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“The problems we face today eventually turn into blessings in the review mirror of life. In time, yesterday’s red light leads us to a greenlight.”
—Matthew McConaughey
Greenlights

This week I listened to Matthew McConaughey read/perform his entire book Greenlights and two key thoughts resonate:

  1. GREENLIGHTS. The metaphor of when you’re driving down the road hitting green light after green light. (To use Mihály Csíkszentmihályi research, that’s when we’re in the flow.) Hitting multiple green lights in a row is nice because so much of our life is filled with yellow and red lights.
  2. FORCED WINTER: This is like a prolonged red light. It’s annoying when we cycle through a set of lights and don’t get a green light for whatever reason. We’ve lot a few minutes trying to get where we’re going. But there are more difficult seasons of our lives where we get prolonged red lights for weeks, months or even years. McConaughey refers to these as “forced winters.” This global pandemic is a forced winter for many. Especially for those who’ve lost loved ones to the coronavirus, been sick themselves, lost work, or face added anxiety due to the overall disruption of life.

Part of the message of the book seems to be that there are lessons to learn at the red lights and in the forced winters. And that the long view is those times of resistance set us up for the red lights to turn into green lights and that we emerge from forced winters with renewed faith, hope, and opportunities.

Throughout his memoir McConaughey tells stories of his own red lights/forced winters: An odd year as an exchange student in Australia, his father dying while he was in college, and though once called “the new Paul Newman” his acting career cooled off leading him to a run doing romantic comedies. (No shame there—and well-paid— but not the kind of roles he ideally wanted to be doing.) Perhaps his best forced winter is one he forced upon himself when he starting turning down romantic comedies and moved from Malibu back to Austin. The phone eventually stopped ringing for acting gigs, and he says he even considered heading in a new career direction.

Then he rebounded with roles in a series of independent films which eventually led to his Oscar-winning performance in the Dallas Buyers Club. Of course, there’s no guarantee that that our red lights and forced winters will exalt us to such lofty heights, but it’s important to see others come out of the dark forest with a zest for life.

It seems like every tens years I hit a forced winter. I’m thankful that personally 2020 was a brief red light that turned into a series of green lights. First I finished my book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles and secondly I bought a Hobie kayak in April for my socially distancing exercise.

In November, I’ll hit my 100th day out on a 440 acre lake. Usually I go out around sunrise for 60-90 minutes and it’s turned a funky season of life into one of my most pleasurable ever. Lots of egrets and hawks, an occasional gator and/or bald eagle, and overall peace and beauty. I took this photo yesterday as a crew team was practicing in the early morning. (It was a rather pedestrian iPhone shot so I ran it through the Prisma Photo Editor app.)

Crew team on Lake Howell—October 30, 2020

If you’re at a red light or in a forced winter, I hope you can look back and have the perspective that other rough times you’ve been through actually set you up for a series of “greenlights.” New relationships, new job opportunities, new adventures.

P.S. Looking back, I realize this blog (and therefore the book) are the result of a forced winter. I moved to the midwest in 2003 for what I thought was a freelance producer gig in Chicago that promised to be a full time gig once a hiring freeze was lifted. The hiring freeze never was lifted and the production arm of the group eventually shut down. But that set up a great 10 year run in Cedar Falls, Iowa—but only after a hard start. (And I actually found the literal cold winters exhilarating.)

Scott W. Smith

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“How did I learn screenwriting? Endless hours at the typewriter, then the computer, which came along later. It was really a lot of applied time and effort and self-study. Which is the way most people learn.”
Writer/director Frank Darabont

Long before Shonda Rhimes signed a contract with Netflix for $100 million, she graduated from a series of private schools, Marian Catholic High School in Chicago, Dartmouth College, and and MFA from USC School of Cinematic Arts. Being smart, talented, and driven, I don’t know exactly what scholarships and grants Rhimes received back in the ’80s and ’90s when she was in school, but today that education has a list price of over $500,000.

Perhaps that’s why she gives the following advice to young people interested in going to film school. (And this was before a global pandemic shook up the economy and film industry in ways that will take months or years to sort out.)

