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Unwritten Rules of Hollywood #1

When I got into the film business I was a complete innocent. I made a lot of rookie mistakes and broke heaps of rules. One reason for this is that most of the rules guiding behavior in Hollywood are unwritten. If you’re in The Biz, you’re just supposed to know them. Many of these rules made me feel like I was Alice in a bizarre Hollywood version of Wonderland.

So, I’ve had this idea for a long time of actually writing down these unwritten rules so that other young filmmakers don’t make the same blunders I did as a novice.

My plan was to write a book — but who’s got time for that? Not me. Instead, I’ve decided to write about the subject one rule at a time. If, eventually, I end up with enough for a book, well, great. If not, I’ll have at least disseminated some valuable information out there that I know I sure could have used way back when.

So here we go with my first entry:

Rule #1: That Was Then, This Is Now
It raises nary a single eyebrow in Hollywood if you’re suing someone on a previous project while working for or with them on a current project.

I can use myself as an example.

I was suing Dino DeLaurentiis for damages. His production company “lost” a big chunk of my original art from Conan the Barbarian. At the same time I was suing Dino over the “lost” art on Conan the Barbarian, I was working for him on the sequel, Conan the Destroyer.

Personally, I found this situation bizarre — but no one else did.

As I was working on a film for them, I saw Dino’s people on a daily basis. They were always courteous and friendly to me. No one I knew in the business thought that was unusual, because that was then, this is now. Let’s not let the business of the past get in the way of the business of the present (or future; I ultimately worked on six films for Dino).

The brilliant film director Joe Johnston just gave me a recent variation on that rule. A lot of people who have a bad experience with someone or some studio publicly vow that they will never work for them again. After Joe’s grueling experiences with the Walt Disney Company on Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and The Rocketeer, Joe excoriated Disney often to any reporter who would listen, very publicly swearing he would never work for that company again in this or any other lifetime.

Joe’s latest film is due for release July 22. There is high anticipation for this new superhero film — it’s Captain America. The film’s studio? You guessed it: Disney.

That was then, this is now.

3 thoughts on “Unwritten Rules of Hollywood #1

  1. Bill,

    Very interesting. I aborb this indirect mentoring that you offer to the masses, and have been for a couple of years now. Thank you.

    I am curious, was any of your work (that Dino’s Production company lost) ever recovered?

  2. I also misspell everything. I meant absorb…..not aborb. hehe.

  3. Some of it was…by “sheer coincidence” some of my “lost” art from “Conan the Barbarian” turned up the day before I was formally asked to work on “Conan the Destroyer”. The timing couldn’t have been more obvious…

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