Category Archives: jobs

This, this, all the this!

If you are a creative, this video will sounds very familiar – but it’s a universal message. Lord knows I’ve been down this road a few times. Determination, persistence and touch of naivete is usually enough to win the day – it’s just the “day” in question usually lasts for years.

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Am I a Startup? Part 2: The “Don’ts”

Startup Post Art

In part 1 we covered what a startup is and the four best practices to help get that startup moving, with definitions tweaked to work for the entertainment industry (although those tweaks may work for other industries as well). Having an idea of what to do is important and positive and helps get all the work off on the right foot. That being said, it is nice to also know what pitfalls to avoid so you can do your best not to fail on accident. Just like articles on what to do to help your startup succeed there are as many, if not more, articles about what makes a startup fail.

Thinking about it, that makes sense since, by definition, a startup has no guarantee of success so many of them (most of them even) fail. Entertainment careers are no different. In this life you hear “no” a lot more than “yes.” You can have a series go to pilot and then not get picked up. You can be edited out of a commercial after you’ve already shot it. For resilience we all say that it’s, “just part of the biz” but, part of the biz or not, that much rejection can be draining. So the following are four mistakes that can kill your startup inspired by and paraphrased from this article: The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups. Why are there not 18? Because not all of the mistakes really apply to my topic. Sure, I could shoehorn in a few descriptions and get all symbolic with the language, but that isn’t the goal. The goal is to have strong points that are easy to identify and avoid to keep things moving in a positive career direction. But if you want to read all 18, and I suggest you do, go to the link.

Before we get started with the actual four mistakes, I’d like to point out a overarching general mistake that the author Paul Graham points out that also makes very good sense in an entertainment career:

“In a sense there’s just one mistake that kills startups: not making something users want. If you make something users want, you’ll probably be fine, whatever else you do or don’t do. And if you don’t make something users want, then you’re dead, whatever else you do or don’t do. So really this is a list of (sic) things that cause startups not to make something users want. Nearly all failure funnels through that.”

In his explanation let’s trade out the word “user” for “audience.” Entertainment exists to be experienced by people, there isn’t any way around that. As a general rule of thumb: make and do the things you believe in and have passion for. Those are the things that have the best chance of taking off and if they don’t you can at least feel good about the attempt.

Now on to the mistakes:

  1. Bad Location. The internet and prosumer equipment have really allowed people to make high quality content just about anywhere, but if you want to work on the bigger shows and films (hell even the big online stuff) you need to be in one of the major entertainment hubs: Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta or New Orleans. Although theres also North Carolina, Chicago, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon and the occasional shoot in Hawaii. And Canada. Puerto Rico is offering some really nice tax incentives so some productions are moving over there… All kidding aside, even with this expansive list there are still very few cities that can actually handle and support a large amount of filming. If you are ok just shooting with your friends and putting it up online then more power to you. Hollywood is decentralizing and I predict that we’re going to see more migration away from Southern California over the next five to ten years, but there will still be industry hubs where the camera crews live and where you can find a guy who can record decent sound. You want those people so you should be where they are.
  2. Derivative Ideas. Don’t just copy. I know Hollywood does it all the time, but those are the things people make fun of Hollywood for doing. I’m not saying that you can’t have your own spin on an existing idea, but don’t just straight up copy. Here’s an example: Zombies have been the dominate movie monster for over a decade now. There has been zombie everything, but the ones I remember: The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, and Shaun of the Dead all had unique takes on the genre. You don’t need to be the first person with an idea, but you do need to have a way to make it your own.
  3. Choosing the wrong platform. This literally came up in conversation today and it seems like something that I talk about with people all the time. There is both a literal and a figurative meaning to “platform.” The literal has to do with distribution of content that you and your team may be creating. When you decide how to get it out to the audience you either need to build to the distribution you have access to or hustle to get the distribution you feel the content requires. For example: I spoke to a buddy just today about their new project that, in my opinion (which happened to be an opinion he shared), needs to be a web release. It is built in tight little vignettes that are great for online audiences and the pieces all combine together into one big narrative that he could release as a stand-alone product and/or send to film festivals. But there is talk about converting it to feature length and trying to get the funding to do a movie version. In my head, at this time with the options available to them, online seems like the no brainer. Doing this project as a television show wouldn’t work, the premise wouldn’t last beyond a season. Doing it as a movie might work, but it would require a heavy rewrite and a massive investment. Right now they have a completed product ready to launch and it would be a shame not to release it. The figurative meaning of “platform” is for the actor. We can trade out “platform” for “type.” One of the biggest complaints that I hear from my casting director friends is that people submit for things that they have no chance of getting. As an responsible auditioning actor you need to be honest with yourself about your type. If you happen to be a strawberry blond skinny guy who does prat falls and makes faces you should not submit yourself for roles where they usually cast Ian Somerhalder. I promise you, Ian Somerhalder is going to get that part. Overall I think the lesson here is to play to your strengths. Swinging for the fences is great and all,  but you still need to be smart about it.
  4. Not wanting to get your hands dirty. This is probably the biggest crime in all of the entertainment business, especially for people new to it. As great as this job is, there is nothing easy about it. If it were easy everyone would do it because it’s awesome. A lot more people could do it, but most are not willing to put in the amount of work that it takes to do it right. Hell, even thirty years later I’m still finding ways that I’m deficient in my efforts. It’s an ever changing business that requires constant effort. If you’re not up for that find something else to do with your time.

