You’d hope that the myths of Hollywood would be well and truly busted by now. But as the entertainment machine becomes more finely tuned every decade, and generations of aspiring young stars continue to have their dreams dashed when they find they don’t fit into increasingly narrow parameters, cautionary tales are called for.
Neal A. Yeager’s non-Hollywood isn’t a non-fiction tell-all, but its intertwining narratives following a cast of struggling actors and actresses, filmmakers and musicians over a number of years feels like it’s grounded firmly in true experiences, whether first-hand or anecdotal. The grievances are just too specific.
Its 59 chapters are a checklist of the sort of problems young people can look forward to when going all-in on a career in Tinseltown, from confidence-sapping auditions to strained relationships, the inevitable sleaze and the less glamorous practical side of sorting out finance, headshots and social media followers.
While Yeager’s moving pictures aren’t attractive or inviting, the attitude is one of caution rather than pessimism. He doesn’t want to crush your dreams, only to ground them in harsh reality. Not every story has an unhappy ending, and there are still plenty of moments of unabashed wonder as characters appreciate where they are, even if things aren’t going entirely according to plan.
The audiobook of non-Hollywood takes the meta approach of having each chapter narrated by a different actor. It would be rude to state it outright, but we can infer from their willingness to volunteer for this indie project (and from the varying professionalism of the recordings) that they’re in a similar boat to the characters whose struggles they’re relating, career-wise. The difference being that, through the wonders of modern technology, they can upload their contributions from wherever they are in the USA, rather than having to make the LA pilgrimage themselves.
This adds an entertaining layer, but considering that certain characters recur, it would have made more sense to use a smaller group of dedicated narrators. Not to mention the chance to weed out the less talented performers and improve the overall quality. But when you start insisting on quality and favouring ability over enthusiasm, it’s a slippery slope to Hollywoodian levels of bland adequacy.