Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Hollywood Agent's Advice: How to Stay Motivated

Some days the dream is fresh and exciting and everything seems to be falling into place and then there are those other days... The days when it’s everything you can do to get up.  Putting on your shoes feels like a chore.  A sense of dread comes over you.  All the phone calls that need to be made. Or meetings to set. Or blogs to write. The people who need an answer from you.  Or the family that needs more of your time.
There are those days when the mountain just seems too high.  What was I thinking? This is too hard.  I don’t have it in me. I am too old. Too tired. Too inexperienced.  Too set in my ways. You know the chatter.   Sometimes these days can turn into weeks – even months.  Especially when the dream is a big one.  You can barely see any movement.  The money isn’t showing up. The right people aren’t getting back to you.  Your creativity is at an all time low.  So what do you do then?
Here is what I do. 
1.     Rest. Sometimes that is what you need.  Take a day off. Go to the beach. Sleep. Do something fun and frivolous. Give yourself permission to stop working so hard.
2.     Get dressed.  If you work at home this is REALLY important. It’s easy to do nothing if you are still in your nightgown.  Put on real shoes. Like tennis shoes.  Something other than slippers.  If you are going to your day job. Dress better than usual.  Dress up. Dress like your dream has already happened.
3.     Look at old diaries or journals that will remind you of your dream.  I find that these help me see where I have been and where I am now. If you haven’t been writing in a journal. Now would be a good time to start.
4.     Pick the easiest thing you can do and do it first.  If it feels impossible to make a tough phone call make an easier call first.  It will get you moving. 
5.     Make a to do list of all the things that are bugging you. You may already have this but go back over it and add the things in that are really annoying you for some reason.  And then put a date or time down when you will tackle those things.  For some reason this actually gives me some relief. Seeing it on paper helps me see that the pile isn’t that big.
6.     Get some exercise.  Get off the couch, out of the chair, out from in front of the computer and walk around the block or dance to some music or mop a floor.
7.     Day dream. Take time to think about how great it will be when you have achieved your goal.  That’s what you did when you started.  Daydreaming is a wonderful thing.   Allow yourself to do it.
8.     Give yourself permission to have an off day. You can’t stay at the top of the mountain all the time. There will be valleys and they don’t last forever, just like the mountaintop doesn’t last forever.   Valleys are a good time for reflection and planning. 
9.     Organize your desk. Sometimes just sorting through stuff on your desk will get you moving again. You will be reminded of people that you can call or successes that you had.  It also helps to focus you.
10. Pray.  I find letting someone other than me take my burdens can really help.  I pray on paper.  I write down what I am praying about.  I believe that God is listening and I talk to him and tell him what is really bothering me.  Any thoughts that come to me at this time I write down.  My best thinking and problem solving happens when I pray.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

To Make the Dream Happen - Go Backwards!

If you have a BIG DREAM whatever it is... maybe to make movies, or save the world through important documentaries or to write the million dollar screenplay, it is always seems easy at first. The dreaming part is really fun - imagining yourself receiving the Oscar, or riding in the Rolls, or directing Tom Hanks. But once you start down the road of making that dream come true - reality hits. It's going to take work.  Probably a lot of work.  Most people have to make money while waiting for their dream to come true.  There are mortgages to pay and lights to keep on and food to put on the table.  So your dream has to be woven into the texture of your current life.  What does that look like?  Maybe it's writing your script early in the morning or late at night. Maybe it's trying to squeeze in a meeting a week with people that are already in the business.  But you are the one that has to set the goal and then figure out the steps to achieving it.  And if you break that huge dream down into tiny steps it can be achieved.

I start by writing my goal down on some paper and then go backwards.  If my goal is to sell my screenplay these might be the steps in reverse:

10. Sell screenplay for $$$$
9. Agent negotiates deal
8. Agent sends screenplay out to buyers
7. Agent gets final draft of screenplay
6. Rewrite of screenplay based on Agent suggestions
5. Give agent screenplay
4. Get agent
3. Write screenplay while working at my day job and sending letters out to agents
2.  Get a day job that will pay my bills while I pursue my dream
1. Dream about selling a screenplay

Now obviously there could be dozens of steps in between these steps.  Like taking a class in writing. Or moving to Los Angeles.  And the steps would be different for directing or acting or producing but hopefully you get the idea.  List your goal and then all the steps to reach it and then go in reverse. Once you have done that try to guess at how much time it would take to do each step.  And then to make this really happen - now put those steps on a calendar.  This brings the dream into the real world. You aren't just thinking about it, you are giving yourself mini goals and a time period to achieve them.  Whew. Sounds like work. It is work.  But climbing a mountain takes work.  Standing in the valley and gazing at the peak won't get you there. You have to start climbing!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fashion Advice for the Hollywood Wannabe

