If you want to break into the industry, cold call like a Savage. Fred Savage, that is.
“So many things in my career, to this day, happened because I just picked up the phone and called people,” Savage told students enrolled in the New Era of Television class last fall. “If there’s someone you admire, call them. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career.”
Despite an impressive acting career that began at the age of five, Savage found himself needing to follow this advice in order to break out of the acting mold and into other areas of production – from producing to directing. But it didn’t come easily, even after six years of playing America’s beloved Kevin Arnold on the ABC hit series The Wonder Years. Savage had found himself at the end of his first act and wondering what’s next. He knew he wanted to be in the business, he just didn’t know how or in what capacity. So he mulled the question over while pursuing a degree in English at Stanford University. As it turns out, his second act was soon to follow, thanks to writer/producer turned Chapman professor Bill Rosenthal who hired Savage to star in his NBC show Working. In the second season Rosenthal and his producing partner gave Savage the opportunity to direct an episode.
“He changed my life,” admits Savage. “The whole second act of my career started with Bill.”
From there, Savage moved on to direct for The Disney Channel on another multi-camera production Boy Meets World, starring his younger brother Ben. In a production era dominated by multi-camera network shows Savage had quickly developed a desire to work directly with a single camera to tell a story when he had heard about the Disney show Even Stevens. He called up the production company and asked if he could shadow on set. Savage treated shadowing as if it was a real job, arriving thirty minutes before call every day, refusing to sit down (even when they brought him a chair), and diligently taking notes to prove he was serious. His commitment didn’t go unnoticed, and after five weeks of shadowing he was asked to direct an episode.
“I didn’t know shadowing was a thing, and now I do, and I recommend it highly to anyone interested in this business. Reach out to somebody and get on set. I promise you their story started with a similar phone call.”
Take the Savage challenge. Call your idol and get on set. “The only thing crazier is not doing it.”