Hollywood Biz Whiz

Biz Whiz orange
Want to get your script into the right hands? Want to star in that movie of your dreams? Want to know what NOT to say to a TMZ reporter?

The web is filled with advice about how to make it in La La Land, but most of it is about as useless as a screen door on a battle ship (if you got that reference, congratulations, you’re going to make it in Hollywood). Stop reading random blogs with nonsensical information* and gain some real knowledge from someone who is a whiz at the biz!

*this is a random blog with nonsensical information, and if you follow any of the advice below, Steven Spielberg will send Michael Clarke Duncan to kick you in your Jon Voight**.

**this probably won’t happen.


Question:

Dear Hollywood Biz Whiz,

These fellowship applications are ridiculous! Seriously, what’s the difference between an autobiographical essay and a “composition on self” anyway? What are they really looking for and how can I prove I have what they want?

THANK YOU!
Ray
Simi Valley, CA

Answer:
Here’s a question: if Big Bird lays an egg on top of a triangular roof, which way will the egg roll? Trick question! Big Bird can’t lay eggs because the Jim Henson Company strictly forbids any unauthorized reproduction of their characters. Also, Big Bird’s a dude.

Another question for you: if the Disney | ABC Writing Program requires you to write a composition about yourself in addition to an autobiography, how many prompts do you have to answer for the application? Did you say two? Wrong! Send Disney two separate compositions, and you’ll be unemployed for another year. The application itself is a trick question designed to whittle out the thickheaded. They believe if you’re smart enough to realize one answer can answer two questions, then you’re smart enough to write for TV.

I just cut your work in half, but you can hold your thank-yous till the end. Now you have to figure out what to write in the first place. Easy! It’s no secret these programs are looking for writers with diverse backgrounds who can bring something new to the television landscape. So inserting the phrase “I’m a deaf Korean-American woman who grew up in Detroit” will surely send your application to the top of the pile. Don’t worry, white guys from the suburbs, if you make it to the interview process, you can explain (in sign language–you’re deaf, remember?) how you’re transgendered with that Michael Jackson skin condition, which makes you even more diverse!

You’re welcome. Or, as your people would say, 참 잘 오셨습니다.


Questions:

Why does [Hollywood] make my soul so dead inside?

Amy
Los Angeles, CA

Why aren’t actors allowed to grow old or appear ugly, unless they are already beautiful and have to be made to look ugly to call it acting????

Tony
Toms River, NJ

Answer:
Good news, Amy! Your soul isn’t dead! Unfortunately, it is probably out auditioning for a Miller Lite commercial right about now. Let me explain…

Everybody knows a camera is nothing more than a supernatural device with the ability to capture a person’s life force. Aim it, hit a button, and BAM! instant soul at your fingertips. During one particularly trigger-happy decade (*cough* *cough* *the 80s*), the camera caught wise to our giant industry of behind-the-camera crew people and decided to expand its soul suction zone. Long story short (and several film franchises later), most people in Hollywood feel empty inside because they ARE empty inside.

Except for actors. They get the benefit of standing in front of the lens, which for this evolved camera acts as a safety release valve when too many souls build up. Not only do they get to keep their souls, but they also get a periodical dose of everybody else’s! This is why actors have the ability to regenerate themselves and defy age. Look at Jeremy Piven: the more screen time he gets, the more hair sprouts from his bald melon.

Therefore, in regards to Tony’s questions, it’s not that actors aren’t ALLOWED to grow old or appear ugly; it’s that they literally can’t. Except if they become overexposed. You know how if you sit in the tub for too long your fingers get prunie? This happens to actors’ faces when they suck up too many souls. And if the actor is already beautiful to begin with, well… two words: Mickey Rourke.


Question:

Dear Hollywood Biz Whiz,

I had a few friends read the original sitcom pilot script I wrote, and they all had the same note. That it just wasn’t funny. Do you have any tips on being funny?

