What Hollywood Teaches Us about Business

You can’t believe everything you see in the movies. Sometimes it seems that you can’t believe anything you see in the movies. But there is one thing you can certainly believe—the folks behind the scenes know how to sell. Here are four lessons every entrepreneur can learn from the people in the biz.


Nepotism. Deal with it.

The film industry is notorious for playing favorites. It’s incredibly difficult to get a shot at success without knowing somebody (or many somebodies) who can help you. Is this a bad thing? Only if you don’t know anybody. And that’s why Hollywood is simply bursting with parties. Just like the celebrities, you can make connections with customers, investors, suppliers, or any other type of person who can do you favors—and who you are willing to help in return—at social events, trade shows, and anywhere else that allows two people to communicate with one another.

Hollywood calls it schmoozing. We call it networking. Do it.


Be ready to pitch… And make it snappy.

Time is a precious resource, and everyone wants a piece of someone else’s. Whether the filmmaker delivering the pitch is a writer, a producer, or an agent, anyone pushing a film toward production has to be able to describe all of the important elements of the movie in a single sentence. (This simplicity also suggests quick marketability if the movie gets made… which makes it more likely to get made.) You should be able to do something very similar with your product, service, or business idea. You never know when you’ll end up with the right person’s 30 seconds of attention.

Hollywood calls it a logline. We call it an elevator pitch. Have one.


There is such a thing as hell. Scary, we know.

No, we’re not talking about a religious view of an afterlife. We’re talking about the fact that not every project will cross the finish line. Like baby sea turtles battling the odds to reach the sea alive, less than one percent of all the movies written each year make it to the silver screen. Some never get read. Some get read and then rejected. Some get bought but not fully funded. No matter how far a Hollywood-hopeful gets before a darling project dies, the only sure way to keep moving forward without burning bridges is to start over with something new. As a businessperson, you must be prepared to face failure with a spirit of resilience. Learn to let go so that life will go on.

Hollywood calls it development hell. We call it cutting our losses. Accept it.


Give them the same thing, only different.

If you’ve ever wondered why Hollywood keeps pumping out the same stuff year after year, the answer is this: that’s what audiences pay to see. This makes movies somewhat predictable. There will be sex; there will be violence; and since Hollywood caters largely to Americans and other Westerners, there will be a happy ending nine times out of ten. Moviemakers are always working to analyze films and the reactions of audiences because they want to sell tickets and DVDs. As a businessperson, you should always have your finger on the pulse of your market so you can give your customers what they want for as long as they want it.

Hollywood calls it audience appeal. We call it marketability. Respect it.


They say that there’s no business like show business. They lied. Every business is like show business. Look beyond the bright lights to the businesspeople behind them, and you discover that all the glamour is really just a sensationalized version of what successful entrepreneurs of all types do every day. There is always an element of luck, and talent is certainly helpful, but the person who understands how to play the game is the one to make it.

Hollywood calls it a rising star. We call it rising stock. Go for it.

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