It was truly a pleasure to have had the opportunity to interview Hillary Corbin Huang about her unique situation where she works in both the worlds of post management and as a recruiter at Amazon Studios. Hillary shares some insights and insider information about where she finds candidates to hire and tips for increasing your chances in getting an interview so, read on!
What was your first opportunity in the industry after graduating from SCAD with a Masters in Sound Design, Film Production?
A classmate of mine had received a summer Television Academy internship for Sound Design at Larson Studios on Sunset. He was vacating his position to return back to school for the fall quarter and recommended that I backfill his position. It was grunt work, but I sure was happy to watch all the greats at work.
How did you transition from dialogue editing to post management?
This all happened way back in 2009 – Production had dried up after the Writer’s Strike, the economy was in the toilet – the scant Dialogue Editing jobs that were to be had went to a few legacy editors cutting on a dozen shows a year each. The unions were closed up, concerned that there wasn’t enough work to go around for current members, let alone assisting a newcomer without credits get their foot in the door. So I said, “well, if I can’t be one of ‘em, I might as well manage ‘em” and started pursuing Post Management roles at that time. Every early opportunity I got in the beginning was through the grace of my professional and academic network – Shoutouts to SCAD alumnae Julia Mugge, Emma Branch McGill and Sarah Galley for helping me get started – I got by with a little help from my friends. I didn’t land any gigs from online applications until much later in my career.
You’ve done a lot of work as post supervisor, how did those roles prepare you to work at Netflix and now Amazon Studios in their recruiting departments?
I’m going to answer this in reverse: I love the way that being corporate influenced the way that I showed up back in Post. I am a stronger and more direct communicator, I embrace challenges instead of withering underneath them, deploy patience when necessary, and feel more natural exercising a flexible work-life balance. Freelancing drives people to work extra extra hard to prove their worth, and it’s a hard habit to break. You can put in the rough hours, but not drive yourself crazy in the process; protect yourself, because its surest way to take the passion out of your work.
What are the 3 things that stand out most to you when you are looking to hire someone?
It’s curiosity, humility and self-awareness: It is nearly impossible to not float to the top of the stack with ease if you demonstrate these to a recruiter or an interviewer. Which is to say, if you are a recent graduate, embrace it – don’t be the “CEO” of your own Production Company of one. If you are trying to pivot your career, own it and talk about it. There’s no advantage to misrepresenting where you are in your journey. Demonstrate that humility and self-awareness. If you get a question in an interview for which you are ill prepared, demonstrate curiosity and ask questions and turn the question into a conversation. Don’t lowball your numbers, don’t chop yourself off at the knees, just be your darn self. We want to hire you, not a weird and curated version of you.
What three tips can you give for people to increase their chances of getting an interview?
#1 – Apply for roles when you meet or exceed the minimum qualifications, and, in doing so, curate your own applicant history. It demonstrates self-awareness and a fundamental understanding of what the role would entail. The Wayne Gretzky quote “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” needn’t apply to your job search – know your own journey and demonstrate it to me. Carpet-bombing applications has the reverse effect.
#2 – The idea of pivoting careers can be enchanting, but it requires someone to give you a chance. I would recommend seeking aide from your professional network instead of applying to roles outside of your experiences. Context is king, so if your resume doesn’t succinctly tell your full story, it won’t translate and you won’t hear back on that role.
#3 – Make your resume extremely easy to read. Eye-catching resumes can be effective, but recruiters move fast and don’t have time to dig for information. One cool font and color will suffice to make it memorable, avoid busy graphics or pictures. Make sure that the verbiage is clear and that your employment history is at the top. Bold your titles, companies and years worked so we see that first. And, this bears repeating: Credit resumes are for show-facing gigs, but you would want to use a more traditional resume format if applying for roles outside Production.
Where do you find the potential candidates when you are staffing?
LinkedIn. You are doing yourself a disservice if you think that LinkedIn isn’t for you. We use it as our first line for sourcing. We are seeking production-facing candidates for executive roles too – you can’t predict what we might be looking for, so you doubly can’t ignore the importance of having and curating a LinkedIn profile. I’ll occasionally use Facebook groups and cold-call folks from guild rosters to which I belong, and I personally love and use staffmeup.com when I’m show-facing. But one more call-out for LinkedIn – please do it.
What advice would you give to people just starting out in the industry?
Don’t move to Los Angeles until you understand the difference between a Production Company and a Distributor. It’s something rarely discussed in film school programs and its integral you understand it off the bat. Since this is a relationship-based industry, you have to network to get ahead. Best to know how the mechanism of Production works so you show up as your best, most well-informed self.
As post producer on a couple Discovery Shows for Space Launch Live, how did the pandemic affect your workflow. Is there anything you learned that you can see continuing post pandemic?
It was such a joy to work on Space Launch Live in general – the team is second-to-none, and there was a lot of joyful collaboration on that project. We were able to run Premiere on a P2P virtual server built by my gobsmackingly smart Lead Editor Tyrone Tomke, and I would hop back onboard with them in a heartbeat. It’s hard to say how everything will change post-pandemic, but I do hope that productions continue to consider remote editing opportunities, as I have personally really enjoyed doing so.
When freelancing, how do/did you deal with the stress and uncertainly of finding your next project? Do you have any hobbies or outlets that help keep you balanced?
I am a bread-baker! Particularly since pivoting to WFH, I have a well-fed starter culture and there’s a fine dusting of flour across the whole place. Kneading dough is a great stress-reliever! Unrelated, but the key to succeeding in Post is telling me that my sourdough is absolutely delicious. Was that your question?
It seems like you are able to straddle two worlds – corporate and post production. What is that like?
I have the corporate lingo down pat and am excellent at messaging show-facing problems to networks. I am supremely empathetic to candidates coming from a Freelance cadence of work. Of course, having interloped in both words, I feel like I never belong in either place. But it’s a burden I am happy to assume, and my latest professional challenge that gives me some motivation to keep pushing. But I do have to pinch myself every single day because I can’t believe that I’ve done both with some measured success.