Rules of Hollywood #1:
Don't Believe the Hype and Glamor
It’s always sunny in California. Clouds are sometimes as rare as sobriety in Los Angeles and are often just as uninteresting. There, the celebrities walk and talk like normal people, buy groceries, walk their dogs; an image far and away from the pedestals that tabloids tend to put them on. In the end, they’re really just like us and, often, you don’t even notice them until someone says “Isn’t that Stan Lee over there eating a sandwich?” or “That’s nice of Leo to hold the door open at Starbucks.” Otherwise, it’s just another day and another person, and it’s obvious that those that want to relish in celebrities and the like make sure you notice them. A majority, though, couldn’t care less.
This occurred to me when I shared an elevator with Justin Timberlake one day. I didn’t even realize it was him until five minutes later, outside the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, when someone said “Hey, aren’t you Justin Timberlake?”
That’s an odd thing to ask someone, I thought. Basically, you’re asking “Are you the person I think you are? If not then nevermind.” I didn’t even consider the notion that he was a celebrity.
So that’s where I realized that Hollywood, all the glamor and riches, is only that way if you seek it out. The truth is, it’s not that much different than other places. People eat, they shop, they take pictures of friends and enjoy going out on the weekends. It’s only “glamorous” because the tabloids like to tell you its glamorous, and I’m telling you if you come to Hollywood expecting everything to be neat, clean and perfect, you will learn quickly it’s not, once you notice the closed stores, condemned buildings and homeless people hiding in alleyways on top of your struggling to make headway with a lowly job.
I liken much of this town to those old western movies and the a-typical old west outpost that they seem to always have or maybe the fake city streets at Disneyland or Universal Studios. You see, those aren’t real buildings that are built there, it’s all just a facade and there’s absolutely nothing behind it. that is what Hollywood is. It’s pretend. Make believe. Imagination. You really don't know anything about Hollywood until you've lived here, everything else is through nostalgic goggles, self-serving magazines and movies or tourist impressions. Movies and stories never depict the homeless people of Hollywood, of which there are many and is a serious problem, or note how every other building in "fabulous" Beverly Hills is vacant and empty due to the failing California economy.
So what I have to suggest is first, don’t fall for that hype. You aren’t going strike it rich and be off and running the minute you step foot in Los Angeles, most likely you’ll work a low-paying job and realize things are far too overpriced to maintain any type of proper living condition. It’s here that you have to learn the number one rule of Hollywood: stay grounded. The hype, the camera flashes, the fashion, the cars and the money is only about 10% of Los Angeles. There are glorious houses, mansions and slick cars on the road, but only in a few select areas. A majority of people in Los Angeles live in apartments or in low-rent houses, far from the three story uber-home off Beverly and Santa Monica Blvd.
That doesn’t mean you can’t wish for that someday. I don’t know many people who wouldn’t, but you can’t expect that to simply come to you. If you sit there and expect it, to be valet parked and escorted into nightclubs and live like they do on The Hills, Entourage or 90210, you will be sincerely disappointed. Those are products, not reality, and you must know the difference between what they're selling and what things truly are. There are hints of truth in them, but most of it is made to give you the impression of Hollywood that you probably already had to the begin with. It only reinforces your imagination and its own product they're trying to sell you.
People become lost in this town. I've seen it happen on a few occasions. Someone can get so caught up in the lifestyle they completely lose focus. There are many a story about those who work their assess off, but still tend to act high-and-mighty, a conceited and holier-than-thou attitude overtaking a once nice and person, and the next thing you know they're on a plane back home to live with their parents, they're in rehab or you just never hear from them again. All because they get caught up in themselves and the idea of Hollywood rather than putting their priorities in order and being appreciative of opportunities, other people and the things that matter. Keep your mind straight and remain focused, and whatever dreams you hope for will happen with patience and diligence. It's not glamorous traversing that path sometimes, and you need to know and expect that. Put all those notions aside right away.
Hollywood is a fickle, if not outright shallow, place. Succumbing to it's teases, taunts and lifestyle will get you nowhere.
Instead, what you need to do is stay grounded. Stay with friends that you can call true friends. Stay in touch with family, tell them about your endeavors but for the love of God don't gloat about it. There's enough of that already. That might seem like simple common sense, but believe me, common sense is a rarity these days and especially in the movie industry - as rare here as those clouds, sobriety and, now that I'm on the subject, good drivers. What I hope this allows for you is perspective, and it’s then that you realize that it’s not the glamor of Hollywood that’s important, it’s the things you already had before you even got there. Eventually you won’t even notice when there’s some famous actor sitting next to you in an elevator, and hopefully you couldn’t care less as he or she is mobbed outside their hotel. Walk on, enjoy life on that sunny cloudless day, and find your own glamor with what’s truly important.
-----First Article Note: That pretty much covers a general ground rule for what I plan on being an ongoing series; a general perspective for a regular person. As I continue on I'll be covering simple rules to live by if you're in Los Angeles and want to work in the Film or Television industry as well as share some anecdotal tales about living here myself and industry stories and insights.
Steps and Warnings for Screenwriters (Part 1)