PAUL Duddridge was a successful British agent, known for masterminding the careers of popular television figures such as Rob Brydon, Alistair McGowan and Paul McKenna. Having worked with Michael McIntyre and Phill Jupitus, he was used to transforming people from almost unknown on the comedy circuit to household name or TV sensation.
Two years ago, he turned 40 and had a crisis. He decided he was bored with masterminding careers, even his own – he had written and produced The Keith Barret Show (BBC2) and Director's Commentary (ITV1). So he quit and headed for California.
Surrounded by out-of-work actors for whom it's even more difficult to find work in an industry suffering from the recession, Dudderidge discovered he could help them find a different path. "Self-help is the new stand-up," he says over a coffee in his local Beverly Hills caf.
In a world where people are constantly being told there are no opportunities, his methods helped people find success when all else had failed. He did this by shifting their belief system. He insists that his methods will work just as well, if not better, away from Tinseltown, and says that anyone can improve their lives by employing the technique's golden rules.
Duddridge calls his therapy emotional chiropractice. When a new client comes to fix a work problem, their emotional life is what needs to be fixed first, and he finds himself giving counselling on how to deal with the unavailable boyfriend just as much as the elusive make-it-or-break-it job. "It's not just your attitude to work that has to be realigned, it's your whole being, so I've often found that once one thing starts to go right the other falls into place. If you make sure you are readjusted, it's the rest of the world that's askew, and eventually everything will gravitate towards you.
"Recently a nurse came to me very deflated that she hadn't got the promotion she deserved. I didn't tell her to give up nursing, but I told her that her job had become her desire for promotion. She had to retire that part of herself and learn to love nursing again. After she did that she actually got the promotion."
So what are the hard and fast rules that work for the hard-nosed, hard-bitten cynic in Hollywood? And how can mere mortals use them to create their dream lives?
BE THE STAR IN YOUR OWN STORY
Whatever field of work you are in, you must see yourself as a leader, someone people look up to and can empathise with. Do not ask for their permission. They must seek yours.
Remember why you had your dreams in the first place. Wallow in them, become engrossed. Don't make professional observations, only emotional ones. Your enthusiasm for what you are doing will become infectious once again. By remembering what it was that inspired you in the first place, you will remember who you are.
SELL THE FAMILY HOME (IN YOUR HEAD)
Go through the exercise of selling your parents' or friend's home to finance your next project. If you're honest, would this be a good idea? Would the family member in question see a return? If not, why would anyone hire you? This exercise helps to give perspective to your role and status.
IF YOU WANT TO BE A KNIGHT…
Imagine you are already a successful person and start acting like one. Wear the confidence a successful person has. This helps shift the energy you transmit from desperation to calm certainty.
Be wary about taking advice, tempting though it may be. Those who have made it do not always have an accurate grasp of how they got there. Everyone is capable of revisionist history. Plus, their success is most likely due to an undefinable quality that their industry has lapped up, and this is not something they could quantify.
QUIT THE BUSINESS
If you haven't yet succeeded by following the timetables and schedules you have set yourself, you have nothing to lose. You are cutting ties with the way you do things. Later on, you will be able to come back, but you must sever your current relationship with what you do and how you are doing things so severely that you trick your brain into taking it seriously.
This is based on the theory that a broken clock is right twice a day. Even if you are facing the wrong way at the moment, it is better to stop trying to find a way out and simply consolidate your position. Embrace the position you are in. At worst, you will have to wait a couple of years for people to recognise you, but at best you quickly present yourself as self-assured and stoical.
CONTROL AND LOVE SOMETHING (ANYTHING)
Take up a hobby or another job. Whatever you do, make sure you love it. If you don't love it at the start, work towards loving it. It's the broadcasting of love from anything in which you are involved that is one of the fundamentals of all success. If you take up a pastime, whether it's making jam or doing sit-ups, it will give you a sense of control when you do it right. You will remember that you are not helpless in the world.
DECIDE TO BECOME SUCCESSFUL, NOT RESPECTED
Many people build a barrier to success because they think they need respect. A person who wants credibility may never find success because their hankering for respect stands in the way. This is because they need to work on their own confidence issues. No matter what job you go for, if you want to be respected more than you want the job, you won't get it. The idea is to get the job. Respect is automatic.
IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU
You define your work. Your work does not define you.
Playing the part of a self-help guru
PAUL Duddridge started doing his own show in small theatres from Santa Monica to Hollywood under the banner How To Be Famous In 40 Days. It was advice for young uninspired and unsuccessful actors about how to become movie stars.