“I think that USC was really instrumental for me in getting me contacts and getting me acclimated. I came to Los Angeles not know a single person, and getting an internship, getting to know people, getting the introductions to things—USC was very helpful for that. Here’s what I think, ’cause I think film school is invaluable in that it’s an amazing little lab. And I did come in knowing a lot about production because of it, and that was really helpful as well. But I think it terms of just financially if you are hurting for money if you have to take out a lot of student loans, if there’s not a scholarship waiting for you, and you are worried about that—and frankly it’s different now. Student loans back when I went to school (because I’m an old lady) and going to school now are just different. So, to me, if you have to make the choice between going to film school, and coming out to L.A. and getting a job as a PA [production assistant] on a set, or a job as a PA in some writer’s office or something like that, get the job. Because I think there’s a lot you can get done with you writing at night, and getting a job during the day, and working your butt off and making contacts that way. I think it’s very, very, very expensive to go to school right now. And while I think that everybody should get a college education, I’m not necessarily sure you need a film school education.”
—Writer/Creator Shonda Rhimes  (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal)
MasterClass, Take the Job Over Film School

Now, you don’t need to do much digging to find production assistants in Los Angeles today complaining about the low pay and long hours of working as a PA in the film industry. On top of living in one of the most expensive cities in the United States. On top of, as of this writing, potentially being laid-off or underemployed because of the shutdown over the coronavirus.

It’s a hard business. Would Rhimes have had the same success if she hadn’t taken the educational route she took? We’ll never know. But we do know there are filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Tyler Perry who’ve had phenomenal success without ever attending college. (In fact, both of them dropped out of high school.)

But you have to create. And you have to get good enough at creating something that someone will pay you to create more and you can make a living. That’s the game. And one thing this pandemic has taught us is people still need entertainment (and toilet paper). Actual movie theaters may decline in coming months and years, but streaming content is in ultra growth mode. (Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and others have all had recent jumps in daily viewership.)

Be as creative getting an education as you are with writing stories and creating videos with your friends. Avoid getting monster student loans that follow you for decades and drag you down professionally with house payment-like monthly payments.

Look at inexpensive community colleges with solid digital media programs. (Some two-year schools now offer four-year degrees.) And, yes, there are good film schools out there that aren’t over-the-moon expensive. If you picked up basic production skills in high school, there’s a good chance you can find an entry level production position as soon as the country is back up running again.  “Hire for attitude, train for skill” was an popular expression way back when I went to film school back in the ’80s—and probably long before that.

Which brings up some bonus advice from Rhimes that is helpful if you move to New York, L.A., Atlanta or stay right where you are and take a entry-level PA job:

“A thing that I think can be really helpful for people when they get a job, and people don’t seem to know this right now, and it’s feels very obvious. If you get a job in the industry making someone coffee, making someone copies, running someone’s errands, you better make the best coffee they’ve ever had. And it better be with a smile. The ones that seemed flat out pissed that they’re there, or frustrated, or lazy, or entitled, you want them to go away.  Because you think, man, they’re just sucking the air from the room. . . . People that have a great attitude are the ones that I always end up saying, ‘What’s your script about?’ or ‘What are you doing? What are you interested in?’ Those are the people that get noticed and get their scripts read, and get advice. And get a chance. Because you think, man, they’re working hard.”
—Shonda Rhimes
MasterClass, Do Grunt Work with a Smile

Writer/director Lulu Wang is the most recent filmmaker who did a version of what Rhimes talks about. She did not go to film school but did get her undergraduate degree. (I think she took one or two film/photography classes.) Then she moved to L.A. and did various film-related assistant jobs and wrote and produced her own stuff, networked, until she got the opportunity to make Farewell. Check out the post Lulu Wang’s Day Job Before ‘The Farewell.’

Before Scott Beck and Bryan Woods wrote A Quiet Place they also decided to not got to film school since they’d been making films together since sixth grade. They did get communication degrees before moving to Los Angeles where they had a series of small successes before hitting it big. Read the post How Do You Break Into the Film Industry Without Any Connections to see their abridged version of how they did it.

And lastly, if you‘re into hacks and shortcuts, let me link to a post I wrote back in 2003 that’s one of my favorites on the subject—Bob DeRosa’s ‘Shortcut.’ 