Martin
Henderson, NV

Answer:
I haven’t even read your script and I already know exactly what’s wrong: it’s original. Comedy hasn’t been original since man crawled out of the primordial ooze and slipped on a banana peel. Sitcoms just recycle 16th century commedia dell’arte stock characters. Bugs Bunny is nothing more than a gentile Groucho Marx. And “Yo momma’s so fat” jokes are merely a modern translation of primitive man’s “Your female elder is so overly prepared for winter” hieroglyphics.

Comedy isn’t about carefully crafting the perfect punch line. It’s about stealing that carefully crafted punch line from a source that doesn’t have the legal means to sue you in court.

They also say comedy is in the timing, so you should probably throw in a couple lines about clocks.


Question:

To the Hollywood Biz Whiz,

We’re in a bit of a catch-22 with our educational theatre troupe. Elementary and middle schools won’t hire us to perform unless we can show them articles or reviews about our company, and of course, no one is going to write anything about our company until we get hired by an elementary or middle school to perform.

Since any respected Internet source is acceptable, would you be willing to write something up for us and post it on your blog?

Sincerely,

B & S
Torrance, CA

Answer:
Aside from being the tops in Tinseltown, I’m also pretty legit in the Legit world (Julie Taymor directed and co-wrote the book to my sweet sixteen party. True story). Simply fill in the missing information below and consider yourself reviewed!
____________________________________________
The Next Generation of Educational Theatre is Here
by the Hollywood Biz Whiz

This (morning/afternoon/evening), I got to experience true theatre. I was invited to a special performance of (Company’s name)’s original show (Show’s name), and boy, was I blown away! (Show’s name) is the story of a (boy/girl/creature of some sort) who learns that (topic of show) is (good/bad). I would have never guessed this infinitely clever show was written for an audience of (number)-year-olds. Yet, it still had this youthful whimsy that made me feel like I was (same number) again, discovering for the first time how (good/bad) (topic of show) is.

No performance can be perfect though. I am referring, of course, to (Performer’s name). (Performer’s name) seemed to constantly stumble on (his/her) (lines/choreography), which nearly shattered the whole wonderful illusion of the piece. If (Company’s name) can do the hard task of parting ways with (Performer’s name), I’m sure they’ll find the success they rightly deserve.


Question:

Dear Hollywood Biz Whiz,

I got called in for an audition, but the location is in the director’s apartment, is this normal?

Shaboopy in Shaboygan

Answer:
Come on, it’s out of the question that you would question this. Auditioning in an apartment is completely normal.

A director knows no matter how good of an actor you are, you can’t perform a role if a piece of that character isn’t inside of you. Say he’s casting the part of a basketball star. He’ll need to see how comfortable you are on the court. Or if it’s a sea captain, how you fare on a boat. Or if it’s a stay-at-home mom, maid, or shut-in, he’ll need you to come to his apartment.

Seasoned actors will tell you they land the most interesting roles from the oddest auditions. Auditions that happen in:

      Warehouses
      Alleyways
      Docks
      Rundown motels
      Deserted roads
      Construction pits
      Storage units
    Seemingly innocent toy factories

You wouldn’t want to miss out on the role of a lifetime because you won’t meet a director in the woods, would you?


Question:

Dear Hollywood Biz Whiz,

Fine, I admit it! I constantly practice my Oscar thank-yous while standing in the shower clutching a bottle of Pert Plus. But I’m not an actor, so I know nobody’s going to care when I win. How do I give an acceptance speech that will really blow the socks off those Academy stiffs?

Merci!
J. Paul
West Hollywood, CA

Answer:
Just because you’re some nameless, socially awkward sound mixer doesn’t mean the audience is going to zone out until somebody pretty comes out to announce a real category with real nominees. The Academy loves an underdog (which explains why they keep nominating Randy Newman, a man who sounds like a frightened basset hound), so when they hand you the award, what they’re really saying is, “Prove it.”

You want your speech to encompass everything. Who cares about the movie you won for?! They want to hear about how you were teased in the fifth grade, or that rash you developed in high school, or the college paper you had to re-write five times because your computer kept crashing. The story is in the details.

