Like any industry, the world of film production is rife with controversy and myth. The film industry certainly has its flaws, but oftentimes rumors about what goes on behind the scenes are overblown. Here are just a few of the biggest myths about the film industry, and why aspiring actors, screenwriters, directors, and other movie-making professionals shouldn’t be put off from their dreams just because they’ve heard a few bad things about the filmmaking process.
Despite evidence to the contrary, many people still think that it’s impossible to make it in Hollywood after age 30. In fact, many of the film industry’s biggest stars didn’t get their career started in earnest until well after their 40th or 50th (or 60th) birthday.
For example, Alan Rickman got his first break in the industry at age 42 after his performance in the movie “Diehard” earned him kudos from leading film critics. (The star only became a household name after appearing in the Harry Potter films in his 50s.) Samuel L. Jackson got his first taste of success in his mid-40s after a breakout role in “Pulp Fiction,” and Morgan Freeman couldn’t catch a break in Hollywood until his 50s!
“For Directors, It’s Sundance or Bust”
Perhaps no mythology about the film industry is as pervasive as the idea that Sundance is the only ticket to success in Hollywood. Admittance to Sundance certainly carries some weight in the industry, but rejection from the festival should by no means be seen as the death-knell of a career in filmmaking. Simply put, a large number of high-quality films are going to be rejected from Sundance every year because there isn’t enough time at the festival to screen every film that merits viewing. Judges for Sundance are also human, and every admissions committee in the world gets it wrong from time to time.
Moreover, truly talented filmmakers aren’t going to let rejection stop them from making their art. No less a celebrated indie director than Wes Anderson was rejected from Sundance early on in his career, and the great Steven Spielberg himself was famously rejected from USC’s film school three times. (Spoiler alert: Spielberg never did get into the school’s prestigious filmmaking program.) Although the admissions committees of these cultural institutions didn’t see it at the time, the aforementioned filmmakers had talent, and talent has a unique way of rising to the top in any industry.
“It’s All About Who You Know”
Hollywood certainly has its fair share of cronyism, but good connections are often overrated by Tinseltown outsiders. Sure, getting a film produced because you’re friends with a movie star might sound like a nice opportunity, but movie fans are adept at sniffing out films that were not produced because of merit. Furthermore, viewers attend films to see actors, plots, and overall genres and narrative focal points that they enjoy; they hardly ever focus on the connections at play that may have led to the film’s creation.
At the end of the day, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Hollywood has cultivated something of a mythology around it, but more often than not, myths about the film industry look a lot different in the cold light of reality. It’s still tough to find success in the movie business, it is true, but talent and luck play bigger parts in the process than most of us are willing to admit. For many aspiring filmmaking professionals, that is very good news indeed.