The se­cret to suc­cess in me­dia – tal­ent and fear­less­ness

An in­ter­view with Steven Gay­dos

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In a world that has been racked by mas­sive tech­no­log­i­cal and so­cial changes over the last decade, Steven Gay­dos has held a front row seat from mul­ti­ple van­tage points. His suc­cess­ful ca­reer in the movie and mu­sic in­dus­tries and his im­pact on the pub­lish­ing sec­tor (as an au­thor, jour­nal­ist and ex­ec­u­tive) have given him a unique per­spec­tive. To­day as VP and Ex­ec­u­tive Ed­i­tor of Va­ri­ety mag­a­zine, Steven is driv­ing many prof­itable in­no­va­tions that are help­ing to di­ver­sify the al­ready thriv­ing busi­ness.

Un­like most in­dus­try vet­er­ans, Gay­dos brings a vi­sion and cre­ative en­ergy more of­ten at­trib­uted to younger en­trepreneurs. He is pas­sion­ate about qual­ity journalism and au­then­tic­ity, and has no qualms about speak­ing can­didly about those in­sti­tu­tions he feels need a wakeup call.

“In or­der to sell films to young au­di­ences, Hol­ly­wood would present can­ni­bal­ism as an al­ter­na­tive life­style if there were enough so­cial me­dia in­di­ca­tors that it was the next big thing.”

The Guardian, Mol­ly­wood, how block­busters got loved up

“Screen­writ­ing seems like a lost art. I pretty much de­spise the ma­jor­ity of the Amer­i­can films I see and per­haps as high a per­cent­age of the non-Amer­i­can films. I trace most of the prob­lems back to screen­plays, which is usu­ally the fault of pro­duc­ers who ei­ther don’t know what makes a good screen­play or are de­ter­mined to make money off dreck that is based upon stupid or bor­ing screen­plays.”

Screen­writer’s Utopia, Ten ques­tions with Road to Nowhere screen­writer Steven Gay­dos

The film busi­ness is not alone in terms of need­ing a ref­or­ma­tion, which is why I reached out to Steven to hear his thoughts on the state of journalism in to­day’s volatile me­dia land­scape and what needs to be done to help it and other forms of me­dia thrive in the 21st cen­tury. I think you’ll find his ob­ser­va­tions both thought-pro­vok­ing and en­ter­tain­ing…

Steven, your van­tage point and ex­pe­ri­ence has al­lowed to watch the evo­lu­tion of me­dia con­sumers. In your opin­ion, how are to­day’s au­di­ences chang­ing the face and busi­ness of me­dia and how is Va­ri­ety en­gag­ing with its au­di­ences to­day?

Va­ri­ety has re­sponded to the new me­dia con­sumer and en­gag­ing with their au­di­ence just as it re­sponded to other changes – keep­ing up with them and re­port­ing on them as we have been do­ing for the last 112 years.

A funny thing hap­pened about five-six years ago when we were sold by Reed El­se­vier to Penske Me­dia. There were lots and lots of peo­ple out there, most of them our com­peti­tors, who said Va­ri­ety can’t han­dle this new world of dig­i­tal re­port­ing and Va­ri­ety can’t han­dle the tech­no­log­i­cal change that’s hap­pen­ing.

The fact is that Va­ri­ety has been re­port­ing on tech­no­log­i­cal changes, specif­i­cally in terms of the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness, since it was founded in 1905.

Around 1915, about 25 mil­lion peo­ple a week

went to see vaude­ville – a va­ri­ety show with danc­ing, singing, xy­lo­phone play­ing, cho­ruses, Cos­sack troops, jug­glers and opera singers. That was the pri­mary form of en­ter­tain­ment. We were the pub­li­ca­tion of live en­ter­tain­ment be­cause there was vir­tu­ally no al­ter­na­tive.

