The Legend of Steven Spielberg and the Misunderstood Production Assistant

Everyone is familiar with the work of blockbuster director Steven Spielberg. But did you know that he got his start in the movie business by pretending to work at Universal Studios? According to a 1969 interview, Steven gained access to the famed lot by dressing in a suit and walking past the guards as if he belonged there. After a few days of this, he found an empty bungalow (an old dressing room that had been turned into an office), had the switchboard turn on his phone then started work on his first movie. He stayed there for two years before anyone realized he didn’t actually work for the studio.

Neat story, huh? Unfortunately, and in spite of the fact that they tell that story on every Universal Studios Tour, it didn’t happen. Oh, Steven really did tell the story to a reporter but for years after, he changed and embellished the story and eventually, the plain, boring truth came out. His father arranged an introduction to a Universal exec who hired Spielberg to work in the office during the summer.  

More recently, Spielberg popped up in another creative career starter story – this one by Christopher Woodring, the co-creator of the YouTube channel Funny Shorts.

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 According to Woodring, there was a time where he desperately wanted a job as a post production assistant at DreamWorks. He sent in his resume but when he didn’t get a reply, he decided a more creative approach was in order. He created a short film with a glowing testimonial from none other than Spielberg himself. Woodring didn’t expect anyone to believe his cut and paste interview but he thought they’d be amused enough to give him a job. They weren’t amused. They were unhappy and gave Woodring a verbal slap for his efforts and told him not to bother applying ever again (so he claims).

As with Spielberg’s amusing tale, there’s no proof that Woodring’s story is true either. There are those who doubt it, but the idea isn’t that farfetched. He wanted a job in the editing department, so he simply provided them with a sample of his work. It’s unlikely that the video made someone at DreamWorks strike his name from the list of potential hires. It’s more likely he simply wasn’t the best candidate for the job at the time.

Both stories make you wonder how far an interviewee can go in order to get the job. It might hurt if you sent a wacky video resume to a prestigious law firm, but at Google, that same video could push you to the front of the line.

Breaking the law is never appropriate but there are gray areas. Technically, Woodring broke copyright laws by using the Jurassic Park theme at the end of his video. And Spielberg could have been arrested for trespassing if the lot sneaking story was true.

Woodring also broke the cardinal rule about not lying on your resume or in an interview. It’s hard to imagine anyone would believe his claim about being a close friend of Spielberg’s but it feels like one of those stories that could come back to bite you.

What Do You Think?

From neon resume paper to wacky videos, bizarre gifts to breaking and entering – how far is too far when you’re trying to get the hiring manager’s attention? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below.

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