A Shrink Reveals How to Win at Hollywood’s Real-Life Game of Thrones

The second best-kept secret in showbiz is that it’s a business. The first is that, like all businesses, although talent is a necessity, power always prevails. And guess what? – looks like even H’wood’s biggest booster pub, The Hollywood Reporter, agrees:


by Phil Stutz as told to Pamela McClintock

Phil Stutz, who tends to some of the town’s top studio executives, explains the need to make decisions quickly, alone and on instinct, and “microtransactions” that get you respect — even when you’ve been fired.

Each person has potential for power. Because I’m interested in the philosophy of this, I have ended up treating a lot of studio executives; they make up 15 to 20 percent of my patients. Most aren’t realistic about what the job is actually going to be.

In a position of power, there are three things that you have to be able to tolerate. One is uncertainty. You have to make your decisions without having enough information. It’s never been more true than now. Executives are betting on all kinds of things: What are the distribution systems going to be like in five years? Are there even going to be networks? And the economy itself: There are a million things that are unpredictable.

The second thing is being alone. If you’re on a high level, at the end of the day you’re making the important decisions by yourself. Human nature being what it is, nobody likes it. At the midlevel, you can pass the important decisions off. But everybody I’ve seen on a high level who tries to pass off the responsibility has fallen.

The final thing someone in leadership must tolerate is hatred and misunderstanding. Hatred means you’re under attack, within and outside of the community. In terms of misunderstanding, often your intent will be mischaracterized, so not only do people hate you, but they hate you for something you haven’t even done.

It requires a certain amount of strength to tolerate these things. I tell people when they get promoted, “Just assume this is going to happen because it will.” Nobody ever escapes it. Even if things are going well, everything can change on a dime. You need to develop some protocols or tools for functioning that you can live by, whether you’re winning or losing at this given moment.

Among the set of protocols you want to develop is what’s called a “turnaround.” Let’s say a star falls out of a movie. The executive making a turnaround has to move very fast to replace the person. There’s no time to whine, complain or scream at the guy’s agent. The movie might still fall apart, but your effort represents a turnaround because you’re in forward motion. You want to make that a habit. Or let’s say your movie didn’t open well this weekend. The second you know that — and executives seem to know it earlier and earlier — it’s very important to maintain your own sense of organization, optimism and vision. If you screw that up, your whole staff will get demoralized.

I tell my clients to collect as many of these turnarounds as you can. It’s like putting bullets in a gun. It’s the only thing you have when you execute your decisions in uncertainty. The turnarounds don’t say that you’re right. They say that if there’s a problem, or if you’re wrong, you’re confident that you can recover; they bring you back to the place where you can take action. Some people are tremendous and don’t even blink; others will be debilitated for a day or two….

Read it all at The Hollywood Reporter