Then we be­came the pub­li­ca­tion peo­ple iden­ti­fied with the movie busi­ness, even when the movie busi­ness was pri­mar­ily based in New York, where we were founded. Then ra­dio came in fol­lowed by TV. There was a time in the late 1940s or early 1950s when ev­ery­body thought TV was go­ing to de­stroy the movie busi­ness be­cause of tech­no­log­i­cal changes.

We’ve been both buf­feted by the changes and re­port­ing on the changes for over 100 years, but, ul­ti­mately, we’ve been keep­ing up with them.

To­day, we have growth in print when vir­tu­ally no one else does. We have an ex­plod­ing dig­i­tal busi­ness. We’re do­ing lots of dif­fer­ent things. For ex­am­ple, I’ve started a Va­ri­ety Con­tent Stu­dio with our own mar­ket­ing team cre­at­ing branded and na­tive con­tent, which is mostly driven by dig­i­tal con­sump­tion.

To sum all of that up in one line, to­day’s au­di­ence is con­sum­ing news, in­for­ma­tion, en­ter­tain­ment in a way that they weren’t 25 or 30 years ago and we’re keep­ing up with the times.

Speak­ing of the growth in print, what’s at­tribut­ing to that? This is ob­vi­ously buck­ing the trend of ev­ery­body else who is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ma­jor slumps in print rev­enues.

This may sound a bit self-serv­ing, but I think there’s some ver­i­fi­able truth to it. Peo­ple in the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness re­ally re­spect the Va­ri­ety brand of journalism, the Va­ri­ety name and the Va­ri­ety prod­uct that we de­liver. I think we’re more es­sen­tial now than ever.

When Jay Penske of Penske Me­dia (PMC) bought Va­ri­ety, his mis­sion was for us to dou­ble down on be­ing au­thor­i­ta­tive and be­ing a busi­ness journalism op­er­a­tion – not split­ting into two and try­ing to be a glitzy place about shoes, hand­bags, dresses and stuff. In­stead he bought WWD, which is es­sen­tially the Va­ri­ety of fash­ion – Women’s Wear Daily.

He re­spects pub­li­ca­tions and journalism or­ga­ni­za­tions for be­ing good at what they do. And our con­nec­tiv­ity to the en­ter­tain­ment pro­fes­sion­als is where the print prod­uct re­ally thrives. It’s a lim­ited cir­cu­la­tion pub­li­ca­tion that’s es­sen­tial dur­ing awards sea­sons (e.g. Em­mys, Os­cars®) as a way for peo­ple to reach the in­sid­ers in the busi­ness – the in­flu­encers. That’s also where we’re grow­ing a con­sumer au­di­ence.

Through our rep­u­ta­tion that was al­ways our foun­da­tion, more and more peo­ple are find­ing us and uti­liz­ing Va­ri­ety on a daily ba­sis on­line and in print. The peo­ple in dig­i­tal are find­ing us, while the peo­ple in Hol­ly­wood and in the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness are valu­ing us. They’re valu­ing that we’re kind of like the last man stand­ing, if you will, in terms of qual­ity en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness journalism.

Speak­ing of rep­u­ta­tion, that’s a very in­ter­est­ing point you brought up be­cause of what we’re see­ing is the grow­ing mis­trust in me­dia and the dif­fi­culty some pub­lish­ers have grow­ing that brand aware­ness and recog­ni­tion with a younger au­di­ence. What are you see­ing at your end? Is the rep­u­ta­tion that you’ve es­tab­lished for over a 100 years res­onat­ing with that new de­mo­graphic which didn’t have a brand re­la­tion­ship with you be­fore?

I think that’s an ex­cel­lent ques­tion. I will tell you this. We work very hard at stay­ing rel­e­vant and be­ing con­nected. There are some things we do, that by their very na­ture, are in­cred­i­bly con­nected and im­pact­ful for young read­ers and

young peo­ple in the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness or those in­ter­ested in it.