About 30 seconds in, you’ll notice music playing—they are simply underscoring your speech to increase the dramatic effect. As the music swells, get louder and more passionate, so by the time they cut the mic, you’re screaming at the crowd about how your mother dressed you like a girl for the first 10 years of your life. Finally, make an unfavorable political statement and chuck the Oscar into the front row (it’s only a Styrofoam prop, the real ones are in the back).


Question:

Help Hollywood Biz Whiz!

What are they really looking for in a headshot? I’m more of a character actor, but should I have a leading lady pose as well?

THANKS!
Nicole
Westwood, CA

Answer:
The next sentence will blow your mind. Not all actors need headshots. BOOM!

Then what do you submit to casting directors? Well, that all depends on your type, which is usually pretty set in stone (unless you’re Alec Baldwin). If you’re a leading lady type, then you will definitely need a headshot. Casting directors can determine box office marketability based on pore size alone, so they need to see as much of your punim as the camera can capture. For the best friend/supporting character type, they need to imagine how you’d look behind the leads on the movie poster, so your picture should be from head to toe (often called a body shot). And then there’s the affable waitress/woman on the subway #3/bit player type, where blending into the background is key, so you’ll need a photo of you being inconspicuous (also called a Waldo shot).

The best advice I can give you is to KNOW YOUR TYPE. Casting directors are short on time and patience, so don’t piss them off with a headshot when you’re a Waldo shot kind of girl. Harsh, I know, but it’s like Stanislavisky said, “There are no small parts, only large-pored actors.”


Question:

Dear Hollywood Biz Whiz,

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m at the video store picking out a romantic comedy to curl up to tonight. Going down the aisles, I’m noticing there hasn’t been a good one released in a decade. Is the genre dead?

Sincerely,
Boyfriendless in Burbank

Answer:
Speaking of things being dead, what are you doing at a video store? ZING!

But seriously, good observation. The truth is it’s been years since they’ve actually MADE a new romantic comedy. Most of the time, it’s just reedited Jennifer Aniston footage (if you watch The Bounty Hunter close enough, you’ll notice scenes from season 6 of Friends mixed in with Gerard Butler in 300).

Studios can’t make money with rom coms anymore because they’ve lost half their audience. Men are now unwilling to be dragged to the theater by their girlfriends for one reason: the Bromance. Recent studies show this new “guy love” subgenre is actually turning men gay, so watching a film about two breeders getting together is the last thing on their minds.

Fortunately, there’s still hope! The word around tinsel town is Paramount put Judd Apatow under conversion therapy, so expect a Rom Com Renaissance sometime soon!


Question:

Dear Hollywood Biz Whiz,

I’ve heard stories about studios buying YouTube videos and making features out of them. How do I get in on that action?! I produce a lot of shorts that I write, direct, and star in myself.

Chaz
Antioch, CA

Answer:
YouTube has eliminated the pitch meeting. Do you think Tarantino brings his little notebook into Joe Schmoe Studio Exec’s office to sell him Pulp Fiction 2: Double Royale with Cheese? Don’t be silly! Instead, every exec in Los Angeles subscribes to Tarantino’s YouTube page, so when Q-Man865 uploads a 3-minute version of his latest idea, whoever “likes” it first gets to option it.

Likewise, what you want to do is get the execs to come to you. You do that through buzz, and you do THAT through exclusivity. First, mark all of your videos as private. Then, spam your friends to subscribe to your YouTube channel. As your numbers slowly grow, non-subscribers who are unable to see your videos will think they’re missing out on something and subscribe. Your numbers will double, triple, x-uple as more and more people want to see what all of these other people can already see. Trust me, in no time, millions will watch the video of you sitting on the toilet humming the theme to Rocky, and Hollywood will come knocking to remake it with Ryan Reynolds. Now there’s a summer blockbuster!


