Hollywood Is A Meritocracy

lighting house ladders

I have been writing about the need for people to become a rare, sought after, desired person in Hollywood, in ‘the industry’. You know the kind of person we need  a genuine person, a nice, honest, decent, hard working co-contributor who works well with others. When it comes to advancing one’s career there is no better means that to add value to others first.

The entertainment business, like any business, is driven by dollars. It seeks profits and is concerned with bottom line. It catapults into stardom anyone who can fill theater seats or pitch and sell products in media because of who they are and how they look. Make no mistake about it the movie business is a commercial endeavor. It spends money to make money and it is concerned with every last dime.

So adding value means you don’t cost them you help them. It means you are not a liability but an asset. If you can help them save money by being professional, by being dedicated and going the extra mile, by adding value then you are sought after and put to work doing that. If you can help make them money by your actions you are a godsend.

Make no mistake, it is about business after all.

At the same time I share with you how to get inside the business there are other things to do simultaneous. Some do these without regard to what I have already shared about how to get in. I believe you need to do both. Here is what you need to be and do.

First and foremost you have to be the kind of person people like and want to be around. You DO need to add value first to everyone and develop the reputation for helping others and solving problems. You want to become the nice go to person everyone wants on their team.

Second you have to make films, movies, television. act. write. edit, shoot, compose or do whatever it is you do. NO YOU DO NOT have to do them all. Probably far better if you don’t try all of them anyway. You have to produce product for the business. It should be quality product, great story, great acting, unique, novel or original. You want to have an original voice and not be a copy cat. Still, you can model success from others, build on what has gone before you without looking the same.

What Hollywood doesn’t want is to do any of the work. They don’t want to have to say yes to you or your projects that is too risky. Invest in you or your movie WOW really risky! Better to say no and wait and see if you come through anyway. THAT is exactly what the business does these days.

You find it tough because they say no. They say no because they don’t want to loose their jobs. They will anyway if they never say yes, but at least they think they can squeeze a few more days, weeks or months out of the current tenuous position. So they say no.

If you are the kind of person who takes rejection personally and it hurts you and crushes you and you give up Hollywood beat you. Because there is no failure until you quit but once you throw in the towel it is definitely over. So move on. If on the other hand you don’t let it bother you but you allow it to motivate you to work smarter and harder then you can improve your chances.

If, instead of quitting, you make your movie, your show, your web content, and you do it well, you have something to offer you have a tangible money making product. While it is true that it is difficult to get movies made and released, it is equally true that it is difficult to get people to read your screenplays, and watch the product you have made. Everyone is too busy and too lazy to be bothered. They just don’t want to have to work to make things happen.

But they are more likely to watch something of your work or latch on to your idea when they see that it is fully developed, quality produced and acted and that there is merit behind your thoughts and you actions. Proof of concept or sizzle reels seems to be a way to go. You have to prove your project has wings.

The bottom line in this day is anyone can make a movie. Anyone can make a full feature film the technology exists and the costs, while there are costs, it is not prohibitive as it once was. So if you write, produce, direct, act, shoot or edit you have no excuse not to be making content.

It had better be awesome though. Because anyone can make movies everyone seems to want to and many make really bad ones. There is so much noise to signal these days because it is cheap and available. If you want to get recognized as a talent then you have to be talented and make good projects.

Let me stop here and say this because it is important. DO NOT do every thing yourself. These are thought of as vanity productions whether they actually are or because you don’t have the people to fill the positions. Movie making is collaborative. If you want to produce or direct you have to be able to lead and manage a team, in some cases a very large team. The more people you have to manage the more your import skyrockets. There is great value in finding those talented producers and directors who understand people skills and are able to get things done effectively.

For directors watch your actors make sure you cast well and get stellar performances. After all that is what a director does. The director brings the story to life. First the story must be incredible no one wants to waste their time watching something that is boring, implausible, and poorly constructed. We all want to be entertained. We want to lose ourselves in the story, in the characters, we want to love them, fight along side them, be them, bed them or hate and revile them. We don’t want to not care. We don’t want to think this story or this person sucks. We want to be lost in your movie and your characters not pulled out of it by silly plot contrivances and weak or overacted performances. Directors this is your domain. THIS IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT DOMAIN.

Yes, you work with the cinematographer to get the right shots and pretty pictures, but no one cares about your shots if the story and the acting is poor. Then we could go look at a travel video or a photograph. You use the camera and its placement and movement TO TELL THE STORY and CAPTURE THE PERFORMANCES not as an end to itself. By far this is to prevalent in today’s film endeavors. People spend all sorts of time and energy lighting and setting the camera at the expense of what goes on in front of it. Let your cinematographer light the set, deal with the shot while you work with the actors. Confer with them yes, but spend the lion share of your time on the story, character and performance and less on style. Focus on substance over style. Consider this if your story is riveting and the performances captivating 95% of everything is accomplished, maybe 99%. When you have intriguing story and compelling characters the audience lives through, it doesn’t matter so much how it looks.about  I am not saying it isn’t important at all, but it really isn’t. What I am saying is put your energy and talent in what matters the most to everyone who will watch your work.

You are not going to get hired as a director if your film is gorgeous and the story and acting suck.

