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Posts Tagged ‘Forbes’

“Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.”
Scott Adams
Dilbert creator

While Scott Adams says “it’s never a good idea to take advice from cartoonist” that’s just a friendly way to disarm you, make you like him, and want to hear what he has to say. And he makes a point of saying he just offers information.

And since the Dilbert creator’s had a 30+ year career as a cartoonist it doesn’t hurt to listen to his information on what he calls the “success formula.”

“Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success. You can raise your market value by being merely good, not extraordinary at more than one skill.”
Author & speaker Scott Adams 
How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big

And this is how he explains that formula to his own success:

“I’m a poor artist—certainly in the beginning. Through brut force I’ve sort of brought myself up to mediocre. I’ve never taken a writing class, but I can write. I’m okay. But if you put me in a room of writers I’m not going to be the best one. If I have a party at my house, I’m not the funniest person in the room. But I’m a little bit funny, I can write a little bit, I can draw a little bit—you put those three together and you have Dilbert and it’s a fairly powerful force.”
Scott Adams
Forbes interview with Carmine Gallo

He also has an MBA and a business background which were a part of the mix as he went on to have a career at making people laugh at office culture gone bad. But he makes a point of saying all his skills are average, it’s only when they all come together when they are effective.

It reminds me of musician Jimmy Buffett who once said that he’s not the best guitarist, not the best singer, and not the best song writer—but that he can pull all those skills together and “capture the magic.” And that’s resulted into a 45+ year career entertaining people. (And according to Forbes has helped made Buffett the 13th wealthiest celebrity in the United States with an estimated net worth of $550 million.)

Sure the word success is subjective and not just about fame and fortune, but take a look that success formula and see how acquiring new skills can help you in your career and life.

Scott W. Smith 

 

 

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From my perch in public radio, working at This American Life and Planet Money, I saw podcasting exploding around me. It went from a tiny niche activity, to a behavior embraced by tens of millions of Americans, and many more millions worldwide. And every year, more listeners adopted the habit. Essentially, on demand behavior — something that had already transformed TV viewing habits — was finally coming to audio.  What this means is profound. No longer are we dependent on listeners catching us when we’re broadcasting on-air. We can program with the assumption that people will be listening and choosing to listen. We can tell serialized quality stories. We can create shows we never could have in the pre on-demand world. In essence, we’re at the dawn of a new golden age in audio. ”
Gimlet Media co-founder Alex Blumberg
Forbes interview with Dan Schawbel
Alex Blumberg: Lessons from his transition from traditional to new media

P.S. Of all the current trends going on in podcasting, one of particular to dramatic writers is Homecoming produced by Gimlet Media. It’s a throwback to radio drama which was a staple of entertainment in a pre-television world in the United States. Before Orson Welles made the classic movie Citizen Kane (1941) he created the radio drama War of the Worlds in 1938. It’s estimated that 32 million people listened to that live broadcast.

Time will tell if podcasting renews interest in radio dramas, but Homecoming (psychological thriller) did attract the talent of Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, and David Schwimmer.

It’s not hard to imagine screenwriters and actors around the world recording scripts that while don’t get produced as feature films, can find an audience in the podcasting world. Perhaps someone is already doing that on their way to becoming Orson Welles 2.0.

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“The cheapest [Netflix] show is $3.8 million an episode. ‘House of Cards’ started at $4.5 million and (executive producer David) Fincher took it way above that…The next series is ‘Hemlock Grove’ and they’re doing that for about $4 million an episode. ‘Orange is the New Black’ is just under $4 million as well. They’re huge budgets shows, doing things in a huge way.”
CAA TV literary agent Peter Micelli
Netflix Series Spending Revealed by Andrew Wallenstein
Variety 3.08.13

“It’s hard to watch Netflix’s’ House of Cards’ and not get the feeling that it’s not only great programming, but also a seminal event in the history of TV….It’s the first major TV show to completely bypass the usual television ecosystem of networks and cable operators….If there’s any doubt about the venture’s success, competitors are already rushing to emulate it.”
What Netflix’s “House of Cards” Means for the Future of TV by Greg Satell
Forbes 3.04.12

P.S. Netflix, an online rental service, was founded in 1997 and now has more than 23 million subscribers.  It’s worth noting that fifteen years ago there was a healthy groundswell of people using DVDs, and about ten years ago there were 9,000 Blockbuster video stores across the United States (less than 500 remain today). Makes you wonder what the next 10 or 15 years of change will bring in the distribution system—and what kind of opportunities it will bring for screenwriters and filmmakers.

