Sometimes it’s important to remember where you came from, and tonight I had one of those moments.

Driving past another movie poster, where one day I had hoped to see my own name (and I have, which is nice) and then realizing that I no longer want to be sold Mass Media. I want to discover what I like and what’s cool, as much as I can, for myself – by listening to other conversations of *people* – real people, not not marketing departments and focus groups.

We are truly in a new world with the Internet destroying any concept of scarcity of distribution that for so long limited what we as the “audience” at large had access to. I still hold some faith that there are ways to make successful livings in the making and distribution of creative content – and perhaps that’s just the hope that I can’t let go of. The small voice that hopes that the dreams of “making it” in the entertainment business haven’t died completely with the massive changes in our world.

At the personal level (which really is the level that really counts, right), I’m excited and encouraged and very happy that there IS a place for every voice – that today, really, *anyone* can make a movie – and as storytelling evolves back towards the form it had before the last 100 years of Hollywood – more and more people will learn to tell stories with the mediums accessible to them that weren’t there for our generations.

And that brings me back to my own history – to remembering where I came from into this world of creativity and excitement, and embracing what it is that makes the Internet truly remarkable. The web is sociologically transformative. It changed my life as early as 1993 – with my first computer and soon thereafter, my first personal website.

I even have an archive copy of it that maybe I’ll post a (WAY OLD SCHOOL) link to up here. I was a GeoCities “citizen” back in the day, in the Arts section that was then called “SoHo“. In ’93 and ’94, I had a *blazing fast* 33.6kb/s dial up modem.

And I wrote poetry – lots of BAD poetry for the site, and even went as far as hosting “global” poetry chats twice weekly for people to log in and post their poetry with others.

I think I have the “Uh-Oh” sound of ICQ chat permanently burned into my brain. Sometimes the groups actually discussed the writing, but usually the pre and post poem posting responses were just segues to the next post, but then that’s reflective of most human conversation in general. The chat by and large was just a place for people to connect with other people. Over time, I even flew to places and met some of those people IRL (in real life for you folks who have the web 2.0 lingo and the 1.0 langauge fades into obscurity), some are even still friends to this day.

But you know, it was real. It is was one of the passionate expressions that originally led me to my business and made me somewhat of the bittersweet guy I am today. Looking back at the poems, they sucked hard. But then, they were genuine attempts to find my own voice, my own way of saying and seeing things…. and these became and still are becoming the bits and pieces that inform my own creative choices both in life and in the things I choose to write about.

Who knows, maybe one day I’ll write a really [bad] poem again… and I have to admit that brings a rather large smile to my face, and it’s an authentic smile;)

Radical Transparency = Knowing What You Are Worth

This month’s cover story for Wired is about a concept of radical transparency – of (shock, horror!) honesty with your clients, your employees, vendors, etc.

I am a total believer in this. If it’s truth, it’s worth saying. If it is not truth, it’s not worth saying.

In show business in particular, in the past when talent was artificially made scarce (by agents, agencies, access to resources, etc.), the talent could get away with an awful lot of things. By talent, I’m referring in this particular case to producers (and that includes me, as a card-carrying PGA member).

Specifically, a producer could tell a network (and still *does* in many cases) that a show will cost $$xx,xxx,xxx to make. The producer of course has producing fees built into the budget that are declared.

As producers are generally greedy, the producer then may make a deal that said “here’s my fee, but if I, in my infinite wisdom and talent bring the show in under the amount we agreed upon, I get to pocket the difference.” OK, that wouldn’t be so big a deal, except that we forgot to mention one thing, “We’re not going to tell you how much that difference is, and you won’t get to audit our costs.”


The problems this creates are manifold.

  1. It creates distrust between the partners who have opposing goals
  2. It gives the producer the incentive to cut costs as much as possible so as to pocket the maximum amount of money.
  3. It takes away a lot of incentive & personal investments for many of the people working for said producer, who know that this is exactly what’s going on.And worst of all, I believe,
  4. It obscures the true value of your work as a producer.

By being transparent about costs, and making sure that your distribution network knows exactly what is going on creates enormous goodwill and trust which pay dividends far beyond whatever a producer is going to eek out monetarily from their budgets.

But most producers are too short-sighted, with a severe case of “get-mine-while-I-can, and screw everyone else.”

