This story was corrected on Monday, Oct. 20 at 4:55 p.m.
Vice Chairman of NBCUniversal Ron Meyer shared his journey to becoming the longest-serving chief of a major motion picture company in Hollywood history with students Monday morning at the School of Communication.
Meyer gave professional advice on presentations, business fundamentals and writing, in addition to sharing his personal experiences working his way to the top.
When Meyer was 15, he dropped out of school. At 17, he joined the United States Marine Corps.
Meyer then worked at the William Morris Agency and then founded a talent agency with four other agents from the WMA, named Creative Artists Agency. When reflecting on his time at the WMA, he described his first interview, when he pretended to be something he wasn’t.
“I told them I had previously worked as an agent,” he said. “But I don’t think they hired me for any reason except that they liked me and needed someone.”
Meyer then said that “presentation is everything,” and that is how he makes his decisions, too.
The former Universal Studios president then pointed out two business fundamentals not taught in the current education system.
“Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. Remember, nice people does not mean weak people,” Meyer said. “And secondly, give everyone the benefit of the doubt.”
Senior Sean Steinberg, who attended the event, felt the discussion was honest and helpful.
“In all of his responses, it never felt like we as students were being pandered or talked down to,” he said. “He held a frank discussion about the nature of the industry, and while not everything he said was meant to be encouraging in a cliche sense, he gave practical advice to anyone with a real desire to work his or her way in from the bottom.”
Matt Head, a junior majoring in motion pictures, shared a similar opinion.
“Ron Meyer was incredibly frank with us students about to enter the industry,” he said. “Ron’s advice that through hard work, determination and a bit of luck we could be successful in Hollywood was relieving.”
Meyer thinks the industry’s biggest challenge is the cost.
“If you spend more than you make, costs keep going up,” he said. “Sixty-five to 70 percent of movies made are flops. You make great movies, but you make bad movies, too. It’s an imperfect business.”
When addressing the question of where students should get started to be successful in the industry, he said it’s all a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
“You may be special as individuals, but as students, everyone goes to college nowadays,” he said. “For me, to get ahead, people had to die, quit or go to jail.”
The best thing to do to be successful in the field, he advised students, is not to give up.
“Stick with it. It’s the hardest part, but that’s it,” he said. “The good news for those of you who refuse to give up is that a lot of you will give up.”