Good news, psychologically unbalanced comedy fans!
Students at the Harold Ramis Film School at The Second City Training Center recently welcomed another industry pro to the classroom. Senior Vice President of Production at 20th Century Fox Animation Ralph Millero has been working in entertainment ever since he lied to his parents about pursuing a law degree at Carnegie Mellon, eventually getting hired as a production assistant charged with the care of some of the biggest names in movie-making.
After working on a film together, Oscar winner Sydney Pollack promised Millero a job in L.A. The eager young upstart made the drive across the country…and never looked back. In his engaging, thoughtful manner, Millero shared some key showbiz lessons he’s learned since starting out in the industry.
Be a cliché
“I know it’s a cliché,” prefaced Millero, “but the only thing you can do is be yourself…be authentic.” By doing this, you are increasing your chances of achieving your most rewarding, fulfilling career. Millero knew he wanted to make movies, and, very simply, took opportunities that moved him closer to that goal. This led him to a job on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (“A lot of laundry,” Millero said. “Sweaters.”), then to the set of A Civil Action, where he got to hang out with John Travolta and Robert Duvall, then to L.A., where he was hired by Sydney Pollack, and ultimately to his current position at Fox.
Not every job was perfect, but Millero viewed each role as an opportunity to learn. “I was just taking it all in. I just learned from experience.” He really found his stride during his time with Pollack. “I was happy. It’s all I knew, and I loved it. And people seemed to think it was great that I was there.” Though it may seem as though Millero has soaked up all the luck in the world and left none for the rest of us, his career success can really be traced back to his commitment to his goals–and his refusal to overthink anything.
What you don’t know might get you hired by Scott Rudin
Most of the pivotal moments in Millero’s career came because he simply didn’t know any better not to do something. Case in point? His interview with Scott Rudin for his first P.A. gig on A Civil Action. Millero had no idea who Rudin, a powerful and notoriously difficult producer, was, and believes that his relaxed interview with Rudin won him the gig. “I didn’t know to be afraid,” Millero admitted. “I kind of mocked him and just had fun with him.” (Words also engraved on the tombstone of some poor P.A.)
Years later, this same naiveté helped him get The Peanuts Movie made. Unbeknownst to Millero, legions of producers had tried–and failed–to make a movie about the beloved comic strip, but Millero, unburdened by the prognosis of near-certain failure, doggedly pursued the concept until it materialized as a very successful motion picture.
Find an imperfect mentor
The defining period of Millero’s career was the time he spent under the mentorship and employ of Sydney Pollack. The legendary director and actor took a shining to young Millero on set, and took him under his wing for the next ten years, showing him the ropes, developing his taste, and involving him in the creative decision-making process of his company.
Will you be able to find a world-renowned Hollywood bigwig whose influence and clout is only matched by his or her arresting kindness? Probably not. But if you can find a mentor in the business who cares enough about your future and well-being to share knowledge and shepherd you through your career’s rough patches, then you should stick with that person eternally–like the dirt cloud around Pig-Pen.
The application deadline for the Fall Term at HRFS has been extended to 6/1. Admissions information can be found here.