P.S. For those of you graduating from high school or college in 2020, I know this is not how you envisioned the final months of school ideally ending.  But you’ll earn a layer of resilience that will serve you well throughout life. Go back and watch The Shawshank Redemption (1994) again with 2020 glasses. One of the main reasons that film is currently the #1 rated movie of all time on IMDB is that going through a lot of crap in life is a universal experience.

“Hope is a good thing…maybe the best of things.”
—Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) in The Shawshank Redemption
Written by Frank Darabont, based on a story by Stephen King
(Darabont was born in a refugee camp, immigrated with his family to the U.S.,  and also did not go to college. He started his Hollywood career as a PA on low budget movies and writing on the side until he got good enough to be paid for doing it.)

Additional related posts (for those without wealthy parents) and a great ending quote from Amazon’s Ted Hope:
Is Film School Worth It?  A post I wrote as a response to The $330,000 Film School Debt.
What’s It Like to Be a Struggling Writer in L.A.?
Scriptnotes Ep 422: ‘Assistants Aren‘t Paid Nearly Enough’

“If I ran a film school, I would require the students to make a feature film for just a thousand dollars. They’d learn tricks that they could apply for the rest of their lives, no matter how poorly the movie turned out.”
Ted Hope
Hope for Film, page 15

Scott W. Smith 

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The continuing fictitious conversation between OLD PRODUCER (OP)—who’s 99-years-old— and YOUNG WRITER (YW).  Their goal in this two-person team is to develop (in a free-wheeling style)  a coronavirus-like story. (Part 1, and Part 2)

OP: So let’s review the bidding. We’re using the coronavirus to inspire our storytelling.

YW: And take our mind off of the havoc it’s doing around the world.

OP: We’re telling a contained story—maybe one location—that is going to take us from order, to chaos, to new order. 

YW: Through the eyes of a high school or college student.

OP: Which way are you leaning?

YW: College. I just think the clash of spring break with social distancing is too good to pass up.

OP: Last night, I decided to jot down a bunch of high school and college movies and TV shows to see what that would reveal.  Surprisingly, I wrote down ten high school films before I wrote one college film. 

YW: Can I see your list?

OP: Yeah, I started a look book and I’ll share my screen with you.

TeenMovies1

YW: Sorority queen/lawyer against the world.

OP: Or Reese Witherspoon against Reese Witherspoon.

YW: Why is American Graffiti in brackets?

OP: Because it’s a hybrid. That gap summer between high school and college, work, or joining the military. 

YW: You know what jumps out on me about that list?

OP: That those films and TV shows span over 60 years. 

YW: That you totally missed the spring break movies— that’s where I’d start. Spring Breakers, Where the Boys Are, and helloRevenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise. 

OP: Point taken.

YW: But, it’s interesting  your list is full of comedy.

OP: I kept adding to the list and what do you think I came up with?

YW: More drama?

OP: Apparently the only thing better than comedy—is more comedy. And more high school than college.

teenmovie2

The young writer scans the list of movies and Tv shows.

YW:Wow. What is it you say? Don’t reinvent the wheel. I haven’t seen all of those, but I’ve seen enough that the high school side has more quality and quantity. But together there is still a lot of comedy.

OP: Why do you think that is?

YW: Because your teenage years are so painful.

OP: Richard Pryor said all humor is based on pain. 

YW: So in the great high school vs. college smackdown it appears that high school is the clear winner.

OP: Times of transitions have built-in drama.  

YW: And a world of change happens between the ages of 15 and 18.

OP: High school is also more universal throughout the United States. Only about 35% of adults finish college.

YW: Makes sense then that the college experience resonates with fewer people, so fewer movies.

OP: So I’d say let’s lean toward our hero being a teenager in high school.

YW: Sold. And a senior—because it has to suck to have the last two months of high school not really happen.

OP: What’s worse than that?

Young writer thinks.

YW: That play you’ve been rehearsing for months doesn’t get performed.

OP: What’s worse than that?

YW: They also get the coronavirus—or whatever we use to symbolize to change culture.

OP: Now we’re really making progress. 

YW: Got any more lists to share?

OP: Just one. If our hero is going to be on the screen for the majority of the time—and let’s say it’s a 90 minute feature—what kind of person would hold your attention for that long?  Here’s my mind mapping list. 

