4 Ways to Spin Being Fired in Hollywood
At times it felt like half of the entertainment world was given the boot in 2013. Now, a top town player (under cover of anonymity, of course) reveals what to say, and how to say it, after your abrupt au revoir.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue.
When women are interviewed for their profiles in this issue, they focus on achievement, lofty goals and positive lessons learned. What they don't talk about is another lesson worth learning, and that is how to react when you fall off these lists because you no longer have your big job with a huge title. You have no perks and no power, because YOU HAVE BEEN FIRED.
Did I say "fired"? I meant to say "you have left to explore other opportunities." Because the first rule of unemployment in Hollywood is to never EVER admit you have been fired. Not even to yourself.
So if you find yourself without a job, look in the mirror and practice saying, "This new freedom is the best thing that ever happened to me."
I think we can all agree that being fired is never fun. Often you read about someone getting fired, and the natural response is, "of course," because there was some kind of precipitating event that could only end with unemployment. These involve transgressions of an HR nature: harassment, etc. But recently, a whole slew of remarkable executives have been shown the door, and these noteworthy exits have left a lot of the industry in a state of anxiety bordering on panic. After all, if someone like Jeff Robinov, who oversaw (arguably) the most exciting and ground-breaking movie of the year, Gravity, can find himself sitting at home, what chance do the rest of us schlubs have?
So we have to presume that at some point we will be fired.
And then what? You may be in a state of shock, but there's no time for crying. It's time for spinning. Spin is the bitcoin of the entertainment industry. And when it comes to being fired, we have an arsenal of spin ready for any unemployment situation. Here are some tried and true lines to try on for size.
1 "The company is downsizing." This is actually the least painful because it seems like being fired was beyond your control and had absolutely nothing to do with ability or performance. The only problem with using this explanation is that you are immediately exposed if no one else is fired along with you. There is no such thing as individual downsizing.
2 "I am leaving to deal with personal issues." Alas, these days you don't read this classic too often. This was a really popular one in the 1980s and 1990s when folks were driven from their offices to the Betty Ford Center.
The newer, more millennial version of this is …
3 "I want to do something more entrepreneurial." This one gets used a lot by men. It is supposed to make you think that their days of indentured servitude to some giant corporation are over and that they are forward thinkers who have thrown off the shackles of [insert giant non-startup company name here] and their oh-so-last century ways. What it really means is, "Hopefully I can get some consulting work until someone else gets fired and I can get their old job." The streets are rife with entrepreneurs these days -- all running consulting companies that consist of one person working out of their kitchen.
Lastly, there is the reason that stops all kinds of schadenfreude:
4 "I'm leaving to spend more time with my family." This one is a WINNER all around. For working women, who never have enough time to spend with their families, it reads like a combination of answered prayer and adult fantasy. Certainly someone who has decided to leave so they can do more PTA meetings and volunteer for school overnight trips could not really be someone who got FIRED. And who is to say what spending time with your family looks like. It might consist of binge-watching The Good Wife. And men who use this as spin look like evolved paragons who have realized that going to the grocery store is way more rewarding than negotiating huge deals or lunching at The Grill.
Recently, Jack Giarraputo, a partner in Adam Sandler's company, announced that he was leaving his role to spend more time with his sons. No matter what the news release said, what it really could have said was, "I am on the cutting edge of culture and unafraid of Mr. Mom comparisons. And besides, I made so much money from all those Adam Sandler comedies, I don't need this bullshit every day." And for the record, he wasn't fired.
But just in case you are one day, remember that in this town, we never say the F-word.
What they don't talk about is how to react when you fall off these lists because you no longer have your big job with a huge title. You have no perks and no power because YOU HAVE BEEN FIRED.