As I've mentioned many times on this blog, film industry people can't go wrong with attending the Austin Entertainment Business events. I've happily been attending these events for many months, and I just started to volunteer to help get more people there. This past meetup was the third installment of three series of presentations called "Tunnel to Hollywood," all organized by Jennifer Hutchins, a madly-connected and hard-working producer. Her guests were awesome: Neil Landau and Laura Brennan.
Neil Landau has a Hollywood pedigree to die for! He is not only a producer and award-winning screenwriter whose credits include Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, and Doogie Howser, M.D., but he is also a bestselling author. He had some great stories about how scripts that he was told were "trash" ended up being amazing. The best story was how he was told by an agent that this one script that he co-wrote would end his career if anyone read it. The script ended up underneath some old shoes in his closet until a very well-respected director friend of his asked to read it. That same script ended up netting him about $500,000 in a sale, and launched his career. Moral of the story? Don't believe everything you hear!
Neil's approach to getting his work out there was interesting: He used a golf metaphor (fortunately I wasn't completely lost considering I don't play) to explain that with a script you need to get closer and closer to the hole. It's rare to get a hole in one, so with each successive draft, you get closer and closer. He also mentioned that he has a group of very well-respected writers that he brings his work to. If the work excites his friends, he knows he's onto something. If each of his friends is lukewarm, he has some work to do. If all of them dislike it, likely, he'll not waste time on it anymore. It's a pragmatic, smart approach to the creative work you would do as a screenwriter.
Laura Brennan is a pitch consultant in Hollywood, a writer, and her work has appeared in television, film, theater, fiction, and news! I found that she had an excellent sense of humor regarding the relatively dour experience of pitching, and after watching her presentation I figured out how to pitch to other people as a composer in a way that is ridiculously compelling. Here's the secret:
Tell someone what you are currently doing, and never, ever tell them your job title!
So, instead of saying, "I am a screenwriter," you could say, "I am currently writing a script for a science fiction series on Netflix which involves statues in Washington DC coming to life and eating humanity off the face of the planet." A lot more compelling, no?
Here's another example. Instead of saying, "I am a costume designer," you could say, "I am currently designing costumes for a full-length narrative comedy that involves a twisted story of betrayal at the Rennasance fair."
I was really proud of my own: Instead of saying "I'm a film composer," I reworked it to say, "I'm beginning to compose the soundtrack for a full-length felt-animation movie about an animal's journey across the pacific northwest." All of it is true, and it seems so much more compelling
Laura's advice was priceless!
Austin Entertainment Business Wrap-Up
It's August, and in Austin Texas we need everything we can get our hands on to stay cool. What better time than to publish this citrusy miniature film score, eh?
All footage was found on www.videvo.com, and with the exception of the two videos below, all have the same “Royalty Free License.” The two that do not are
https://www.videvo.net/video/fizzy-summer-cocktail/6651/ “Videvo Attribution License”, by author: Videvo
https://www.videvo.net/video/fresh-lemons-on-tree/6027/ “Videvo Attribution License”, by author: Videvo
Who do you want to meet?
Who do you want to meet in the entertainment industry? Who do you need in order to make your vision a reality? If you need to find others, it’s time to get out there and attend the best meetup in town for industry professionals, the Austin Entertainment Business meetup.
What I love most about the AEB events is that I constantly meet new people who are involved in all parts of the entertainment industry. From producers to directors, directors of photography to post audio & sound, from experienced writers to veteran actors, you can really find your people here. As a composer, I find myself most inspired when I get the chance to hang out with other creatives and hear what they are working on. I've stated before that finding work in the entertainment industry is a worthy goal that can only be achieved by taking relationships seriously. Ultimately, having good relationships with others makes me happiest. It’s more about the people, for me at least. Yes, I want cool projects and to pay my bills just like everyone else, but I prefer working with good people as opposed to negative ones. It takes collaborating with good people to make a good and happy career. Fortunately, I keep on meeting the exact types of persons I want to meet at these meetups! That, and I keep on getting incredible information as a result of the wonderful presenters that Jen Hutchins, our organizer, puts together. Last night’s meetup was no different.
Our first presenter was Heather Hale. She is a film and television director, screenwriter and producer. She is also an expert at pitching ideas, which is what her presentation was all about. She gave an excellent overview of her expertise on the markets, how to pitch your script successfully, and how to get your stuff to the next level. There were many points that Heather covered in her presentation that I found it to be interesting. Now, I’m not a writer, but a lot of the things she said made a lot of sense. To echo what Terence Michael mentioned in the previous meetup, Heather agreed that how you approach potential producers is all about the first subject line of your initial email. Face it: Busy producers get at least 300 emails per day from people who are working to get their script in the right hands. To that end, what sets you apart? You have to make it special, eye-catching, and memorable. One of her big mistakes people make is that their pitches are extremely boring. She says the worst thing you can do is be boring! The second big takeaway that Heather drove home for me was that you need to have clarity about your script. You have to be clear about what it is, what genre, the characters, the scenes, everything. You can’t leave things unsaid. This even goes to the extreme of when you attach a script to an email, you have to name it correctly, like “My-Movie-Title_My-Name.” Even Jen Hutchins chimed in and said she hated it when people sent her scripts but she has to rename the file! These details are all what makes a script get read. This is the final takeaway: If you get an agreement to get the script read, you’ve done your job. You can’t expect people to throw you a ton of dough for a script unless they read it, right? Well, Heather was adamant that if you can get people to agree to read the script, then get out of the office as soon as possible. You’ve done your job. She specifically put it like this: “A good salesman knows when not to push.” I agree.