Did I miss anything? Are there any best practices that I could have added to part 1? Let me know in the comments.

See you next time.

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Actor 101 – Catching the “Bug”

I had a conversation with a marketing client. He asked me, because I’ve been in the entertainment business for a long time, why his niece, who is struggling to make it as an actor, won’t join him part time in his office. The way he sees it, if the whole “acting” thing doesn’t work out, she’ll have a job that can grow into a decent career.

I didn’t know what to tell him.

He commented that actors seem to really hang on to the idea of being actors even if things don’t seem to be working out.

I didn’t know what to say.

Then he waited for me to respond.

I know that I’m not unique in hearing this. Usually when you hear it it’s coming from a relative or authority figure you are close to. Not usually from someone else’s relative where you have no context on the situation and, as I’ve mentioned before, context is important!

I fumbled and flailed for an answer. Since it was completely off topic I tried to just brush it off, but he was persistent. I implied that it’s very hard to give up on a dream; he countered that she isn’t making a living. I asked what she had been working on, he had no clue. It was a circular conversation headed nowhere. I finally finished by telling him that when you catch the acting bug it can be very difficult to shake and that the more he pushes it, the more she’ll likely push back. That must have been what he needed to hear because he was ready to move on after that.

But I thought about that conversation the rest of the day. I didn’t know why it was so hard to give him an answer. I tried to think about why I stuck with it, but I always feel like I’m a bad test case. I “caught the bug” back in kindergarten and was fortunate enough to have a variety of things all fall in my favor:

  • Supportive parents who didn’t mind making the commitment with me.
  • Moving to Southern California at an early age.
  • Beginning a professional acting career as a child and having success right off the bat.
I credit these three things, things that I had no direct control over whatsoever, to me having any kind of career more than any talent I have or persistence I may show. Not everybody is as fortunate. So I thought about it in a more abstract way. There is a trope, almost an archetype, of the hopeless actor who is always ready for the next audition as they get ready for their waitress job. It is a reality, but I’m talking about the way it’s portrayed in movies and TV shows where there’s an unfettered optimism about how they will make it soon, but it will probably be after they deliver that last coffee to table 22.  There are lots of reasons why people want to become an actor, but I believe that when it shows up in its most honest form the only people who are willing to go for it are optimists or natural gamblers. Or both.
There are, of course, lots of lures to becoming an actor: fame, respect, money, attention from the desired sex; all of these reasons, though, usually lead to burn out pretty quickly when/if there isn’t a relatively quick reward. The people who truly stick with it, who have a hard time doing anything else, they require that optimism/gambler mentality. 
It’s not an easy life to be a performer in the United States. As much as the life is praised and desired in the public eye, in private it gets very little respect. It isn’t seen as a “real’ career and too many times the very people you count on for support are the ones who will tell you that you can’t do it. They’re right to be skeptical, if it were easy then EVERYBODY would do it (and sometimes it feels like they are) but if they don’t support your choice it can be very hard to stick to it the way you need to to make it. That last reason alone is why so many working actors in the U.S. are also self-starters and entrepreneurs. It takes a lot of drive to actually make it and “making it’ at even the smallest level can take years. 
But there’s a flip side to that coin: not everyone who really wants it, no matter how much, are going to make it. Some people, most people, will not work enough to support themselves. That is a fact backed up by actual numbers and here are three articles that I found just doing a very basic Google search:
Like I said, the people close to you have a reason to be skeptical, but here’s the thing – it’s worth the shot.
Dreams are dreams for a reason, they are the things we want most that we know are hard to get. A dream career is something that at least has a shot of coming true provided you are willing to do the work. Yes, the numbers are against you, but if you’re an optimist/gambler then that doesn’t matter. Liker Han Solo said, “Never tell me the odds!” If you are an entrepreneur then now is the best time to try your hand at an entertainment career because all the old models are dying and everyone – big studios, small studios and anything that shows video content – is looking for the new way to monetize the work. It’s going to happen, but it’s still very much in the air as to who is going to show the rest of us the way.
So I guess, if he were to ask me again, I still wouldn’t have a great answer to his question but I do understand where she’s coming from and I’m right there with her.
See you next time.