I know the value of my work, and I will tell you exactly what it is, in clear, concise points. I will ask for backend as well – so long as what I make is producing revenue, then as one of the principal creators of that revenue stream, I should participate in that.

In return, you will know exactly what every cent was spent on, and every single last possible one of those cents will go onto the screen, or into the story, or the script, or somewhere where I hope it will make a tangible difference in making something *better.*

When you’re busy hiding things up from your production partners, you’re also busy hiding from yourself the real value of what your work is worth…. but maybe that’s the point, eh?

Starting Up New Media Companies

Interesting post over at TLF about bands/musicians creating great content and bonding with their audience – which creates an amazing, immediate filter for the good and the bad.

The prescient point to make to my title above is this piece of the post:

There aren’t that many good bands out there. It doesn’t matter if you sell out or play for cred, if you suck, you’re not going to make it. But if you are good, manage your cred, and your mailing list. Pay attention to the bond with your fans, nurture it. People will do anything for you as long as you don’t trick them, if they believe in you. Have great music, create a fan base, and then collect the money. Yes, this does mean you’ll starve or leave money on the table at first. But if you give it away for free up front, or cheap, it’ll pay dividends later. This is the benefit of Arcade Fire staying indie, of having cheap shows, their fans love them. It’s more than the music. And it has to be more than the music to have longevity today.

Remember, bond first, money second.

Bonding comes by honest conversation, interest in listening to the other human beings who are listening to, watching or interacting with whatever you’re creating.

Of course, there’s a question of exactly *when* the money comes.

You Mean We Have to Talk With People?

From the “Uh Oh” department, it’s interesting as hell to be watching all these companies racing into the “New Media” space from the “Old Media” perspective and it occurs to me that it’s kind of like watching lemmings run to the sea.

For decades, production companies have routinely really had *one* client to satisfy, one client to pander to and placate – and that was the Network Executives (or the Ad Agency Executives, or the Distribution Executives). So our companies and the people within them developed the kind of communication that placated these individuals (and committees).

We learned lots of double-speak, and more interestingly, we learned LOTS of “empty speak.” Words that made us all sound important, utterly indispensable, and most importantly Worth Lots Of Money.

And as long as the Nielsen ratings (by the best accounts, a rather worthless aggregate meter) came in or some sales went up for advertisers buying time on such and such a particular show, all was Right With The World.

The cliff that I mention above, is the cliff called the Internet citizens. (and it’s still us, as I wrote before), but this time there is no distributor, no network, no buffer. And all these people watching what we’re doing? They can smell empty-speak a mile away.

“Yes, but our Content is Really Cool” says the Corporation.

“No, it’s not” says everyone else.

And the Corporation’s reaction? Try to manage it, spin it, place fake postings in discussion boards around their content, or better yet, shut off the boards altogether. Disallow comments.

“You don’t need to talk about our content, because we’re telling you all you need to know about it.” says the King Content Producer.


It’s time we either start learning how to own up what it is we make and present it to other people in a way that communicates our passion or some modicum of authenticity; or we’re going to get buried in a very plain pine box without many tears shed over our loss.

Work For Hire (POST #100, YAY!)

One of the principal tenets of today’s media congloms is that as much as possible, we hire creative folks under the banner of “work for hire.”

This means that whether or not you have the brilliant idea and talent, or We have the brilliant idea and want you to contribute your talent to make it work in the medium, either way, we own it completely. Forever.

You produced and directed episodes of “_________”? That’s great, you get $x,xxx per week while working, and once delivered, no matter how many more times the conglom/network/company sells it, all the rest of that money is simply ROI for the company which put you under the work for hire.

This is all well and good for the company, and the attorneys, but sometimes it really screws the person or persons ultimately responsible for whether something turns out good, or not good.

It’s kind of like how the record labels screw the recording artists.

And I can’t help but wonder if there’s not a new model kicking around somewhere. Notice that there are an awful lot of recording artists starting their own labels and publishing companies? That’s a no brainer.

Now, how do you pair that independent model, with an engaged media creating and media watching audience for other content like broadband/television episodes or series? The model has a lot more people invested in it than a few guys and girls in their garage recording a record.

As a matter of fact, even as costs have fallen dramatically for creating shows, they still generally cost more than a 12-pack of beer, some pizza, and someones Mac with a copy of GarageBand on it.

I’m convinced that there is a way to do this, and to not screw it up with a bunch of 18 page legal contracts for every participant in the community.