Our second presenter was Barbara Daoust, a coach to many of Hollywood’s elite. This included the Elizabeth Olson, Shane West, Vanessa Hudgens, Aaron Paul, and she even mentioned working with members of the Spielberg family. I found that this presentation was a little more up my alley simply because it talked about the mindset of success. Barbara’s approach is simple when you look at it from a bird’s eye orientation: If you want to be a success, you have to think like those oscar winning successful people. Of course, the details are always a little more tricky. Barbara knows how to get people there. She saw that the people who had this mindset were constantly working on themselves, constantly tinkering and making themselves better at what they did, how they did it, and they also dealt with failure (which is radically different than most people). For example, if a person fails at something and it’s emotionally a big deal, it takes longer for them to come back from it and then reengage with the world. Barbara pointed out that many of these top successful people in Hollywood and elsewhere feel that failure is just part of the process. When a person has this sort of mindset, that failure is not a big deal, they accept that it’s going to happen, and that they will let go of it quicker. This feels like one of the biggest predictors of success. It’s not about pumping our egos up to never fail, it’s being humble enough to realize that we are human, we will fail, but it’s more about how we pick ourselves up. This is a lesson each and every one of us needs to keep in our minds. It reminds me a lot of what author Brene Brown talks about in her book Daring Greatly, which is all about being courageous enough to engage with the world even if it means you will fall down and fail hard. The people who accept failure as part of the process are quicker to get up from career disappointments. This is crucial, especially in the film industry where failing is inevitable!
Why this meetup is important
As I’ve mentioned many times before in my blog, this meetup is so valuable. It is important and vital to Austin, and we should all take good care to grow it. On a personal note, I have a lot of respect for Jen Hutchins as well as producers in general now that I’ve taken a little time to produce a short video for the AEB. This is what kept me occupied all last night! The amount of care a producer must have for the project, the amount of sweat it takes, is tremendous. I laughingly had a “We’re Not Worthy” moment at the end of the night where I came to realize exactly how hard Jen works. Producing is hard work, so mad props to all the producers out there who make great films happen. I salute you.
Keep in touch for an upcoming video for the Austin Entertainment Business. Also, keep in mind that there are many incredible resources that are already available for you that Jen has put together. The job board where Jen and other members share paid gigs in the industry is a great place to go: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AustinEntertainmentBusiness/
Also, if you haven’t made it to the meetups in general, you need to come. I finally convinced my buddy Jeremy Rashad Brown to come, and he had a blast. He was looking for editors and producers, and he made tons of new contacts just last night. So the question becomes this: Who do you want to meet? You’ll do that here: https://www.meetup.com/AustinEntertainmentBusiness/
The music is written from the point of view of a child who is noticing how cool raindrops really are. This video added music to an already existing video downloaded for free at http://www.beachfrontbroll.com/ - I highly recommend http://www.beachfrontbroll.com/ for any of your b roll needs.
Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of attending a meetup group for film professionals at the Speakeasy in Downtown Austin. Jennifer Hutchins, a producer who has worked in both tv and film and whose credits include a film and tv series of the master magician Criss Angel, hosted the event. She put together a couple of fantastic presenters, and did an excellent presentation herself. One of the themes I noticed throughout the evening, between all presenters and practically everyone I chatted with, was the importance of connecting with others creators and film pros in Austin in the effort to make our community stronger.
Jennifer talked about the PGA, which stands for the Producers Guild of America. As a composer, I don’t know if they would accept me, but if they were to make an exception I certainly would. The way the PGA was presented by Jennifer made it seem like it would be a boon for just about anyone going down that path. The way Jennifer layed out all the benefits made great sense to me. I’d do it for hanging out with the members, and btw- it’s cheaper to join the PGA in Texas than in California!
Her first guest speaker was Josh Rubin, owner of Media ATX. What I liked a lot about Josh was that he was incredibly forthright about how the community in Austin that does film doesn’t know the resources they have in their own backyard. He mentioned a number of studios that very few of us were aware of. Another thing that I found incredibly interesting is that he shared a story of how there were two kids who he met with who covered a niche in the gaming community on their blog and managed to pull in more than 1,000,000 views on their site a month. Had he not been willing to meet people and find new and interesting stories, he wouldn’t have found those kids (and they were kids, btw).
The next speaker was Tate Allyn, who is associated with Colaborator.com. I found her presentation really interesting in that it seemed like colaborator.com was about connecting ing people who work in this town with the big studios, and helping the big studios by finding them excellent talent in Austin. When I spoke to Tate later, she told me she studied musical theater and opera at University of Southern California! That is a such a great school for music! We had a good chat about introversion and extroversion. We both agreed that it gets really interesting when these two basic personality traits switch sides, ie when a lifelong introvert (myself) goes external (has a ball at a networking event) and when a lifelong extrovert (Tate) goes internal (starts thinking about what she could create and how she could present it). Fantastic conversation.
I really enjoyed meeting a ton of other people there and what they were up to. Tico, the photographer, has a background in design and it was cool seeing how he’s applying that to photography. Shawn who has a background in coding for video and how he’s applying that to videography. And JD who has a background in post-hardcore music and now he’s dedicated that same work ethic to creating his first short film. One other guy that I really enjoyed talking with was Joel Laviolette, a sound designer and composer. I hope I didn’t scare him with my enthusiasm, but damn, we had a 15 minute conversation about synthesizers and instrument plugins for Cubase. It was ridiculously nerdy and completely fun.
All in all, this was a fantastic event. I couldn’t recommend this meetup group enough. If you’re already a member, than awesome! Hope to hang with you at the next meeting. If you want to find out more about Jennifer and her meetup group for film pros, join the meetup here: https://www.meetup.com/AustinEntertainmentBusiness/
Also, if you’re a musician, please be advised I will probably want to talk shop. Warning: I could do that for hours.