February 12, 2004

good long-term holdings


One thing that really pisses me off about the Movie Industry is the ADVICE usually doled out by wizened veterans to neophytes hoping to make their way through the labyrinthine mess en route to a career. Right off the bat, I'm going to tell you something that will save you the trouble of $24.95 for That How-To Book You Were Going To Buy at the Entertainment Section of Barnes & Noble. Ready?

Everyone finds success in the entertainment industry through a completely random, bizarre and unexpected way.

I mean, that should make you feel better, right? Not only does it relieve you of everything except working really hard, but it does put you on an even playing field. Just find that bizarre back door. Yes, that pursuit can be frustrating in itself, but not half as frustrating as believing that your talent is going to waste because the people in the Industry are idiots. They want to find you as much as you want to find them, but the door that separates you is unlocked with an exquisitely odd key.

The second thing you always hear from entertainment-pundits-in-the-know is "always have your second project started before the first one is finished." This is advice that is given especially to women directors, who historically have a terrible time getting their second movie made (even if the first was hit). When you get into Sundance with a film, you're always advised to hype up your next project, which must already be well on its way.

This shit makes me furious. Telling someone to have their next movie started before their first is finished is like having sex with your wife the day after she delivers the baby. The mere supposition that you would be able to even THINK about a second movie while still raising money for your first is LUDICROUS to the point of being CRIMINAL.

Independent filmmakers sell their souls, their cars, their future credit rating and every favor they've earned since grade school to get to post-production on their film, and even then, 97% of them still run out of money. How are you supposed to pay your casting director for your second film when you can't get your first film out of the developing lab? Furthermore, what stars are going to be in your second film, when nobody has even seen your first yet?

That isn't advice, that's rubbing your face in how famous you aren't. Yet.

Now, I bring this up because I think I have a better piece of advice that will bring you more luck and more opportunity. Forget about your second film; it will come. What you need to do now is DIVERSIFY. This is something Tessa's dad did exceptionally well in the 1980s, and something Jamie Block does well now: shield yourself from failure by having several different kinds of balls in the air.

I rarely mention career things here in the blog, but suffice to say that every day you read this, my darling wife and I have at least 10 different writing/producing projects bubbling on the burner. I never say anything about them before they come to fruition, because they are like crushes, ruined once divulged. But one of our balls (if you pardon the expression) landed very well this week.

On a last-minute push, we decided to enter some of our writing into an event being spearheaded by a major entertainment network. Out of almost a hundred plays, ten were chosen and Tessa's play AND my play were both "optioned." The set of plays will be produced in LA for six weeks, and we'll be closely watched for TV pilots and other writing. Needless to say, we know nothing may come of this, but we're still over the moon, and moving to California for March and April.

And being in LA will also allow us access to people who could prove beneficial to our film, which would be another insanely delightful thing. All of which comes from diversification. By trying to be every kind of writer there is, you can make different parts of your career help themselves. It's a positive feedback loop. I would think this translates to any business, but Salem and the boys at silverorange will have to back me up on that one.

Tessa, Peter Kaufman, and RELI 47

In the meantime, we are in Chapel Hill, where Tessa showed her movie to an adoring crowd of undergrads. We both spoke afterwards, and I got to unleash some silly theories onto Tomorrow's Leaders. Like this space, I hope nobody takes me seriously.

Posted by irw at February 12, 2004 11:23 PM
Posted by: Salem at February 13, 2004 6:04 AM

You could not be more accurate. I would add one thing as it relates to a business or creative pursuit. You can very easily miss out on the positive feedback loop you spoke of, if your efforts are not congruent to one another and your long term goals. If you have picked your passion, than your "real" job damn well better put you in the game with the players that are living your dream today. A food salesman that deals with 80 restaurant owners a week for 40K a year, has a better shot at owning his own restaurant than a restaurant manager making $150,000.00 a year. You are either in the game or out of the game. It's like a human version of product placement. Sorry for the long comment, but this is such a critical principle.

Posted by: Dan at February 13, 2004 6:34 AM

You've pretty much nailed down what we (silverorange) do. I loosely call it "deal flow". Have enough stuff bumbling, as you say, to make sure that you're never caught standing still, never caught without an option. If you have enough irons in the fire one of them is bound to get lucky.

When exactly are you and Tessa in California? A bunch of us slices are heading out to San Francisco at the end of this month. We're there till March 2. We'd love to meet up.

Posted by: Greg at February 13, 2004 7:47 AM

Nice to see Dr Kaufman's pic in the blog. I recall that he was one of the most charismatic and engaging professors I had in the first couple years as an undergrad.

Posted by: Alan at February 13, 2004 7:55 AM

That is great news. Read todays post and read this post of yours from just weeks ago: http://www.xtcian.com/arch/001638.php. Life is fun if you can think of all this as surfing waves rather than a battering by them.

Posted by: kent at February 13, 2004 10:36 AM

It's all connected *Carl Sagan intertwining fingers motion*

The most important thing in any business is to do good work. The second most important thing is to make (and keep) friends. Who gets a particular job depends a lot on who the person in charge feels comfortable with. A friend who does good work always trumps everybody else.

Posted by: hilary at February 13, 2004 1:10 PM

i couldn't agree with you more about the various balls in the air...sometimes though, you gotta admit that this can dilute your talent and focus, and you can end up with a bunch of mediocre, half-baked projects. it's especially hard to work on lots of different creative endeavors when holding down a full-time job that robs you of your most productive 10 hours of the day--my particular, but not uncommon-- struggle. you gotta earn the money in order to feed your creativity...well screw that, in order to just live! but because of this, i'm running around on lunch breaks and after 8 p.m. crazed with embryonic ideas and straggling paragraphs and stage performances that aren't very grounded. FOCUS is SO important. i mean, it's so so important.

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