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More About Filmmaking - Hollywood

Hollywood is dominated by a few gigantic multinational corporations where all decisions are made at the top and everything you do is second-guessed by junior execs. If someone is described as an exec then s/he's probably very powerful. If someone describes themselves as being an exec they're probably the mail room clerk.

Everyone wants to have first-look at the creative people's projects. It's like a bunch of kids saying I've got first dibs. But first the executives will check the demos. Demos are the demographics, a guess at who might see this movie. The Holy Grail is a four-quadrant movie. One where young and old, male and female all want to see it. Like the other Holy Grail it probably doesn't exist.

The studio head is the big honcho. Whatever he says happens ... until he gets replaced by a new honcho next year. No movie gets made unless the studio head greenlights it.

Greenlight is the go-ahead for a production. In a place where there is no job security having your project greenlighted is an affirmation that you exist. Nothing gets the greenlight right away. First it has to go through production hell for three years or more. That's when everyone has occasional meetings about the project and agrees that there's a pony in the pasture but they aren't just sure where it is.

Since no one can get the project going except the big honcho everyone waits and wishes the big honcho would get replaced so maybe the replacement would give this project the greenlight. But invariably the new honcho always kills any projects that were in development hell under the previous honcho. After all if they were such great projects why couldn't the old honcho get them made. The new honcho brings his own pet projects for their share of development hell until he is replaced by the next big honcho.


In Hollywood the only thing better then having your project get the greenlight is having a big backend. That refers to how large or small your share of the movie's profits. Of course movies never make a profit in Hollywood. The studio accounting system is designed to make sure. A-List Stars always get a big backend. You'd think in a place so obsessed by appearance they'd be self-conscious about having a big backend but they're not.

Between November and February is awards season--Golden Globes, DGA, WGA, Oscars, even Sundance. If you're lucky you'll get some kudos, an old greek word for glory. Kudos are a really good affirmation that you exist. Oscar is the best kudo but any kudo means you're breathing.

When people are going to Hollywood they'll say they're going to the Coast. The Coast always means the West coast. In fact it means Los Angeles.

Indies are people who don't follow the rules of the studios. In the studios there are no indies. In the studios there are no filmmakers. Filmmaker isn't a job title in Hollywood. You are a producer or a director or a cinematographer, or writer, or editor, but you can't be all of them. There's probably a union rule about it. Indies often get their films made, unlike Hollywood.

Almost everyone starts at the bottom in high-pressure or mind-less but always low-paid jobs unless they have a famous relative in the business. Nepotism is a way of life out on the Coast where the A-List folks hope to get the greenlight so they can enjoy their big backend.

The weather is nice but the traffic and smog aren't. Woody Allen pointed out that unlike in some states you can turn right on a red light. Is that enough reason to want to live in Hollywood?

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