Related Post: Content Creators=Distributors

Scott W. Smith

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Today I received an email from a filmmaker in Austin who is thinking about moving to Dubuque, Iowa. I thought that was a little odd since Austin is the Mecca of indie filmmakers. But that was before I saw the article by Kurt Badenhausen on Yahoo!

Forbes recently listed America’s Best Small Cities For Business and Careers and while Sioux Falls South Dakota was #1 on the list Iowa lead the list by having five cities listed in the top 20. They are Iowa City (#2), Waterloo (#13), Sioux City (No. 14), Dubuque (#15) and Ames (#17). The article points out that those cities in Iowa all have college and an well-education base of workers as well as having business cost and a crime rate both 16% over the national average. (And keep in mind that Des Moines Iowa nabbed the top spot in for larger metro area.)

Badenhaun writes in the Forbes article “Venture capital firms are starting to take note of Iowa as well. VC investment was up 50% in 2009 in Iowa to $84 million while overall venture capital investment was down 35% according to the annual MoneyTree survey from PricewaterhouseCooopers and the National Venture Capital Association.”

While I can’t really say that I had any grand vision or master plan when I moved from Orlando to Iowa in 2003 it has turned out pretty good. Maybe I should start another blog “Business from Iowa.”

Scott W. Smith

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She stood there bright as the sun on that California coast
He was a Midwestern boy on his own
She looked at him with those soft eyes,
So innocent and blue
He knew right then he was too far from home he was too far from home

                                           Bob Seger
                                           Hollywood Nights 

 

Though I’ve said that Diablo Cody was the inspiration for me to start the Screenwriting from Iowa blog, it was an event that happened three years after she was born that probably planted the seed that eventually led me to Iowa.

When William Holden the lead actor of Sunset Boulevard died November 12, 1981 it made a huge impact on me. I had just moved to L.A. a few months prior from Orlando and was attending film school and studying acting. I was already familiar with his work on the movies Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, and Network. I knew that he was an Oscar winner and one of the biggest stars of the 1950s.

But it wasn’t his films and life that made the news of his death leaving such an impression on me. It was the way he died. The news in L.A. at that time played up the fact that he apparently fell while drunk in his Santa Monica apartment and had hit his head on a table and bled to death. And he laid there dead in his apartment overlooking the Pacific Ocean for several days before anyone missed him. He died alone. 

I remember thinking at that time, “How is that possible?” How is it possible for a guy that’s achieved everything I could ever hope to achieve in the movie business to lay in his condo for several days before any one missed him? This is the original Golden Boy, who was linked romantically to Audrey Hepburn, Shelly Winters, Grace Kelly and at the end with Stefanie Powers,. He had a six decade career including heavyweight the films The Bridge on the River Kawi, Sabrina, and The Wild Bunch.

He was rich and famous and he is now #25 on AFI’s list of top movie stars. But he died alone.

Two weeks later actress Natalie Wood died in a mysterious late-night accident involving a boat off Santa Catalina Island in Southern California.

A few miles away from where Holden died, and just four months later actor/comedian John Belushi died of a heroin overdose at the Chateau Marmont which just happens to be on Sunset Boulevard.  Much of my misspent youth as a teenager was spent laughing at Belushi’s antics on Saturday Night Live (Cheezebuger, Cheezburger), Animal House and The Blues Brothers so I didn’t find anything funny about his death.

I was only 20 years old and hadn’t even been in L.A. a year and I knew something was wrong with the place. While I was an intern on a cable TV show called Alive and Well that was taped in Marina del Rey I remember talking to L.A. Dodger Steve Yeager who was a guest on the show about L.A. and he told me something I never forgot. (Yeager, by the way, went to high school in Dayton, Ohio which just happened to be where William Holden’s character was from in Sunset Boulevard.) I asked Yeager if he thought L.A. was a plastic town and he said, “Yes, but if you live here long enough you don’t see the plastic.”

I only lived there five years so I could still see the plastic when I headed back to Florida. I still love much about L.A, but maybe it wasn’t so crazy to eventually move to Iowa. 

Yesterday I read that Forbes listed nearby Iowa City, Iowa as the #9 best small metro places to live and work (Waterloo-Cedar Falls was #33) and not too far away Des Moines was listed as the #7 best metro places to live and work.  How did California fare? According to Forbes writer Kurt Badenhausen “Bringing up the rear of our rankings are the troubled spots in California. The Golden State had its worst showing ever in our tally.” Los Angeles ranked #180.

