Brian Sacca of ‘Wolf of Wall Street’: Why The Key to Success is Not Just About Hustling
It’s no secret that one of the hottest films last year was The Wolf of Wall Street. While I’m sure many learned a ton of creative sales techniques they can apply to their own businesses, there was a certain actor in the film with ties to Silicon Valley we didn’t expect. That person was Robbie “Pinhead” Feinberg, played by Brian Sacca. Though, his part was not as big as the main characters, he has a fascinating story of his hustle to becoming an actor and how he got the part during the lowest points of his acting career.
Another interesting fact to note that Brian is also the younger brother of Chris Sacca, a prominent venture capitalist in Silicon Valley known for his early investment in Twitter and his firm LOWERCASE capital.
We had the pleasure of catching up with Brian over email where he shared what it was like working with Martin Scorsese, what it’s like when you have a top VC for an older brother, and the most important lesson the entertainment industry can teach an entrepreneur.
Tell us a little bit about your character in the film.
“I play Robbie “Pinhead” Feinberg. He’s a drug dealing high school friend of Jordan Belfort who’s recruited as one of the first salesmen at Stratton Oakmont. He’s kind of the king idiot in a group of morons.”
Walk us through the process of getting the role of Robbie Feinberg and what it was like auditioning for Martin Scorsese.
“Oh man, getting this role was a dream come true. I auditioned on tape in LA. It was a long shot, so I just had fun in the room. I screamed at non-existent people off camera. I cursed my head off. It was a blast! A week went by and then I got the call that Scorsese wanted me to audition for him in NYC. I imagined it was going to be a cattle call (30 guys in the room) but when I showed up, there were only 6 of us. We went into the room 4 at a time and just freestyled as douchebag salesmen. We all kept it pretty clean at first but, halfway through our bit, I made a super lewd joke – something about someone snorting blow off my tits – and Scorsese ate it up. Then we all went off the rails. It was a riot.”
How did you prepare for the role?
“Robbie is an amalgamation of all the uber-aggressive yet under-educated Wall Street characters I met in my 10 years in New York. I lived across the street from JP Morgan for three years, so I saw my fair share of douchebaggery. I summoned that inner dickhead and poured it into the character. Not that I’m saying douchebaggery is all bad. Some of my best friends are Wall Street brokers.”
Before The Wolf of Wall Street, you almost gave up on acting. Has that changed now for you at this point?
“Yeah, I had stepped away from acting. I get my creative joy from making content. I found that the time I spent auditioning was time away from creating content (through writing, directing, editing, acting, etc). Truth be told, since Wolf came out, I haven’t really changed my focus but I have incorporated more time for acting. I’m still producing digital content. I just finished writing a feature script which I’ll take out in the fall. Mixed within that, I’ve taken a few fun acting jobs here and there. As long as I’m making a product, I’m happy.”
Your older brother Chris Sacca is a prominent VC in the startup space. Have you learned any important lessons in business and/or life from him?
“Chris is the best older brother a self-starter could have. I feel incredibly lucky to have had him as a guide and mentor throughout each phase of my life. Not only has he taught me about the hustle, he’s shown me how to find a balance between work and life. In an entrepreneurial business (whether it be entertainment or capital), it’s easy to fully immerses your self in your work in order to achieve your goal. Chris taught me that the ability to disconnect from work in order to focus on creating fulfilling life experiences can ultimately lead to better success. For example, for our honeymoon, Chris gifted me and my wife enough frequent flyer miles to fly around the world on a one-way-ticket. So, my wife and I travelled the world for two months, hitting remote spots like Bhutan. While this trip had no direct influence on my career, it shaped who am I as a person and, ultimately, is shaping the content I’m creating. (SIDE NOTE: I made a little website with videos of the countries my wife and I visited on our trip. So, many people wanted to see pictures from our journey, so instead, I cut together short music videos as a way to show where we went.)
Chris also taught me to ask “why?” when considering any venture. In entertainment, it’s easy to get caught up in the next project. Sometimes it’s good to take a step and ask “why am I doing this?” or “why does this need to be made?”
Apart from the clear differences in career choice, how were both of your personalities different when you were growing up?
“My parents raised my brother and I to be incredibly creative kids. We partnered on a lot of insane artistic adventures. In fact, the first videos I ever made were with Chris using a VHS camera my mother borrowed from the college where she taught. Chris was usually behind the camera and I was the “on-screen talent.” It was a perfect way to develop a skill in creative problem solving at a young age. If I had to portray a man being electrocuted – how do we get foam spewing out of my mouth? Run up to the kitchen and grab the sour cream! That was for one of our first pieces entitled “Larry is Loose,” a thriller about serial killer we made when I was 7 or 8. We were legit.”
Tell us the most important lesson you’ve learned so far being a creative entrepreneur.
“A lot of people would say “never stop hustling” is the most important advice to give to a creative entrepreneur. I disagree. I believe that finding your own specific voice is key to success in any creative field. While hustling is obviously important, it’s useless if you don’t have a specific voice that can separate you from the pack. Hustling = Sales. Therefore, you need to know what you’re selling before you can sell it.”
Lastly, what are your words of advice for anyone that wants to have a successful career in entertainment?
“Besides “know your voice” my only other advice is never stop making. No one else can see what’s in your head. It’s your job to show it to them.”