Twenty years ago this month, I started some­thing called “Ten to Watch” – an an­nual list of up-and-com­ers in act­ing, di­rect­ing, pro­duc­ing, screen­writ­ing and comics. We just did Ten Direc­tors to Watch in Palm Springs [Cal­i­for­nia] and Ten Screen­writ­ers to Watch up at Whistler [Canada].

When you’re as good as we are at pick­ing who’s the next group of tal­ents and you’re as com­mit­ted as we are in find­ing them, talk­ing about them and cel­e­brat­ing them, that kind of ma­te­rial re­ally ap­peals to the young read­er­ship be­cause they are learn­ing about peo­ple in their own de­mo­graphic who are break­ing through.

If you’re a young per­son and you are in­ter­ested in the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness, es­pe­cially film or TV, there’s re­ally some great stuff to read to re­ally un­der­stand what is hap­pen­ing, why it’s hap­pen­ing, who is break­ing through, how they’re do­ing it and why they’re do­ing it. I think that’s in­cred­i­bly rel­e­vant.

A few years ago, I started a new pro­gram that is called “Hol­ly­wood’s New Lead­ers” where we pick 40 peo­ple 40 and un­der. Again, if you look at that from the per­spec­tive of be­ing 30 years old or 25 years old, you’re re­ally get­ting case stud­ies right there, in real time, that help you un­der­stand how job ti­tles and po­si­tions that didn’t ex­ist a decade ago are ex­plo­sively im­por­tant. They’re where the ac­tion is; they’re where things are hap­pen­ing.

So, I think there are a lot of things we do in terms of fo­cus­ing on new gen­er­a­tions in­clud­ing a lot of stu­dent out­reach work and pub­lish­ing an en­ter­tain­ment ed­u­ca­tion re­port ev­ery year.

When Jay Penske bought us, Va­ri­ety.com had a few hun­dred thou­sand unique vis­i­tors per month. Less than five years later, be­tween Va­ri­ety. com and IndieWire.com, we see be­tween 15 and 20 mil­lion uniques a month. By the way, that num­ber started grow­ing rapidly within months of PMC own­er­ship. I think we had 300,000 in March and six mil­lion in Au­gust 2013.

Peo­ple are find­ing us through our ter­rific web­site and some may get into print. But print is a whole beast unto it­self. There’s one statis­tic that I think is fas­ci­nat­ing. By stay­ing true to what Va­ri­ety does well, we have grown in prof­itabil­ity and rev­enue dra­mat­i­cally. In 2016, our print ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enues were up 10%, where na­tion­wide print ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enues were down more than 10%. We’re beat­ing the trend.

Also, in terms of com­pet­ing head-to-head with what has al­ways been his­tor­i­cally our clos­est com­peti­tor, The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter, they have re­ported $30 mil­lion a year in losses. In ad­di­tion to what­ever they do in terms of manag­ing their num­bers and their cost struc­ture, I think their losses are be­cause their iden­tity got blurred. It was once a trade pa­per; now it’s kind of a trade pa­per and kind of a glam­our/life­style pa­per. For what­ever rea­son, their for­mula, fi­nan­cially at least, has not suc­ceeded and has ac­tu­ally been fail­ing pretty dra­mat­i­cally. Mean­while, ours has been dra­mat­i­cally suc­ceed­ing. What’s in­ter­est­ing about that is we’re suc­ceed­ing by be­ing who we al­ways were. We con­tinue to keep up and im­prove – im­prov­ing the news­room and the vis­ual qual­ity and feel of our weekly pa­per.

We did cut out five dailies a week, and that’s the other thing about our rev­enue growth. We took out some­thing like 500 pub­lish­ing is­sue events a year – mean­ing roughly 250 dailies in Los An­ge­les and one in New York. We took all of those out of the mix, stuck to just a weekly edi­tion and our rev­enues went up. By pub­lish­ing

less, our ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue went up. It’s kind of ex­tra­or­di­nary.

It cer­tainly is. What do you think the mis­sion of a jour­nal­ist is in the 21st cen­tury?