DJ

Young writer tries to connect the dots.

YW: You have comedians, and comedians turned actors, YouTubers, DJs, TV hosts, TV shows, podcasters. Again a lot of humor.

OP: Want to add to the list?

YW: Let me think. . . . What about Will Smith, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Taylor, Kanye, Chance the Rapper. Oh, and George Burns.

OP: Great. The hard part is over. All we need to find is am 18-year-old who can act, sing, do improv, play multiple instruments, and is really funny.

YW: How hard can that be? Is this mind mapping of movies and character a typical way of coming up with story ideas?

OP: Creativity is messy. It’s one way of mixing a bunch of things together and seeing what fresh and exciting can emerge. Here’s a video ofJoshua Brand talking about some of the influences on him coming up with the TV show Northern Exposure. (John Falsey was the co-creator.)  Followed by a second video of one of the best DJ performances in modern cinema. Robin Williams unleashed.

Scott W. Smith

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The continuing fictitious conversation between OLD PRODUCER (OP)—who’s 99-years-old— and YOUNG WRITER (YW).  Their goal in this two-person team is to develop (in a free-wheeling style)  a coronavirus-like story. (Part 1 here.)

YOUNG WRITER: I made the mistake of starting to watch Tiger King last night.

OLD PRODUCER: How far did you get?

YW: Oh, I took that crazy train all the way to the end of the line.

OP: And what time did the train get in?

YW: Just after four this morning.

OP: So you’re running on little sleep?

YW: Define sleep.

OP: I remember being in my invincible twenties once upon a time.

YW: Had to be a crazy time.

OP: From 1945 on, anything seemed like a party from the previous 15-17 years. 

YW: So this coronavirus is just another bump in the road for you.

OP: In some ways, I think it’s harder on younger people who haven’t been through extreme hardships. My parents were immigrants, so all my family knew—for generations— were hard times until the 1950s. 

YW: And I thought I had it rough because my parents wouldn’t buy me a cell phone until I was 12.

OP: So what did you think about Tiger King from a writing perspective? 

YW: Lots of conflict and plot twists. Fascinating characters —especially Joe Exotic. The stakes were high. And it built to a climax.

OP: And the ending was hinted at in the beginning. In the first episode, we know Joe is in jail, but we don’t know why. Lots of mystery built into it. And it had a good sense of place. The tigers and other animals also provide some good visuals.

YW: And a few hotties sprinkled in.

OP: Notice the filmmakers didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Keep that in mind as we develop a coronavirus-related story. Tiger King is similar but different from stuff we’ve seen before. Even the title Tiger King is a play on the ubiquitous Lion King title. And lions and tigers for entertainment has been around since the first animal circus. And in movies from early stories about Roman gladiators, and Tarzan. 

YW: And unhinged characters always get our attention.

OP: And I don’t know what kind of budget they had, but did you notice they embraced their limitations. About 80% seemed like it was at Joe Exotic’s zoo in Oklahoma, about 10% in Tampa, call it 5% in South Carolina, and 5% misc.—Las Vegas, the prosecutor, jail, etc.). It’s a pretty contained story.

YW: I missed that.

OP: I think we should aim for a contained story. Producer Ted Hope said if he had a film school, he’d have students make a film for $1,000. I think that should be our goal.

YW: Then we’re definitely not making the next Contagion. 

OP: You don’t think we could get Matt Damon to go back to his indie roots?

YW: For $1,000 you couldn’t cover Matt Damon’s dog sitter for a week.

OP: What story could you tell for a $1,000? What story could we actually make this year?

Young writer struggles for an answer.

OP: Embrace your limitations.

YW: Chris Cuomo. Not Chris Cuomo-Chris Cuomo, but a guy talking to the world via his computer.

OP: Good. Part The Martian, part Buried, part Cast Away.  

YW: Again without Matt Damon, Ryan Renyolds, and definitely without Tom Hanks.

OP: How about Tom Hanks’ wife Rita?

YW: Don’t even go there.

OP: Too soon? 

YW: Next.

OP: But you’re okay if it’s a female lead?

YW: Of course.

OP: What is it you find compelling about what Chris Cuomo is doing?

