Breaking Into Hollywood: How The Scarlet Pimpernel Changed My Life

Once upon a time, I wanted to “break into Hollywood.” I discovered my first superhero at age seven — The Scarlet Pimpernel – and pretty much spent the majority of my youth lost in books, in my own daydreams, a bit disconnected to the outside world, but happy as a clam in my own inner world. Growing up on Perry Mason (one of my earliest TV memories) and real-world courtroom champions of the underdog (e.g. William Kunstler) as my heroes during my days at UC Berkeley, I’d developed an overly-romanticized notion about criminal defense lawyers. It wasn’t my fault; I blame The Scarlet Pimpernel — the original “hero with a secret identity” that inspired later, larger-than-life heroic characters including ‘Zorro’ and ‘Batman.’

In San Francisco, a hippie-turned-criminal attorney, I’d gone down that path – law school, bar exam, practice – only to discover it was a misbegotten marriage of temperament and career. There was nothing romantic about jails or criminal activity and I couldn’t wrestle that into some intellectual pursuit. I was a romantic in a harsh world. So I ran away to the far end of California, to the siren call of the big screen, knowing no one and not a thing about the business of movies. Naïve as the day was long. I was certain that storytelling – so distant from the depressing realities of criminal courtrooms – would be my new home, a place I could belong and flourish. The better part of a decade and thousands of rejections later, it turned out I was right to escape the law and flee to film-land.

logoEventually, my stubborness, enthusiasm and relentless persistence paid off. I made relationships. I founded a literary management company and launched careers for a lot of deserving, talented writers and filmmakers. A dozen years later, during a year-long writers strike, I produced my first ultra-low budget film – Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. I caught the bug and began collaborating with writers and directors as a producer instead of representing them as a manager. Pretty Woman, Under Siege and its sequel, The Mothman Prophecies, Ringmaster, The Hunted… so many of my films involved first-time or newer writers and directors. I seemed to have a knack and strategies that worked to get careers off the ground, and I enjoyed it.

As an attorney and producer with a penchant for spelunking into people’s stories and being empathetic by nature, I also noticed I spent a fair amount of time mentoring friends, clients and ‘others.’ It came quite naturally, and I enjoyed it. The more I succeeded in Hollywood, the more people approached wanting to know for themselves, or their family member or girlfriend, how to ‘break in.’ People surfaced via email, snail mail, friends of friends, until it seemed an urgent and constant chorus of questions and correspondence and phone calls. So I took the logical step and began teaching. Then it struck me that writing a book would be the most sensible way to share these ideas more quickly with more people. So I wrote a book – Conquering Hollywood: The Screenwriter’s Blueprint for Career Success.

The book’s success lit the fire that has become Breaking Into Hollywood, a creative community and course-work dedicated to helping screenwriters and others with a dream to ‘break into’ the business of film, of TV, of creating content and bringing their stories to the world.

It’s become a bit of a personal mission. And again, I blame The Scarlet Pimpernel. That character and story kidnapped my imagination, captivated me and seems to have inspired choices at every stage of my life. Including writing this to you, sharing with you what matters to me.

In addition to The Master Course (more on that soon), mentoring is key to the Breaking Into Hollywood community, and part of that comes in the form of intimate conversations with successful writers, producers, agents and others in Hollywood who generously share their insights, their truth and experience in hour-long ‘live’ broadcasts. Lots of wisdom, relationships and ideas are birthed out of these ‘hangouts’ and this community.

Today, I want to share some ‘pearls’ from past broadcasts with brilliant, accomplished friends that inspire me and, hopefully, will inspire you as well. I’d love to hear which ideas in these three videos (less than seven minutes total) most surprised you, caught your attention, made you say ‘hmmm.’

Christopher Kubasik / “What Do I Want to See”

Christopher, who’s made a name for himself with his innovative style and breakout webseries on Hulu, had a great reason as to why he went down the path he did… (video here).

Jeanne Veillette Bowerman / “Social Media for Writers”

Hollywood was once the place you had to live to work in the business.  With technology and social media connecting people all over the world. you can work in Hollywood from anywhere, as Jeanne talks about when she joins us LIVE at… (video here).

David Garrett / “Relationship Driven Business”

David, a member of James Franco’s Studio 4 team joined us LIVE.  One of the things we talked about, which is covered in depth in the coursework, are specific ways you can open doors and work your way into Hollywood… (video here).

Thanks for letting me share a bit of my story and these amazing short videos with you. If you like, I’ll gladly post some more of my ‘faves’ in the coming weeks.

Please feel free to write me or leave comments by visiting the Breaking Into Hollywood community.

For now, wishing you amazing success!

Gary

P.S. If you want to watch the full interviews with Jeanne, Christopher or David, you can find them here:

If you want to see some of our other guests or watch more short clips or full interviews, go to (and please subscribe to) our Breaking Into Hollywood YouTube channel.

gary-book021_mediumGet More of Gary’s advice on screenwriting in his book
Conquering Hollywood: The Screenwriter’s Blueprint for Career Success

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