December 1, 2010
Dear Future Director/Writer/Producer/Manager/Agent/Intern/PA/EVP/SrVP/CE/Actor/Whathaveyou
With the Rules of Hollywood quasi-advice-columns coming to an end, this letter the final bit in the now year-long series, I hope it both entertained, enlightened, informed and maybe gave a little direction to your future plans and career in the world of film and television. It’s far from comprehensive, but the basics are called the basics for a reason. If there’s anything I hope you take from it, it’s the following:
Getting into this world is tough, real tough. You need a certain type of drive and personality, a love and passion for it no matter if you’re on the creative side of directing a scene or on the behind-the-scenes world of representing people probably more talented than you. Well, “love” may be a stretch, but you certainly can’t “hate” it. As is the case with any job, the last thing you want to do is find out that you hate the field you’ve chosen. What’s difficult in the world of Hollywood is that, often times, I see people not come to this revelation until three or four years into their career. They started from the ground up and worked their way further up the ladder only to find themselves back at square-one when they realize it’s a very high-pressure, fast moving and time-consuming career move.
How can I express my hope you understand such a thing or explain to you that it won’t slowly creep up on you, but you’ll just one day realize it’s something you don’t want to do anymore. It’s monotonous, repetitive and a business, far from the glitz and glamour you’ve expected by the way Hollywood paints its own image to be.
It’s not just Hollywood and all the studios or production companies either. It’s also the independent film world too, the difficulties of even getting a film financed much less noticed or granted permission to be in a festival is probably some of the last thing on a filmmaker’s mind until they actually start trying to make one. As is the case with the world of Hollywood, though: you learn as you go. You learn the process, the names, the companies and the conceits of even making something creative.
I suppose that’s why I never agreed fully with the entire Auteur theory. A filmmaker can have a certain style to their work, but to say they are the sole “authors” of said work is foolish. The producers, money-generators and even script-girls all contribute to this rather one-of-a-kind artform and is one of the few you can honestly say is “collaborative” to get the final product made. It’s working together and understanding the process that you must grasp first, that and a good head on your shoulders that won’t be “wow”d just because a famous person walked into your office where you’re working or you see drunk at an agency party and having an insane good time at comic con (ahem...Mr. Rogan).
The celebrity side is the mask of it all. The fame and material worth. But those are just tools like everything else to even make things happen. They’re shuffled around as much as the craft services and, I know actors will hate me for saying this, aren’t any more or less important. That’s sad considering actors really have the most difficult path to achieve their career, perhaps that’s why they all have that certain “actor personality.” You’ll know it when you see it.
But it’ll be a struggle no matter what. Being a fan of film or studying its history isn’t going to help you a ton in a career in the entertainment world. It’s the business side that you quickly need to grasp and that, sadly, many colleges don’t bother to teach or help you understand. Sure, they can teach the artistic side of it all, but they aren’t going to help in understanding where to really start other than posting open internship and entry-level positions at agencies and studios. Of course...that’s if you’re in Southern California or New York. Everywhere else, you’re pretty much screwed unless you can manage a specific program where the college sends you out to LA or NYC, the two beating hearts of the entertainment world. Colleges and film schools will bash the theoretical and artistic merits of film into your head, but they won’t really give you any idea how any of it works or how things get made in the first place.
Hands-on is where you should begin, and if after your first foray into a semester or summer at some company has you still wondering if it’s right for you...the chances are it’s not going to be. Early doubts are a good indication, but then again I can only tell you to follow your first instincts. First instincts is what this town is built on.
The last thing I want to do, though, is to turn people off of the idea. Yeah, it’s tough. That’s called the real world, it’ll be tough no matter where you go. Hell, you think some yuppie agent at CAA can run a machine in a factory easily? Hell no, and all the ego in the world won’t make them magically do it. But more importantly is that I don’t want any potential people that might make this industry great falling into the glossy image that many have about the entertainment field. Yeah, there’s famous people here. Yeah, it’s a major creative outlet. Yeah, it’s a billion dollar industry nestled around very rich people. (Yeah, a lot of them are assholes). But at the end of the day, it’s still a Monday through Friday job. Yes, a job. You pick up your paycheck like anyone else, go home, and probably fall asleep watching something far worse than anything you would think of.
PS: And always, always, always stay creative. Not everything will make a good movie or show or even book or song, but the fact you’re even thinking as such is always good. Don’t get discouraged merely because someone said “no.”