While I do believe it is valuable to learn from your mistakes, in the fickle world of film, one mistake can cost you a lot. So here are a few to try to avoid, if at all possible, to save yourself some heartache when trying to make it in Hollywood:
Mistake #1: Try to be everyone’s friend.
There is a big difference between networking and trying to make new friends. The people you meet at industry events are friendly, but they’re not trying to be your friend. There’s no such thing as a “social” event in Hollywood; everyone is working the room, on the prowl for their next big connection. You should follow suit.
Mistake #2: Take all the big talkers seriously.
Hollywood is the city of merde (that’s French for bullshit). Finding success in Hollywood means you have to know how to play the Hollywood game, including wading through the real deals and the bullshitters. Everyone you speak with will be working on these big, exciting projects and be “in talks” with all sorts of “Well-I-can’t-share-the-name-yet-but-I-can-tell-you-they’re-big” celebrities. Learn how to decipher the truth amidst the false and you’ll save yourself lots of wasted time and energy.
Mistake #3: Mess up your reputation.
In the film business, nothing matters more than your reputation. Millions, and I mean millions, of people dream of coming to Los Angeles and making it BIG in Hollywood. If you act cavalier about your reputation and make poor decisions, you will lose trust and be brushed aside in an instant, replaced by another low-level dreamer with a better reputation than you.
Mistake #4: Have too much pride.
We have all at one time or another had to work a job that doesn’t exactly live up to the standards we have set for ourselves. What? Did you expect to walk onto a set and be given the title of Assistant Director within minutes? Guess what. The film industry wrote the book on paying your dues, so don’t let your pride get in the way of the zero-paycheck Production Assistant position on the set of the hot, new movie. You never know who you might meet and impress as even a lowly PA.
Mistake #5: Put all your eggs in one basket.
Nothing is ever promised in this business. Just because that smooth-talking “producer” promised you big bucks to help out on his new project, nothing is set in stone. You should always keep several irons in the fire. If you don’t have multiple projects in the pipeline, your career is sure to fizzle out quickly.
Mistake #6: Stay put in your tiny town in a landlocked state.
I hate to break it to you, but there are few films that make it big from out in the middle of Kansas. If you are trying to break into the industry, it’s pretty crucial to be in the place where all the excitement happens. Even I, a Frenchman, knew that California was the place where the magic happens. There I was, a poor boy living on the outskirts of Paris, watching John Wayne movies, learning broken English from John’s drawl, and dreaming of a life of driving past palm trees on the PCH in a flashy convertible. All it took for me to make the launch was falling in love a pretty blonde and convincing her to settle down in Los Angeles. Find your catalyst and join us in the overpopulated, high-density housing nightmare of LA.
Mistake #7: Listen to the naysayers.
There will always be a chorus of people who say, “You can’t make it. There are a million people with the same dreams. The odds are not in your favor.” Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I promise you this: everyone person who has “made it” in Hollywood has been told, “No,” more times than they can count. It’s their persistence that set them apart from the quitters that packed up their dreams and bounced after one rejection.
[Warning: Things are about to get cheesy…]
Hold tight to your dreams. There is a place in this business for the tenacious, so keep at it. The right opportunities will come along if you play the game right.