Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Decoding Hollywoodspeak

Most of the real creativity in Hollywood goes into positive spin. Here are some industry expressions and what they really mean:

Hospitalized because the actor was simply feeling dizzy due to a medication he was taking for an ear infection” – drunk

“Hiatus” – cancelled

Good Exit Numbers” – DOA at the boxoffice

Highly qualified” – knows somebody

“They’re still good friends” – the ugly divorce settlement is still pending.

“They’re just good friends” – they’re humping nine times a day

“I want to spend more time with my family” –fired.

“I want to explore other exciting opportunities” – fired

“Creative differences” – fired

“Parting by mutual agreement” – fired

“We think the script needs a fresh eye” – the director will now destroy your screenplay

“They have a lot of respect for each other” – they despise each other

“No comment” -- he did it

“Fielding offers” – unemployed

“Projects in development” -- unemployed

“Looking into financing” – unemployed

“Tom Cruise is interested” – I’m a really bad liar

“Proactive” – active

“She’s a perfectionist” – she’s a bitch

“Entry level position” -- slave labor

“Thanks for coming by” – no sale, I hated it.

“I really liked it” – thanks for coming by.

“I really loved it!” -- it got good coverage

“He’s in a meeting” – you’re not important enough to talk to.

“Back end” – money you’ll never see

It just needs a little polishing” -- page one rewrite

We’re pleased with the demographics” – the ratings are shit

“Commands a great deal of respect” – he’s a fucking nightmare

“Do you have a card?” – I want to get away from you but don’t want to appear rude.

“Zitcom” – Any half hour on the Disney Channel

Exhaustion” – overdose

“A private matter” – a public scandal

I’ll give it a read” – I’m throwing it away

“The studio is really behind it” – it’s going straight to DVD.

“He’s taught me so much” – I’ll never work with that asshole again

Freelance” – unemployed

High concept” – gimmicky

“Actor’s Director” – he can’t shoot action movies

“Director’s Director” – his movies haven’t made a nickel.

“Emmy winning writer” -- blogger


Mike Barer said...

That's great, I'll bet your readers will add some great phrases too.

TE said...

A couple we used to use at Daily Variety:

"Ankled" - fired
"Setting up his own shingle" -- fired


"co-producer" -- we didn't want to give him producer money

"producer" -- we didn't want to give him writer money

"executive producer" -- the star's manager

"created by" -- doesn't have a creative bone in his body, but managed to rip off a better show while avoiding a lawsuit

"sweetened" -- we had to lay on the laugh track with a shovel

"filmed before a live audience" -- see "sweetened"

cpjalufka said...

I've heard some of these in random offices. "Freelance" equals "unemployed" stings quite a bit, but true for the most part.

The step of from that is "permalance," more of an advertising term for someone who's working but not fully employed.

Sunny Franklin said...

So what do you think of Kater Gordon "leaving" (er... being fired) from Mad Men less than a month after her joint Emmy win?

Will Teullive said...

"I worked in an off-Broadway production"- high school play

"Great idea! but let's table that for now"- never to be mentioned again

"I've done years of improv" - heavy acid user

Ellen said...

How can you tell when someone in Hollywood is lying?

Their lips are moving.

New York is so much easier. When someone says "fuck you," they actually mean "fuck you."

Thanks for the laughs ...

Mike Bell said...

You can apply most of those to radio as well. My fave radiospeak:

"Philosophical Differences" = PD fired for refusing to whore out the station with sales promotions.

"On The Beach" = Fired.

"Vacation" = Rehab

"(Jock)just bought a house" = About to be fired.

Mike Bell said...

Oops, forgot my ultimate radiospeak:

"Adds PD Stripes" = Doing four times the work for the same amount of pay.

Anonymous said...

"Tech. Avail" (Technically Available) - Also Unemployed

Anonymous said...

"Love it." -- Hate it.

Batutta said...

My fave--

"possible deferred pay" -- we're not even planning on possibly paying you...ever.

Mockingbird said...

The phrase "on hiatus" also comes in handy when friends outside the industry ask what you're working on at the moment. It still means "collecting unemployment while spending my days sending out resumes and hoping I can at least get an interview for a job I'll be told I'm "overqualified" for", but your high school friends on Facebook don't know that.

emily said...

“Emmy winning writer” -- blogger (who provides my daily dose of smiles, laughs, and undie-soiling hysteria.)

tb said...

I like "He commands a great deal of respect", ha, great stuff. Ken

bruce miller said...

"Why would we look anywhere else????"--the music dept's already got the call out for about 30 spec demos.

"how fast can you get down here???"--the guy we've always used doesn't know he's out, so keep this quiet.

"We're open to and only want something fresh, clever and creative?"--our template for great cues is Miller-Boyett-STUDY IT!!!

Unknown said...

Absolutely brilliant hahah

Anonymous said...