Question:

Dear Hollywood Biz Whiz,

Okay, this may be a dumb question, but how do I get on IMDB? I’m an actor with loads of student and independent films.

Much obliged!
Lance
Canoga Park, CA

Answer:
First off, technically it’s written as “IMDb.” Little known fact, the creator was a bitter 1st AD who intended the site to smear actors and crew members he believed had treated him poorly on set and were, as he liked to call them, douchebags (hence the full page name IMaDouchebag.com). When film buffs started to dig the site, he shortened it to IMDb to mask its vindictive beginnings.

Now, there are two ways to get your name and projects on IMDb. One is to purchase an IMDb Pro account. Since you’re starring in student films, I’m going to assume you have a cash flow issue that makes this option impossible.

So moving on to option two: seduce someone who works there. This is a little tricky because the only way to contact IMDb is through email, and email is the least sexy form of communication (you usually have to be pretty blunt, which comes off as desperate, not seductive). But you’re bound to talk to someone face to face if you have an interview to work there, so I suggest heading to the “Jobs” page and doctoring a killer resume for an open position. Once they call you in, suggest other positions–wink wink–you might be able to do for them. Two or three secret rendezvous later, and your IMDb page should be up and running!


Question:

Dear Hollywood Biz Whiz,

I just landed my first job as a PA! That exclamation point is more out of fear than excitement, though, since I’ve heard so many horror stories about PA work. How can I survive the film set?

Thanks!
Trevor
Los Feliz, CA

Answer:
Some people might paint the picture of a PA as a fresh-faced go-getter with a you-say-jump-I-say-how-high mentality trying to earn his dues in Hollywood. If you want to NOT be successful, then go along with that illusion. But the truth is your first PA job will make or break your career.

The first time you walk onto the set is like your first impression on the film industry. You should enter with an air of confidence and just a pinch of entitlement. The crew will sense that confidence and learn to fear you. When communicating with people, whether face-to-face or over the walkie-talkie, wait at least 10 seconds before responding to any command. This will ensure they’ll know you’re working for you, not them.

Wardrobe: you should already seem successful. If you’d wear it on the red carpet, then you should wear it on set. Plus, this is a really easy way to get out of doing dirty tasks. The director will realize that you won’t want to get your tux messy, so he’ll probably clean up the crew bathrooms himself.

Lunchtime is networking time, for people who want to be a PA for the rest of their lives. You should spend it reblocking the scenes scheduled for the day. When the producer gets back to set, let her know what you’ve been working on, and she’ll be so impressed that you’ll probably be hired to replace the director. After all, he’s been cleaning the bathrooms all day.

Remember your mantra: they don’t hire just anyone to be a PA.


QUESTION:

Dear Hollywood Biz Whiz,

I’ve been searching everywhere for how to write a really great tv spec, and I can’t quite find a clear answer. Could you give me any advice?

Cheers!
Becky
San Dimas, CA

ANSWER:
The key to a great spec script is making it stand out. Every idiot is going to be specing a current show, so why not choose something that’s been off the air for at least 5 years. Even better, pick a show that was canceled like Cavemen or Joanie Loves Chachi–think of all the storylines the writers never got to a chance to mine! Then again, you may want to play to the nostalgia factor of a show people really loved, so Seinfeld would be another great choice.

You have to think bigger than the boob tube. A typical sitcom script is 30-35 pages for a single-camera show (meaning they shoot the entire episode in one take with one camera) or 40-50 pages for a multi-camera show (meaning they hide a lot of the cameras and often the actors don’t even know they’re being filmed [i.e. The Truman Show]), so to stand out, your spec should be at least 150 pages.

Lastly, your script is supposed to prove you can take someone’s characters and write them well. That’s why you should pick one character to really focus on and write the story solely around them. Have the character take a trip by his or herself. What if it was a flashback of that character earlier on in life? You’d be saving the show money because they wouldn’t have to use the usual actor!

Once you have your script, cast some local actors and film it. I’m sure your spec episode will turn out great!