LOS ANGELES – Not many people have achieved what Susan Pascal has in the last 18 years; from studying at NYU to becoming unit publicist for Hollywood’s biggest films. Susan has worked with the world’s most renowned talent such as Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Tim Burton, David Fincher and many more and her expertise is one of a kind.
Susan has learned a great deal from her experiences, and now runs her own PR company for individuals and businesses: The Athena Fortune Company. She also hosts her own radio show with weekly interviews.
How did she do it? What does it take to become successful publicists and what are the steps you need to take?
Interview with Susan Pascal
Iain: After graduating with a BFA from New York University, how did you go about looking for work and was there a particular passion or skill that you had developed over the course of your studies that you wanted to focus on?
Susan: I entered NYU with the initial desire to study filmmaking and to become a director. However, while in school, I got a job as a Page for the ABC Network. It was a paying job, which enabled me to meet all sorts of fascinating and influential people. It also helped me figure out what I wanted to pursue upon graduation.I ended up getting an internship with the local news division, WABC-TV, and fell in love with news and reporting. I worked directly with the Special Investigative Consumer reporter as his researcher. While there, I also made demo tapes. I was also the news director for WNYU radio, which was an amazing experience.
Upon graduation, I was lucky enough to get a job with the newly formed television network, News 12 Long Island, as the weekend anchor, weekday reporter. In addition, I freelanced as a writer for various New York area newspapers and publications.
Eventually, I realized that I wanted to become involved with the film industry, as I originally desired back in college. With my writing and journalistic experience, I decided that the best way to follow this path was to go into movie p.r. I followed a lead and interviewed for a job at New Line Cinema in New York. Though the job had already been filled, I was offered a project to write the press kit for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which turned out to be #1 at the box office for weeks. Though I knew nothing about press kits at the time, I told them, I ll do it. They said, Great, can you start tomorrow? It turned out to be a fabulous experience which lead to my first Unit job on ‘Hangin With the Homeboys’, another New Line project shot in New York.
After that, things were slow. Not much happens in film production out of New York, so I sent my resume out to all of the studios in Los Angeles. Not long after, I received a call from 20th Century Fox asking if I’d like to meet with a director who will be in town scouting for cast and crew. I jumped at the chance. I was soon hired to be the unit publicist for Love Potion #9, starring Sandra Bullock. That film lead to ‘My Cousin Vinny’, after which I decided to move out to L.A.
Iain: What would you say were the important decisions you made in order to get to the next level in your career?
Susan: I’ve been very fortunate to have had a string of career breaks, in which one thing literally lead to the next. But what I also discovered on my journey was that I never doubted that I would be successful. That’s not to sound boastful but to encourage others that if you have a passion for something, no matter what the profession, feel the love and passion you have for it. Then GO for it! Don’t let anyone tell you, you can t do it or won t make it. I read a Facebook posting recently that I re-posted, cause it is so true. Supposedly, Confucius said it. I m paraphrasing, but it went something like this. If you re in a career or profession for which you feel passion, you will never work a day in your life ever again.
The other smart decision I made was to move out to Los Angeles. I have made so many wonderful connections and met so many terrific people here. I worked successfully as a publicist for more than 10 years.
Iain: Who is the most exciting person you have ever had to work with?
Susan: Oh gosh, lots of terrific people. I love Harrison Ford. He’s a consummate professional. He came to work on time and was always prepared. Everybody loved working with him, because he never made anyone feel that they were beneath him. He was just another member of the crew. Being the set publicist isn’t always the most appreciated job on the set. The actors, etc, are there to make a film, and many don t want to take the time to publicize. With Harrison, it was never an effort. As long as you explained the who, what, why and where, he would always make time to accommodate the press. He understands the importance of publicity.
Iain: Looking at the other things your involved with, particularly your Blog radio show, how did this come about?
Susan: I took some time off from work beginning in 2000 to have a family. I have 2 wonderful children. My husband works for Sony, where he’s an art director. Fast forward to 2008, and both of my kids are in school. I began to miss the creativity and excitement of working in my field, plus I wanted to contribute financially towards our future.
Because I had been absent from the scene for so long, I needed first to reintroduce my work and abilities. In a sense, I had to re-brand myself. I created my company, The Athena Fortune Company, to serve the entertainment and lifestyle industries as well as specific personalities. I also began writing a column for the online news site, Examiner.com. I enjoyed the writing and interviewing so much that I went on to create a show for BlogTalkRadio The Athena Fortune Show. You see, they are all intertwined, yet each provides a unique service to readers and followers, depending upon what they require.
Iain: If you have any advice for young graduates looking to pursue a career in public relations, what would be a good place to start?
Susan: I highly recommend internships. Get them while in school if you can. Not only do you receive college credits, but you also receive invaluable information and advice that you will take with you into your chosen profession. While in this position, be sure to ask LOTS of questions of your mentors and learn from them. Internships can also lead to full-time work! The downside is that many are unpaid, but think of it as a stepping stone. Also, look for jobs like assistant or junior positions that may start out with low pay but could lead to bigger and better things.
Most importantly, don’t ever doubt yourself!
Susan’s column can be found here