Writers do everything you can to make in capture our hearts and minds. We have to believe every second, we need to live it as the characters do. Or as an audience we live it a moment in front of them anticipating the next moment, the suspense, or a minute after when some poignant moment is revealed. We should be caught up in the story and moved along on a roller coaster. While the ups and downs and violent turns of the ride don’t have to be such in each story all stories have a pace, have high moments, drama and conflict, overwhelming odds whereby the hero may lose all and moments of accomplishment and learning. It can not be the same pace, the same level, story cannot only be revealed through dialogue. We have to see what is going on and feel what is going on with these characters. You need to write it as the best written screenplay ever. Will you most likely not right out of the gate but you have to stick with it, re-write it, polish it and develop it and make it production worthy. Besides it being important to you, the writer (or the writer, director or producer and sometimes one person is all three) it must be important to others. It has to speak to the audience so that when they are done with the experience they feel better off for having been a part of it. If they feel they have wasted their time then they have and so have you.

Directors and producers must be choosy about what they make. Just because you have an idea doesn’t make it worthy of a short film or feature film. Just shooting for the sake of doing it isn’t going to help you.Strive to do the best with the resources you have. You may not have great equipment or enough people, money, food, time or energy but you should have an incredible story and an incredible cast. WHY? Because before movies came along these were plays and plays need to be great too. This is an important point I am not saying you have to write for theater that is a different form but you have to write and produce and direct and act so that humans that would watch it, whether on film or on a stage, want to see more come from you.

You always only make a first impression once. It is nearly indelible, and while this first impression may be overcome later with better future work, why shoot yourself in the foot to begin with. Start out right by making the best impression you are able to.

Make the best short or feature or web series you can. Wether comedy, drama, science fiction, western action or horror, there is one thing it absolutely be and that is ENTERTAINING!!! IT MUST be worth watching from the very first frame because if not, a few frames later, they will turn it off. If you give them crap the first time do you think they will accept anything from you the second time? Why make your job more difficult make it easy.

Become the best filmmaker you can be. Do it all the time but don’t put it out there unless it is worth it. Know the difference between something worth showing and something you cut your teeth on. As you grow in experience and get better and better you will make the project you want to show, just make sure it is the best you can do.

Actors the same applies to you. There is no reason why you can’t act on camera and put content out there worth seeing if no one is hiring you. You increase your chances of getting hired when you do BUT it must be wonderful. Again business smarts is crucial. Don’t put things up and out that are not your best. It is more important for actors and filmmakers to develop quality over quantity especially to get in the door. Once inside you want to follow up your work with more better work, This is a quest that frustrates many, how to top an earlier success.

I don’t think you have to top it but you have to consistently deliver the goods. If it is business you may have a flop now and then but ultimately you need to make people more money than you loose if you want to stay in any business.

So Hollywood doesn’t want to develop you instead they want you to come to them ready made. They want to claim to have discovered you, the next new great talent. They want to exploit you and make money from you but they don’t want to pay anything to start it. It does make sense because they are currently busy keeping those already ‘there’ busy making movies and projects. They are nurturing and milking their cash cows until the cows have nothing left to give.

SO understanding how things work in a business helps us move forward in the business, It may seem daunting but you can’t give in to that type of thinking. You do need to be positive in your thoughts and actions. You should also be realistic about your knowledge and your skills and talent. Be accurate in your assessment where are you strong and where do you need to develop?

Stay positive in thought and feeling and attitude because you can develop your abilities and talents as you pursue your career. You will especially if you believe in yourself, stay optimistic and continue to work on it. Develop your mind set and never give up. Become a person other people want to work and be with. Megalomaniacs occasionally get in but not as a rule. Usually the nicest people have lasting careers.

Producers and directors remember people keep an eye on how you inspire people to work hard and to be better not how well you whip them into doing things. People management. time management, management of resources are all important. They want to know you can manage money too. If your film cost nothing that is admirable because you did a lot with little BUT you did not actually have to spend money and that is precisely what you do in business. Doing something with nothing may impress some but at the same time it does not lend any credibility to your business skills. Rather it speaks to you creativity to figure out how to pull it off with nothing and I believe this is very valuable. It is just spending money wisely is a different skill set.

The bottom line is today you can make product. Whether that product is one you are able to take to market or not depends on many other factors. What you can and should make is incredible stories whether shorts, serials, or features. You should seek to entertain and fascinate the viewer.

Strive to do your very best in whatever capacity you function and I hope you love doing it. Have fun, enjoy it, strive for quality and keep doing it and you will get better and better. Be wise about what you show and when. Be prudent, in some ways better to err on the side of caution them blow a contact with work not ready. Keep at it and don’t quit.

Be the person other people want to work with. Learn to inspire and motivate and appreciate others. Value them first, add value to them, respect them and they will value you.

The best possible combination. The best of both worlds is an incredibly wonderful person who is also talented, creative and smart about business. It makes it easier to get ahead so be one. If you are not already, I believe you may become one, you just have to spend time doing what it takes. Whenever something is worth having, when something is a must, then it is worth putting in the appropriate effort.

I will discuss many topics as we progress. No single blog post of mine stands in isolation as there are numerous considerations. I consider it a flash light illuminating an aspect of it to give our attention to and explore, not as the final word.

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