Hollywood 101 – How to Succeed Against the Odds

The following article is free, ongoing advice for actors, models, and bands on how to do the right things in Hollywood, that are rarely taught in acting schools, and rarely told to models and talent by anyone in the entertainment industry.


Be nice, and be diplomatic. Look at yourself first. Put your attention on the solution, not the problem. Don’t blame everyone else and get mean and grouchy. I have had clients that have blamed me, the traffic, the weather, their age, their wardrobe, their face, their body, their boyfriend, their wife, their family, the industry, the political landscape, the time of the year, that time of the month, the economy, their car, the gas prices, the parking situation, the security guards, the location of a place, the secretary, the internet, the map, their chemistry, their work load, their vacation, their dog, their hair, and over a hundred other ridiculous excuses.


The only excuse my office accepts is an emergency situation. As one of my friends who teaches acting says to her students, if you flake, you better be ready to give me a hospital room number or show me a funeral program.She’s hardcore. So is life. Life doesn’t operate on excuses. You might, but it will get you nowhere, so stop bothering with excuses. Effective leaders do not accept excuses. Losers and quitters may accept excuses, but not a winner. Erase excuses from your vocabulary. It’s all you. If your career is not where you want it to be, then you are the reason. No one else. If your agent or manager is doing a lousy job, then it’s still your fault that you didn’t get a new agent or manager, not theirs. If your relative is making you feel like dirt for pursuing your dreams, it is your fault if you keep listening to them. If your jealous partner won’t let you succeed, it’s your fault, because only you can let yourself do or not do something, and it’s your fault if you let him or her stop you.

Take responsibility for yourself, and stop making excuses. Excuses are a sign of weakness, and success in Hollywood is about power. You need to be powerful and take responsibility for yourself and your actions. Excuses lead to failure, and ultimately if you keep making them enough, death. Responsibility is action, a characteristic of successful leaders, of those who win against all odds. Take control of your career by accepting total ownership of all of your actions and results, whether good or bad.

I will expand more on this huge question in the next issue.


Answer all e-mails promptly and courteously. If someone sends you an e-mail that could hire you for a job or bring you business, always reply as immediately as possible. If your agent or manager sends you an e-mail, even a form letter, reply to it, even if it’s a ‘Thank you!’ or ‘O.K., I read this.’

If your representation says they want better communication with you, then be very glad of that, and do what they say. If you don’t, you can be sure that that agent or manager will not have you at the top of their list for very long.

Be sure to address the name of the person you are writing to in an e-mail, and spell words correctly and use correct grammar. I regularly get in sloppy e-mails of requests from actors or models to represent them, with misspelled words, and poor writing. These e-mails go to the trash in a matter of seconds. Don’t bother e-mailing an agent, manager, producer, or casting director without sending them your current photo and any other tools you have. Or if you are a musician, send your music. You need to get our attention immediately by standing out from the other hundreds of e-mails we get in daily. This seems obvious, but it should be stated still for some. Don’t resort to only communicating with someone via social networking and assume the other person received your message. Some people have a life outside of Facebook, MySpace, or twitter. Don’t assume some one else received your e-mail for that matter. If no reply, e-mail again. If no reply, call.


Avoid sending mass, blind carbon copy e-mails to potential representation or casting. If you really want to work with some one bad enough, you will send it only to them with a personal e-mail or letter. If you do send a mass ‘bcc,’ be certain to be smart enough to actually send it as a bcc send, and not a carbon copy send where you give everyone on the E-mail list each other’s e-mail. One SAG actress recently did this to me, in addition to having a poorly written e-mail. Big mistake.


You must have a designated driver whose main job is to drive, and stays sober and drug free. You must also have a relief driver who helps them out part time when they need to sleep. You should really invest in an audio navigator that dictates each direction for each city you go to. Also bring a Thomas Guide map as a backup, and Map Quest print outs to compare and contrast any confusions you may encounter. Allow down time between driving to get out and walk around, stretch, and of course, bathroom breaks. You should never drive more than one day to get to each gig, unless the money is really, really good. Life on the road can get stressful, tiring, boring, and stinky. Be sure that the band and crew you go with has bathing and good hygiene as a priority, and that their lifestyle matches yours.

Bring some good books, a kindle, laptop, internet service, cell phones, battery chargers, of course music, magazines, and other things to keep you in touch and entertained. Earplugs are also a good idea, not only for the stage, but for the road when you want more quiet than your band does. Of course, bring plenty changes of clothes for all types of weather, money for hotels, and a first aid kit. A blindfold is also a good idea for when you need to catch some sleep during the day. A credit card, ID, and cash are of course essential, as is a cooler, ice, and plenty of food, drinks, and water. Unless you want to draw attention to yourself by the police or vandals who may hate your band or thieves who want to steal your gear, avoid bumper stickers and things on the outside of your vehicle that will scream, “Hey! We’re a band!” For that reason, tinted windows are a good idea. But beware, some cities have laws against tinted windows. Do your homework.

Most major labels provide what is called tour support, that means they may include in your contract the payment of a tour van, a bus if one is really a big star, or pair you up as an opener for a band already on the road and let you follow them. Most majors have a tour support department that helps book tours, a booker, a tour publicist, and a road and tour manager for their artists. If you do not have major label support, you will need to do these things all on your own, or get someone to help you do them.


You must have a contract for every gig you play. Even if it’s for 50 bucks, you should have a contract. Always get half of your fee mailed to you and make sure the check has cleared, before you play. If you can, set up a PayPal or direct deposit. When I handled one national tour, money was electronically deposited straight to the artist’s account, so they could get their money on the road at the ATMs.

Never play unless you get half your money up front, and then, your tour manager needs to collect cash or a cashiers check in person on the spot from the venue, ideally before you hit stage, but at the very least, immediately after. I have been on the road with bands where some venues tried to stiff us. You need to be prepared to be tough and get in some faces if you have to. Let them know you mean business. The music industry can be a dirty game, so don’t expect everyone to play fair.

RIDERS: A rider is something added to a standard performance contract that is particular to each band or artist that you want or demand, such as green M&M’s picked out of your candy bowl (Van Halen), recycled toilet paper (Sheryl Crow), or more reasonable things like a soundperson with a certain ability, a video screen for an FX projection, a demand that no competing drink is served that would upset the beverage company endorsing you, or the like.

LINGO: The lingo for the music industry is a language unto itself, and like the film industry, if you don’t know it, you can forget about being an insider when you meet people that are in. Some of these terms will be covered in the next issue. I hope this was of help to many of you.

As always, if you have questions, you may call my office for free advice. Be sure to check out the back issues in our archives section, and our next issue.