YW: He’s relatively young and strong, and well-known. To see him struggle with the virus is courageous. It’s like he’s putting a face to this virus in a way that all the politicians, medical professions, and media—and all the data— haven’t been able to do.

OP: Why wouldn’t you build a story around a Dr. Falci character?

YW: You could I guess. I just think Chris Cuomo is a more compelling character.

OP:I hope he recovers soon. I think what he’s doing is going to save lives. Remember a couple of weeks ago when the Surgeon General wanted those young influencers to go on social media and talk about the importance of social distancing?

YW: A Kylie Jenner-like version of Chris Cuomo. I like it.

OP: Have you noticed some of these influencers have better production values than the media professionals operating out of their homes?

YW: Because the influencers been perfecting their at-home persona in their spare bedroom studios for years. They know the best camera angles and lighting techniques. I think we’ve found our character.

OP: How old is she or he?  High school or college age?

YW: College-age jumps to my mind because of all those recent spring breakers in Florida.

OP: Traditionally, from an audience perspective with a college student you’ll get the college students and high school students. But college students have moved on and won’t necessarily watch a story about high school students. 

YW: But I’ve been thinking about high school kids because this so sucks for them to have this happen at the end of their senior year. I think of all the games not being played, the proms and skip days that have to be skipped, and graduations that won’t happen.

OP: There’s a lot of emotional stuff to unpack there. Let’s kick that around after our break. And also keep in mind that we don’t have to make this a coronavirus story. Might be best not to—for sensitivity sake. Do what Rod Serling did on The Twilight Zone. Back in the early 1960s, because of sponsors, he couldn’t address racism head-on, so he did it metaphorically—with aliens. A virus impacting the world could stand for many things.

YW: Metaphorically. . . . hmmm.

OP: It keeps your work from being dated. Your homework tonight is to track down and watch the Rod Serling  interview with Mike Wallace.

More to come in Part 3.

Related post:
Writing Buried  (which features one on camera actor, and first planned to be a $5,000 feature).

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here’s a Vanity Fair clip of director Randel Kleiser walking through a scene from the timeless Grease featuring the song You’re the One That I Want sung by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta.

You’re the One That I Want is one of the top 20 selling singles of all time. 

Back in 1978 Travolta was over-the-top successful. He’d just come off an Oscar-nomination for Saturday Night Fever, was starring in the hit TV show Welcome Back Kotter, and had a hot song with Let Her In. Lesser remembered is a TV movie he did in 1976.

The Boy in the Plastic Bubble  was also directed by Randel Kleiser from a script by Douglas Day Stewart (screenwriter of An Officer and a Gentleman). I remember being a teenager and seeing The Boy in the Plastic Bubble when it came out on TV. I never saw it again and haven’t thought about it in a decade—or two. Until recently,  when the coronavirus started to take over the news.

And speaking of the coronavirus— and the other half of singing You’re the One That I Want…

Olivia Newton-John may have been my first celebrity crush. I bought her If you love me , let me know album when I was 13. That was 1974, a couple of years before the Farrah Fawsett poster came out. (Maureen McCormick, Marcia on The Brady Bunch, was in the mix around that time.)  I spent a lot of time listening to Olivia Newton-John’s music.

Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 9.51.39 PM

Olivia Newton-John’s battle with cancerhave been well documented over the years, and she recently relayed a stay at home message on her Instagram from some of the staff at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in Australia.

Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 10.07.56 PM

If you need a smile today to break through the global news, here’s a video of Olivia Newton-John singing Bob Dylan’s If Not For You when she was in her early 20s.  That smile. That voice. Those eyes.

Scott W. Smith

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The best laid schemes
o‘ mice and men
often go astray
—Robert Burns (1759-1796)

When I hit a period of transition almost 20 years ago, one of the books that was recommended to me was Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Changes in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson, M.D.  At this moment, we are in a time of change due to a global pandemic —so it seems like a good time to mention that best selling book which first came out in 1998

It’s the simple parable of two sets of mice who run out of cheese. Two of the mice (named Hem and Haw) basically sit around moan about the lack of cheese and speculate when someone is going to bring more. The other two mice (Sniff and Scurry) are proactive, and they put on their little mice running shoes and head out on an adventure to find a new stash of cheese.

