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READER QUESTION: What if drinking means drowning in Hollywood?

Hey, all—

Wanted to reprint an interesting email I got from Rebecca, one of our loyal friends and readers, in response to the book review I recently posted for Tom Malloy’s, “Bankroll: A New Approach to Financing Feature Films.” I don’t agree with her, but I thought she raised some interesting points that warranted discussion. So here’s her email, and I’ll respond afterwards…

Although the book itself has some extremely useful information, I would not recommend it for one main reason.

The author encourages go-along-to-get-along, pimp-yourself-out, anything-goes-to-ingratiate-yourself, values.In several sections, he says to do anything to please the guys who may have the money. He applauds himself for getting out of bed in the middle of the night, and leaving his wife, to meet with a potential financier.And he repeatedly says that if the potential financier or attachment is drinking, you should match him in chug-a-lugs.What if the guy is really trying to score on a female producer by drinking with her? What if you're an alcoholic? What if you are just opposed to drinking alcoholic beverages? What if you just don’t like the taste of alcohol? What if, for any number of reasons, you just don’t want to drink alcohol.According to the author, you should do it anyway.And while you’re drinking, what if the potential financier wants you to snort a little cocaine? Your resistance is already lowered by the alcohol. And the author seems to condone doing what the potential financier does.I have a close personal friend whose clients were always taking her to Vegas and giving her thousands to gamble with. Now that the economy has tanked, neither her company nor the clients have the business they used to.No more free trips and chips. But, now she is addicted to gambling. So, she’s up there using her own funds, quickly dwindling.So, I just think it's irresponsible to encourage people, especially young people who may take his word as gospel and people just entering the business who don’t know any better, to abuse substances just to fit in and close the deal.That's not called being a good producer. That's called being a whore.Just my opinion.


Like I said—I don’t agree with Rebecca, but I think she touches on some interesting points and raises questions that confront many people in Hollywood. How important is it to fit in in Hollywood? What if someone asks me to do something I’m uncomfortable with? Where are the lines drawn for acceptable social/business behavior?

So here’s my response…

First of all, I don’t think Malloy is suggesting that alcoholics need to fall off the wagon or women should let themselves get rudely hit on in order to succeed in entertainment. I’ve actually had many drinks with friends or colleagues who don’t drink, and they simply order something else or tell me proudly, “Six years sober,” and I say, “Congratulations—that’s awesome,” and we move on.

Malloy is operating under the assumption that both parties share a mutual understanding that this is a legitimate, above-board business meeting… which MOST Hollywood drinks meetings are.

But what he IS saying is that, for better or worse, Hollywood has a specific culture… and if you want to have as much success—and control over your success—as you can, you must participate as much as possible in that specific culture.

This doesn’t mean you need to chuck your ideals and belief system, but you do need to fit into the culture and the cultural rituals embraced by the industry… and drinks meetings are a big part of the Hollywood culture. If you don’t like going to drinks, find a suitable alternative… go to lunch, dinner, grab coffee. But drinks meetings ARE a pervasive part of Hollywood, from one-on-one drinks at Social or Lola's to industry mixers at Spanish Kitchen or St. Nick's, and eventually, you’re probably gonna have to do some drinks meetings. They’re part of the culture, like it or not.

(Similarly, I run a summer internship program for Vanderbilt University, and last summer we had an intern working at a major production company/mini-studio here in L.A. After two weeks, he left because he was uncomfortable with all the swearing in the workplace. Now, I’m not necessarily condoning foul language, but the truth is—Hollywood offices are lax, and four-letter words are commonplace. If that bothers you, I’d recommend looking into another career, as you’re going to have a VERY tough time surviving here. That doesn’t mean you’re not talented or ambitious or can’t figure out another way in, but it does mean you’re going to have a tough time being comfortable in places where much of Hollywood’s business takes place. People swear here. A lot. It’s how it works. You wanna join the fray, deal with it.)

Malloy’s also giving you Sales Advice 101; to make a sale, you need to connect to your buyer. Make them feel you speak the same language, like the same things, think in the same ways. And if your buyer’s a big drinker—not an alcoholic with a problem, but someone who enjoys a bar after work—then it HELPS you to join him and prove you speak the same language. It’s not necessarily required, but if Joe Buyer has a choice between doing business with you—and you don’t like drinking, talking sports, or whatever other things Joe Buyer likes to do—or another guy who LOVES doing all the things Joe Buyer like to do… who do you think he’s going to choose? The other guy.

Malloy’s NOT saying, “You need to match him drink-for-drink, even if you get wasted and can’t drive home.” And he’s NOT saying, as Rebecca posits, “Even do cocaine if the producer offers.” That would be ludicrous… not to mention illegal. He’s simply saying, “Immerse yourself 100% in the culture and language of this business, then learn how to read your buyer and connect with him. Make him feel like you're kindred spirits.”

So while you obviously have to use your head and avoid situations that feel sketchy and dangerous, I do agree with Malloy—if you want to make it in Hollywood, you DO need to learn to fit in as much as possible.

I’ll be honest—there are areas where I DON’T fit in… and I often encounter moments where I’m outside the conversation and can’t participate. For instance, I hate sports. I have never followed a sport in my life. But men in Hollywood LOVE talking sports, especially the Lakers. And when those conversations come up, I sit woefully on the bench. It’s a point of disconnect between me and whomever I’m talking to… I wish it wasn’t—I’m just not a sports guy.

Anyway, Rebecca—thanks for the great email and the great points it raises, and I’m interested to see what our other readers think. So…

Readers? What do you think on all this?

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