Again, you’ve raised a re­ally, re­ally good point there. It feels like a bil­lion peo­ple are writ­ing about en­ter­tain­ment these days – maybe not with a lot of con­nec­tiv­ity to the ac­tual busi­ness, or a lot of knowl­edge, fil­ters, any real in­sights or qual­ity con­trols. What­ever you call it, it’s just a lot of clut­ter and chat­ter sur­round­ing us.

When you have a 112-year-old busi­ness news or­ga­ni­za­tion still func­tion­ing and still work­ing hard, you re­al­ize there are only a few. It’s kind of like what’s hap­pen­ing in city news­pa­pers and the print world of the dailies across Amer­ica, which are in such dis­ar­ray and strug­gling so much. It makes it all the more clear that a pub­li­ca­tion like The New York Times and their tra­di­tion of ex­cel­lence makes it feel like it’s sur­viv­ing. Yes, they have fi­nan­cial prob­lems, but they’re kind of a bea­con of light in an in­dus­try which has a lot of peo­ple run­ning around, talk­ing about “fake news.”

I think that if there’s a lot of fake news that the Times com­petes with, imag­ine how much fake en­ter­tain­ment news there is. And maybe it’s not fake; it’s just not smart. It’s sort of the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor.

We’ve avoided that mostly. There’s some stuff that we do on­line where in­evitably we get drawn into some sto­ries that I think are a lit­tle bit silly. But, I would say 98% of the time, we’re not goos­ing our on­line num­bers with chat­ter about inane things. There are some things that I think are a lit­tle bit lighter than Va­ri­ety might have done in the past, but we’re fight­ing against that and still hit­ting some re­ally great num­bers.

In the state of en­ter­tain­ment re­port­ing and fake news, there is an ocean of stuff out there. And if you don’t want to be part of that, you have to re­ally find ways to have a solid busi­ness plan and a com­mit­ment that makes you fi­nan­cially sus­tain­able – your num­bers have to makes sense as a busi­ness and your journalism has to make sense. I feel that we’re do­ing that pretty well, but we’re not im­mune to mar­ket forces and the dif­fi­cul­ties of the jour­nal­is­tic world in the 21st cen­tury.

A slightly off topic ques­tion…Do you think the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try has a right or is ex­pected to “med­dle in po­lit­i­cal af­fairs?”

I was based in Lon­don for sev­eral years, and this topic would come up fairly of­ten. That is…. What makes a per­son from Hol­ly­wood, an ac­tor or what­ever, qual­i­fied to talk about so­cial is­sues?

Well, when Charl­ton He­ston was stand­ing side by side with Martin Luther King Jr. in the march on Wash­ing­ton, I don’t know when we look back, if we re­gret that he was there stand­ing up for the civil rights of black Amer­i­cans. I sure as hell don’t mind that he was. I sure as hell don’t think he had no right to be there.

Did Frank Si­na­tra have a right to tell peo­ple, if you don’t want to re­spect black Amer­i­cans, and you want to be prej­u­diced and not al­low peo­ple in my band or peo­ple who are my friends and my pro­fes­sional as­so­ciates to stay in your ho­tel or eat in your restau­rant, you’re go­ing to deal with Frank Si­na­tra. Did he have a right to say that? Did he have a right to speak out? Yeah, I think he did.

I’ve al­ways dis­puted the idea that there’s some­thing wrong with peo­ple from the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness hav­ing views on im­por­tant so­cial is­sues be­cause I look at it this way... I don’t know how much money Meryl Streep is worth, but, she makes a lot of money. She’s a very, very, very ex­pe­ri­enced, suc­cess­ful busi­ness­woman

out­side of be­ing an in­cred­i­ble artist. She’s a more suc­cess­ful busi­ness per­son, it would ap­pear, than our newly elected Pres­i­dent be­cause she’s never filed bank­ruptcy as far as I know. Right?

