To The Creators
Many times on this blog I have tried to caution those with big dreams. I’ve warned about the discipline needed to make those dreams pay off in the real entertainment business. There are hard knocks waiting out there and I want to give you a heads-up. But today, creators, this is your pep talk.
Too many times I see creative people doubt themselves or listen to the pragmatic business people of this business. It’s on my mind because I’m watching a few of my friends right now who are in the middle of making deals, which means they have to listen to a lot of people tell them what they’re REALLY worth, and must debate how much of their own idea they still get to own… if they own any of it at all. Too many times I see a creator get beat down because they continually have to give away ownership of their thing to get the money to make it.
“Give away ownership.” It still floors me time and time again. The last discussion anyone is willing to have with the CREATOR is whether or not they get to own even a sliver of what they created. I get it, someone else brought the money. But this is the CREATOR.
If you are a creator, today I am here to pump you up. To sing your praises. To tell you that if you are creating something new out of thin air, you are golden. You are the FUEL that makes this entire industry run. Everyone else in Hollywood is running around trying to find what you have. They are desperate to find the next THING that is being created because they create nothing. They need you.
Respect is very rarely given to the creator, and it makes me crazy. Variety loves to report on the “insane amount” that Lin Manuel Miranda is making on “Hamilton” profits. Or how much J.K. Rowling is worth. Worth a lot? Of course they are. Because these people pulled something out of the air that wasn’t there before. They created where there was nothing. Not enough value is placed on that. Before Lin Manuel thought of “Hamilton,” there was no “Hamilton.” It was a CRAZY idea. It did not exist and now it does. I hope he makes a BILLION dollars. He created something no one wanted and no one was looking for and did it so well that everyone changed what they thought a Broadway show could be. Don’t even get me started on George Lucas. Say what you want about his last directing efforts, but he gave us a universe of characters that may never be matched. Fox always talks about the “foolish” decision they made to give him total ownership of that universe. Agreed, no studio will ever let that happen again.
But giving a creator any kind of ownership should be expected, not the exception to the rule. Have some respect for the creator!
If you create for a living, you are special and rare. Remember that when you sit at your laptop. Remember that as you walk to the set or pitch for the fifteenth time. You pulled that idea out of the air and not everyone can do that! Yay you!!
Now let me speak to any director or writer out there who is on a project and is getting beat up by the producers. Someone who is in the thick of it and having doubts. One such weary director I know was about to throw in the towel and was told by a producer, “Hey, if you don’t like it, there are 500 people behind you who want your job.”
But not 500 who can DO the job, or do it well. Not with a consistent work ethic and commitment to quality. Believe me. Hard working, talented people are not falling out of trees in Hollywood. And if you’re fortunate enough to have been hired to direct something, there are VERY few people who know THAT specific piece of material like you do and know what to do with it. You’ve reached the top of a very short list of names. They hired you for a reason and if they give you a line like that? They. Are. Bluffing.
True story time: Jim Henson is another great creator-hero of mine and since I was a boy, the Jim Henson Company was one of my dream places to ever work for or even pitch an idea to. Fifteen years ago, I finally got in contact with someone who knew someone who had a vague connection to the Jim Henson Company. This friend-of-a-friend gave me a wake up call by reminding me that Hollywood is full of super-talented people and that I stood very little chance of getting a foot it the door at the “House of Kermit.”
He said, and I quote: “Remember, the people who take out the garbage at the Jim Henson Company are more talented than you.”
Now fifteen years later I am here with a follow-up. I have developed numerous projects at JHC. I can get Lisa and Brian Henson on the phone if I need to. I’ve sat in rooms with the “top Muppet people.” And I’m here to let you know that the people who take out the garbage at the Jim Henson Company are GARBAGE MEN. They are not more talented than you or me. THEY ARE GARBAGE MEN.
Except for Caroll Spinney. His Henson garbage can has got Oscar The Grouch in it. But I digress.
That premise is a lie. No disrespect to the Jim Henson Company, or Disney Features, or Dreamworks, or any other place I’ve been. But they sift through a lot of crap. And there are a lot of talentless hacks who waste the time of those companies before falling by the wayside. For years I thought Hollywood was a place where the streets are jammed full of super-talented people. No. It’s just full of more people. Tons and tons of terrible, talentless people who are jamming the “In Box” with so much crap that it makes it that much harder for the good stuff to be discovered. That’s the challenge. You have to be patient and you have to be good, long enough for someone to find you. But it’s not because the person to the right or left of you is better. They’re just there, waving their crappy thing at the same people.
Be patient. Sharpen your craft. Be ready. The lazy and the crappy will eventually go home and you’ll be left standing.
You are a creator. Now go make that thing because no one else will!