We’re right in the middle of that time of the year when awards are given out in the entertainment world. So far we’ve already had the Golden Globe, The Screen Actor Awards and now we’re awaiting the big one to be held early March—the daddy of them all—The Academy Awards with their Oscar presentations.
This is the moment the Stars come alive and parade in all their finery before our very eyes on TV. This is when we honor the best of the best. Our brains are embedded with pixie dust and we feel that something monumentally important is happening in our lives. I remember years back a friend of mine and I used to discuss movies no end at this time of the year. His mother looked at us as though we were nuts and in an attempt to bring us back to reality would say, “It’s only a movie.”
I know one year when my nephew was young, I let him and a friend of his fill out my Writers Guild voting form for the Best Scenarios of the year. You would have thought they had died and gone to heaven. They were like big-timers and it was truly a gigantic moment for them. I think the effect was long lasting because both of them eventually entered the world of show business—my nephew as a producer and his friend as an actor.
Ah, the draw of show business pixie dust is super potent. Many people get so caught up in it that they too like my nephew and his friend want to become part of that world on a full-time basis. This is where the rub comes in. All that glamour and excitement is out there to be had as a profession but it doesn’t come easily. In order to throw your hat into the ring, you first have to realize you’re asking to join one of the hardest-to-enter professions on earth. The competition is vast and rejection is the norm. A producer friend the other day said he believed only about two percent of the people who tried to join the entertainment business succeeded to any degree. I have to concur with him wholeheartedly if he is talking about making a decent, living wage. That two-percent rule would include actors, writers, producers and directors.
Opening the golden gates of Hollywood is much like scaling Mount Everest. Many souls attempt the feat but only a few are successful. It is good to have a dream but to turn that dream into reality, it will take more than dreaming of pixie dust. Fortitude and hard work are the norms for tackling the job realistically and even then you don’t know if you will make it.
The other day a friend of mine and I went to see the film AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, a contender in this season’s awards. I walked up to the box office, presented my Writers Guild membership card (the screenwriting union) and got two complimentary tickets. At this time of year, guild members like me get in free because we are the ones who vote in the awards. The young lady who was issuing the tickets seemed impressed and asked me what it took to get my card. I told her it was simple: just write thirty screenplays. I, of course, was being flip but I explained quickly that to get my membership card it took tons of hard work, luck, talent, who you know and selling at least one screenplay. I let her know that the card is no easy pickings. It takes a lot to get one. She seemed to understand.
Daily people arrive in Los Angeles with the intention of joining the pixie-dust world as an actor or writer. If they have a good bit of stage experience under their belts or they’ve worked on their college newspaper, written some produced sketches or plays, are well into their first novel, have some basic work experience in local TV and know a couple of well placed people in the business, then they are at least at square one instead of square zero.
The word luck I think is the heart of the matter and can override all the guidance given in the previous paragraph. My nephew and his friend were lucky. They got through the pixie-dust door rather quickly via more verve than experience. During a lean time in my life in Los Angeles, I gave private lessons in French and Spanish to help keep myself afloat. One of my students wanted to take French so he could pronounce wines and dishes correctly and work in one of the finer restaurants. He had just come from Kansas to the area. Before he could take his second lesson with me, he had a starring role in a film (CLUELESS) and his own TV series. His name was Paul Rudd. With him, it was like winning the super lottery. Most everyone else though has to fight to get their toes through the pixie-dust door. For the vast majority, it’s like riding that electronic bull in bars.
This past week I saw a video presentation by the Los Angeles Times called “Envelope.” The moderator John Horn discussed the film DALLAS BUYER’S CLUB with the producers, the two screenwriters and the two stars, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. The writers revealed it had taken them 20 years to find a producer to bring their scenario to the screen. Their script had been rejected 147 times. As it was, the producers had to make the film on a shoestring budget in 25 days. Yet here it is at the moment winning all sorts of awards. Just goes to show you the unpredictable nature of the pixie-dust business. How many people could stand being rejected 147 times over a period of 20 years?
I’m only trying to throw a bucket of cold water on people’s daydreams because that is the main way in this business you’re going to turn them into realities. Even though you may believe all the Pollyannas who tell you, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”, a lot of the time just because you are trying doesn’t necessarily mean a positive outcome. The general rule of thumb for regular pixie-dust daredevils is you simply must sweat your dreams out.
I wish you the very best and I will salute each rung of the ladder you ascend. I am not a harsh critic on other people’s creativity because I know how hard achievement is to come by. You’ll make your road easier to travel though if you’re a realist. Believe me.