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Sent from Japan

When I arrived in Oregon my friend, Erik, told me about a section of dock that was torn away from its moorings in Japan and ended up on the beach in Oregon.

Yes, that’s what I said, a section of DOCK TORE AWAY in JAPAN and FLOATED to OREGON!

Yeah, I was impressed too.

In my head I pictured something wooden, like the kind of dock you see in a movie about a summer camp, horror or otherwise. It seems easy for something like that to get pulled away in a tsunami and dragged out to sea. This dock in my head impressed me just because I imagined that it was a very well put together wooden dock since Japan is almost 8,000 miles away. It took about a year to get across the ocean to end up in Oregon. It was sad and amazing and I was looking forward to seeing it in a weird way.

After a couple of days getting caught up in training and getting used to a new city, a city that will be my home for the month of July, I kinda’ forgot about the dock. Then we went to dinner at a pizza place that over looks the beach. We sat at a booth near the window and Erik pointed out the dock.

It was massive.

This was no wooden structure, this was cement and rebar and steel. This didn’t hold dingies this was for major boats (crab boats it turns out). And even mostly submerged by the incoming tide you could still tell how big it was. I tried to get pictures from the window, but I only had my phone with me and my phone is dying (more on that another day) so I couldn’t get any of the pictures to turn out. We resolved to go another day when the tide was out so we could get a better look.

We finally went down to the beach just the other day and saw the dock. Here are the pictures I took:

Even this far away you can see how big it is.

Here are people in various planes showing scale.

When it landed it was covered in 1.5 tons of sea life.

This is from on the dock, looking back from where it came.

It was humbling to see this. It’s made of all the stuff we use when we want to make something “permanent” and to the power of the ocean it was nothing.

Tonight as I was writing this Erik mentioned that the local government have set up a hotline for people to report tsunami debris. He also told me that if you find a shoe you’re not supposed to look inside, human remains may still be in them. That’s just a horrifying thought. I decided to look up some news on this and there’s actually quite a bit, a giant dock making it 8,000 across the ocean with no one noticing is quite a story. Here is a link to the NPR story. It gives the dimensions of the dock (66′ long, 7′ tall!) and tells you more about where it came from and what this means for the Pacific coast in regard to tsunami debris.

No matter how impressive our human achievements, nature only needs to flex it’s muscles once to humble us.

See you tomorrow.

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I’m In Oregon. Here are some things I’m learning.

As many you you may well know, I’m in Oregon training for a new job.

Quick FAQ:

  • No, I have not stopped acting.
  • No, I have not stopped producing.
  • Yes, we are still making movies and pushing TV & web series.
  • Yes, I am still teaching and coaching acting students.
However I will be working with a new company and I’ll release all the details on that once training is complete.
Actually some of you financial people might be interested in what I’m doing, especially if you’re an independent financial rep. But we’ll get to that on another day.
So, anyway, I’m in Oregon until the end of July to train. Training has been going well! My colleagues are great and so are my superiors and the company in general has been wonderful!

Oregon, as an experience, has been the harder thing to adjust to. Complete culture shift, weather shift and activity shift. For example:
  • It is very green here, but in a wild and un-groomed kind of way. Look at the pictures in this blog and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.
  • It’s damp all the time. I was told that this is a rain forest, technically (Wikipedia says it’s the Pacific Temperate Rain Forest).
  • Because it’s damp all the time things smell damp all the time. This can be good, like wet wood and flowers, and this can be bad, like mildew. So far the good has out weighed the bad.
  • There is a LOT of space. Lots of it. Between houses and between cities.
  • Things that I’m used to having down the street are over 50 miles away. This has become a problem in a few ways, but we’ll come back to that.
Within the first week my friend, Erik, has shown me pretty much the whole of his little town. There’re grocery stores, Safeway and Fred Meyers (we’ve been shopping at Fred Meyers) and local restaurants and quite a few little dive bars that I wouldn’t dare call “dive” when inside.
I’ve had world famous clam chowder and cobbler at the Chowder Bowl on Nye Beach. It was REALLY good.