I hope as the digital revolution continues that the William Holden’s and John Belushi’s of the future (if they aren’t big enough to live in Montana or France) can do their thing in their home states and avoid some of the L.A. trappings. Holden and Belushi weren’t the first do die in excess in L.A. and they won’t be the last. (And it’s also true that every part of the country has its problems with drugs and alcohol. But L.A. seems to have a special gift for leading actors and musicians—and in some cases actors turned musicians—toward a path of destruction.)

Do you wonder if William Holden when he was all alone in his apartment did he ever fire up a projector and watch Sunset Boulevard?  He was a respected (and still working actor) but faded movie star that Susanne Vega referenced in her song Tom’s Diner;

I open
Up the paper
There’s a story
Of an actor

Who had died
While he was drinking
It was no one
I had heard of

  

Certainly as Holden wandered alone in his large apartment at least once had to see some parallels between his life and Norma Desmond’s. 

And right now a 20 year old actor is pulling into Hollywood for the first time and he’s never heard of Norma Desmond, William Holden…or even Susanne Vega.

 

copyright 2009 Scott W. Smith

 


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“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”
                                                         Gordon Gekko
                                                         Wall St. 

“Our entire economy is in danger.”
                                                         President George W. Bush
                                                         September 2008    

“When was the last time you cared about something except yourself, hot rod?”
                                                        
 Doc Hudson (voice of Paul Newman)
                                                          Cars       

                                                    

This is a look at two Hollywood icons. One fictitious, one real. One that’s alive and well and one that just died. 

But before we get to our heavyweight match-up let’s look at why I’ve put them in the ring together.

“It’s the economy, stupid” was a phrase made popular during Bill Clinton’s first presidential bid. It’s always about the economy. Well, usually. Understanding economics can help your screenwriting greatly.  

First let me clarify that if you’re looking for “The Economics of Screenwriting” (how much you can get paid for screenwriting)  then check out Craig Mazin’s article at The Artful Writer

Few things are as primal in our lives as the economy. Wall Street’s recent shake-up joins a long list of economic upheaval throughout history. Just so we’re on the same page, the word economy flows down from the Greek meaning “house-hold management.” I mean it to include how people, businesses, villages, towns, cities and countries manage resources such as money, materials and natural resources. 

That is a wide path indeed. It’s why college football coach Nick Saban is on the cover of the September 1, 2008 issue of Forbes magazine as they explain why he is worth $32 million dollars to the University of Alabama. Why is the economy center stage once again in the most recent presidential election? Because… it’s always the economy, stupid.

Looking back you’ll see economics at the core issue of not only Enron, Iraq, 911 and the great depression but world wars, famines, and even the Reformation. I’m not sure how much further we can look back than Adam and Eve, but that whole apple/fruit thing in the garden had huge economic (as well as theological) ramifications. (In fact, it’s been said that there is more written in the Bible about money than about salvation.)    

There is no question that economics plays a key role in films as well — in production as well as content. On some level it’s almost always about the economy. This first dawned on me when I saw Chekhov’s play “The Cherry Orchard” for the first time and I realized the thread of money in it. Then I read Ibsen’s play  “An Enemy of the People” and noticed the economic theme there. They I started noticing it everywhere in plays, novels and movies.

From the mayor’s perspective the real danger of Bruce the shark in Jaws is he threatens the whole economy of the island town. In The Perfect Storm, George Clooney takes the boat back out because money is tight. Dustin Hoffman auditions as a women in Tootsie because he can’t get work as a male actor. Once you see this you see it everywhere in movies. 

Here is a quick random list where money, need to pay bills, lack of a job, greed and/or some form of economics play a key part in the story:

Chinatown
Scarface
Titanic
Sunset Blvd.
Tootsie
On the Waterfront
Wall St.
Cinderella 
Cinderella Man
Ragging Bull
Rocky 
Jaws
Jerry Maguire
It’s a Wonderful Life
Field of Dreams
Big
Greed
Body Heat
Falling Down
The Godfather
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 
The Jerk
Gone with the Wind
The Verdict 
Gone with the Wind 
The Grapes of Wrath
Risky Business
Do the Right Thing
Hoop Dreams 
Rain Man
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
The Gold Rush
Home Alone
Babette’s Feast
The Incredibles
Castway
Ocean’s Eleven
The Perfect Storm
Pretty Women
Trading Places
Indecent Proposal 
The Firm
American Ganster 
Rollover 

And it’s not limited to dramatic films. It’s hard to watch Hoops Dreams, Ken Burns’ The West, or any Michael Moore documentary and not connect it to economics.