Bar­bra Streisand is a film­maker who di­rects big films, se­cures pub­lish­ing rights, makes record deals all un­der the busi­ness of be­ing Bar­bra Streisand. She’s not a kid; she’s a grown woman. She’s a sea­soned, ex­pe­ri­enced busi­ness­woman. Those are just two in­cred­i­ble busi­ness­women who hap­pen to also be artists.

Why on earth would a ma­ture busi­ness per­son who is worth hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars, has been work­ing for a liv­ing, pay­ing their taxes, be­ing a cit­i­zen, be­ing aware and in­volved and ed­u­cated (I think Meryl has a de­gree from Yale) not have the right to say, “I think the Af­ford­able Care Act is a great thing and should be de­fended. There are 30 mil­lion peo­ple in dan­ger of los­ing health­care un­der this new ad­min­is­tra­tion and I don’t agree with their poli­cies.”

I guess the rea­son that there is even a dis­cus­sion about this is this fear that some­how the Amer­i­can peo­ple are so stupid that they will be un­duly in­flu­enced by some­one who is a good ac­tor or a good singer. Now, what sense does that make? Would a per­son in Mis­sis­sippi or Mon­tana or Cal­i­for­nia or New York hear what Meryl Streep or Mar­lin Brando say about Na­tive Amer­i­cans and think, “Well, I bet­ter agree with that be­cause I sure liked Mar­lin Brando in On the Water­front.”

I mean, it’s dumb. I’m 100% in fa­vor of in­tel­li­gent, ex­pe­ri­enced, suc­cess­ful busi­ness peo­ple in all fields hav­ing a sense of civic re­spon­si­bil­ity, a sense of en­gage­ment in their own cul­ture, their own coun­try, the so­cial is­sues of their day, and be­ing in­volved.

You’ve shared how suc­cess­ful Va­ri­ety has been un­der the Penske own­er­ship and the things that you’ve done in grow­ing au­di­ence and rev­enues. So, what’s next for Va­ri­ety? What’s next for you per­son­ally?

I think that very clearly what’s next for Va­ri­ety and what’s next for me are sort of the same thing be­cause that’s where I am now and where I’ve been for a while. The Va­ri­ety Con­tent Stu­dio that I’m help­ing lead is a re­ally new ad­ven­ture. I think it has the po­ten­tial to be an in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant part of Va­ri­ety’s fi­nan­cial health and suc­cess. But, I think it also has an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate na­tive con­tent, branded con­tent and dig­i­tal projects that are re­ally first rate – in­for­ma­tive, col­or­ful, dy­namic, en­joy­able and great for brands.

It’s kind of in­ter­est­ing be­cause my po­si­tion at Va­ri­ety is a lit­tle bit funny in one sense. I run the Fea­tures de­part­ment at Va­ri­ety; and Fea­tures, in terms of what I do, are sec­tions that are put on a cal­en­dar so that peo­ple know that they’re go­ing to be pro­duced on a cer­tain day. If they choose to ad­ver­tise on those days, then we make money. There’s a church and state sep­a­ra­tion – a sep­a­ra­tion be­tween Fea­tures and Ad­ver­tis­ing. But, they are what drive the print prod­uct rev­enues.

I found a way (and the num­bers would seem to in­di­cate this is true), to cre­ate en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness journalism – whether it be about the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val or about Brett Rat­ner’s ca­reer or about, the Golden Globes, or about what­ever sub­ject we’re tack­ling – to do real qual­ity, in­sight­ful, in­ter­est­ing, rep­utable journalism that makes a lot of money, is good for Va­ri­ety’s fi­nan­cial health and sup­ports the other things that are done on the news side.

In terms of branded con­tent…For those of us of a cer­tain age, we used to use the term ad­ver­to­rial. And ad­ver­to­rial in print meant some­thing that the ad­ver­tiser paid for that looked like journalism but was spon­sored and clearly la­beled as spon­sored. Those ad­ver­to­ri­als

worked, but had a some­what lim­ited im­pact on our busi­ness.

