Why Litigation is a One-Way Ticket to Showbiz Oblivion

December 4, 2013 | By More


America is litigation crazy. As a nation, we file about 15 million lawsuits annually. An estimated 2.2 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is tied up in civil cases. For those who file and argue lawsuits, going to court is a calculated risk. More than 50 percent of tort cases are ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

As Hollywood is a funhouse mirror that amplifies and distorts American culture, it’s no wonder that this town is Ground Zero for civil litigation. That Hollywood is also notorious for its slippery business practices would further seem to justify the volume of showbiz-related cases that clog our civil court dockets. It seems a month doesn’t go by when an A-list actor, writer or director isn’t suing a studio for a piece of a project’s profits, an intern isn’t suing a producer for sexual harassment, an assistant isn’t charging an agent with racism or one writer isn’t suing another for plagiarism.

It’s enough to make even the sharks at The Good Wife‘s Lockhart-Gardner collapse from exhaustion.

But while Hollywood lawsuits can possibly yield both $$$’s and publicity, for 95 percent of the town’s employees, they remain a sucker’s bet.  A successful suit may deliver a significant payday, but the triumph will probably be short lived. More likely than not, you’ll be branded with a scarlet “L” (for litigant) and only see a studio backlot when you buy a ticket for a guided tour.

Hollywood is, at its core, a relationship-driven business. People do business with people they like to do business with. Known troublemakers have about as much chance of getting hired as 2 Broke Girls has of winning Emmy gold. It doesn’t matter if you win your suit on the strongest of evidence.  Even if the defendant is a self-professed embezzling, coke snorting, sex-addicted, neo-Nazi dog-f*cker (and you know who you are), you’ll still be as radioactive as a Fukushima tuna roll.

It’s also a town that thrives on taking advantage of those on the lowest rungs of the show biz food chain. Long hours, low pay, verbal abuse and lousy working conditions are the industry norm. Ever see the 1994 Kevin Spacey film Swimming with Sharks? That level of underling abuse, although not the norm, can be experienced. And those on the receiving end put up with it. Gladly. For every angry litigant, there are a thousand others — men and women — who would happily put up with gulag-like degradation for a shot — however long it may be — at some day becoming rich and famous.

Consider it a rite of passage. A professional hazing process.  A Darwinian winnowing system to determine who has the Right Stuff to ascend to top of the entertainment pyramid.

But what about those actors, writers, producers and directors who sue studios — and each other? Well, they’ve earned the right to bitch. If you’ve shown time and again that you can deliver the goods, you can afford to be a pain in the ass. In fact, when you get on the A-List, being difficult — either personally, professionally or both — becomes almost de rigueur.  Like fighters in a heavyweight title match, two top-tier show biz personalities can slug it out in court and still go out for drinks when the dust settles. Matches between equals are just business.


So if you are suffering under the boot of some tyrannical agent, if you think your “brilliant idea” has been ripped off or the executive you assist is getting a little “handy,” carefully consider whether seeking redress for your grievances in a court of law is the best career move. Even if you win — and suits in the entertainment arena more often than not fail — you’ll be closing the door on that career path – probably forever.

So the real question you have to ask yourself is: How much do you like selling real estate? – Allen B. Ury


Category: Featured, Insider Tips, Rules of Hollywood

About the Author ()

Comments are closed.