The Reality Of The Entertainment Industry
By Corey Blake
The entertainment industry of today is not the industry it used to
be when we were amazed by it, when we trained for it, or when we
entered it. The industry of today is so over-saturated with people
who want to “make it” that it has become difficult to stick
out in a crowd. From the industry of acting, to writing,
directing, and producing; every facet of the artistic endeavor is
now a place where the majors are struggling to maintain profit and
millions of mid-level workers are struggling to sustain an income
great enough to survive. In this difficult terrain where no one
wants to take a chance on anyone, you have to gamble with all your
chips, and you have to place the bet on yourself.
Being talented is not enough. Being driven is not nearly enough.
You have to be crazy with desire. You have to increase your odds
to major proportions if the world is going to ever hear about you.
The goal is to be able to sustain yourself financially and have
the freedom you want to continue to create and live comfortably.
But you also want to be heard. To do that you are going to have to
be recognized by the world and loved or hated by millions.
To understand the scope of a branded name we look to a hero like
Stephen King, who no matter what he comes out with, his name
guarantees interest. He has branded himself to the world as an
expert on his subject matter. This was not talent alone. Branding
a name involves marketing, public relations, publicity-stunts,
ingenious business practices, networking skills, perseverance and
a ridiculous number of finished projects that are put up for
judgment. It’s a lifetime of hard work.
When an actor goes out to audition for a commercial today, the
competition can be anywhere from two to eight hundred others,
where ten years ago, the competition was fifty other people. When
a writer takes a new script to their agent, they are competing
against an ever-increasing number of wannabes. Anyone can be an
artist in today’s world. The question is: who is going to rise
to the top and sustain their career there?
Knowing what the world wants and being there with the right
product at the right time, and having the machine to get it to the
masses takes decades to create. How many geniuses have written
brilliant books that no one has read, because they were exhausted
from the writing alone and didn’t have the energy to find a
publisher with vision? How many amazing directors will never be
recognized because they did not have the determination to stay in
the game long enough to impress the right producer to give them
the right opportunity to be seen at the right time by the world?
The most successful artists are not necessarily the most talented
people – they are the ones with a business plan. If you do not
have a strategic outline to your path in entertainment, you are
setting yourself up for a broken heart and lost dreams. Writing
the great American screenplay is not enough. To survive you must
understand the steps to branding your own name in the industry, in
the media, in your country and throughout the world. By creating a
step by step learning plan for yourself that involves continually
growing your product, continually growing your marketing
strategies, and continually growing your ability to generate
worthy public relations, you can grow your network of believers
and you can actually brand your name around the world. Anything
less and you live project to project, hoping and praying that the
next one might be the big one.
Working on your business begins by taking it one day at a time.
Set up a calendar in your room or office that is just for your
business listings. Make sure that you are doing at least one thing
every day for the business side of your art. Do this for at least
five out of the seven days of each week. When you have made that a
regular habit, increase it. Do two things every day. Trust that
your own excitement generated from the rewards of working in this
fashion will move you to do more. What you are doing is beginning
to move that dead car by pushing it as hard as you can. After a
few weeks of this you will come to realize that you are running
alongside that car with three other people who came to aid you.
Years from now it will a locomotive with employees and box cars.
Start today – one day at a time.
So now you are saying, “Okay – what do I do with my business
hour every day?” A technique I use is called Going Fishing.
Going Fishing refers to casting out numerous lines of possibility
that can come back to stimulate you and reward you, pushing you to
work harder on your career. Every time we want something as an
artist, the best way to get it is to create multiple avenues of
possibility. Because everything we do is interpreted differently
by every person we reach, we have to communicate to many people to
find those who appreciate what it is that we do. The lines that
come up empty do not matter. It is only the lines that bring back
nibbles or catches that we care about. And when we learn to pair
up the fish that we catch, we learn how to prepare a feast.
Eventually the fish get bigger as we learn to use our best bait.
And as we get better, we learn how to cast nets into the water and
scoop the fish up ten at a time. The goal for some will be to
catch enough for dinner. Some want to own the entire ocean. Both
need to cast our their lines of possibility every day.
Sit and think about your career. Just let your mind wander and
think about what parts of your career you need to manifest to be
successful. Actors, writers and directors need agents, managers
and public relations personnel. Authors need publishers and PR.
Every artistic endeavor necessitates a team and building that team
one day at a time should be a main concentration of your time.
To get these people on board you need the right kind of marketing.
Creating your marketing materials should be a major portion of
your time. Do not settle for anything less than amazing
presentation in your material. You must look like a professional
and not a hobbyist if you want to be taken seriously. Let your
materials evolve and always be upgrading them with a focus on
presentation. But as these materials are evolving always be
sending them out. Do not fear that you are going to blow your
opportunity with any one person. This business takes years to
become successful at and no one thing you do will hurt you. You
are creating a collage of opportunity. No single piece defines the
So take the marketing materials you have today and go fishing for
your team. If you already have a team – go fishing for fans.
Your fan base will define your success. Producers, publishers,
studios – they are buying your fan base as much as they are
buying your art. Your talent can be viewed with disdain by three
hundred thousand people – while simultaneously drawing three
hundred thousand to pay for it. Focus on getting your truthful
artistic self out there to the masses to give them the opportunity
to judge you. Make a commitment to going fishing five days a week.
Build your team and build your fan base. It is as important as the
product of your art.
By making yourself accountable to your career – you remove the
element of chance. The business of art and making money as an
artist is never about luck. It's about persistence of vision. It's
about creating again and again and simultaneously marketing
yourself so that what you have created can be viewed by others.
Your commitment is everything. Your accountability is everything.
Admit that the entertainment industry demands your best and then
step up to that challenge.
About The Author:
Corey Blake consults artists, film projects and businesses
in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Florida, Houston, Cleveland, and
New York. Corey is one of the founders of the LA Film Lab (www.lafilmlab.com),
an incubator for emerging filmmakers in LA. After founding E9K
Films in 2000 he and two other members of E9K headed up a previous
Film Lab that developed fifteen scripts over five months
culminating in the shooting of eight short films, including the
award-winning “Gretchen Brettschneider Skirts Thirty” (Grand
Jury Prize – San Diego Film Festival, 2003), directed by Corey.
It was through the production of this second film that Corey found
partners Jesse Biltz and David Cohen of 1421 Productions.
Together, E9K Films and 1421 Productions (now 1421/E9K
Entertainment) develop material in conjunction with the LA Film
Lab for television programming and feature film production. They
are currently producing a documentary for The Make-A-Wish
Foundation of Greater Los Angeles. Corey has spent the last two
years writing for several filmmaking websites and consulting
artists on the business side of their careers.