Behind the Scenes: The Secrets of Hollywood
We have all heard that Hollywood can be a fickle place, but what does it really take to make it and how do you stay when you do? I have had the privilege to interview an actor who has been in the business for about seven years. He is a true Southern gentleman in both his location and manners. Standing at 5'10, he is in his mid twenties with blue eyes and all the potential of being the next leading man. Talented and handsome, not to mention kind, he was more than willing to answer all of my questions and give me a peek inside Hollywood. It turns out that anyone can enter, but it's at their own risk.
This actor, who chose to remain anonymous for the purpose of this interview, will be referred to as John. John got started in acting in 2009. "It sort of found me" he explains. He got his start in "really small budget movies that people will probably never see" but were used to built his resume until he got better acting roles. When asked what he thought was different about making movies than he previously thought he responds with: "It's not a field with any job security, and talent doesn't always translate into more work." The biggest stereotype of Hollywood actors is their lack of intelligence, but John says the opposite is true and acting actually takes a lot of intelligence because they need to be able to study people and emotions. The atmosphere behind the scenes of a film also depends greatly on the type of people who are working. John says that it's great if nice if people are working but it can also be a living hell if people make it so. After hours on a movie set, most actors usually act responsibly and go home but some choose to stay out and party all night. The directors usually work for a few more hours on set after things have wrapped up and prep for the next day.
After reading gossip magazines and watching TMZ, we tend to think that everyone dates their co-stars in Hollywood but that is actually not the case according to John. He says that while it does happen it's very rare and most actors chose to behave responsibly while shooting a film. John tries to stay out of any drama and do his work but agrees that it does happen and it all depends on who's running the production. "People work long hours and they can get upset or angry so there is some drama." For the most part, John has had a good experience with co-stars and says that many are "great people in addition to being great actors." Occasionally, though actors can be: "standoffish and competitive, it all depends on the people."
After talking with John, I learned the answers to many juicy questions such as "What does it really take to make it in Hollywood?" I was surprised when he answered that "it was all about luck and being at the right place, at the right time and right audition. Once you have the talent it's all about luck." At the same time, being talented does not automatically guarantee success either. According to John, the biggest misconception about Hollywood is that if you're talented you're going to make it. "It takes more than talent. It’s an extremely competitive industry, one movie doesn’t equal success. Trying to find a new job every few months and doing it over and over again. It’s luck over talent." Of course, I had to ask about the truth about the beauty standards in Hollywood and it's no surprise that beauty standards for females are much higher than for males. In order to get the part of the leading lady you have to be really good looking. It is also true that men tend to get the leading roles in Hollywood while women have to settle for smaller parts. John does point out that in the beginning of their careers, females have an advantage over males but this tends to change later in the game when men get the better roles.
"Ridiculous." That is the word John used to describe celebrity culture. He continues by saying that: "people worship actors like they're heroes and role models while there's a lot of other people in society who do great things and deserve this worship more." When asked what is something that he wishes people warned him about Hollywood before he became an actor, John laughs and says: "Don't do it." He continues by saying that: "You don’t always get to choose what you do. You can be forced to do movies you don’t want to do and play parts you don’t want to play." An example of this is when John was asked to do roles that he wasn't comfortable with. John is a Christian guy and isn't comfortable taking roles in which he's a rapist or murderer. "I don't want my future kids to see it someday" he explains. "Being a person of faith in the entertainment industry is a dangerous thing, not a lot of people are religious, it can be difficult when you do have religious beliefs and keeping them to yourself. There is judgement from other actors and directors. They say you should have said something when you read the script and should not have taken the job. If you’re not comfortable with sex scenes the acting world is not the place for you. You probably won’t last long. They don’t care about your personal feelings they care about the dollar sign on your forehead, it’s all about making money and not about catering it to you. You work for them and they tell you what to do and if you don’t do it there will be consequences. That’s an unfortunate reality many people don’t know about."
When asked whether there was ever a time where he felt pressured to do something he wasn't comfortable with John says: "Yes. In an action movie a director might not care about your personal safety. You can be forced to do things you’re not comfortable with. Pressured by an agency to take the role of a serial rapist. I have personally suffered consequences for not taking a part before." In Hollywood, where agents hold all the power, this doesn't go over well and they may not call you for a month or even fire you if you turn down too many roles. So how does John decide which project to take and which to pass on? "It's all about morals and whether it compromises them and my personal beliefs. It's also about whether the story is worth telling."
