There is an old adage in Hollywood:
Never say, “No.” Ask for too much money.
I know that it’s easy to be cynical about things like this. But after some consideration a more receptive mind might ask, “Why does a statement like this one exists in the first place?” This post attempts unpack the wisdom of this mischievous expression.
Let us pretend that a colleague calls you on Thursday and says they’d like to hire you to create a dozen graphic elements for their latest project … by Monday. Know you know this work is going to require endless revisions and ton of work outside usual business hours. You might consider that you have four choices:
- Saying “Yes” and completing the project. While this looks like a victory at first blush, “today’s miracle is tomorrow’s expectation.” You’ve effectively screwed future you because now they know how much you’ll do for how little. This is also how you initiate the race to the bottom.
- Saying “Yes” and failing. Saying yes to something and then failing to deliver may seem like the darkest timeline. And to most people it will be. However, if you are savvy, this could be the winningest scenario. A student of Robert Greene’s 26th Law might use failure as an opportunity eliminate an opponent by throwing them under the bus.
- Saying “No”. The darkest timeline. Producing is about removing obstacles. When you say, “No.” You become the obstacle and the full bore of the producing team bears down upon you.
- The Hollywood No. “I would love to help you on your amazing project, and although I’m booked, I’d be happy to help you. However, since I’m already booked I’d have to work at twice my standard rate.” For the less Machiavellian this is the safest choice. You appear supportive and if for some reason they agree to your ginormous rate. Well at least your bank account will be the better for it.
Further Reading: Why Hollywood People Never Say ‘No’ The Hollywood Reporter