We are right next to the Rogue brewery, although I haven’t visited yet. And there’s a Mexican place called Mazatlan I really want to try.
But what I want to talk about today are bathrooms and condom machines.
Yes, you heard right, bathrooms and condom machines.
I’ll explain.
I mentioned the dive bars. We’ve actually had quite a bit of fun in the dive bars and some shockingly good food. Karaoke too, but let’s cover that later.
In the Men’s room of all these bars are condom machines. They look like this:

One side is condoms, but the other is a little package called the “Surprise Sex Pack.” 

There are only so many times you can see these before you’re curious about what kind of “Sex Pack” can fit in such a tiny package.

So I bought one. It’s an iron-on patch.

The scary part is that I’m sure that there are people out there who collect these sex patches.
There are so many things that I’ve seen so far, and I want to tell you about all of them, but I think it’s probably best to split them up a bit so this blog doesn’t end up being pages and pages long.
Oh, and for those of you looking for Project: Iron Man, that will be back in August.
See you tomorrow!

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I Thought I was Done Trying to Get into College!

So I was alarmed when I found this article on As hard as getting into Harvard?!?!? Let 2012 come already!

See you tomorrow!

Washington, D.C. (CNN) — The 650,000 jobs created or saved by the stimulus package so far make up only a small step toward correcting the gap between the tens of millions of unemployed people and the few openings that those people are fighting over.

Even the administration’s goal of creating 3.5 million jobs is far below what the economy really needs. With an official unemployment rate of 10.2 percent, the gap between the number of full-time job openings and the number of people who are unemployed has widened.

Since the beginning of the recession in December 2007, job openings declined from 4.4 million to 2.4 million and the number of officially unemployed persons grew from 7.5 million to 15.7 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If the 15.7 million officially unemployed workers were to apply for those 2.4 million jobs, the chance of any one of them finding a job are about 15 percent, or roughly the same odds as being accepted to the University of Pennsylvania.

The official figure only counts workers as unemployed if they have searched for a job within the past four weeks. But, does it make sense to exclude people who have not looked for work in the past month? Probably not, given that statistics show workers are trying harder than ever to find a job and only give up looking after prolonged periods of unemployment.

The average duration of official unemployment — which, by definition, requires that people be actively searching for a job — has increased to 26.9 weeks, or just over a half a year.

But after many months of unsuccessful job hunting, some people do give up hope. And after four weeks of not looking for a job, they are dropped from official unemployment. It is primarily for this reason that since May, the official labor force has shrunk by 1.1 million people.

The exclusion of these so-called “discouraged” workers from statistics means that the official number of unemployed severely understates the weakness in the labor market. If you include these workers, the unemployment rate would rise to 13 percent, or 21.3 million.

If these workers were to apply for the 2.4 million jobs available, the odds of securing a job would be 11.2 percent, or roughly the same as getting into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

It gets worse. Another group excluded from the official unemployment report is the growing number of part-time workers who would prefer to have a full-time job. These workers are forced into part-time jobs or are forced to take part-time hours because no full-time work is available.

During the current recession, workers who are “part time for economic reasons” have grown from 4.6 million to 9.3million.

Adding part-time workers to the number of officially unemployed and the discouraged workers, as labor market expert Leo Hindery, Jr., has observed, results in a rise in the real unemployment rate to 19.2 percent, or 30.6 million people.

The odds of any one of these 30 million securing one of the 2.4 million full-time jobs available is 8 percent, the same as the admissions rate of the Ivy League gold standard, Harvard University.

The 3.5 million jobs the stimulus package aims to provide are insufficient. To get the job growth the country needs, the White House should push for sustained infrastructure investment, cutting corporate taxes, and increasing access to credit for small businesses. We still have thirty million workers in the United States who are unemployed, underemployed or discouraged and they face the same odds of finding a job as a high school senior applying to the world’s most elite university.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Samuel Sherraden.

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