Things I (think I) have learned about Hollywood

*Please forgive me for any typos, points made too many times or repetitive language. I wrote this and am now running out the door because Kristyn got home and she is ordering me to. I just do what the funk I am told. The point is, I haven’t proofread or re-read this AT ALL. I hope it makes sense and is at least a little bit interesting.*

Okay, I have kind of been contemplating the hubbub about Ricky Gervais and feel like this is a perfect time for me to write down what I’ve learned about Hollywood so far.

Before I begin, please note, I essentially do not know what I am talking about in any official capacity. These are all just things I’ve picked up by (obsessively) watching the media, learning things intentionally or unintentionally from my bosses and by good old fashioned common sense. Stay with me here.

1) I didn’t watch the Golden Globes yesterday (because we don’t currently have cable) BUT I’ve read a lot of hecka divided stuff about his performance. Some feel he is a hero for “saying what everyone is thinking” and others feel like he is the devil in skin. He is both and I will tell you why.

Hero
Ricky Gervais is a hero because he skewered the notoriously self-serving community of actors and artists who are communally known as “Hollywood”. We, the people, worship celebs and revile them because they are what we are not: Beautiful and rich. AND they have awesome jobs and we don’t. These award shows are notoriously faux humble with a lot of gland handing and back patting going around. SO we like to see these people, who have so much, get it stuck to them once in a while. Schadenfreude.

Devil in skin
If you think about it, each celebrity, director, producer, etc, etc, etc is a Mom and Pop business. If I were in their shoes, yes I’d think of the glory, achievement and adulation that comes with winning such an award but mainly I’d be thinking about money. Awards = money. It’s like getting a one up while playing Super Mario Bros. Another chance. Everything in Hollywood is about getting a chance and getting someone to pay attention to you. If I might take a left turn, let me explain something.

From what I see, studios are always just trying to take the pulse of the people. Scouring media, reading books, watching other movies, box office returns EVERYTHING. You want to strike while the iron is hot but moreso than that you want to anticipate the NEXT BIG THING. You want to make money. Because it is a business and that’s what businesses DO. So again, you read scripts, you read books, you keep an ear to the ground and pay attention to what the people want and then you just simply give it to them and watch the dollars roll in. People cry about popcorn movies but in reality it is popcorn movies that make smaller movies happen. You can only afford the “passion projects” when you have popcorn movie money. SO. When you finally have an idea, you have to come up with a budget as you do with any project. In that budget, you have to fit all the salaries of the entire cast and crew, scenes, lighting, equipment, travel arrangements, meetings, a bumper for time and money lost, food, shelter all sorts of things. So do you want to make an extravagantly beautiful visual movie? Well up goes your costuming, special effects, sound and scenery budget. Do you want to make this a “vehicle” for a big name or fledgling actor? All these things can determine the budget.
And Hollywood is COLLABORATIVE. There are SO many movies and tv shows that have been brought to you by multiple (and even competing) companies. BECAUSE IT’S ALL ABOUT MONEY. And when you’re putting together a movie or a tv show, you are grouping together a series of large, small and mom and pop businesses to create a final end product. If that end product wins an awards, it’s basically fair game for ALL OF THOSE companies to take a slice of that pie, aka use the gleam off of that award to sell their next project. “We created a blahblahblah award-winning project.”

When you can say you’ve done that, that is your one-up. You are a proven commodity and other people will think to work with you again ESPECIALLY if you are a Mom and Pop business such as say, Tina Fey.

Tina Fey didn’t come from Hollywood royalty. She is a cottage industry. If I am Tina Fey, I’m thinking this:

If I work hard and smile and make money and make the right choices, I will get more work and more money, etc, etc, etc. Not only that, me, my entire family and all of my friends can possibly be set up for LIFE. If I work hard NOW while people are paying attention, I can retire at the top of my game and have a beautiful life. AND my kids and their kids and their kids will have more opportunities than I ever had.

How is that different from Lucky Sam’s Shoe Factory? Same mentality.

And if you want the point proven, just look at Drew Barrymore. Look at the Arquettes. It is human nature to pull up the ones you know. The Barrymores and the Arquettes come from a long line of performers, one more successful than the last. On the Sony/MGM lot there is a building named after the Barrymores and it has zero to do with “The Wedding Singer”.