Make it simple, make it clear – save yourself lots of legal costs and move fast. Create a model that allows those involved in making something successful invested and compensated (even if just a little, it’s meaningful and fair) for creating that something.

The Wild West doesn’t have anything on the building of Rome (and there isn’t much left of the Wild West these days except parodies and ghost towns. There’s a whole lot left of Rome if you consider the amazing sociological marks it left on our world).

The Voice of Anarchy

I’m finally, finally reading the Cluetrain after so many years ago of bookmarking it, then finally giving in and just ordering the book from Amazon because otherwise I get online and have a tough time just focusing on what’s in the book – because it is so damn important.

Empowerment, communication, collaboration – I’m finally coming to accept, cannot and do not exist as anything more than buzzwords of the moment in context of today’s corporations or companies.

Even looking back at some of the business plans I’ve written in the last few years, it’s almost laughable to have seen how little some of the “innovation” of the ideas would have actually bought – without a radical transformation of the underlying business structure.

The beauty and terror of it all is that this can, and is changing – whether or not some companies choose to see it or not.

Good communication isn’t about delivering a company-wide email, or a CEO’s blog out to the employees.

It’s about respect for other people’s knowledge and talents, first, and making sure they have a platform to shout about their passions. And surprise(!) their passion may not even be their job – and that’s OK.

Their passion may be standing on their soapbox and calling your corporate leadership on their BS and carefully managed spin. And if you don’t encourage your employees to do this on your own platform (or intranet, whatever you want to call it), they are going to do it somewhere else, under an anonymous name, and it’ll still have the same chilling effect.

The Company’s only other option is to attempt to take control in entirety of the lives of their most important asset, their human resources (knowledge, talent, etc) – and die a painful and expensive death in the process.

Encouraging blogging (written, video, or otherwise), and wikis are simply ways of humans finding their voices again, sharing information that they care about, and in doing so reconnecting with their passions. Those passions are the very things that make us both uniquely individual, and collectively closer to other humans.

The management of a company reading and listening to and being engaged with the passions of their employees requires honesty, humility, a thick skin at times, and a sense of humor wherever you can find it.

If your business isn’t all that rational or honest with itself, then your business is either ripe for radical, disruptive change from within; or ripe for competitors that you’ll never see coming.


Just to weigh in on this whole rush by NBC, CBS/Viacom, and a million other websites, etc to capitalize on User-Generated-Content – pardon my language, but I think it’s bullshit.

And the reason I think it’s BS?

I work in the entertainment business. I make my living here. I have worked very hard to gain knowledge and experience. BUT, what it is about me that makes me good at telling a story and about relating my beliefs or values to someone else has really very little to do with which agency I’m working with or what network I may be broadcasting on.

It has to do with what kind of a human being I am. It has to do with being as genuine as possible. It has to do with human experiences.

What does this seemingly existential observation have to do with User-Generated-Content?

The entertainment industry has spent many years and many billions creating an impenetrable sense of Us, and Them.

We are Creators, They are Users.

We are the purveyors and controllers of all that is good (as we deem it to be) and They are the ones who snatch up our crumbs of creative genius to fulfill their lives.

The day and age where messages were broadcast and heard in only a few places, with a few voices, the generations bought this.

But the Internet, and it’s enabling of unmanaged, uncontrolled, unstoppable and wonderful communication changes all of this.

As the Cluetrain so perfectly puts it: “Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing; at them.” and in order for that to be ok, companies must realize that a dialogue with their market – with their other selves, is OK. As a matter of fact, it’s GREAT!

In reality, We are Them, and They are Us.

We are human. We have human experiences – some of us have a passion and ability to communicate those experiences in ways that connect and inform other people who hear that communication and in doing so it enriches, informs, or entertains those other people.

It doesn’t make us better than them, it makes us more like them.

This is the black fear that the thousands of richly paid people in our business run from – because if we are more like our audience, then perhaps we’re not worth as much when it comes to the mountains of money that agents, network execs and “high end” creatives bathe in.

As once said in the first “Matrix” movie:

“There is no spoon.”

There is no division between us in Hollywood and everyone else out there – save for our access to money, and tools and know how.

The minute we figure out how to efficiently and passionately share those resources with others who have something to say in ways that our fellow human beings stop and say “Hey! I get that!” is the minute the *real* disruption in the entertainment business begins.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.