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The Reality Of The Entertainment Industry

By Corey Blake
September, 2004

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 whole.

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.

 
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