Archives for the month of: November, 2014

The film Bounty Killer was gory, splattery, occasionally beautiful rubbish [intentionally, I think]. The brilliant part is how it managed to get made at all.

Excerpted from an article written by director Henry Saine:

My advice when things are going slow getting your script made: start drawing.

The artwork doesn’t have to be great, it doesn’t even have to be artwork, just collage photos together of your vision, whether it’s a big grand epic or an intimate story between two people. The best way for investors to understand your vision and your passion is to give them some graphic representation of your tone, your emotional core — your story.

You can shoot a short, but better yet, just make a trailer. A trailer can sell the whole movie, not just a scene. Its all artwork and it will get people to read your script.

People love artwork.

The article details how BK caromed from one step to the next:

– a drunken idea between two friends

“Its brilliant. It’ll be about Enron ending the world.”

– an utterly rejected script

“…we couldn’t get anybody to read it, much less back a movie with the wacky premise.”

– a cartoon pitch rejected by Samuel L. Jackson

Jason, Colin and I came up with a highly energized pitch that involved lots of concept art. For our little dog-and-pony show, we even donned yellow ties that our criminals wore in the cartoon. Our highlight was sitting across from Samuel Jackson who was looking to do more animation after “Afro Samurai.” His reaction: “So let me get this straight, I just go around killing white people?”

“Whatever you want to do, Mr. Jackson, we’re just surprised to be sitting here.”

He passed.

Everybody passed.

– a short film and trailer, funded by Wal-Mart

“Walmart was connected though their investors, and to sell the comic book on their shelves it needed to be clean. Walmart was, if I were to embellish, helping fund our project about the evils of giant corporations.”

– a feature-length film starring Eve — I mean, Gary Busey.

But things started moving faster, and before I knew it, I was on set wiping chocolate ice cream off Gary Busey`s suit for a movie based on a comic book I hadn’t finished yet.

They say directing a movie is like painting in a hurricane. True. And doing it in 18 days is like being strapped to a runaway train flying off the rails through that hurricane. You just hold on and try to throw paint on the canvas.

– …and finally, a comic book:

“Over four sleepless days… I drew, inked and lettered a 90-page graphic novel.”

Ultimately:

The comic book was done, and now the movie, already based off a comic book, was now based off a comic book — with pictures.

You can shoot a short, but better yet, just make a trailer. A trailer can sell the whole movie, not just a scene. Its all artwork and it will get people to read your script.

People love artwork.

And on that note, I’ve got quite a bit of drawing to do. Perhaps you do, too.

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These seven guidelines just might help you (and me) from languishing at a “survival job”. Do whatever it takes to keep your dreams, inspiration and creative energy from fading with time and the ceaseless onslaught of the nine-to-five daily grind. Don’t make the mistake of conflating financial poverty and artistic integrity.

1. If you love what you do, get good enough at it to get paid for it.

I hear the same excuses over and over from mediocre “amateurs” and
dilettantes who call themselves “artists”:

I don’t want money.
I do this because I love it.
I do it for myself and no one else.

Don’t fall into the “amateur trap”. If you truly love what you do, other people will love it, too. Art is interpersonal communication. If no one cares about what you do, what you’re doing is little more than artistic masturbation.

Masturbation is fine — and the real thing is better. Likewise, if you haven’t captured a person’s complete attention, assume that they’re not really paying any attention at all. If you’re going to spend the rest of your life doing what you love, you might as well get good enough that other people will find real value in it, too.

In a capitalist society, the exchange of value between strangers is expressed through payment for a product or service. If you continually work on improving your skill, it’s practically inevitable that at some point, other people who want your work will notice you’ve created something that goes beyond a casual hobby.

If you’re just a weekend hobbyist, that’s fine. Are you a writer who endlessly complains about “writer’s block” and never actually writes anything? “The empty page terrifies me”, the poseur says (hint: an empty page should thrill you, because you can already see your work living there). That’s cool. Are you a painter who only does it in between the moments when life inevitably “gets in the way”? Okay, fine. Recognize that until you sacrifice the time and effort to continually improve, you’re a hobbyist, not an artist. The difference is a simple question of your methods, time, and effort.

All true artists are amateurs, in that all artists must love what they do. And if you truly love it, others will, too. When you find others who value your work, it’s only natural in our society that you can expect to be paid for your labor.

Anyone who says otherwise is probably justifying their desire to steal from you, guilt-free. Never open the door for those whom you know are thieves.

2. Don’t rely solely on live performance. Create a product that you can sell.

This one is more universal than you might think. A theatre actor performs live. So does a teacher, comedian or public speaker. So does anyone who offers an ephemeral, one-time experience that disappears after it’s done. Think of other professions and activities that fit this description.

Either you repeat your performance a thousand times for a thousand dollars, or you can create it once and sell the performance a thousand times.

This one has a deceptively hidden element that is it’s real importance. That element is time.

Money less important than time. You can never buy more time; you can always make more money. A thousand hours spent is a thousand hours you’ll never get back. Time is not money. Time is life.

Read the previous paragraph as many times as it takes to start valuing your time more than you value a quick-and-easy paycheck.

