What Should I Know About Hollywood?

Most of the calls, inquiries, and pitches I hear from faith-based filmmakers are flawed because they just don’t know how Hollywood works. You’d never launch a career as a lawyer without knowing how the legal system works, or become a brain surgeon without the right medical training; but when it comes to media and entertainment, everyone with an idea thinks they can get a film or TV studio to spend millions of dollars to make it happen.

So from time to time, I’m going to write about “How Hollywood Works” because people simply need to understand the industry. With that in mind, I’ve asked a few of my friends – all experienced industry professionals – what they’d like to say to people out there trying to make their project happen. Keep checking in because over the next few months I’ll be following up with more recommendations from other filmmakers and creatives in the industry:

“Hollywood is only about major studios in a relatively minor way. Of the 400 films out of Hollywood every year, studios only make about 125, mostly the very large ones. The rest are independents – other companies filling the gap. Big studios have structure and rules; indies fly a little more by the seat of their pants, trying to cut costs, finding new work-arounds. So a place like Disney is only about big franchise movies – not your movie – so don’t waste your time at Disney, or other big studios like Warner Brothers. Seek out all those independent producers and studios where you’ll find more opportunities but less structure.”
Ralph Winter, Producer of “The Promise,” “The X-Men movies,” “Wolverine,” “Planet of the Apes,” and “Star Trek – The Voyage Home.”

“We believers have a strong point of view about God . Sometimes that’s a concern for folks who don’t believe because not everyone wants an overt faith message in their programming. But we all recognize that when good stories connect in the heart it can be inspiring for an audience. Stories that feel universal and reflect the triumph of the human spirit have the potential to unite us in our shared emotional experience. In that way, film can be a very powerful way to reach people. A pastor can speak to his church or community, but millions and millions of people can be reached through film and television. Our work can help bring hope and encouragement to many people, and those themes are something I have always been interested in exploring. I think when an audience can recognize themselves in the story and relate to the characters in the situation then they don’t feel so isolated or alone. Through story we can all be reminded that we belong not just to each other but to God.
Roma Downey, Actress, Producer, and founder of Lightworkers Media.

“One thing I want new-comers to Hollywood to know is that Hollywood is a spiritual battle field and EVERYONE who comes here will hit the wall. When you come, be ready for it. Don’t think that just because you believe God “called” you here that it will be easy, that everything will come together, and He will “bless” you. It’s hard, it’s a constant struggle financially, emotionally and spiritually. You need to immediately get involved in a church and faith community, you have to persevere and you have to keep your eyes on Jesus. Only then will you survive. You may not thrive financially for a long time, but you can thrive spiritually and emotionally IF you put Him first, be willing to sacrifice and find other believers to pray with, build vulnerable friendships with and hold you accountable. It’s a difficult physical, emotional, and spiritual marathon, not a glamorous sprint.
Karen Covell, Producer, and Founding Director of the Hollywood Prayer Network.

“Anyone who tells you to follow your dreams is giving you horrible advice. Unless you can get absolute confirmation that your dreams are from God (see: Joseph, Daniel, John the Revelator) then what you’re following are YOUR dreams and YOUR desires – which means they may or may not happen, and you are inevitably going to be disappointed.
Most of us who are looked at as “successes” in Hollywood never have (and never will) do the things that we want to do – or that we feel God brought us to Hollywood to do. So, apparently, God had other things in mind.
Dean Batali, Writer and Producer of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “That 70’s Show,” and “Good Witch.”

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Wendy Clark

    I like what Dean Batali said—make sure you are following God’s lead. Creative Christians have so many great ideas but we have to follow His leading in His timing about what to create and when to create it, otherwise we will create Ishmael’s and they take way too much work to maintain.

    • Dolley Carlson

      Creative work takes mountains of effort to maintain. I remember thinking that I just want to write – all the administration of publishing, website maintenance etc. seemed a sidetrack/distraction from what God called me to do. However, a wise pastor pointed out that that administrative effort is part of the calling . . . it’s all part of the work. Love that! Dolley Carlson – The Red Coat – A Novel of Boston. http://www.theredcoatboston.com

  • Pingback: The Top 10 Leadership Posts I Read The Week Of May 29th | Brian Dodd on Leadership()

  • Michael Williams

    Love Roma & Karen’s statements. All are intriguing. And, to all who are reading this…”It is coming.”

  • Karen nailed it! I can’t wait to read this series and I say Phil, this is your next book.

  • Paul A Rose Jr

    Another point to make – in Hollywood, even other believers can be untrue, disingenuous and not supporting of you, your goals and dreams. And you will find many people in churches that are there for reasons behind worshipping God and supporting one another in community. It’s just like everywhere else in America, but to a larger extent in Los Angeles.

  • Joth Riggs

    That’s why I always say “know enough to know, you don’t know enough”.

  • Pingback: How Hollywood Works (Part 2) | Phil Cooke()