Failure and Success in Hollywood
About failure and success in Hollywood
What is success to you? Have you ever really thought about that? We all have an idea of what filmmaking success looks like. We’ve seen images of people holding Oscars and the glitz and glam associated with stardom. But have you ever really considered what success actually looks like in terms of yourself? Is it simply getting your film made? Is it being able to share your ideas with people, seeing your movie on a VOD platform somewhere? Or is it simply getting a job at a studio or production company somewhere? What is it?
The line between what is considered a failure and success in Hollywood is so razor sharp that it’s hard to make a distinction between the two. Failure and success in Hollywood is determined with a few aspects, none of which is based on how good something is, (ie: the story, the acting, the production value). Rather, success is determined solely on a movie’s ability to over-perform. The keywords here are “over-perform”. That’s right. If a film does not over-perform its predecessor, or a competitive film, its usually deemed a failure. It’s complete B.S. and is perpetuated by the media and industry elitists. Taking this with the never-ending inflation of budgets and shrinking theatrical sales, its no wonder there has been a rise of indie filmmaking.
When it comes to you as the sole filmmaker, there is a very small target you have to hit in order to be deemed a success, at least by industry standards. Here are a few examples of both:
What Hollywood considers a failure
- A filmmaker that doesn’t gain critical acclaim;
- A filmmaker that doesn’t over perform their predecessors;
- A filmmaker that doesn’t direct a movie or TV show for one of the big studios. (ie: Netflix, Disney, Amazon, Warner Bros, Universal, etc)
Now success on the other hand is exactly opposite from each of these things.
What Hollywood considers a success
- A filmmaker that gains critical acclaim;
- A filmmaker that over performs their predecessors;
- A filmmaker that directs a movie or TV show for one of the big studios. (ie: Netflix, Disney, Amazon, Warner Bros, Universal, etc)
So you might be asking why I am mentioning these things. What does it have to do with the average indie filmmaker who is looking to make his or her first feature film or TV show? Well to answer that, you first have to go back to the question I posed earlier. What is success to you?
Obviously, many of you strive for the crown jewel of filmmaking success which is fame, fortune and the ability to keep making your art — I get it! However, if you sit down and honestly evaluate your most basic ideas of success, it may help you make the determination of where you need to place your efforts. Everyone’s meaning of success is different, but it’s important for you to know what you want before you do anything. Sit down and write it out. Make a detailed list of what you want out of all of this. It becomes part of your values compass and will keep you from being led astray.
In our industry, it is super easy to lose your way. Many people that graduate from film programs ultimately land jobs in the entertainment business, which is cool. However, most of them will fail to actually do what they set out to do. It’s easy to take the cool, high-paying production job working as an associate producer, or coordinator on some reality TV show, but you have to ask yourself, was this what you really wanted to do? Or is it just a job? If your idea of filmmaking success is to direct or produce a feature film, then dammit, get moving on that!
Growing up, I had the opportunity to go work in Hollywood with Warner Brothers. In fact, I spent a summer working for a TV show they produced. I had an opportunity to move to LA and start working in production. However, the idea of working twelve plus hours a day and being so far down the totem pole made me reconsider. Instead, I took a menial job working as a picture framer at an arts supply store, and conspired with a few buddies to make my first two feature films.
Within a few years, I was hanging out at film festivals, rubbing elbows with producers and creating myself as a film director. I’m not sure how things would have unfolded for me had I moved to LA and slugged it out in production. Who knows, maybe I’d be an executive at the studio level. But whatever the outcome, I doubt I would have had the time to direct the eight feature films I’ve made so far.
The thing about our industry is that there’s no rules set in place of how to be “successful.” This is why you must follow your own path. Unlike being a lawyer, doctor or any other professional, filmmaking doesn’t have a career path you can follow. You can try to emulate those who have gone before you, but at the end of the day, to be a filmmaker, you must define what success means to you. Period. So get out there and start making the success you want.
As I leave you I encourage you to check out my books on Amazon. They hold a treasure trove of information that will help you move from delusional to mindful.
Thank you for your time. Happiest of holidays!