Careers in the entertainment industry can be mysterious for those just starting out, and even for those working in the business.
Actor Randall Park said that when he first decided he wanted to pursue Hollywood in the early 2000s, people would tell him to go to Samuel French Film & Theatre Bookshop.
“If you were an actor in Los Angeles, that was the place you went if you wanted to get any information,” he said.
The first Samuel French L.A. store was founded in 1929 downtown and moved to Hollywood in 1947. Until the 1970s, its L.A. operations sold and licensed plays in the region.
But eventually, the shop also offered resources for people interested in pursuing a Hollywood career. It sold books of plays that actors could use for audition monologues; biographies of entertainment figures; how-to guides on various aspects of moviemaking; and listings of agents and casting and production companies.
Former general manager Joyce Mehess, who worked at Samuel French off and on from 1991 until its closure two years ago, remembers Park coming into the store before he was famous. She said she feels so happy whenever she sees him on her television screen.
So many celebrities came through the bookshop, she said.
“A lot of people thought we were an agency,” said Mehess. “And we’d say, ‘No, we’re an information center. I can give you a listing. I can give you a play that might fit the type you are, and you can research it from there. You can certainly ask questions; I’ll be at my desk. And maybe a big star might walk by and inspire you.’”
Providing inspiration and community was Mehess’ mission for the store. It wasn’t just about selling books, it was about encouraging nervous newcomers to make those phone calls, take those chances.
But Samuel French closed in March 2019. Concord Music acquired it as part of the company’s foray into theater. At the time, a petition trying to save the bookstore collected almost 8,000 signatures. The space has been empty for the last two years.
“There really was a hole created when that bookstore closed,” Park said.
Though there are numerous resources online, he said sometimes it’s hard for newcomers to find the right ones.
Here at the Los Angeles Times, we want to be your new destination for that kind of information.
This guide provides explainers and advice for starting and building your career in the entertainment industry. And feel free to ask us your questions, and we’ll do our best to find an expert to answer them.
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