How To Be Successful In Hollywood: Guest Blog
The below post was written by Larry Pontius, once the highest paid writer in Pakistani TV (no joke!) and currently repped by Heroes & Villains. More on him below.
Let me start by saying that if you think that this blog post “How to Be Successful in Hollywood” will list the steps on how I secured my multimillion dollar deal with Warner Brothers, I’m going to disappoint you. It’s not that kind of post.
I wish this was an inspiring feel good blog post. I really do. I wish I had that multimillion dollar deal. Who doesn’t love a good “This Is How I Made It” blog post you can share with your friends and family to get them off your back? But, I’ve been in LA for about nine years now and I don’t have that story to tell.
Nope. This is about that stretch of time before success happens, if it happens at all.
This F@$king Business
We all know that getting into this f@$king business is hard. The odds are against us in almost every way. Lots of people competing to get in. Lots of people already in. We have to get that right script to the right desk for the right eyeballs and we have no idea who that is.
Simply put, there is no clear path and no clear timetable for you or me. I don’t know when I will break in, I don’t know when I will achieve my ambitions. It could be tomorrow (yes, please!) or it could be next year (sure, I can work with that). It could be never (…sigh..). There’s an easier and clearer path to becoming a surgeon than a writer in Hollywood.
All of this is terrible and doesn’t sound hopeful. Because, it isn’t.
Nevertheless, in the face of all of that, the odds, the lack of clarity and timetable, I am still a writer in pursuit of my ambitions. There’s a how and a why behind me staying resilient.
I’m gonna cheat. I’m going to crib from a wiser greater mind than my own. It’s ok, I hear all the great writers steal. I’m stealing from Neil Gaiman a fantastic writer (pun intended)—who once said we often confuse goals and milestones. Goals are the things you can control while milestones happen as a result of achieving your goals.
This was a big mind shift for me. Up until then, my goal was to get staffed. My goal was to become a show runner. My goal was to get an Emmy—though the statue actually terrifies me with those pointed f@$king wings. You trip with one of those in your hand and you will stab your eyes out.
Time and time again, staffing season would roll around and I would fail to meet my goal. It felt terrible. It felt like failure. And that’s not a place to build confidence from.
But, getting staffed is out of my control. I can’t make someone say yes to me. What I can do is put myself in a position to maybe get that yes. To increase the odds of a yes happening.
So, my goals are no longer the unattainable. But, rather the achievable. I can write. I’m a really good writer. So, I try to get two pilots done a year. I enter the fellowships every year (have you chosen your spec yet?). I enter contests. I network. I take classes to continue to hone my craft. I can’t get meetings if I don’t have the scripts, and I won’t get people inside the industry recommending me if I don’t network.
That first job? That second job? That Emmy—seriously, they are like daggers… All of those are milestones that will come from achieving my goals.
Now when staffing season rolls around, I look at my list of goals, I look at how many I have crossed off. And how much I have achieved. And even if I don’t get the job, I’m still satisfied that I did what I could.
I’m not much of a mantra guy, but, I have a mantra this year, “When I do the work, I’m successful.”
It makes coming back from rejection (and it’s going to happen a lot for most of us) so much easier. This mind shift helps me stay resilient.
Obviously there are days that I don’t want to do it anymore. There are times that I can’t crack a script and I wonder what I’m doing with my life. There are moments that I am ready to go all Office Space on my computer.
But, I don’t.
While resilience armors me from the challenges of this business, why I keep going is my fucking belief in myself. I know I’m a great writer. I know I’m an even better collaborator. I would be a f@$king asset in any room.
Belief in myself fuels my drive towards my ambitions. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me on that winding path towards the unknown future. Will I do this forever? I don’t know. Maybe. But, that’s not now. Now, I’m here in this weird middle part of my career and I’m not going anywhere until I give it my best damn shot.
Larry Pontius was adequately raised by two parents in Normal, IL, later becoming the highest paid writer in Pakistani TV. He has written three serials, including Qaatil, Pakistan’s first tele-thriller. In the US, his work includes several pilots that have received interest from FOX TV, Warner Brothers and Warner Horizons. He is a Cinetstory Finalist and a PAGE Award Semi-Finalist. He is the recipient of the Michener Fellowship from the University of Texas at Austin while obtaining his MFA in Playwriting. He also studied at Dell’Arte, The International School of Physical Theater and received the Nicholas Meyer Scholarship for Playwriting from the University of Iowa, where he earned a BA with Honors. Follow him on Twitter @Larry Pontius