3. Learn how to market your product. Study marketing until you can sell anything that you might want to create.

Self-explanatory. Marketing is probably the opposite of what you believe it is, mainly for two reasons: first, we’re immersed in marketing all the time, so we often don’t notice it. Second: we’re taught that anything we do notice as “marketing” is automatically evil.

This leads people to think that television (which is an advertising medium interspersed with programming to distract you) doesn’t influence you. Obviously it does, which is why large corporations advertise so heavily on TV — and pay a high premium for prime-time when most people are watching.

On the other hand, an artist on the Internet who tries to sell his or her work is considered a threat to the “freedom of Information” or some other nonsense.

Notice how this serves large corporations while screwing everyone else.

Your most important skill will never be your work, or how incredibly smart you are, or how you’ve become “so good that you’re impossible to ignore”.

– A mediocre product with outstanding marketing will still sell.
– A good product with average marketing will not sell much better.
– A great product with abysmal marketing will tend to sell poorly.
– A brilliant product with no marketing will never even be known.

Study marketing until you can sell your best work at the price that you want to be paid. Until you can command that price, keep learning more about marketing, and be prepared to make the necessary adjustments.

4. Don’t give valuable work away for free, unless you have a means of making back the value that you’re losing.

The Internet is a great place for artists to go to die (unless your name is Taylor Swift, apparently). If you’re not Ms. Swift, the point applies to you.

There is no such thing as “free”. Again, large corporations are making money from the Internet through advertising and by selling users’ personal information. As security expert Bruce Schneier succinctly summarized recently, “surviellance the business model of the Internet.”

If you’re not making a profit from spying on anyone (and hopefully you’re not), be careful about what you give away “for free”. Free is bleeding you in exchange for every Retweet, Like and Follow. If you’re spending hours of your life and receiving only empty Internet Fame in return, realize that your ego and narcissistic need for artistic validation is making someone else rich while you go broke.

For every item you give away, place a price tag on that item and find a way to make up the loss. Otherwise, you’d just as well take money out of your own pocket and flush it down the drain.

Don’t fall for the fallacy of free when your valuable work is at stake.

5. Don’t trust what people “would” buy from you. Only trust the number in your bank account after the sale has been made.

Humans are notoriously poor predictors of their own future actions, particularly when some form of sacrifice is involved. Don’t be glad-handed by friendly Internet advice-givers who tell you, “I would definitely buy that!”, or worse, “if you make it a little better or more ‘professional’, I’d be your first customer in a heartbeat!””

“I’d buy that, if…” is the same pleasant kind of lies that your friends tell you about your odd haircut, tight new jeans or fashion-fetish shoes. They say nice things because they like you, or they want to sound “positive”, or because words are free whereas opening your wallet is not.

Ignore praise if your goal is to be paid for your work. Listen to the opinions of people who are already paying you; everyone else’s opinion is just background chatter unless they are either a mentor or a competitor.

Payment comes before praise.

6. Make it a top priority to get the person’s contact information and obtain their permission to be notified for future updates/releases/news/etc.

Once a person buys from you, make sure to get their information so that you can send them more items that they’ll be interested in receiving from you. Better yet, your first payment option should be enrollment in a recurring subscription so that they don’t have to keep deciding to pay you. (Also offer a single-item payment option.)

And for people who whine about subscribing, realize that they would have been the kind of client that you probably would have had to fire, anyway. Always be willing to fire a client who’s a pain in the ass. They will do nothing but waste your time — time you could have spent doing more for your better clients and finding new ones who will stay with you over the long term.

Find more “yes’es” and ignore the “no’s”. “Maybe” means “no”. Never try to convince a “maybe”.

7. Don’t rely on word-of-mouth, “going viral”, your friends telling their friends, or the hope that your existing sales will continue that way for ever.

This the “if you build it, they will come” fantasy that dooms many creative people to a lifetime of confusion and unnecessary obscurity.

Always find new fans who can replace the old ones when they are inevitably distracted by the next new shiny moving object.

“If you build it, they will come” is a pervasive myth among non-entrepreneurs and people who know nothing about the harsh realities of getting and finding clients.

“I’ll just create this awesome product, find some fans, and then they’ll spread the word for me!”

If only real life were that easy.

Think of everything you sell as being part of pop culture: most people will eventually be lured away by the next pretty thing that captures a moment’s attention. Unless you’re selling something that literally means the difference between life and death, your client list will fluctuate by a natural law of continual attrition. Plan for this and make sure that you’re always finding new fans to replace the ones who will fall away. Be pleasantly surprised when they come back, rather than desperate to keep them hanging around. Your independence will free you to take new artistic directions without fear of displeasing people who liked your old work, and give you an air of ease that will paradoxically attract those who may not have stuck around if you were keen on keeping them from leaving.

Expect no more than fifteen percent of your business to come from unsolicited recommendations given by existing clients and fans. The other eighty-five percent is the result of your planning and continual discovery of new people who are willing to pay for your best work.

All artists are eternal amateurs. Love what you do, and make sure that every new work is your best one yet. As long as you relentlessly improve, one day your work will be worth more than anyone could possibly pay. In fact, from the first moment that you realize this, it already is true and always will be.

Now all you have to do is make sure that you get paid. That’s what this journal entry is for; re-read it and seek out the resources you need in order to make these seven steps into your reality. These are my notes to myself, by the way, gathered from three years of study. Hopefully you can gain (and profit) from them, too.