The prolbem, of course, is that "fuck you" can mean so many different things in NYC, depending on who says it how, where and when to whom.

VW: Smize. What Robert Smiegel boasts about

ovelhadog said...


blogward said...

Kater Gordon wasn't fired. She 'reached her full potential'.

WV: thollog = a brilliant idea that occurs to you when you have no pen or paper, and that you have forgottten an hour later.

Anonymous said...

emily said...
“Emmy winning writer” -- blogger (who provides my daily dose of smiles, laughs, and undie-soiling hysteria.) -- MEANING: KEN, PLEASE READ MY SCRIPT

Anonymous said...

"Wants to spend more time with his family" - Fired

"We are delighted to someone with his background and experience join our team" - Will be fired in 6 months

"I'm doing some consulting" -Unemployed

"I've got a great development deal with the Weinsteins" - Delusional

"I enjoy being Scott Rudin's assistant" - S&M Club president

leor said...

funny, i just came across an article with this quote from Avril Lavigne about her filing for divorce:
"I admire Deryck and have a great amount of respect for him. He is the most amazing person I know and I love him with all my heart. Deryck and I are separating and moving forward on a positive note."

sounds ugly!

Anonymous said...

We're looking for fresh blood: You're too old.

D. McEwan said...

"Will Teullive said...
'I've done years of improv' - heavy acid user"

I hate to get all offended by what is just a funny, on-target comedy piece, but I did 25 years of improv, and have never done acid in my life. You can't actually be any good at improv on acid, and I was good. I've improvised onstage with Robin Williams, I've taught (at Second City, Santa Monica) Andy Dick (okay, HE is a heavy drug user, but wasn't then) and many others. What makes "'I worked in an off-Broadway production'- high school play" funny (and I laughed at that one) is that it's true. (Hey, a play I was in in the 5th grade appears on my resume as "The Lunada Bay Players"). The reason "'I've done years of improv' - heavy acid user" is not funny is that it is not, indeed can not be true.

After all, it takes a brain to be any good onstage without a script. Ever managed it yourself?

So Robin Williams, Nichols & May, Alan Arkin, Stephen Colbert, Jennifer Cooledge, Gilda Radner, Amy Sedaris, Mike Meyers, Dan Akroyd, George Wendt, John Candy, Betty Thomas, Catherine O'Hara, everyone whoever started out at Second City, all heavy acid users? John Belushi, maybe, although his drug-of-choice was cocaine.

Jesse said...

@D. McEwan—yes those people are all likely heavy acid users.

Anonymous said...

“Do you have a card?” – I want to get away from you but don’t want to appear rude.

I've heard that before. Ouch.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

"tyro screenwriter" - He/she got lucky this one time.

Anonymous said...

Indie darling = commercial failure.

I'm just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

"Exhaustion" - I was waiting for that one. Sometimes called "fatigued" and my favorite: "dehydrated".

Gordon Bressack said...

"I'm a really big fan." : You're too old.

Daniel said...

so true so true...

Years ago working as a set-dresser I was taking my job way too seriously. We brought a couch onto the set and it had some scratches on the wood. I was hustling to fix the scratches while the director was setting up the shot. Tensions were high as usual. The director looked at me and asked what I was doing. I said "fixing the scratches on the couch".
Ever since I have been slowly working on my script - The Couch.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

“We’re pleased with the demographics” – the ratings are shit

Last night, I warned my sister to expect the worst with Ugly Betty's ratings. She's a huge fan of the show (while I've been doing research for a book I'm co-writing, I sent her season 1 set to director Richard Shepard, who directed the pilot (he also made a documentary about actor John Cazale, the subject of one of my essays), to autograph it for her. He did.), and she's slowly getting used to the fact that this might be the last season of Ugly Betty.

Well, point proven, Ken, as it has been countless times in television's history. In spinning the numbers, ABC's pleased with the rise in female demographics:

I don't think DVR playback numbers are even going to help this one.

Anonymous said...

We decided to go in a different direction = We're no longer humoring you

cadavra said...

"Art theatre"--couldn't survive playing real movies.

"Cult classic"--flopped when first released.

"It's not a remake, it's a reboot."--It's a remake; we're too dumb to think of another word to call it, so we made one up.

D. McEwan said...

Reimagining = Reboot = remake

They alll mean, we couldn't come up with an original idea.

"Radical reimagining" = "we're seriously fucking it up." See the Robert Downey Jr film of "Sherlock Holmes," where we have a shirtless, hunky, Sherlock Holmes. Why oh why did Basil Rathbone never do any beefcake scenes in his Sherlock Holmes films?

sheetzk said...

Wow. I had a guy who's putting together a new film fund who is new in town go off on me today when I told him people never say "no" to your face in Hollywood. He informed me after research that only people at the lower rungs of Hollywood, an area far below him behave in such fashion. What a jerk. Last time I try to educate anyone on Hollywood speak.

Ken Sheetz

7 Years in Hollywood