Friends and colleagues around the country have often asked me, “What is Hollywood really like?” Three years ago my answer would have been much different than my answer today. When I first arrived in Hollywood it seemed that every cliché that I’d heard about was dispelled by the amazing circumstances that I was experiencing. A year ago, I would have said that every single cliché was not only true but also worse than you can imagine. But today I better understand that both answers are equally correct. In fact, you can often have both extremes within the same week.
The focus of this column is to offer insight through my personal experiences and the experiences of the guest writers who will be contributing from time to time. Through our collective experiences, both good and bad, I hope we will provide an accurate portrayal as to what Hollywood is really like.
One of the most astonishing realities I’ve discovered is that “The Wild West” is alive and well out here. Hollywood, like the Wild West of the mid 19th century, seems to still be about staking one’s claim without apology, and often times without perceivable qualifications. I spent fifteen years training, teaching, writing, producing, literally living in the theater that I built, but soon discovered that my background and experience are only as valuable as the talents I present going forward. If all that work resulted in depth of craft, then the advantage is opportunity based on what I have to offer now. However what is on paper describing what I’ve done is only valuable for casual conversation at best.
In the Wild West tradition, people walk into rooms and say, “I’m the Sheriff” – whether or not they have any right to say so. No one spends time investigating your right to that claim; they tend to nod politely and say, “Great, good to meet you.” This applies to acting, writing, directing, producing, etc. There are ten people that will claim that title in every coffee shop. However your real qualifications are shown in the work you do and you’re the only one responsible for putting your qualifications into practice.
This is an industry that requires many talented people to come together at the right time, under the right circumstances to make any project come to life. The series of events that need to play out to bring a film from idea to distribution is truly mind-boggling. However, on the positive side, if you possess something of value there will always be a place at the table for your talents. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight, but as you build advocates, doors start opening. Hopefully, through reputation and determination, you’ll build your own tables and find talented people to pull up seats around you.
A century and a half ago, you would be given 160 acres of your own land as long as you stayed on it for five years. There is no such perceivable solitude anymore in this crowded city, but there still remains an immense sense of isolation. Almost on a daily basis you’re forced to look in the mirror and ask yourself three questions: Who am I? What do I believe? Why am I still here?
Eventually, over time and through experience, you can answer each question honestly. If so, those answers can reignite your purpose as an artist, and as a human being and compel you to put on that sheriff’s badge or claim your own plot of land.
Check out Paul’s Q&A about the writing process on Write On! Online.
I’m excited to announce that Breadline Productions is in the process of completing the first steps toward a $2.5M film fund. This is a very unique venture that will allow us to bring enough capital to move three of our smaller budgeted feature films to production.
We will take the filmmaking model for From Grace and put it in practice for these three features, as well as two ultra-low-budget feature films that are still in development. The model: offer ownership stakes in each project to more members of the creative team.
Typically a film only rewards ‘Above the Line’ personnel (Producers, Director, Actors, Executive Producers) with a long-term ownership stake in the project. Key creative artists ‘Below the Line’ (Director of Photography, Editor, Composer, Sound Mixing, Post Effects) are compensated only with a salary for services rendered. Our model gives long-term ownership to key above and below the line artists. Therefore, our up front budgets can be much lower because the team wins when the movie succeeds.
Our film-fund structure will be straightforward, financially sound and transparent to all our partners. Further, it will allow us to work with investment partners seeking a small ownership stake, as well as those interested in much larger investment.