Five Ways To Fail In Hollywood: A ‘Definitely Don’t Do’ List


We’ve all read articles that list the most important things you should do in Hollywood. We’ve read about writing advice, networking tips and meeting preparation. We’ve seen one ‘Must Do List’ after another. But what about all the things you should absolutely avoid? What are the pitfalls you need to watch out for? Let’s talk about those.

Guess who wasn’t a quitter? FURIOSA. Mad Max Fury Road (2015) Photo courtesy: Warner Bros.

No 1. — Quit

Rejection is a part of Hollywood. It’s a part of writing. That’s the Game. It’s painful but there’s no way around it: everyone who has ever made it has gotten rejected at some point…but they kept at, and eventually they got their movie made.

Don’t quit. You’ve probably heard this advice before, but it gets repeated because it’s absolutely the number one most important thing about writing. Don’t. Give. Up.

Okay, maaaaaaaaybe there are a few things you should say ‘no’ to, such as visiting islands populated by super bitey dinosaurs. Jurassic World (2015) Photo courtesy: Universal Pictures

No. 2 – Say No To Opportunities

One of my favorite mentors, writer Josh Brand, told me the story of how his critically-acclaimed television show Northern Exposure got made.  He said YES.

The opportunity he was offered wasn’t that appealing at first. It was a summer run for a show about a fish-out-of-water doctor who goes to live in Alaska. Not exactly something you’d naturally jump at the chance to do. But he had a policy: say yes. Even if you’re not sure it’s a great idea. And the show turned out to be a hit.

So: say yes. Be open. Grab those opportunities when they come your way.

Kylo Ren is a total perfectionist when it comes to villainy, and see how unhappy it’s making him? The Last Jedi (2017) Photo courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

No. 3 – Be A Perfectionist

Almost every writer is tempted at one point to indulge their inclination toward perfectionism. Once you say something’s finished, you’ll have to show it people; once they see it, they’ll start to judge it; once they judge it, you could get a painful rejection.

Everyone wants their work to be perfect. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty much impossible. Make your work great, polish it, then send it out. Don’t let the mirage of perfection sabotage your chances of getting your movie made.

Loki has a neat-o hat, but who wants to work with him? Trouble follows that guy wherever he goes. Thor Ragnarok (2017) Photo courtesy: Marvel Studios

No. 4 — Be Difficult To Work With

Filmmaking is a collaborative business. You’ll have to work with others. You probably aren’t going to agree on everything all the time. That’s life.

You don’t want to be the writer who gets a reputation for being difficult to work with—it’s an easy path to failure. Producers and directors want writers who are willing and able to listen and compromise.

Writing a movie called ‘Larry Snotter’ about a boy who goes to wizarding school in London and has to face down the evil ‘Yodelsnort’ is probably not advisable. Probably. Harry Potter (2001) Photo courtesy: Warner Bros.

No. 5 – Chase The Market

Writing to current trends is a terrible way to create. By the time a trend appears, it’s already off the radar for most producers and directors. They want well-written work, not reworkings of movies that are currently in theatres. Don’t chase the market. Focus on the stories that really matter to you—and then YOU can set the trends!

What are your favorite ‘do’s’ and ‘don’t’ for Hollywood? Sound off in the comments!


Jennie Evenson is the author of "Shakespeare for Screenwriters" (Michael Wiese, 2013) as well as short fiction, essays, and a children's fantasy novel "Dalya & the Magic Ink Bottle" (Capstone, 2020). As a writer in LA, Evenson worked as a consultant for Netflix and developed ideas at production houses from DreamWorks to Focus Features. You can follow her on Twitter: @JM_Evenson

7 Replies to "Five Ways To Fail In Hollywood: A ‘Definitely Don’t Do’ List"

  • comment-avatar
    IvonV May 29, 2018 (10:56 am)

    No 6 – Don’t keep your word. It’s important to be a person of your word. If you say you are going to call, do it. If you say you’re going to read this script tonight, do it. If you promise a rewrite by next Tuesday, do it… and if you can’t keep your word, let the other person know beforehand.

    • comment-avatar
      JM Granger May 29, 2018 (11:48 am)

      Amen. Keeping your word is paramount. If you say it will be done Friday, sent it in done by Thursday night. Makes a great impression and shows you’re in top of it all!

  • comment-avatar
    Larry Blue May 29, 2018 (12:09 pm)

    DON’T: follow the leftist agenda; make a majority of characters “minorities”; have lots of worthless sex, violence and special effects; attempt to resemble reality; make dialogue longer than a few words; weave intritcate plot structures; be original; write an intelligent script.

  • comment-avatar
    Karen Crider May 30, 2018 (5:32 pm)

    Sounds like all of this input just boils down to common sense. Of course, one doesn’t need to worry if one hasn’t written a good script to begin with–which requires even more common sense. Too bad the industry doesn’t offer courses on that.

  • comment-avatar
    william sowles May 31, 2018 (5:56 pm)

    Keep writing.

  • comment-avatar
    William Ward June 3, 2018 (11:50 am)

    My favorite phrase, “Don’t write yourself out of a job.” Useless wording, takes away from my life and every second counts. Value my time by making it a page turner that I see verses something I just read.

  • comment-avatar
    SALVADOR JIMENEZ September 24, 2018 (5:45 am)

    Its being difficult for me to find an Agent who wishes to read my science fiction registered material and at least to give me one chance, everyone I contact be email doesn’t provide any replay, so what will be the point to keep writing?

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