Help! I have a meeting. What do I wear?  I have been invited to a premiere – how dressed up should I be?  I am having coffee with a director…  do I wear a suit?
Having been around the biz for what seems forever – I get asked these questions all the time.  And although I am not a fashion maven I can offer some simple advice to the person who is new to the entertainment business.  At first glance, L.A. seems like it is anti-fashion.  As you walk through a mall you will see everything from Grunge to Euro trash.  People in wildly expensive suits shop next to people in pinned together jeans.  Pierced navels, eyebrows, Madonna tattoos are everywhere and easily seen through highly revealing pants and shirts.  Surfers, Skaters, Nerds crowd the sidewalks of Melrose. How can one possibly know how to dress with such a huge buffet of bad, good and boring fashion to choose from?
Luckily, the answer is not that difficult.  The entertainment business does have a sort of dress code.  It’s unspoken of course. But it is there nevertheless.  In a recent article I wrote for HubPages I provide several tips for dressing for the Biz.   You can find it here. http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Newbies-Guide-to-Dressing-for-Success-in-Hollywood

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hollywood No No's

There are lots of unspoken rules in Hollywood.  Things only insiders know.  Usually the only way to learn how to behave as you network in the entertainment business is through trial and error.  Luckily since I have already experienced many of these mistakes, I can share with you some of what I have learned.  An article I wrote recently addressed the faux pas that one can make in their eagerness to break in. 

Schmoozing Don'ts in the Entertainment Business

In my article on Schmoozing, I listed some of the positive steps a newcomer to the entertainment business can try to take to improve their networking skills.   This article will focus on a few of the No No’s.  My experience as an agent in Hollywood since 1991 has given me ample time to discover (the hard way) all the little things that people in the biz find irritating.  Click here to finish reading the article!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Either Schmooze or Lose

Learning how to navigate the waters of Hollywood takes practice.  In the entertainment business it's all about relationships - who you know.  While we may wish it was about talent...sadly that only is needed ONCE someone knows and likes you. Your talent is what will keep you working. But schmoozing or networking is what will break you into the circles you need to be in.  So how to do it?  A few months ago I wrote an article on learning how to schmooze.  You can read it at  Ten Steps for Networking in Hollywood.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

How to negotiate!

Several months ago I wrote an article for Hubpages on the art of negotiation.  In my experience there are a few tried and true tips that can help anyone.. whether  you are buying a car or negotiating a multimillion dollar film deal.

Ten Negotiating Strategies

As an agent working in Hollywood, I have had to negotiate some pretty tough deals. When I was just starting out, negotiation was something that terrified me. How would I be able to talk to someone who might be smarter, more important, more experienced than I was? I quickly learned a few techniques that soothed my nerves and helped me make some very nice deals for my clients. If you follow these ten negotiating strategies you will be on your way!
You can read the rest of it here.

Welcome to the Hollywood Dream!

Lights, action, glamour, money!  The Hollywood dream.  Perhaps since you were a child you have watched the beautiful and the rich walk down red carpets with the flashing lights of photographers and the surge of adoring crowds screaming for a moment's glance.  Our world loves celebrities.  Their expensive clothes, cool cars, gorgeous homes.  And then there are the movies.  Exciting car chases,  perfect romances, happy endings.  It's hard not to be enthralled by everything that Hollywood represents.  I know that I was. For me it was Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  The movie was so real and compelling. I wanted to be able to do THAT. Make a movie like that. I had always loved movies.  Starting with The Parent Trap with Haley Mills and then moving on to Gidget and Beach Blanket Bingo.  Movies were where you could be transported to incredible, funny, pretty, romantic, happy places. Movies were better than real life. Not that my real life was so bad -- it's just that life in the movies was so much better.  So not surprisingly as an adult I decided to sell everything and come to Hollywood. Now more than twenty years later I have lived to tell about it. I have worked in nearly every area of the business from being a lowly reader all the way up to being the Vice President of a major Literary Agency.  The question that I get asked the most is: "How did you do it?"

It is that questions that has finally led me to writing this blog.  In future posts I hope to give some answers to those who also aspire to the Hollywood Dream. My story and experience is just that. Mine. Not everyone has experienced the entertainment business the way I have. But the more I talk to people the more I discover the similarities in our stories. So perhaps there is something that can be learned from my journey.  And if not... then just enjoy the ride!