Gradually agents who couldn't get work for their clients began to hire him, as well as the actors themselves. Sessions with Duddridge are as brutal as they are nurturing. His techniques, which have been mined from his own experience, don't just work for actors; they work for everybody. His basic instruction is how to be more yourself, not less, and how to stop doing the things that you always did to get what you always got. "Confidence can be learned because you can put yourself in a position where confidence is likely to occur," he says.
"Famously, in representation there's an 80/20 rule, where an agency brings in 80 per cent of its revenue from 20 per cent of its clients. It therefore gives 20 per cent of its attention to 80 per cent of its clients. If you're one of that 80 per cent you're not getting the attention and nurturing that you need.
"But it's also about confidence, and attracting people to you because of your charisma. So once you start exercising the part of yourself that is extraordinary people will think you're a better singer or dancer or actor or writer, but they are actually just more themselves." He continues, "I encourage people who want to act to stop acting classes unless they are specifically targeted to learning something for a part they already have. It's like going to the gym instead of going to the Olympics. I try to trim away and prune every single action and deed that doesn't lead towards a target of being successful."
He instructs aspiring actors not to waste their money on classes; instead they should get together and hire a crew to make a short film, then enter it for the Sundance festival. "It's like what punk rock did to the music business 30 years ago. Do it yourself, because you can.
"Technology has become cheap and available," he says. "At the same time, there isn't that trickle down of big showbusiness money. There aren't any big cheque-writers that can turn a movie into spin-off after spin-off. This business is no longer vertical, it's horizontal."
Gone are the days where you got an agent whose opinion was respected, who talked about you to a production company, who had gravitas and could grab the attention of the film studio or the TV company. These days nobody's opinion matters and nobody is being paid to have good ideas and recommendations. You have to do it yourself. The same rule could apply to any job interview. The best qualified candidate doesn't get the job, it's the person who is charming, that's the person who you want to work with or be with.
Duddridge deploys the technique of withdrawal to re-evaluate the situation. Because wanting success in work and in love so often overlap, when clients come to him with bad boyfriend/ girlfriend situations, he would urge them to treat them in the same way. Which is if they are not getting what they want out of a situation, withdraw from it, then come back and do it in a different way.
When I went to watch Duddridge's show in a small theatre in Hollywood, he reiterated: don't be available for auditions and don't call your agent back straight away. Working on the same rule as if you are in a relationship, don't always be the one who is too available. Jaws dropped in shock. By the end of his 90-minute show they were won over. Rules for stardom and success run along the same lines as life and love. "Thirty years ago you needed an A&R man if you wanted a record deal, and you needed an agent if you wanted a contract. Somebody human along the chain was making judgment calls, trusting other humans. It doesn't work like that. It used to be a trusted referral service, but that has now gone out of the window."
The joy of there not being enough work to give out means that anyone can create their own. An entrepreneurial spirit was never more in demand. "These days it's easy to make a movie," says Duddridge. "The technical stuff is all out there and affordable. One of the big problems is that unsuccessful people are groomed to express themselves as artists and they are all waiting tables. Be a waiter if you want to be a waiter, but don't be a waiter if you want to be a famous comedy star.
"I think I learnt a lot from my 17 years in the British stand-up market. Stand-up has produced so many enormous stars. Frank Skinner, Eddie Izzard, Jack Dee, Jo Brand, Mark Thomas, Michael McIntyre and Little Britain all started off at the Edinburgh Festival. And I would love to do my show at next year's."
Duddridge feels everyone should look at the model of the stand-up comedian. What they have to do is strip themselves of excuses and become more of themselves, and that's the recipe for success in any field. The example he gives is Jack Dee, who took an aspect of himself – the glumness – and turned it into an art form. Now he is as much an actor as a comedian. Whatever walk of life you are in, you must have some unique selling point. "If it is just that you're Scottish or you're Irish, you play on your Scottishness or Irishness," he says. Even people like Kate Winslet have a USP; it's "I'm just an ordinary girl". This not only works well for casting movies, it also works for casting jobs and making ideas impactful.
A convertible drives by. Two beautiful blondes wave at Duddridge. They are on their way to see him: two young British girls who want to make an impression in Hollywood. By the end of the year he may have helped them get movie deals. Another British client, Neil Jackson, hadn't worked in ten months and was panicking. After one meeting he got seven episodes of an ABC show and a new Woody Allen film. "What actors have to realise is what's on sale is charm and charisma and your ability to make people fall in love with you," says Duddridge.
Charm is integral to success. Charm is the difference between you wanting something to happen and people wanting to make it happen for you.
For more information, see www.paulduddridge.com