A debut memoir traces a career in Hollywood while offering hard-won advice on how to make it in the film industry.
Friedberg was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, but dreamt of living a fantasy life in Hollywood, where everyone, it seemed, “had a swimming pool, a hot car, and a luscious babe.” Each chapter presents a different aphorism on how to succeed in Hollywood. The author weaves in examples involving actors and other industry types—famous stars like Chevy Chase as well as producers and agents known mostly by insiders—while also presenting his own journey. Friedberg attended the University of Southern California, took a film elective, and was hooked by the work of such luminaries as Fellini, Truffaut, and Kubrick. The author ultimately decided to enter the business himself. He began making his own little films, getting his breaks where he could, including by shooting documentary footage at a rodeo back in Cheyenne. Slowly rising in the industry, he became a commercial and music video director and built his portfolio in studio films, eventually culminating in his directing the early1990s Leslie Nielsen vehicle Spy Hard. Friedberg’s advice solidly covers a lot of bases, including where to find inspiration, how to raise production money, and how to run a set. He has plenty of experience to draw on. But some suggestions can become repetitive, with many boiling down to the proviso that people have to work hard and trust their talent. For someone who readily cautions readers that Hollywood is full of snakes and not to take it too personally, Friedberg spends too much time airing his grievances over his studio’s management of Spy Hard, focusing particularly on two men, a “moron” and an “evil dog-licking” collaborator. Despite these lulls, the author ultimately comes across as a genuine film lover who cared for most of the people he worked with, making for a zippy read.
While the advice mostly hits only a few notes, the endearing anecdotes of an up-and-down life in movies make up for it.