The Ugly Side Of Hollywood

By Earnest Harris, Talent Manager, Harris Management

First of all, let me reiterate. I love working in the entertainment business in Los Angeles. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

But with that being said I do have to call out one aspect of the business that is all too common unfortunately. Too many people think rising to a place of success or power, even if the power is not much, gives them a license to be downright rude or mean to people they perceive to be beneath them. Which is already a silly concept. No one is beneath anyone. But the truth is Hollywood does foster a system that ranks people as being above or below others. You’ve all heard of the “A Listers” and the subsequent B through D or whatever the levels are that indicate you are more or less worthy based on where you fall on this list. That’s one aspect of the problem, but not the only.

Don’t get me wrong or think I don’t understand the root of the rankings, after all I am a producer as well in my role as a talent manager. I get that there is no denying that certain actors, directors, producers, and others have more ability to get a movie green lit and attract people to the box office. But the problem is when that concept conflates into a sense that the people themselves are more worthy as human beings than anyone else. And all too often we see that in this town. 

So-called “A-Listers” are treated with way more respect simply as people than people who are not able to get movies or shows moved. I am sorry but Tom Cruise as a box office sensation does not make him more, or less, important and worthy of personal respect and decent treatment, than an unknown actor just starting out.

The problem is the butt-kissing that all too often occurs with celebrities and people in power, unfortunately leads too many of them to believe they are indeed more worthy than someone who does not get star treatment. I recall the story from someone who used to work as a production assistant on a talk show. A huge star, who I will not mention since she is no longer alive, was a guest this day. The PA, was a big fan but knew not to act like one. So he did his job showing her the green room and stood at the door letting her know he was available should she need anything. Well, that was what he started saying. He never finished. While he was talking, she slammed the door in his face. Literally mid-sentence.

Just totally uncalled for.

And yet, not completely uncommon. There are many such stories. And not just about stars. Producers, directors, agents, managers, there are lost of stories most can tell of outrageously ugly behavior from people in all these roles.

I need to also say, I wouldn’t work in this town or business if I felt the majority of people in it were this way. They are not. I have found most of the people, at all phases of making it on the path, are decent people. But I would be lying if I didn’t say there are a whole lot of people who feel entitled to treat others as if they are below them, based on where they are on the success ladder, or based on what they think this person can do for them.

And like I said it is truly odd that this sad mindset even makes its way down sometimes to people whose only power is on small, no budget or small budget independent sets. Directors, DP’s, producers, even on these projects, have been known to yell and scream and act like total butts even though not much money is on the line. I get that regardless of budget, pressure is pressure. But as I often say, filmmaking is not rocket science or brain surgery. Sure lots of money can be at stake. But my belief is it isn’t the money that is fueling most of this warped sense of decent behavior, or pressure. It is ego. Plain and simple. And let’s be honest, there’s a whole lot of ego powering Hollywood.

And that’s ok I suppose. We all have egos. But someone’s sense of self, no matter how much those around them inflate them, or how much their last movie made, does not make anyone better than another human being. And it should not give anyone the right to treat anyone else as if they are less than someone else. I always think about that quote, not sure who said it, that says “I was raised to treat the janitor with the same respect as the CEO.” I wish that were true of more people.

The affliction I call “Butthole Syndrome” is very real in Hollywood. It means believing you have the right to treat other people as if you are better than them and usually it means being an *ss about it. I think it will always be an unfortunate part of the entertainment business, or any business where people are put on a pedestal and semi-worshipped. But always remember, no one is better than anyone else. They might be more successful in their career at a particular point in time, but no one is innately better. Don’t let Hollywood fool you.

Twitter: @earnestharris Instagram: @earnestharrisla

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