How To Cut In Line

TENNYSON E. STEAD –  WRITER/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER

 

Outside every agency or management company, there is a long line of Hollywood hopefuls waiting for the smallest chance to prove themselves.  Of course, those lines are invisible – no loitering allowed – but we all know they are there.  When I first arrived in Los Angeles back in 2002, the LA Times reported that 700 new people were arriving in Hollywood to pursue a career in film or television EVERY SINGLE DAY.

By that math there are two million, five hundred fifty-five thousand, seven hundred people waiting in line behind me as I write this article.  If you’re just getting here today, then you must also consider the folks waiting ahead of me.  Surely, there are millions there as well.

Some folks tell themselves that all one needs to succeed in Hollywood is that golden chance to show the industry what they’re made of… and they’re obviously not alone.  Entire reality television franchises are built on the sheer amount of talent that’s out here, waiting to be discovered.  Whole industries have cropped up to service these people, peddling every kind of workshop and networking tool imaginable.  For better or worse, these businesses thrive on the fact that everyone is queued up for one, all-or-nothing chance to beat the odds and claim the spotlight.

 

Check out more videos from this interview series
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In the end, Hollywood is a community as much as it is a business.  In any community there is always one – and only one – surefire way to cut to the head of that line.

Take on more responsibility.  Do the job nobody else wants to do, do it well, and doors will open for you.

Check out (from Quantum Theory) America Young’s

Film Courage article
Every Short Film is Too Long

Bear in mind that I’m not talking about sweeping the floor.  As mentioned in previous Film Courage articles (listed below), I’ve met big, successful directors who are more than willing to sweep the set for a colleague. Nobody cares if you’re willing to clean toilets.  That’s easy work.

Producing.  Producing is hard.

If you’re thinking “BUT I DON’T WANNA!!!” or some variation thereof… Well, neither does anybody else.  There are exceptios, of course – but only a few, and they’re all crazy bastards who are so rich and so busy that none of us are likely to meet them before they die from heart failure or a brain aneurism.

Do you think George Clooney likes asking people for money to make his movies?  Do you think he likes listening to the gripes of distribution executives?  I’m guessing he does not.  At the same time, it’s one hell of a lot more efficient than trying to get his agent, his management company, or a studio to stop whatever it is they’re doing so he can use their resources for his own personal ambitions.

Because George Clooney is taking care of all the “business”, people flock to his projects.  Yes, they respect his craftsmanship and his fame.  At the same time, the real reason folks are so eager to get in his good graces is because they expect him to do most of the work.

Which he does.

Fully half of my career was spent exclusively on my writing, with the expectation that sooner or later one of my scripts would find its way to a “Hollywood decision-maker” who believed in me.  This was time well-spent, because the practice has made me a fantastic writer.  It wasn’t until 2002 however, when fate landed me a job as an independent development and film finance executive, that I finally began to understand the power of taking on the role of “Hollywood decision-maker” myself.  Ironically, this was a commitment I fell into completely by accident.  My first real job in Los Angeles was cold-calling private investors for production capital, and I only took it because I was cold and hungry.



(Watch the video here)

Script submissions started pouring into my inbox the day my first executive IMDb credit appeared, and they have never stopped.  Chances are reasonably high that you, dear reader, are right now contemplating how you can slip me a screenplay or headshot… and the truth is that my own projects keep me too busy to look.  That’s not the point.  My point is that these submissions were – and are – symptomatic of a change in how the industry sees me.  Before, I was waiting for a turn at greatness.  Suddenly, I was seen as someone who can dish out greatness to others.

My success in finance and my professional relationships give my collaborators the impression that I know what I’m doing… but what cements that understanding is the work I put into making sure those people are taken care of.  Anticipating their needs, asking the right questions, making sure everything is on time and on budget, and thanking everyone for their help is all part of maintaining the good will of one’s professional circle.  Juggling those duties with my creative investments is a constant battle both against time and against my own limitations, but I am careful never to make a commitment that is outside my control.  As a result, I’m constantly achieving goals.  My projects exist and thrive on my own terms, and the trust that my collaborators place in me continues to deepen.

Aside from the actual drudgery and workload, there is an additional, very large reason why more people aren’t interested in producing.  If I fail as a producer, I could lose all my support.  At the same time, I would not have that support if I was not willing to take the risk and responsibility. Producing is mostly about preparation, common sense, and resilience.  If something is going to cost you money, find out how much.  If something needs to happen at a specific time, make sure everyone knows well in advance.  If you need to ask people for money, keep asking until you get it. Be thorough, be prepared, and be persistent.  Most of the time, that’s all you need.

I’m directing projects because I’ve slowly, surely earned the trust of my collaborators.  I’ve taken good care of them, I’ve delivered on my promises… and I’ve done the shitty, crappy work that none of them want to do.

In exchange, they let me share their place in line.  Taking on all this responsibility has turned my group of collaborators into a family, and they are constantly looking out for me because they know I’ll put their time and effort to good use.

When someone who has produced films before is actually willing to take on some of your workload…  Well, that’s a very special relationship. Relationships like that grow out of successful collaborations, impeccable reputations, shared passion and mutual respect.  Most of all, they grow out of experience.

But how are you going to get any experience if nobody will give you a chance?

Exactly.

If you’d like to find out more about me, my ensemble, and my stories, we welcome you to our online community at 8sidedforum.com and please, please support our upcoming feature, Quantum Theory.  Quantum Theory is the story of two brilliant, goofy, passionate women of science who invent a technological means to alter and shape the very universe itself…and we are currently running an Indiegogo campaign in support of a webseries that will bring these characters to life! Please support our show and follow Quantum Theory’s development at here and at Quantummovie.com.

BIO:

Tennyson E. Stead is a writer, director, and producer of film and transmedia.  In his childhood, he spent all his time building cardboard spaceships and rescuing his sister in them. These days he does basically the same thing.

For any production to realize its full creative and financial potential, every creative element must reflect the overall goals of the project. Every great collaborative work was produced by a team of talented people, united by a common intent.

8 Sided Films
and the 8 Sided Forum represent our collective stewardship over the stories born from intent too multifaceted, specific, or unique for studio production, and our commitment to honoring that intent as the foundation for a more personal relationship with our audience.

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Check out Tennyson’s prior Film Courage articles:

 

Find Your Built-In Audience

Why Nothing In Film Has Changed in 1,000 Years & Why Anyone Who Say Different is Trying to Sell You Something.’

A Screenwriter Prepares

Ten Things They Don’t Teach You About Actors in Film School

‘Never Ask For Money’

 

THE BUSINESS OF PLEASURE IS NEVER EASY, BUT CAN BE REWARDING.

WATCH DIRECTOR JASON BAUSTIN’S NEW SHORT FILM
ON TOP

 

….THE STORY OF TWO BRILLIANT, SNARKY WOMEN OF SCIENCE WHO DEVELOP A PROTOTYPE THAT GIVES THEM THE POWER TO CHANGE REALITY ITSELF.