I’ve been writing a “How Hollywood Works” series of posts because I’ve discovered one of the biggest reasons creative people fail is because they simply don’t know how the entertainment and media industries work. If you haven’t read my previous posts, here’s Part 1 and Part 2. Today, I continue the series with three great pieces of advice:
I Have A Great Idea For A Movie!
On average, over my 37-year career, I’ve heard this pronouncement about once a month. My 1st question: “What other movies have you worked on?” The usual response: “None, but it’s a great idea.”
I can’t think of another industry where people assume they can walk right in without any training or experience. Imagine if I walked into the Mayo Clinic and proclaimed, “Hey, I got an idea – how about I handle the next brain surgery?” I pity the patient. Yes, great stories are a precious commodity, but only if they are well executed. If a producer or funder is going to hand you a few million dollars, at the end of the day, they’re not investing in your idea, they’re investing in YOU! Lower their risk!
While you are developing your great idea… PREPARE! Learn and hone your craft, write (and rewrite) your scripts, form your relational network, get as much experience as you possibly can and learn the invaluable lessons that only a journey full of mistakes can teach!
NOW… WHAT’S YOUR IDEA?
Dan Rupple – producer, writer, CEO of Mastermedia International
Do I need to actually live in Los Angeles or New York?
If your goal is to write, direct, or produce major motion pictures or TV, and if you have specific stories you want to tell, I would highly recommend that you live in Los Angeles or New York – at least for a season. While it’s true that there’s media production in other U.S. cities – Atlanta, New Orleans, Chicago, etc. – it is important to distinguish between where media “is made” and where media “is getting made”. A movie or show can “be made” just about anywhere. However, the key influencers deciding which stories will “get made” in the first place are mostly in Los Angeles and New York. These folks have the power to “green light” your project, and they are the engine of the entertainment business.
For your project to succeed, you must get to know them, and they must get to know you.
This relationship building takes time – handshakes, coffee meetings, and numerous pitch sessions. It requires a presence that’s more intense than the occasional business trip. You must walk the same halls, and keep your finger on the pulse. To complicate matters, the entertainment business is always evolving. It’s like a game of musical chairs. People of influence frequently leave companies, start new companies, get promoted and/or move to a different studio. If you’re not watching the game closely, your head will spin, and you’ll end up working with the wrong person at the wrong company and wasting your time. This constant change in Hollywood requires a constant presence.
Of course, after you build a strong foundation (and after some success), living in another city may be a good option for you. Until then, move to LA or NYC. The great news is both cities have strong communities of Christians working in entertainment. Get connected to these churches and groups and join others who are on a similar journey! Don’t do it alone!
Justin Bell, Producer of “Elsa & Fred”, “Full of Grace”, “A Leading Man” – Justin Bell Productions
I think it’s essential that you find or create a circle of truth-speaking friends. I worked with actors for over 30 years (both hiring and representing them) and one thing is pretty clear: this town will either tell you that you are less than you are or more than you are. You must have people who know who you are and are willing to remind you. This is vital when you’re at your lowest low and also at your highest high.
You can get spun around by the things people say about you. You can’t stop this. But you can withstand it. But the only way you can withstand it is by being in an authentic, vulnerable community. Make up your mind that you’ll allow these people to speak into your life. Let them tell you if your project is mediocre or if it’s so good you can never abandon it. Let them tell you if your head has gotten so big you’re making ego-driven decisions or if you’ve been beaten down so long that you’ve forgotten how good you are. Don’t choose these people based on what you want to hear. That’s called an entourage.
Choose these people based on what you need to hear. That’s called wisdom. And once you’ve got these people in your life, cherish them. They are worth more than any deal you’ll ever make.
Kim Dorr-Tilley, Associate Pastor, Bel Air Church; Founder of Defining Artists Agency. Beacon Hollywood