal with anger,” which was very instructive as to the job I was getting into. Apparently he has a box of phones outside his office, such that whenever he throws his phone at the wall, the next one can just have a new SIM card put in.
D: Could Harvey Weinstein be Harvey Weinstein without the phone throwing?
C: You can get by being a good person. JJ Abrams is one of the nicest guys, and he’s doing extremely well.
D: What is the latest content you have watched that you’re totally obsessed with?
M: I just finished Game of Thrones Season 2 and that was awesome. A lot of sex and a lot of violence. Also, Downton Abbey, which is everyone’s favorite.
C: Things I’m excited for: Django Unchained – I’m a huge Tarantino fan. Recent things I really liked: Argo was fantastic.
D: What’s the most exciting thing happening in Hollywood these days?
M: The proliferation of amazing content on cable. So much of good content is moving away from the TV industry and towards the movie industry.
D: Why isn’t the most exciting content in movie form?
M: Every movie you have to make a bet that it will be successful, so you end up doing the safest thing. We had a quote at Dreamworks that ‘robots put asses in seats’ and that’s very true, and so does a romance and very conventional elements of storytelling. But cable, because they are protected that they will be getting the $8 in subscription fees, they can have a hit or a miss, so they want to create the best content.
D: Who is the person at HBS most likely to be a big person in Hollywood?
M: I feel like a kingmaker! But I’d say both our conference chairs – Claire Friedman and Jonny Snider.
D: Obligatory “ how do you feel about…”question. How did you feel about Skyfall?
M: Gorgeous, but I couldn’t get into the plot.
C: Story wasn’t there! I don’t know how everyone liked it so much.
D: KStew and Robert Pattinson?
M: True love.
C: I think this guy is trying to get out of Twilight.
D: Who are you excited about in Hollywood now?
C: A new string of guys: Joseph Gordon Levitt. Michael Fassbender. Ryan Gosling. Picking good scripts and knocking it out of the park.
D: Anything else you want to impart about Entertainment and Media? The conference? Your role at the helm?
M: We think the conference will be so exciting. We’ll have a great kickoff event with the head of HBO and Malcolm Gladwell next Tuesday.
D: Why is this going to be such a fun conference?
M: Because Arnon Milchan is a CHARACTER. Because everyone’s a character. The reason I love entertainment is that it’s and industry based on adding up two columns and seeing which one is bigger. It’s about the objective analysis of emotions, which is so difficult, but so interesting.
C: Plus, this is something everyone knows, everyone loves, and everyone has an opinion.