Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts

Rules of Hollywood #11: You're Probably Being Used
As I begin wrapping up this series of articles, I only have one left really, I'm going to be pretty candid and far less of an "advice" giver. Truth is, I've covered all that as well as I could, of course if you want to know more you can always email me.  
Here, though, let's talk about a couple of things and a certain mindset you need to understand. If you haven't figured it out just yet, the "mindset" is a major factor when pursuing a career in the entertainment world. There's various parts of it, but here's one you need to have before it even begins: don't ever start thinking you're more than you're worth. The truth is, you're expendable.
Wait. What is this about? Haven't I already covered the ideas of scams, cons and shitty low-level work? Yes, but this isn't just about those reiterated, it's about the thankless quality of working in Hollywood.  It's a world where nobody knows or cares until you do something wrong. Days, months and years of just doing what you're supposed to be doing? Congrats, nobody notices and you'll be lucky to get a pat on the back. Screw up once, though, and you could risk losing everything. Hollywood has a short attention span.
It's a machine. Not merely the studios or agencies, but even the small independent level relies on people working their parts perfectly. They don't care what cog or sprocket you fit into, as long as you fit into it and turn.  It's not, as they say, a personable field. Even when you go out to network or have lunches and drinks or take development meetings, it's not personal; strictly business, and strictly uncaring of who you are as a person unless you have a name that can get things made and call returned, and even then it's just to use the name not to actually give a damn of who you are or where you come from. Everyone else? Expendable.
You've seen the movie Office Space, haven't you? The entire theme of that is how everyone is just a number; lost in the minutia of corporate bureaucracy and looking for identity. Hollywood is the same way, except nobody is looking. Rather, everyone seems to understand that trying be personable, friendly and more an engine than just a cog is just the way things are. That doesn't mean you can't make a name for yourself and people know you well enough to put you on IMDB or something, but if you even have one bomb or failed venture, then you'll just be cast aside and replaced with a shiny new part.
In other words, you have to just accept it and not dwell on trying to be friendly, nice and memorable with people because that's not how they look at you and you aren't going to change that. If you constantly try and work to prove that you're worthy and valuable, you'll just be wasting energy. If you just accept upfront that you're as notorious and valued as much as a cup of coffee, then you can get that nice "fuck you" attitude and move beyond it and further your career. rise in the ranks by being as detached as possible. Sure, you can get to know people business-wise, networking and "favors" are the key to success, but you'll turn all that off once you lock up for the night and go home to people who actually care about you.


Think of all the movies you've seen. Go ahead, I'll give you a minute. Think of some your favorites.  Now think of who is in it. The stars and so on. Now the director. Still can name some, right? Now think of all the writers, producers, executives and the behind-the-scenes people. Can you name a ton? Probably not, because 95% of the people involved in making a film or television show don't get their names on billboards or highlighted. In all those, though, the entire 100%, if something ends up failing, flopping, busting or ridiculed, every single name is associated with them in the industry.

It's called "What have you done for me lately?"

Oh boy...does Hollywood love that. If you're packaging something or trying to put pieces together as a producer, you only look at what's been successful in, say, the last five or six years. The same goes for writers or agents who want to submit their material or try and get someone involved in a project. It's entirely shallow. One flop or failed endeavor and its all over. That name, now? Nobody cares. People have moved on. Once great producers or writers or filmmakers or even famous actors you may know will struggle from that point on. 

One of the aspects of my job is to come up with lists. If you work in Hollywood, this is something you'll be quite familiar with. You have an idea, or your company does I should say, and maybe a script or client with such an idea, and you have to think of things such as the following:

"Who would be a good lead?"

"What are some directors that might like this material?"

"What studios or production companies might like this type of material?"

Underneath all that, though, is "who is relevant today and can get a picture made?" That will nix about half of your list right there. You aren't going to be looking at films and who was hot in 2006, more 2009 to now. Nobody wants to do business with old business...and knowing that Hollywood is business first, people second (hell maybe even lower) is nice to know. Don't try and make anything personal, don't take anything personal, and stay with the "I'm here to do what I need to do" attitude.


All that I've written has somehow been related to this. From the world of reputations, to networking and contacts to questionable businesses and simply have to understand that, in the world of Hollywood, it's best to just already accept that you're worthless.

Now that can sound incredibly depressing. It's not. It's just understanding that it's how the business works on every level. Even a small director who's calling financiers to fund his short is there using them, and they're using him as an investment. If it succeeds, congrats! If not, say bye. Don't dwell on it, that's how it works. A big studio will use up a production executive until he or she gives us a flop. "That was your film," they'll say. Sure, they were the ones that still Ok'd it and bankrolled the fucker, but everybody needs a scapegoat and sooner or later, fingers will be pointed at you.

In a mailroom: where's my package?

An assistant: get my coffee!

A producer: sure your last movie made a billion, but this one flopped, good luck trying to do another.

An agent: Lost a big client? Sure, you may have a dozen others, but you lost that one. Goodbye.

A director or writer: everyone pointing blame at you for bad reviews? Get used to it.

An actor: well...the tabloids will take care of you.

Maybe it's people getting comfortable that's the issue. Sometimes you can get lazy and not try as hard after doing something for so long. Assume you could lose everything at the drop of a hat (and nobody will care) will keep  you on your toes. 

It's a thankless career path. For the creative minded directors or writers, it's a great outlet, but short lived. It's collaborative, but only a select few actually get any acknowledgment for anything. It's a field where everyone fights to get in, then everyone tries to claw back out the minute they feel they aren't going anywhere or getting praised enough.

The fact is, if you don't expect it in the first place, understand that in the grand scheme you're pretty meaningless, you'll have no problem finding success. Ironic, no?  Just position yourself for the best possible outcomes for your career, just don't expect a pat on the back or anyone to remember ten minutes from now.

So why bring this up in an advice series? How does it relate to you? Well, if you can't reach that level of detachment and not taking things personal, then I can't help but say this isn't a path you should pursue. Now if you're an actor, you probably already have that, actors learn first and early and develop that very particular "actor personality" as a result. It's to be envied, for sure. But for the young directors or writers out there who think Hollywood is where dreams are made, or to those who get into the world of production or some cog-piece like management or agencies, it's as thankless as it can get and sometimes it won't hit you until you're three years into a career and you just woke up and realize you're not happy, unappreciated and depressed.

What more can I say than that? I don't want anyone who wants to start working their way up to find out before it's too late. All I can tell you is just walk in, own the place and understand that every person's hand you shake and smile you see doesn't mean a thing. Turn that around on them, and do it yourself. Use them as much as they are going to use you (and they will use you). Take comfort in your friends and family and keep business as business only. That way, when you're three years in, you're three years ahead of the curve rather than questioning your career decision.



AddThis Social Bookmark Button