So what is it really like behind the scenes on a movie set? According to John, a lot of it depends on the type of people who are working, both actors and directors. The atmosphere can vary whether a female or male director is in charge but John is quick to point out that it's not about the gender of the director but more about their personality and how they like to get things done. In his experience, he's had three female directors, "one of which was really great and the other two didn't seem to know what they were doing to be honest." Some female directors do tend to be more laid back than the male directors. "People are different at the end of the day. Not so much a sex thing but more of a person thing. Comes down to the individual." When asked if he has ever had any creative differences with a director, John responds with: "Yes. Young directors, if it’s their first movie, there are instances where actors are more experienced than directors and it can cause controversy and a lack of trust. An actor really needs to accept a director’s vision of a character. There needs to be mutual trust. Some directors want an actor’s vision, others are very hands on and can be destructive at times and different actors work well with different directors."
The one thing that John really dislikes about Hollywood is "Job security, it’s really hard to prove yourself. Just because you’re good at your job doesn’t mean you’re going to get a lot of money. You could be working hard but not seeing many results, I give 120% to every movie I do. That’s how the industry operates. It would be hard to support a family because it's a risky business. You’re not guaranteed anything at any given time." Regardless, being an actor is a fun job and John has a good time doing it. For John it's not about money or fame but rather: "it’s all about getting good feedback, being appreciated, being recognized for efforts, telling a good story and exploring emotions." A piece of advice that John has for anyone wanting to make it in the entertainment industry is to be prepared to kiss a lot of ass and make sacrifices. Be prepared to become a schmoozer he says. Personally, though, John doesn't like to do it himself because: “I don’t kiss ass, I don’t like the taste of it.” John also says that: "When it comes to casting that it’s not about who’s the best actor. It’s counter intuitive. They always have a person in mind before casting. A certain look, an edge, a certain look in their eye. It’s who they picture for the role. They are looking for a certain person. It’s not a fair industry, it’s a luck thing all around. In general it’s more about looks than talent."
From our interview, I got the impression that John was a very grounded and down to earth individual. He says the experience of walking the red carpet is "surreal because at the same time you're thinking to yourself I don't deserve this, like why's this happening to me, I'm a normal person." "It's very strange going from one form of reality to the next, a lot like being Cinderella." John says he would be starstruck if he got to meet one of the bigger names in Hollywood like Brad Pitt because "it would be like meeting someone you know, because you see them on screen playing a character, but at the same time you don't really know them." John keeps in touch with his fans through Facebook and Twitter but admits that he's not a fan of social media. "At the end of the day it's nice to get compliments from fans" he says. At his level of fame, John can choose what he shares about his personal life online. He is glad that he doesn't have to deal with paparazzi, at least for now. When asked about the impact of social media on the entertainment world, John says it's mostly a negative one because it used to be that indie movies with a smaller budget could use social media to promote their work and get a bigger profit for it due to the marketing. Nowadays it's different because bigger Hollywood movies have taken over social media and smaller budget films have a lesser chance of being known because they have to fight for attention with the Hollywood blockbusters for social media marketing.
According to his IMDb page, John is a man of many talents such as acting, writing, directing, and producing. When asked what is his favorite he says acting, followed by directing and writing. Many actors are attracted to making movies due to the fame and money that come with it, but for John it was more about the creative aspect of film making. When asked if he regrets taking any movie roles, John says he doesn't because they were all a learning experience. The one thing he does regret is saying no to movie projects too often. The problem with turning down too many big roles is that you could get blacklisted in Hollywood. At the present time, John is taking a break from Hollywood and going back to college to major in international affairs. For John, having a college degree is a back up plan because "the entertainment industry is a risky business and nothing is guaranteed." I asked John if there were other careers he would be interested in besides acting and he said "hundreds, there's many things I would like to try." In his free time, John likes to read books and is always trying to "make myself a better and smarter person." He also likes to spend time with his adorable short-haired English Shepard puppy and watch television shows like South Park and Legends or his favorite movie Clash of the Titans. His favorite actor of all time is Sean Bean.
Being an actor has affected every aspect of John's life. When it comes to dating and relationships, John says it's hard to maintain relationships when he's traveling all the time and at home for only three or four months in a year. "Staying in hotels in strange cities makes for a very lonely existence" John says. "It's hard to even maintain friendships so relationships are especially difficult because you don't see these people very often." John says that when he first started out in acting, some of the people close to him thought it was silly, especially if he did a bad movie people would then make fun of him. But when he did a good movie he would receive praise. "Like in any job field, when you are successful people are either going to be happy for you or not." When asked if people treat him different because he's an actor he says that: "Yes, if they know it right away or not. If they find out later they’re like that's cool."
When asked what is more important to him these days, making movies or settling down and having a family, John says that "having both is very difficult because the nature of acting is so unpredictable and you're basically a contract worker, traveling constantly, not living in reality but rather in a type of fantasy world." I think the appeal of normal life in one place is the favored option right now for John because he has missed it these last few years. When asked where he sees himself in the next ten years John says: "No idea what the future is going to be like in the entertainment industry, it's like being a leaf blowing in the wind." Whether John chooses the fantasy world of acting or the reality of the real world, I hope it's not the last we've seen of him.
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