Rules of Hollywood #4:
Know the Limits on Being an Asshole
There's an unfortunate stigmata that is prevalent when it comes to Hollywood: that everyone and their grandmother is a complete asshole (Assuming the grandmother has a first-look deal). This presumption is only a half-truth. Yes, there are certainly assholes, but what some might consider a rude comment or a mean act is really a matter of perspective. Criticisms of a film or script, for example, are often given not to be insulting but to give feedback. A phone call might be cut off because the conversation isn't going anywhere, or a person may argue over points in a script (such as two producers going at it) when both are working to make the script better.
In Hollywood, people are business-minded. If it's not progressive business, they don't want their time wasted. Making movies is about making money or, at the very least, getting notoriety. Anyone who says otherwise hasn't a making a film or TV show is about. The nieve might say "it's about telling the story" or "letting us have some revelation." To a degree, every script is that way...but which story and revelation generates box office or an Oscar is the biggest concern. To do this, Hollywood has a "cut to the chase" mentality. If, even for a moment, you give the impression you are wasting someone's time, you're out. It's about hustle. It's about drive. It's about getting the job done.
If you're considering getting a job, internship,or whathaveyou in Hollywood, you must understand this mentality.
The More Power, the Bigger the Asshole You Can Be (But you probably Shouldn't)
There are points to make, judgments to cast and fiery emails to send off, but there's also a limit that should be noted depending on where you are in the industry. Call it a scale if you will. The more power you have, or influence to others, the more you are allowed to be a jerk. Now, depending on that one individual's own ego will determine how much they flaunt their power. Guys like Scott Rudin and Ari Emanuel are notorious in flaunting it because they have the ego to math their power-giving position. Truthfully, they've also earned the right to it.
But here comes the twist: not everyone in Hollywood is a ego-maniacal asshole. In fact, more people complain about how everyone is an asshole than actually are assholes, it's just that the assholes are those with power and thus more noticeable. A majority of those in the industry, yes even the agents who aren't always as bad and slimy as they're made out to be. I've spoken with a number of agents at the big agencies, (CAA, ICM, UTA and WME) and numerous execs and CEOs at Universal, Fox, Paramount, Sony or Disney. Throw in managers and a handful of lawyers while you're at it. Other than, perhaps, one or two, a majority of these people are completely nice and personable. Then again, I'm always moving forward, or my bosses are, and not wasting their time. They've seen what being an asshole will do. In a town full of reputations, being an asshole is a love-hate affair. Those with egos love it, those regular guys making a living want to avoid it.
Many of these people have every right to be total jerks. They've busted their asses and make good money doing so. A lot, though, don't do that because being a jerk isn't going to get anything done. Those with the egos, though, thrive on it which is why you can't be surprised when, every so often, someone tells you to go fuck yourself. I suppose it's "passing complacency." They'll be nice because being nice will help get business done. Screw them over, and they'll probably screw you back ten times harder.
But there are genuinely good people in and around Hollywood. They climbed up through the shit and learned the ropes, so they've seen it all. The newer generation, I'd say most people from their mid 20s to mid 30s, I've noticed are overall nicer people than those a generation older than them (Ari Emanuel and so forth). You have to respect these guys because they are in their position for a reason: they're good at the jobs. If, to them, that necessitates being an asshole, then you just have to live with it. Still, though, don't be frightened. Everyone is in the same boat and you certainly shouldn't be intimidated by them, some just have fancier life preservers. I've met very few people in this industry that I would call assholes, because most know their limits on needing to be an asshole and needing to be nice.
Reputation is Everything
Yet, there are times when you must be an asshole. This is unavoidable because it is a business, first and foremost. If you recall, I said to never take things personally. If you do, you'll not last. You must have a business mindset, and if that means being stern, getting up and making a point or telling someone to "fuck off" because they're wasting your time and won't let it be, it simply needs to be done.
Many books recounting tales of Hollywood really seem to boil down to everyone being assholes and coming to understand this (such as the book to the right, which I highly recommend). Names are named, and 99% of the time reputation precedes a person in Hollywood. You know if someone is a complete asshole before you even meet them. This is a small industry, smaller than many assume it to be, and your reputation, in the end, is probably all you're going to have. Believe it or not, a lot of people really do not want this reputation.
The reason is because nobody wants to do business with someone notoriously an asshole. As said in the previous segment, usually those who don't need to answer to anyone are the assholes, and they are really just a handful. The rest a people who think they're more important than they really are and the next thing you know their reputation as become so horrible they lose a first look deal because nobody likes working with them (not naming names here).
Much of who someone is or how they act can't be found on the internet. It's entirely word of mouth (and probably Nikki Finke, but even there you only know what she's willing to write about). Usually it's in passing in a meeting as people might discuss where to go with project.
"I don't want to go to ******* because *** **** is an asshole." Was a recent comment in a meeting I was in (names omitted to protect myself). "Another was "****** ******** is a piece of shit." Yikes. Incidentally, both were producers and both came up in the same meeting.
So what did we learn? Yes, Hollywood has assholes in it. Not nearly as many as some might think, though, and certainly not a massive number that should frighten you away from maybe wanting to be a part of the film and television industry. Many people in this town put a lot of stock in their reputation because it helps generate business. People want to work with other, good people when it all comes down to it.
Just know you need a business mindset, and to not confuse someone's business mindset with them being a complete asshole. If, some day, you find yourself in that type of position with authority, you should probably know when to push and when to reel back. I'll guarantee you that you'll flourish as a result.
Also, the best advice on coming to understand this is to intern (hint hint, nudge nude at the next article)....Within three months, you'll know what I mean.