I won’t spoil the ending for you—but let me just say that three of the mice end up in a good place. It’s a simple story, but one that resonates many people going through difficult situations. Which explains why the 94-page book has sold 26 million copies, and been translated into 37 languages.

Here’s the writing on the wall that one of the mice wrote to encourage future travelers who’d also run out of cheese:

Change Happens
They Keep Moving The Cheese
Anticipate Change
Get Ready For The Cheese To Move
Monitor Change
Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old
Adapt To Change Quickly
The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese
Change
Move With The Cheese
Enjoy Change!
Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!
Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again
They Keep Moving The Cheese.

This world has been through wars, famines, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, plagues, hurricanes, volcano  exploding, stock market crashes, faulty governments, and you can fill in a zillion other calamities and changes. But the human race seems resilient. And I believe in time this too will pass. May we all get through this transition with grace.

The second part of this post involves the timely launch of Brené Brown‘s podcast Unlocking Us.  Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston and two of her five New York Times best selling books are The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly.She may be most widely known for her TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability, which has been viewed 47 million views on the TED  website and another 12 million on TED’s YouTube channel.

“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.”
—Brené Brown

May you dare greatly today, don’t miss the writing on the wall, and keep your running (or walking) shoes nearby.

Scott W. Smith

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My love of travel is rooted in not traveling. I didn’t really start traveling until I was 21-years-old.  (And it light of the Coronavirus, this post is to encourage you that better days are coming.  A time when we’ll be able again to travel behind our front door.)

When I graduated from high school in Florida, I’d only been to three states in my life—if you include the Atlanta airport on the way to visit my grandmother in Dayton, Ohio. My lack of travel opportunities caused me in my late teens to make one of my goals that I wanted to visit all fifty states in the U.S. by the time I was fifty.

I made it with a few years to spare, and I was also able to backpack around Europe and do video shoots in South America and South Africa all before I turned 50. I thought I was doing pretty well until my wife began following Kara and Nate on YouTube a couple of years ago.  This married couple from Tennessee had an ambitious goal to take a year off starting in 2016 “before life got serious” and travel. That turned into a goal to visit 100 counties by 2020.

They not only hit their 100th country last month (just before the Coronavirus changed global travel for a while), they videotaped their adventures and built a very profitable following via YouTube. It was like a honeymoon that just kept going and turned into a dream job. (Here’s a sample of their work from a trip they took to Peru,  followed by the extended video they made after completing their goal that gives insights into their journey and how they built a YouTube following of 1 million subscribers.)

I was working on my master’s degree in 2017-2018, which occupied most of my nights after work. From time to time, my wife would show me some of her favorite trips that Kara and Nate took. Having worked in production since graduating from film school back in 1984, I marveled at how they were able to turn around engaging videos so quickly.

They weren’t as polished and produced as Anthony Bourdain’s travel around the world videos, but they captured something special. And they did it as a two-person team which amazed me. Nate took the lead shooting (including drone and underwater shooting), and Kara edited the programs. They both shared hosting the videos as well.

Nate also brought some business expertise to the table, and they were open at sharing  how much money they were making. I became enthralled by what they were doing and decided to breakdown what I think has made them successful.

