We chat about this with all of you when we first begin together, and when we are working on your pitch package, but I think it is an important topic to revisit.
This business operates on repeatable success. Well, I should say that all business operates on repeatable success.
When Apple created the first iPod they didn’t then create 10 other music players, they kept selling iPods. Sure they made them in different colors and ultimately they improved them – but the essentials didn't change for a very long time.
The problem in Hollywood is that repeatable success and art don’t really mesh that well. But they need repeatable success in order to afford the art, so, what's a Hollywood to do?
Nobody should be surprised that we have so many Sequels, Remakes and Reboots. And like we’ve talked about before isn’t Tom Hanks just an updated Jimmy Stewart? Couldn't Scarlett Johansson be a modern-day Jayne Mansfield? Where would Emma Stone be if Lindsay Lohan hadn't had the family she did?
The number of companies trying to "get into the content game" is larger than it has been perhaps since the 1920's when they were clearing orange groves to shoot silent films. There is more opportunity for actors to break in than there has ever been.
However, you still have to BREAK IN.
I want you to imagine that when you are starting out you are in a Jail Cell. Your career - the place where you get to choose which projects to be in; where you get to work with the best writers, directors, and actors; where you are in charge of what project is next; where you get to do drama and comedy and TV and film and standup and be a spokesperson for products you believe in and get behind charitable causes - IS OUTSIDE THE JAIL.
But right now you are in that cell whose walls are created by your look, your age, and your lack of credits. By the fact that nobody knows who you are.
There is a reason why when a “new” actor arrives on the scene they are a considered a “break out” hit. Or they’ve had a “break-through” performance. Because the world finally recognizes that, at least, they have busted out of the jail cell that is anonymity.
Now they are in the yard.
In the yard the comedians hang with the comedians. The TV people hang with the TV people. The YouTubers with the YouTubers.
So you hang in the yard for a while – you build up your presence until you get to bust out of jail. But to some extent you are still working from that cell.
Now, if you REALLY want to get out – out where, again, you will be given the chance to do whatever you want to do next. Where you can go from Marvel Hero to comedy role to award-winner you still need to dig yourself a tunnel.
How do people dig tunnels out of jail?
Well of course they put up that poster of Rita and they take their spoon and they scrape. They scrape and they scrape until there is a little hole in the wall. And then the hole gets bigger. And maybe they see some daylight. And they keep digging, until they can fit in the hole and it is a tunnel they can run through.
You know what they don’t do?
They don’t put up a poster of Rita and then 15 other posters and scrape a little behind one poster one night. And then maybe a little behind another the next. And then they go back to the first one and start a different hole behind Rita. And then move on to the poster across the cell on the completely opposite wall. If someone tried to bust out of jail like that you’d think they were INSANE.
Have I exhausted this metaphor yet? Nahhhh.
So… unless you are one of our clients that are under the age of 22 I will ask you:
Why are you trying to break into Hollywood by never building a tunnel? Why are you digging a little hole here – and then another hole there? Why are you taking one improv class and then starting a dramatic scene study class and then sort-of learning how to do stunts, but not really?
You need a tunnel. You know what you are good at (again, for our clients under 22 you SHOULD be exploring - finding out what you are best at). You KNOW deep down how it is most likely you are going to break in. You've been to enough classes where people have told you what you "feel" like to them.
What are you waiting for?
Remember, breaking in is not where you are going to be forever, but you need to break in – or out, as it were – of that cell.
So are you going to build a Netflix tunnel? A Commercial tunnel? An NBC tunnel (hello Jimmy Fallon much)? A Voice Over Tunnel? A mo-cap tunnel?
There are tens of thousands of people in this jail and they are all building their own tunnels. Part of the reason why this town doesn't let you do "everything" is because we need room for as many talents as possible. So it takes a very very very long time to be allowed to get out of jail. And I think that's fair.
I KNOW you are all capable of building many tunnels, but here's the thing.
You don’t have time.
You MUST get out of that cell. You MUST get out of that cell before the person that looks
like you and does what you do and is as talented as you gets out of theirs first. And you do that by deciding where on the wall that one poster is going to go and where you are going to dig. Nobody is in the cell with you - you have to figure this part out on your own.
Lucky for you, once you start scraping, you'll find some creatures in the wall that will help guide you: your manager and agents that are going to tell you when you need to scrape harder. When your tunnel may have gone crooked.
And we are going to come through it right there with you – sometimes ahead of you, giving you a hand, sometimes right behind you pushing you on.
If we’re all lucky that tunnel is eventually going to get wide enough for us to walk through together shoulder to shoulder, past the yard, leaving the barb-wire behind.