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Hollywood vs Hollywouldn’t: 12 Tips to Help Actors Navigate the Hollywood Landscape – Brian Medavoy

Hollywood vs Hollywouldn’t: 12 Tips to Help Actors Navigate the Hollywood Landscape

Hollywood tips

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you have always got.” – Henry Ford

I love actors. Compared to most people, actors are often more personable – they feel more free to access their feelings and emotions. They tend to be more in touch with their inner child. They have courage. Most are sensitive and more vulnerable than the average person, and yet they are in a profession where they must subject themselves to repeated rejection. That takes a person who is tough and brave, yet also sensitive and exposed. It’s a difficult, unusual and admirable combination.

In my opinion, Los Angeles is one of the toughest cities in the country to succeed in. Everyone moves here to pursue their dreams. Most come ill prepared and don’t make it. Don’t come here to look for the easy way out.

In any other city, you’d go to find yourself, fall in love, and then discover your life’s work. Here, people do the opposite. They come to achieve everything – a career first, then maybe come to terms with themselves, then maybe fall in love.

99.9% of the people in Los Angeles carry headshots. I have even met lawyers and doctors that have busted out headshots. – Brian Medavoy

It’s not easy, and it’s a mindset that simply doesn’t work for everyone. That’s why I’ve put together this little primer to help aspiring creatives, or anyone who is deep in the morass of figuring out just what the hell they’re doing here.

Most importantly, be brutally honest with yourself and where you can see yourself succeeding based on the media zeitgeist around you. You might not be Brad Pitt or Brie Larson, and that’s really okay.

That said, let me break it down even further for you into some easy to understand do’s and don’ts that will help you navigate the Hollywood landscape:



DO know your personal story inside and out and how it differentiates you. DON’T derive it from or compare it to someone else.


DO keep a list of ten folks you know (and be sure to nurture those relationships!), and ten folks you’d like to get to know. DON’T just wait for people to fall into your life.


DO things that make you uncomfortable – writing to casting directors, talking to strangers, readings the trades, cold-calling, waking up earlier, and keeping a journal.  DON’T coast.


DO create marketing materials like a website, blog, and social media. DON’T expect that you’ll just be discovered at that 99-seat theater community show you’re doing.


DO keep short, medium, and long term goals and keep them attainable. DON’T just swing for the fences.


DO dedicate at least 3-4 hours each day to your own business – research, class, looking for auditions, making self tapes, creating your own content, etc. DON’T allow yourself to get locked down in a gig that exhausts you and kills your passion.


DO track and celebrate your little wins. A good baseball team still loses 70 games a year. DON’T belittle your victories as being somehow not as impressive, or compare them to anyone else.


DO train with coaches and professionals. DON’T assume you know everything.


DO have a clear understanding of how you feel after each audition. Pleasure is always derived from something outside of you, whereas joy arises from something within. Try to please yourself, and… DON’T try and please everyone else. (In other words: stay out of the results.)


DO eat well, exercise, and make eye contact – present yourself well. DON’T take this for granted – it’s an image conscious industry, town, and world. Taking care of yourself physically is the easiest way to feel confident emotionally.


DO let rejection motivate you and fuel your fire. Learn from it. DON’T dwell on it for long and let it stand in your way.


DO find balance in your life by exploring other passions, interests and hobbies. DON’T make your life 100% about acting. Go jump in the ocean, go dancing, tell your loved ones how much they mean to you, volunteer and be of service.

This may all seem self-explanatory, but I’ve always liked to think of that word as a reminder that there are some things that sound obvious but that you still have to explain to yourself. ‘Self-explanatory’ is another word for ‘repetitive’ and the most important things worth knowing are the ones you repeat to yourself, either consciously or subconsciously, constantly.

Having a regular, healthy routine is critical to constantly improve yourself. Being prepared for every opportunity is what every successful actor should strive for. Sticking to the routine is harder than it sounds, but it is necessary. Now the question you must ask yourself is HOW to get yourself to START maintaining a healthy routine to become a successful actor. Too often, we make plans, but fail to follow through on them. In my next blog, I show you how to stop dreaming, and how to start doing.

I will leave you with my favorite quote from Lao Tzu:

Always we hope

someone else has the answer,

some other place will be better,

some other time,

it will turn out.

This is it.

No one else has the answer,

no other place will be better,

and it has already turned out.

At the center of your being,

you have the answer:

you know who you are and

you know what you want.

There is no need to run outside

for better seeing,

nor to peer from a window.

Rather abide at the center of your being:

for the more you leave it,

the less you learn.

Search your heart and see

the way to do is to be.

My Question For You

Any other dos and don’ts I am missing from this list?

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  • paula

    Great article on 12 tips to navigate Hollywood. I can think of two things I would add to your list:
    1) Take classes at a variety of studios.
    I have taken classes from multiple coaches/instructors at BGB Studios, Lesly Kahn, Killian McHugh, UCB, Actors Key, ACE, AK Studios, Matthew Barry, Mark Atteberry, DG Studios and Margie Haber Studios. I have loved getting input from a variety of people, and learning the different ways people approach the work. I also learn so much from watching other actors work the craft. Also, performing in front of a variety of people/instructors has given me confidence to walk into any Room. I think if I studied with just one or two people, I’d get “settled” with that person. Being with lots of coaches keeps me on my toes and helps me push through the anxiety of performing in front of someone new. It’s also a great way to meet new people and create a community of actors/writers – thereby having more people around us to create our own work.
    2) Get some counseling.
    I think it’s great for actors to delve into their personal lives, sort out feelings, explore their hangups and learn more fully who we are and what makes us tick. Understanding ourselves gives us the ability to access emotions for characters we become on stage or screen.

    That’s my two cents. As an older actor who is just starting out in Los Angeles – I think #12 is really important. Living a full, well-rounded life will only add to our abilities to be better actors. I am looking forward to reading more of your articles. Thanks for sharing your experience, ideas and talents.

  • Emily McLean

    Such simple, but insightful information!
    I’m not working as an actor, but bts helping actors in their careers and this basic info is vitally important, yet largely overlooked.
    Thank you!
    ~ Emily

    • Brian Medavoy (author)

      Appreciate your kind words!

  • Kahlil

    Very good to read, especially because of the specifics. Since you asked, I would like to add the quote from Bruce Lee, which I feel has helped me in many aspects of my life (acting, singing, fighting) … It’s about adaptability to the fullest, while not to be misinterpreted as necessarily compliant.

    “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

    Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

  • Eric Strong

    Hey, Brian!
    I’ve just read this for the first time and it gold. Thanks for this!

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