  1. Focused — They had a clear goal. At first, it was to travel a year, and that turned into a goal of traveling to 100 countries.
  2. Adventurous — Part of traveling globally is embracing not always knowing what’s around the corner. Delayed flight plans, inadequate housing, and bad food may not be fun, but it’s the tradeoff for the really cool experiences. And the bad parts often make the best videos.
  3. Likable—Likability is a vital part of getting hired. People want to like someone there going to be spending a lot of time with. Likability is essential for getting a YouTube following. And not everyone is going to like you, so get used to that as best you can.
  4. Talented — Nate and Kara are not only the co-hosts of there videos, but the tour guys, the camera operators, the post-production team, and the business side as well.  That’s a lot of hats to wear, and you can only do that with a lot of talent. I don’t believe either has a production background. Kara shot and edited a wedding video for a friend and is basically self-taught. (Not sure it that goes under talent, or #5 hardworking.)
  5. Hardworking—If you’ve every had the equivalent of visiting Disney World in the daytime and even through you’re exhausted from a fun day you have to turn around and edit a video that night. They’ve done that kind of thing over and over again for over 500 videos. I’m sure some of their videos took longer to edit, but the turn around time is usually fast.
  6. Smart —They’re college graduates and have to juggle a lot of behind the scene planning, scheduling, and financing behind the scenes.
  7. Savvy—You can be smart without being savvy. You can be smart and lucky. But you have to be smart and savvy to build on what started as an adventure to do until their money ran out. (If I recall correctly, they started with a savings of $25,000.) But you have to make a series of savvy choices to keep that ball in the air for years. To not just ration your nest egg, but to grow it and multiply it greatly.
  8. Ambitious—It’s one thing to have an extended honeymoon, it’s another thing to make travel a business. And you can have a business thrive without having ambition. They’ve tried different things to connect with their audience, and learned what does and doesn’t work. I don’t know what their current cashflow is like, but I know at one point they were generating $30,000 a month. Granted that’s not Kim Kardashian money, but it’s enough for those who thought they were crazy of them to give up their dreams, to now say they’d be crazy to stop.
  9. Young—When they started this, they were both in their mid-20s (I believe) , and I think that’s a great age for YouTubers. They have an exuberance to them that is often lacking in older people who can have a little bit of “been there done that” attitude.  You can connect with teenagers and college kids who dream of living that adventure, people their age who see them as their friends, and a wide variety of older folks who, for various reasons, love to see what they’re going to see and do next.
  10. Variety—Twenty years ago, Rick Steves was one of the best sources of travel information, and his advice was crucial to my wife and I traveling throughout Europe in 1999.. (And the mention of his name alone got us out of a jam in Vienna.) But I clearly remember one morning in Germany when one of the pensions we were staying at had the majority of  people staring at their Rick Steves guide book.  We were all taking different versions of the same trip. Fast forward 20 years, and most people have seen their share of footage shot at German Beer gardens, countless museums, and must see sights (“Look kids, the Eiffel Tower.”). Kara and Nate have bounced around the world and showed many unlikely places where you go, “How did I not know that place existed?” For instance, there was that time they landed on the world’s shortest commercial runway on the island of Saba:

I have two primary travel goals on my bucket list. One is to literally fly around the world making various stops, including Australia (so I can visit my sixth continent), and then make a trip to Antarctica for the seven and final continent. Of course, Kara and Nate just pulled off visiting Antarctica.)

When people asked me how I hit two of my major travel goals I tell them that both goals were more than 20 years in the making. I wanted to do them while I was in good health because I’d heard that one of the main regrets of older people toward the end of their lives is they wished they’d taken more risks. As you get older, it’s natural to have more physical limitations and more concerns about your safety.

I always said that if the world went to “hell in a handbag”—are we there yet?— that I didn’t want to regret not taking more risks. Global travel—and the global economy— may be funky for the next year or two. Or five or ten. We don’t know yet what will be the fallout from the Coronavirus that’s currently impacting the world in significant ways.

But congrats to Kara and Nate on their crazy and venture and thanks for sharing it with the world.

P.S. One of the ways Kara and Nate have generated income is doing a tutorial called How to Edit a BlogIt’s $97 and even though I’ve been editing for longer than Kara has been alive, I wanted to support them—and also learn (and unlearn) some things from her. Since I sometimes work on logging videos for two weeks before I even start editing, I wanted to see how she edited an entire video in a few hours. Here’s the one thing I learned that made the course worth it for me. She edits chronologically. Simple, right? They start filming in the day and stop. And then she’s goes through the footage in the order that they shot it. Huge time saver. There is no logging footage in that system. It’s turn and burn. Find the best shots, sound bites, moments and move on. I believe Aaron Sorkin says something to the effect that most of his movies move forward chronologically. (Not a lot of cuts back and forth in the story.) And movies are rarely shot in chronological order because it does not maximize the shooting schedule. But it happens. Peter Weir chose to shoot  Dead Poets Society in chronological order so his young actors could experience the arc of the story.

Congrats to Nate and Kara on completing their 100 countries and visiting seven continents. It’ll be interesting to see what they do next in a post-Cornavirus world. And remember, the word for the day is chronological.

2021 Update: Nate and Kara made it to Iowa for Ragbrai.

Scott W. Smith 

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