When peo­ple to­day read Va­ri­ety or Van­ity Fair or The New York Times on­line and see some­thing la­beled branded con­tent – some­thing that looks good, reads good, seems solid and is col­or­ful, vis­ual, ex­cit­ing and dra­matic – the po­ten­tial for it fi­nan­cially is light years beyond the po­ten­tial of ad­ver­to­rial in print.

That’s why Fi­nan­cial Times, which is one the great­est news or­ga­ni­za­tions on earth, has its branded con­tent stu­dio. The New York Times, with the great­est jour­nal­ists in Amer­ica, has a branded con­tent stu­dio. Start­ing ba­si­cally right now, Va­ri­ety has a branded con­tent stu­dio and I’m for­tu­nate to be help­ing lead the cre­ative side of it – the pro­duc­tion side. That’s the most ex­cit­ing thing for me. There are lots of other ex­cit­ing things we’re do­ing as well. We do about 70 events a year with event spon­sor­ship and ex­pe­ri­en­tial ad­ver­tis­ing through our re­la­tion­ships with film fes­ti­vals all over the world.

I’ve been part of the Cannes Fes­ti­val for decades. I’ve had the great, good for­tune of ac­tu­ally hav­ing been a film­maker whose film was in com­pe­ti­tion in Venice and ac­tu­ally won a very nice Golden Lion award for my di­rec­tor. And I’m on my way to Ber­lin in a cou­ple of weeks.

I love the film fes­ti­val world and that love is trans­lat­ing into more op­por­tu­ni­ties for us; it’s still de­vel­op­ing and a won­der­ful part of Va­ri­ety’s fu­ture.

For pub­lish­ing, mu­sic and movie in­dus­tries to thrive in the next decade what do they need to do?

Here’s the in­ter­est­ing thing. The film busi­ness it­self is in way more trou­ble as a busi­ness than it would ap­pear when you see that this is the big­gest year in terms of Hol­ly­wood the­atri­cal grosses. You look a lit­tle closer and you see the 3% growth is all based upon an in­crease in ticket sales; at­ten­dance is flat.

Hol­ly­wood has made its whole game be block­buster films. It re­sem­bles the pack­aged goods busi­ness more than it ever has. If you look back in his­tory, you’ll see Coca-Cola ac­tu­ally bought a movie stu­dio think­ing they could run the movie busi­ness the way they ran the Coca-Cola busi­ness. That wasn’t true; it didn’t work decades ago. But it’s kind of true now with Marvel and Dis­ney and a lot of other brands. There is a brand/fan­boys/comic book/ block­buster ap­proach to the movie busi­ness that is kind of work­ing.

The prob­lem is when you’re in the spec­ta­cle busi­ness, spec­ta­cles aren’t cheap and bets are re­ally big. Keep in mind that a typ­i­cal Hol­ly­wood block­buster film to­day can cost $200 mil­lion to make and at least an­other $150 mil­lion to mar­ket it. That’s a 350-400 mil­lion-dol­lar bet, which means with the­atri­cal rev­enue struc­tured the way it is, you have to make roughly $800 mil­lion to break even.

With cer­tain kinds of movies, you can sell enough toys to make up for the fact that you didn’t make enough money in the­atri­cal. Those are big bets and it’s a hard road to re­coup­ment. That whole busi­ness I think is solid but, I just worry that the bets are so big. I have a 20-year-old daugh­ter and hav­ing watched her in the past ten years, I wouldn’t be shocked if there was a year that the block­buster film busi­ness started to ta­per off a lit­tle bit, with head­lines in Va­ri­ety say­ing that peo­ple were wor­ried.

But, it’s a global busi­ness with 60-70% of rev­enues on a typ­i­cal block­buster com­ing from out­side Amer­ica. So, we’ll see.

Be­fore I joined Va­ri­ety, I was a screen­writer and a film­maker in the in­die world – an in­cred­i­bly rough busi­ness. It is re­ally hard to raise money there.

