As an avid reader myself, I read a lot of books about my industry. Here’s my list of top 5 books you should read if you admire, work in, study, or just want to get into the entertainment industry.

  1. Ovitz: The Inside Story of Hollywood’s Most Controversial Power Broker
    Once the most powerful and feared agent in Hollywood, the notoriously press-phobic Michael Ovitz cooperated with this biographer, so you won’t hear about the arrogance or bullying business tactics that were common Tinseltown knowledge. (For a more critical evaluation, see the July 7, 1997 issue of Fortune.) Instead, you get a revealing account of his childhood and his only public discussion of his disastrous 14 months as president of the Walt Disney Company. It’s a worthwhile trade, but bear in mind that it’s only one side of the story.
  2. Where Did I Go Right?: You’re No One in Hollywood Unless Someone Wants You Dead
    Show biz legend Brillstein reveals 40 years of gossip, humor, and colorful stories as founding partner of Brillstein-Grey Entertainment. Weaving into the worlds of John Belushi and Jim Henson, he takes the reader behind the scenes of Saturday Night Live, The Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters, and more.
  3. Hollywood Dealmaking: Negotiating Talent Agreements for Film, TV and New Media
    Hollywood Dealmaking has become the go-to resource for new and experienced entertainment attorneys, agent trainees, business affairs executives, and creative executives. Entertainment attorneys and Hollywood insiders Dina Appleton and Daniel Yankelevits explain the negotiation techniques and strategies of entertainment dealmaking and detail the interests and roles of producers, writers, actors, directors, agents, and studio employees in crafting a deal. This new edition captures the dramatic changes over the past five years in the film and television industry landscape, with two new chapters: Reality Television details the sources of revenue, syndication possibilities, and format sales of these shows as well as the talent deals that are made and the Internet/New Media chapter delves in new digital formats such as mobile phones, game consoles, video-on-demand, and web-based apps, and explains where today’s revenues are generated, where the industry is headed, and talent negotiation issues. All the ins and outs of negotiating are explained, including back ends, gross and adjusted gross profits, deferments, box office bonuses, copyrights, and much more. This easy-to-follow reference is packed with expert insights on distribution, licensing, and merchandising. The book’s invaluable resource section includes definitions of lingo for acquisition agreements and employment deals, twelve ready-to-use sample contracts, and a directory of entertainment attorneys in both New York and Los Angeles. In Hollywood Dealmaking, readers will recognize the key players in the process, understand the “lingo” of crafting deals, learn how to negotiate agreements for the option and purchase of books and screenplays, be able to negotiate employment deals for all members of a film or television crew, understand payment terms and bonuses, and be able to register copyrights in scripts and other literary works.
  4. The Hollywood Assistants Handbook: 86 Rules for Aspiring Power Players
    Are you young, eager, smart, and heading off to LA to make it big in the entertainment business? Time for a reality check: Leave your diploma at home, put your grandiose dreams on hold (where hopefully they’ll get tired and hang up), and start by repeating the first rule of the industry: Who you work for is more important than who you are. Then leapfrog over everyone else by reading The Hollywood Assistants Handbook.Written by two very sharp and successful assistants to HPPs (Hollywood Power Players), here are 86 lessons packed with a combination of blunt truth, insider humor, and juicy secrets that explain the unwritten rules of how to get a foot in the door and make all the right moves as you climb to the top. Here are the minimum-wage jobs that will put you in the path of HPPs. An annotated resume roundup. The clubs to frequent and the cocktails to order. Movies to watch and books to read (it’s called homework). Dressing do’s and don’ts. How to get on the Free List. A lineup of boss genres—the Horror Show, the Romantic Comedy, Mr. Action—and how to dodge the tirades that will soon be hurled your way, along with the proper outlets for venting. Plus, the ins and outs of your most important tool, the telephone—when to listen in (always!), who to put through and who to put off, and your new best friend forever, the Plantronics CS70 cordless headset.

    With its hilariously snarky tone—the gate-keeping quiz is “How to Tell if You’re a Moron Who Should Pack Up the Corolla and Move Back Home”—The Hollywood Assistants Handbook is as baldly entertaining for everyone who loves reading about Hollywood as it is indispensably practical for the job-seeker.

  5. The Agency: William Morris and the Hidden History of Show Business
    For decades, hidden from the public eye, William Morris agents made the deals that determined the fate of stars, studios, and networks alike. Mae West, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Danny Thomas, Steve McQueen–the Morris Agency sold talent to anyone in the market for it, from the Hollywood studios to the mobsters who ran Vegas to the Madison Avenue admen who controlled television. While the clients took the spotlight, the agency operated behind the scenes, providing the grease that made show business what it’s become.The story begins more than a century ago, when a fiery young immigrant named William Morris opened a vaudeville-booking office on New York’s Fourteenth Street and went up against the trust that ruled the leading entertainment medium of the day. Led after Morris’s death by the legendary Abe Lastfogel, a cherubic little man who treated agents and clients alike as family, the firm transformed the agent’s image from garish flesh-peddler to smooth-talking professional. But when Lastfogel’s successor brutally sacrificed his best friend–the man who’d brought Barry Diller and Michael Ovitz out of the mail room–William Morris gave birth to its own nemesis: Ovitz’s new firm, CAA. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, as the Morris Agency made, and lost, such stars as Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, Kevin Costner and Tom Hanks, Ovitz’s power grew inexorably as Morris’s waned. Lulled by the phenomenal success of Bill Cosby and the upward spiral of the Beverly Hills real estate market, Morris’s board failed to act as death and defection thinned its ranks. Finally, with its flagship motion-picture department on the brink of collapse, the board was faced with the stark reality of having to buy its way back into the business it had once owned.

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