Friday, August 24, 2012

Do You Have What It Takes? part 1

So what exactly are your gifts and talents? Do you have what it takes to be a producer? What about a director? Or perhaps you see yourself as an actor. I am often asked by my film students what it takes to work in Hollywood and the entertainment industry. There is no simple answer to that question. First of all, a film degree will not guarantee you success or even employment. There are completely different skill sets, talents and giftings necessary to be a writer, director, producer, or actor. The trick is discovering where you best fit in.

I have created a formula that can offer some insight into your probability for success in the entertainment and media field. Here’s the formula: T + (N + K + E) + (C + A + D + F) + P + X = T. Remember the formula, at best, is only a probability. It cannot guarantee adequate results.

T is for talent worth 50 points. It is a determining factor, but you can have talent and still not succeed. Talent is one of those things that you either have or you don’t. It is absolutely a God-given gift. Yes, you can enhance talent or sculpture it over time, but it has to be inherent. You cannot go to film school and develop talent. If you are born to be a director, you will be a director. If you are born to be a writer, you will be a writer, etc. The fact is most of your instructors in film school will know after a short time if you have what it takes to make it. The only question is whether or not they will be honest with you.

So let’s say you want to direct. Can you make it in the business with marginal talent? Absolutely. But it will require you to be stronger in other areas to compensate. It might also mean that you would be better suited to be a first or second assistant director.

N is for networking worth 40 points. The media business is all about networking. It’s really who you know that is going to help you to work in this business. People like to work with people they like and trust. So how do you network? First of all, you need good social skills along with an excellent understanding of how the industry functions. Both are essential to be a good networker.

Do you know how to work a room? It’s without a doubt an art form. It certainly helps to be friendly and likable. You create an environment where people respond to you because you make them feel good, and they just like to be around you. It’s also essential to be a good communicator. It also helps to be interesting and capable of telling a good story. Perhaps the most important factor is being capable of listening to people. In other words, you care more about what they are saying than what you have to say.

Networking should always lead to relationship. And relationship will lead to trust and opportunities. Think of networking as your chance to help other people first. Who do you network with? Start with your own peers at film school, conferences, workshops, etc. Also when you are networking with people in higher positions, try to find out what they need and whether you have something you can leverage to meet that need.

K is for knowledge worth 40 points. Obviously, you need to know everything about your field. If you plan on being an editor or cinematographer, develop your craft. This is not only about a four-year experience you have in college, but it must be a lifetime commitment. The more you know, the more you will understand. And the more you can put into practice will dramatically increase your chances for success in whatever media field you choose. Read everything about your field. Find mentors who are experienced and knowledgeable and will show you the practical side of how to apply your craft. What you don’t know will kill you. In this business, people will know in the short term whether you are knowledgeable and know what you are talking about. You will not be able to fool people. And knowing the language of how people communicate in this industry is essential.

E is for entrepreneurship worth 40 points. Let’s stop fooling ourselves. Opportunities usually don’t come looking for you. Do you really think someone is going to offer you a $30 million picture to direct right out of film school? Especially in today’s economic environment, you can’t afford to sit around and wait for the phone to ring. Entrepreneurs make their own breaks and create their own opportunities. They are people who see things that other people don’t see.

Opportunities are everywhere. That’s how an entrepreneur thinks. For example, I just met a young filmmaker starting out in Hollywood. He has worked on several films as a production assistant. It’s entry level work. But he saw an opportunity that others didn’t. So he wrote a pamphlet called “The PA Guide, A Practical Guide to Your First Job in Film or Television”. As far as I know, there has never been a specific book written on the topic of the production assistant. This met a need in the marketplace. The fact is if you don’t know how to be a good production assistant, do you think you will get an opportunity to move up? It’s an excellent resource because it tells you everything you need to know to be the best production assistant you can be. He is selling the book for $7.95. This is classic example of an entrepreneur in action.

What does it take to be an entrepreneur? A good study of people, solid communication skills, and, obviously, a solid grasp of business principles are all essential ingredients. Most people who get to direct, produce or write their films, work in the independent model. That means you have to self-finance your projects. Entrepreneurs know how to raise money, make deals, find distributors and return a profit to the investors.

No you don’t have to be good at being an entrepreneur to make it in the media business, but it sure helps. If you are weak in this area as well as mediocre in talent, you are probably out of the running

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