2) The POINT of all of this is that we all work with someone who is willing to step on your neck to get ahead with the boss. THAT, in a way, is what Ricky Gervais did last night. Don’t get me wrong, I thought (what I saw of it) was hilarious. BUT. Consider this. If I’m Ricky Gervais, here is what I’m thinking:

My best work is already done. I am and will always be known as “Ricky Gervais: creator of the British version of the Office”. I have only a year or two more of people’s attention and then I’m finished. They hated me last year but the ratings were good enough so they brought me back again. I can be nice and pleasant and make little jokes and get everyone in Hollywood to like me but they like A LOT of people and that doesn’t mean they work with them.

OR.

I can make a splash. Awards shows are about making future dollars. The viewers dictate those dollars. I can pander to the people in this room who could MAYBE give me a leg up. OR I can pander to the millions of people at home who can DEFINITELY give me a leg up. If I’m “nice”, I’ll fade into obscurity. If I’m controversial, they’ll remember me and I will be a comedy legend. If the people love me, the big companies and the little companies and the cottage industries (aka Hollywood) all will HAVE to give me a chance because it’s what the people want.

3) And also consider this. For all the criticism of the Awards Shows being all about back-patting and self-congratulations…would they televise them if we didn’t want to see them? NO. If we want them to go away, we just have to stop watching. Case in point: The Miss America Pageant. When I was a kid, the Miss America Pageant was appointment TV. My whole family gathered around to watch it, the news revolved around it and reported on it. It was a source of state and national pride. As feminist organizations started decrying the process of picking out the prettiest dumbest lily of the garden, people started kind of going, “Oh yeah” and not watching. Now, even if money was on the line, I could not even begin to tell you when that show airs or what channel it’s on. Maybe TNT? Maybe TBS? Maybe CMT? I say those networks because those are the demographic of people who WOULD watch the Miss America Pageant. And that’s what it all comes down to. Demographics. You don’t buy a script or an idea for a script unless you can figure this out:

– What kind of person would pay $12 to see this movie in a theater?
– Are there a lot of these people?
– Do these people typically spend money to go to the movies?

And if it’s for a TV show, it all comes down to zeitgeist and timing. Look at network tv on Thursday nights. People are home on Thursdays so they put their hits on. When I was a kid, networks still aired new shows on Saturdays. It was kind of silly because people weren’t home. I remember thinking that THEN. As a KID. They moved that shit to Thursdays and BOOM. But you live and you learn. You adapt to what the people want. We don’t WANT to watch new episodes of our favorite shows on a Saturday night. What we WANT to do on a Saturday night is go out for a drink or a show OR go to the movies which is why they release movies on weekends. Because that’s what WE want to do.

4) So this fourth point isn’t a point but just kind of a roundup of my thoughts. Again, this is just what I’ve seen SO FAR and filled in with my own personal (non-professional) observations. I think Ricky Gervais probably just extended his own time in the spotlight. Even if he stepped on some bitches’ toes in Hollywood, he put a plus sign next to his name in our heads. And this means he WILL get more work. Because more than anything, Hollywood is fickle and while power does mean something, it doesn’t mean everything. At the end of the day, what does mean something is a good idea and how much money you can make off of it because at the end of the day everyone needs to make a living and a LOT more people make a living off of movies and TV than just the stars and directors. One show or film can take hundreds of people to put together. And those cottage industries (aka celebs) are actually CREATING jobs for the people down below. Like anything else, it’s a chain and one link is dependant upon the next. Awards shows fit in for a lot of reasons. Basically Ricky Gervais kind of stepped on a LOT of people’s necks to give himself a leg up. It worked and it also (at least temporarily) brought a lot of other people’s businesses down. So he’ll be fine and I think people will work with him again but he may have to lay low for a bit. I doubt it’s what I would have done because when you think of it like that, it’s not very ethical. BUT if you’re thinking about the potential gain of your loved ones, that’s a hard call to make too.

The point of me writing this stuff all down is not to brag or preach. It’s not to toss my two cents into the ring. It was basically just an exercise for my own brain and I thought it might be interesting to read too. If you’re reading this and are one of my bosses or coworkers or just work in the industry, I hope you’re not off-put by anything that I said because this is just really an analytical exercise. And I know that I for sure don’t have the whole picture. I just hope I get the experience to HAVE the whole picture someday.

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