Life After Film School: Reimagining a Successful Production Career
Working in Los Angeles on the sets of commercials, short films, and even blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises, was exactly what Taylor Luce dreamt of during school. After studying film production at the University of Southern California, she started tenure at the renowned William Morris Endeavor Talent Agency, working with agents in Talent and Motion Picture Literature. After working for years in what was supposed to be her ideal career, Luce realized that her heart wasn’t in it. So, using the skills and background she had, Luce found a more stable and enjoyable career in event planning. She currently works as the Senior Event Manager at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa.
Find Your Grind spoke to Taylor Luce about her role as an event planner, the similarities between film production and event planning, and what she did when she found out her dream job wasn’t for her.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
What does “Find Your Grind” mean to you?
Two years ago, I fully realized that the career I had been pursuing since 7th grade was not actually the right career for me, but I had nothing but film experience and was scared that I did not have any transferable skills. I was desperate to make a career jump that was right for me and to not make that mistake again. When I finally decided on event planning and started my job I loved it! All of the stress and worry went away, and it was that much more rewarding to “find my grind” in this new career.
When did you first learn about event management?
My mom was a meeting planner (on the client side), and my dad worked in sales on the hotel side, so I’ve known about this job my whole life. It wasn’t until I was 24 or 25 that I seriously considered pursuing it as a career.
What kind of training or experience did you need to be an event planner?
My entire childhood and early adulthood was spent pursuing the film industry as a producer. I went to college for Film Production and worked on sets, at production companies and at a talent agency for five years out of college. As I “climbed the ladder” in the industry and looked at my future career path, I decided that I wasn’t as passionate about the creation of film and TV as is truly required for a successful career in the industry. I wanted more stability in my career than the film industry allows. As I was researching other careers that my production skills would translate to, the parallels between film production and event production were perfect for me. I am able to apply the skills it takes to pull together the production of making a movie to what it takes to pull together the production of a conference, convention, wedding, etc. at a hotel.
What are your responsibilities in event management?
I am the liaison between our hotel and the companies/individuals that book meetings, conventions, conferences and other events in our event space. I work with all of the departments in the hotel to set up the event for the client and then oversee execution.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome when finding your career?
Because I changed careers, it was difficult helping people understand how my prior experience in the “crazy Hollywood” world translated into planning meetings at hotels. I had to break my skills and experiences down into tiny pieces to explain. Also, because I work in a hotel, there are many different departments and facets to operating a hotel, so I learn something new every day about the front desk, the pool bar, the engineering team, the spa, or housekeeping, etc. Plus, we never close!
What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing a career in event production?
If meeting planning within a hotel is of interest, I’d suggest to pick up a job in a hotel over the summer, whether it is in the restaurant, at the front desk, or anywhere else. Any time spent working in a hotel will help you to understand how every piece of the puzzle works together to create the ultimate stay for the guests. For meeting planning/event management in general, find a catering company or planner who you can work for or at least talk to for advice and guidance. People in my career have backgrounds in all types of college majors, from Hospitality, to Business Administration, to Film Production, and everything in between.
What was the most valuable class you’ve taken, and what made it so?
My most valuable class was the Senior Thesis Film class in college, where I was the producer of a Student Film and had to bring in financing, actors, locations and team members all on my own. It was a major lesson in organization, management, creativity, and negotiation. I loved it!
If you could go back in time, how would you have shifted your focus in high school?
I don’t know that I could have truly persuaded my high school self that the film industry wasn’t for me, and that I wasn’t meant to do that for a career, but that’d be what I would try. I would also have myself go work on some of my mom’s events, so I could really see how fun and challenging her job was.
Who did you look up to most growing up, and why?
I looked up to my parents most, and still do every day. They both worked themselves from the ground up and are successful because of unrelenting hard work, careful and wise money management, passion and the way they treat others. I’m very lucky to have them to look up to! And I am so glad that it wasn’t any celebrity I looked up to, because after working in that industry, I now know more than ever that there is way more going on that what the world sees on the outside.
What book should all high school students read?
The Harry Potter series! Aside from it being an excellent story, I recently read a study that anyone who has read the series has greater compassion, understanding, and teamwork skills, and those things translate to the workplace and successfully working with your colleagues and clients.
Photo by Taylor Luce