So, I got called a “Debbie Downer” tonight by someone trying to break into our business.
She asked me some questions. I gave her some straight forward answers. (To set the record straight, I may be more of a realist than an optimist, but I’m far from a pessimist.)
She Did Not Take My Answers Well…
In case no one has told you yet, this is a hard business. We love it, we work in it, we blog about it, we want to see others succeed in it…but make no mistake: if it was easy, everyone would do it.
make no mistake: if it was easy, everyone would do it.
That’s also why I find this business so rewarding. Every success is earned. Nothing is just handed to you.
For anyone just starting out, I guess that’s the lesson to learn: it ain’t easy.
We’ve talked on this blog about the numbers game, about giving yourself an edge by being a hands-on-producer, about knowing the odds and diving in anyway. All those things are true, but here is another lesson we learned the hard way:
Talent, Passion, and Great Ideas are Not Enough
Way before our first official credit in Hollywood, but after we’d produced our own pilots, we were fortunate enough to be in a conversation with a successful TV producer. He was honestly impressed with our work, and said these were the “best tapes” he’d seen in years. (Yes, we still used VHS way back then.)
He then told us something I’ll never forget: “No matter how brilliant your idea, no matter how good your previous work, no network will hand you two a budget to just go make a show. You don’t have the resume, you don’t have the credits.”
At first I thought he was crazy…maybe even jealous! We then ran into exactly what he was talking about, as every network politely passed on working with us.
It seemed show business was a club that was impossible to break into.
A Different Perspective
Now that we’ve made it to the other side, it’s really an easy issue to understand. People have sacrificed years and years of their lives to get to where they are in Hollywood. Their jobs, families, and survival all depend on bringing in the right producers and best projects. Why the heck would they want to risk it all for you, an unknown, unproven writer, producer, or director?
It’s Different When You’re Spending Someone Else’s Money
It’s easy to spend you own money however you want to on your own projects. What happens when a studio tells you what you can and can’t spend money on? You may be able to put a project together on your own, but what about working with a team? You know how to address your own notes, but what about a those coming from the network?
Once you get to be an Executive Producer, Director, Screenwriter, or receive any position of power, things get crazy. There are issues you’ll deal with at these high levels that you can’t even imagine. Unless you’ve put in your time in the trenches, you can’t know whether or not you’ll be ready.
Real World Shark Tank
Catch that TV show Shark Tank? You know when the sharks on the show say, “It’s MY money and it’s hard earned?” Well, same goes for the producers and network executives you are approaching. It’s their money, resources, and good name they’ve had to work hard for. You are asking them to risk their word–their reputation–on you.
Respect that, know that, and work even harder.
Let That Make You Better
I’m no Debbie Downer. I’m simply telling a truth you need to hear if you want to succeed in Hollywood.
Don’t look at the hurdles mentioned above as negatives. See them as your induction into showbiz. Smash through these obstacles and people will show you an immense amount of respect…because we all know how hard it was to get here. And we all know it’s even harder to stay here.
Put on your Game Face
Get prepared, get to be the best you can be, because one day, someone WILL give you your opportunity you’re dying for.
When you get into that position, where a producer, network executive, or studio puts their neck on the line for YOU, gives YOU your chance, you should work harder than you’ve ever worked.
You should feel privileged and proud. You should feel the immense pressure threatening to crush you…and rise above it. You should be scared and do it anyway. YOU should prove you deserve to be there.
Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”