If you go to the Cannes Fes­ti­val and the mar­ket where deals used to be put to­gether and are still put to­gether for movies, you will see how few movies are ac­tu­ally get­ting fi­nanced and how small so many of the movies are.

There is a glut of film at the in­die level be­cause you don’t need a lot of money to make a movie. But, you still need a lot of money to mar­ket a movie. Let’s say a bunch of us go out and make a movie to­mor­row for two or three mil­lion dol­lars and it’s just spec­tac­u­larly good. The chances are prob­a­bly about 100 to one that we will lose money be­cause the three mil­lion dol­lars is a mean­ing­less num­ber. We will have to spend $10-$25 mil­lion to mar­ket that film.

If you make a movie for $1.5 mil­lion and you sell it to one of the stream­ing ser­vices and they give you $150,000, by the time you di­vide that up be­tween your part­ners and you think about the year of your life that you spent, you’d prob­a­bly be bet­ter off run­ning a feed store in the moun­tains some­where.

So, as a sus­tain­able busi­ness, in­die cin­ema is re­ally tough. TV ap­pears to be a much bet­ter place fi­nan­cially. But, the chang­ing face of young peo­ple and what they watch on their phones seems very, very dif­fer­ent. And in terms of sus­tain­able busi­ness mod­els and the cre­ative side of the busi­ness, I see a lot of very, very big chal­lenges.

If you’re ask­ing me, what is your ad­vice to peo­ple think­ing about be­ing in en­ter­tain­ment pro­duc­tion as a ca­reer? Very sim­ple ad­vice… Stay very close to the ground. Stay very close to the ground. It’s an old fash­ioned piece of busi­ness ad­vice.

Have a busi­ness plan. Have an exit strat­egy. If you’re go­ing to make a movie for $75,000 with your friends, where are you go­ing to get the $75,000 back? Know that be­fore you spend it. If you’re go­ing to spend a mil­lion dol­lars of money from den­tists and lawyers and fam­ily mem­bers or Kick­starter or what­ever, what is your path to re­coup­ment? Stay very close to the ground. Stay very fo­cused on that. That’s one half of the equa­tion.

The other half is to know that the Amer­i­can dream and the abil­ity to daz­zle the world and break through and be cre­ative and be suc­cess­ful still ex­ists – those amaz­ing sto­ries hap­pen and I see them ev­ery day. There are new peo­ple break­ing through from ev­ery walk of life, ev­ery­where.

But that lat­ter fact is what screws ev­ery­body up on the for­mer dilemma. Ev­ery­body thinks they’re go­ing to be the one that’s go­ing to break through and they for­get that there’s a thou­sand who aren’t.

So, I have dual ad­vice.

If I were look­ing at it from a busi­ness, I would pay re­ally, re­ally close at­ten­tion to mar­ket­ing and sales, my busi­ness strat­egy and an exit strat­egy.

If I were a cre­ative per­son, I would say I’m not go­ing to let any­thing stop me. I was there the day that Quentin Tarantino gave a script to my di­rect­ing, writ­ing and pro­duc­ing part­ner, Monte Hell­man. In 1990 Tarantino did not have rel­a­tives in the busi­ness. He did not grad­u­ate from USC. He was a kid from the South Bay who worked at a video store and he was in­cred­i­bly fear­less and in­cred­i­bly tal­ented.

If you are in­cred­i­bly tal­ented and in­cred­i­bly fear­less, I sus­pect you will suc­ceed. That’s the combo. In­cred­i­bly fear­less alone prob­a­bly won’t get you there. Again, in­cred­i­bly fear­less, con­fi­dent, de­ter­mined and tal­ented are those peo­ple we write about in – they have the com­bi­na­tion that pushes them for­ward to where it all hap­pens.

Thanks so much Steven. You’ve given us some great in­sights and ad­vice – a lot to think about go­ing into 2017.

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