Career

Not Your Typical Gig: Film Acquisitions

In this recurring column, Not Your Typical Gig, we interview men with out-of-the-box careers to get a glimpse of what goes on behind-the-scenes of their unusual jobs. 

NAME: Scott Shooman
AGE: 42
CITY: Los Angeles
COMPANY: Sony Pictures and CBS Films

How long did you have the gig for?

19 years.

How did you get into this line of work?

I went to film school to be a TV/Film writer. When I learned there was a job where all you did was watch movies, I thought that sounded even better than writing them.

What kind of skill set does it take to break into this line of work?

The ability to watch many movies in a row, and decipher what is good, why it is good, who it is good for, and how to sell how good it is. 

What does your workday look like from the time you wake up?

During a film festival: wake up at 7 am, watch movies non-stop from 8 am until 2 am. Occasionally take a break to eat—or to buy one of the movies. 

How many months out of the year did you work?

All of them.

What is the most exciting part of your job?

At a film festival, you are invited to every fancy dinner, crazy party, and exclusive concert. You rarely have time to attend them. If you are at one of those events, you are most likely blowing off something work-related. But sometimes you do blow off work and go to the parties, dinners, concerts, and these occasionally crazy parties.

Favorite part of the job?

When you see that movie that you connect with, know it’s amazing and must do everything possible to buy it. You tell your boss you need millions of dollars to go buy it and must convince them to trust your taste. You oftentimes stay up all night negotiating, competing with other distributors financially and creatively to win over the director, producers, and actors. And when you win that movie which you so passionately love, in the middle of the night, with your job on the line—that is the best.

Least favorite part of the job?

When you see that movie that you connect with, know it’s amazing and must do everything possible to buy it. You tell your boss you need millions of dollars to buy it and must convince them to trust your taste. You often times stay up all night negotiating, competing financially and creatively to win over the director, producers, and actors. And when you lose that movie, in the middle of the night, and need to explain to your boss why, with your job on the line—there is no worse feeling.

How did the pandemic affected your job?

Watching a movie on a laptop screen is very different than on the largest screen in all of France with 1700 people in tuxedos and cocktail gowns.

Do you watch a ton of movies on your own time or only for work?

Yes. Seeing movies is always work, but it’s amazing. You need to see every movie to know what you’re competing for eyeballs against. You need to know every director. Every actor. Every writer. And to be able to track who you think is a talent to watch.

Please tell us about a moment that made you love your job even more?

One year at South By Southwest, I found myself at a screening sitting next to Adam Yauch, MCA from the Beastie Boys, as he owned a film distributor called Oscilloscope. When the movie ended, we shared a bite and started talking movies. Speaking creatively with one of my musical icons was one of those magical moments where you remember that movies connect everyone.

Are there aspects of the job that ever make you think—this is crazy, why am I doing this?

I got lost in Venice, Italy while there for the film festival late one night after the water taxis had shut down in the pouring rain. I could see my hotel across the canal. I walked through the maze of that city for four hours until sunrise, until I found my way to a bridge and back across the water to my hotel, having to wake up two hours later for a screening.

What does the job require you to wear?

Different festivals require different vibes and attire. Telluride, Toronto, and Sundance are Belstaff sweater and jacket time. Their sweaters are the only ones I own anymore. South by Southwest and Tribeca are Rag & Bone territory. Always New Balances as you are running around a city from screening to screening all day, and they are comfy! If possible. a Red Sox hat is always helpful to help check phones during screenings; to hide them without distracting everyone. I promise it’s for work. Cannes is casual: anything seersucker by day and Euro designer by night. Prada shirts, suits, and tuxedos have been my pick for the past few years. You need to show you know how to dress in Cannes. Ray-Ban aviators are essential.

What essentials does the job require? 

Imagine watching your favorite seven movies and trying to watch them in a row without falling asleep. Now substitute terrible movies, and find yourself having to go on very little sleep in an unnatural time zone. Coffee and flasks.

How do you stay so awesome?

It’s not easy. I believe in my taste and treat anyone who disagrees with me with utter kindness for being wrong and having terrible taste. You need to have an inflated view of self-worth and importance. And I try to drink enough to not get hungover, but enough to beat the jet lag.

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