I got an e-mail that asked a very pertinent question that I'll answer here for all the world to see...
Reader and big fan of your blog. I have two questions for you -
First: I hear a lot about power in Hollywood. There are all the random (probably BS) lists about the most powerful people in Hollywood, but what I am interested in is who, among producers and directors, really has true power? Obviously, big names and moneymakers such as Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Scorcese, Chris Nolan, etc have a lot of power and influence, but how far does that really extend? How much control do they *really* have over the films they make? I was reading a very interesting article recently about The Dark Knight Rises and how Warner Bros. wanted it to be released in 3D but Nolan refused. Is Nolan a powerful enough guy to have that say, or are Warner Bros. execs just afraid of making him mad? I'd love to see a post on this with your thoughts, about both Nolan and other big name directors or producers.
Second, you seem pretty knowledgeable about the inner workings of Hollywood. Where do you get this knowledge and experience?
There are two types of power in Hollywood.
There's Social Power, and then there's Money Power. Often these types overlap, but I'll explain that in just a second.
Social Power comes from a person's status and influence within the Hollywood community. These are the folks that can get you an invite to the "best" parties and fundraisers with the "best" people that you need to network to grow or expand your career.
Not paying the people with Social Power the proper obeisance can actually harm your career, unless you have tons of...
Money Power, which comes from having a track record of making money and lots of it. If you use this power wisely you can make those who seek to interfere with your work back off, for fear that you'll move someplace else, and take the money you make with you.
Now we come to my prime examples of Social Power and Money Power, George Clooney, and Christopher Nolan.
George Clooney is the embodiment of the smart use of Social Power. He hasn't carried a movie anywhere near the $100 million sales mark without a an all-star ensemble for a very long time, if ever. His influence with the audience is minimal, and he can often be a negative when it comes to selling tickets.
But if you go by Hollywood's publicity machine he's the BIGGEST MOVIE STAR ON THE PLANET in big bold capital letters. He gets magazine covers, glowing media coverage, and is constantly touted as the one and only true movie star in the world, and gets A-List paychecks to go with it.
Why does he get this treatment, even though he can't earn it at the box office? Because he is at the epicenter of Hollywood's social elite. He's at the forefront of all the right causes, associates with all the right people, and hosts fundraisers for all the right politicians.
If he feels mistreated, those who mistreat him may find themselves cut out from the Hollywood social swirl. Once cast out, it's extremely hard to get back in, and you might find it hard to get work without the approval of Hollywood's social elite.
Christopher Nolan is the perfect example of smartly managed Money Power. Money Power is all based on trust, which is extremely rare in Hollywood and must be earned.
How do you earn it?
Make shit-loads of money.
And that's what Christopher Nolan does. Not only are his film's commercial successes, but they're pretty good at racking up critical kudos as well, even when he does normally critically reviled "comic book" movies. That's gravy, that increases a filmmaker's status exponentially. Another key part of having money power comes from being aligned with a studio that appreciates money power.
Warner Bros. has traditionally had a "don't rock the boat" policy as long as the films are profitable and of a high quality. The last thing they want Nolan to do is to move to another studio, so they give him a lot of sway. However Nolan understands that his power within Warner Bros. is on the "what have you done for me lately" plan, so he must make sure that his films will not only fulfill his artistic vision, but also entertain a mass audience.
You see Money Power only really lasts as long as the fickle finger of fiduciary fate is pointing at you. The moment it moves onto someone else, you're out on your ass.
That's why it's also smart to build a Social Power base, making sure that you're seen doing the right things with the right people. Because the social power that comes with being in the inner circle is harder to lose than money.
As for your second question: Where do I get my knowledge and experience?
Well, I'm not an elite insider, despite what some may think. I'm as far outside as you can get and still be on the same planet.
What I do have is a little common sense, and a knack to know where to look for publicly available information. It's not like I have legions of secret informants sending me the inside dirt.... or do I?