So if you’re struggling with a story or struggling what to write, open up that door that explores economics. You don’t have to write The Wealth of Nations, but at least explore some aspect of it.  Join Tennessee Williams, John Steinbeck, Eugene O’Neill and other great writers who tackled that monster.

One thing living in the Midwest the past five years has done is help me understand how the world works economically. Because on a small level you see when John Deere is selling tractors locally, nationally and globally it helps the housing market here as the standard of living increases. The Midwest was the only place to to see homes appreciate last quarter. (Other parts of the country saw a 2 to 36% drop.)  But that wasn’t always the case.

When the farming crisis hit in the mid-eighties and John Deere (Cedar Valley’s largest employer) laid off 10,000 of it’s 15,000 employees and people were walking away from their homes. A film that came out of that era was the 1984 Sam Shepard, Jessica Lange film Country filmed right here in Black Hawk County. (By the way John Deere the company celebrates today 90 years being in this area. If you’ve ever eaten food they’ve had some role in it along the way.)

Three years later Oliver Stone’s film Wall St. came out the same year Black Monday occurred as stock markets around the world crashed. It was the largest one-day percentage decline in stock market history since the great depression. (It only ranks #5 now.)  So here we are 20 years later still trying to figure it all out as two of the top ten largest stock market drops have been in the last two weeks. (Sept 29 update: Make that three of the top ten stock market drops have occurred in the last two weeks.)

(I’m sure Stone felt good when Wall St. first came out, kinda of like “I told you so.” But on the DVD commentary Michael Douglas said that he often told by stock brokers that they got into the business because of the Gekko character he played. Douglas said he doesn’t understand because he was the bad guy. But how many of those guys now in positions of leadership in the financial crisis had Gekko as their hero? To quote writer/professor Bill Romanowski one more time, “Movies reflect the culture they help produce.”

The news will tell us what happened, critics will tell us why it happened, and it’s up to writers to tell us what it means. For years now I have noticed in many different states that more often than not when I go into a convenience store I see someone buying beer, cigarettes and lottery tickets and I ask myself, “What does this say about about the direction we are heading?”

Screenwriting is a place where we can pose those questions –and the playwright Ibsen said it was enough to ask the question.  So get busy asking questions. And if the economy gets worse remember this Carlos Stevens quote:

”Throughout most of the Depression, Americans went assiduously, devotedly, almost compulsively, to the movies.”

On the opposite end of Hollywood from Gordon Gekko is Paul Newman. If there ever was an example of a talented actor/director and giving businessman/ social entrepreneur it was Ohio-born and raised Newman who passed away last night. Newman’s films Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke, Absence of Malice and The Verdict will always be favorites of mine.

“I had no natural gift to be anything–not an athlete, not an actor, not a writer, not a director, a painter of garden porches–not anything. So I’ve worked really hard, because nothing ever came easily to me.”
                                                                                            Paul Newman 

 

(Newman’s Midwest roots extend to performing in summer stock theaters in Wisconsin and Illinois. And an Iowa connection is his last Academy Award nomination was for his role in The Road to Perdition which was based on the graphic novel by Iowa writer Max Allen Collins. And don’t forget that the Newman’s Own label was inspired by Cedar Rapids artist Grant Woods’ American Gothic.

I find it interesting that the three largest legendary film actors coming up in the 50s were all from the Midwest; Marlon Brando (Nebraska), James Dean (Indiana) along with Newman.)

Gavin the lawyer Newman played in the David Mamet scripted The Verdict says words that are just as relevant today as when they we spoken a couple decades ago: “You know, so much of the time we’re lost. We say, ‘Please God, tell us what is right. Tell us what’s true. There is no justice. The rich win, the poor are powerless…’ We become tired of hearing people lie.”

The world is upside down when we pay executives millions in golden parachutes when they drive a company into the ground. And that’s after they lied about the about the companies financial record along with their hand picked spineless board of directors. And after they’ve cashed in their own inflated stocks while the stockholders and employees are shortchanged.

But how nice to see a company like Newman’s Own whose entire profits from salad dressing and all natural food products are donated to charities. The company motto is “Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good.” To date Newman and his company have generated more than $250 million to thousands of charities worldwide. 

“What could be better than to hold out your hand to people who are less fortunate than you are?
                                                                                                      Paul Newman

P.S. Robert Redford had hoped he and Newman would be able to make one last film together and had bought the rights to Des Moines, Iowa born and raised Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods

“I got the rights to the movie four years ago, and we couldn’t decide if we were too old to do it,” said Redford. “The picture was written and everything. It breaks my heart.”

 

Copyright 2008 Scott W. Smith

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