Filmmaking Essentials: Being of Value, Moneymakers, Women in Film, and the New Hollywood Generation

Transcript from the ‘Hollywood, Unapologetic!‘ episode, written by Orlando Delbert.

I wanted to speak a little bit about Filmmaking Essentials: Being Of Value, Moneymakers, Women In Film, and the New Hollywood Generation.

One of the biggest lessons I learned growing up in the entertainment industry was seeing firsthand the rational and the mechanics of business decisions, and understanding how money is made. This may sound like a no-brainer because “the business of show” is most definitely about moneymaking; it is also about those in various levels of power positions throwing their weight around, oftentimes driven by their own hubris.

Hollywood has and will always be about making the most money possible the quickest, with as little risk, period. This will never change. The financial risks are so high today; back-to-back 9-figure feature film failures can bring down a motion picture studio. And every year, this possibility grows closer, as part of a looming implosion of the current Hollywood studio system, Spielberg and Lucas spoke about, and I’ve written about years ago. This is why the studios follow the same formula that has worked over-and-over again because they can asses the risk involved by something tested and true.

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I mention this because as the dialogue grows for equality of women, specifically in and around the filmmaking community, the focus often doesn’t touch upon what drives the studio decisions; money.

Better said, as much of the quantitatively assessed data breaks down this and that, and the validity of that data, none of this addresses the simple fact that it still comes down to the individuals with the drive and the talent to create their own content, as part of not only providing a positive and unifying voice for all female filmmakers around the world, but also to build up each and every one of the content creator’s body of work.

This is entirely relative to the dialogue about more women having access to more projects, simply because much of the dialogue stops short of the fact, no studio with a $300 million dollar film project is going to hand the director reigns to someone without a proven track record. That’s not about someone being of a particular sex, race, sexual preference, disability, or anything else. It’s about financial risk.

Although I grew up around theater and had my time as a studio musician in New York, until I moved to Los Angeles and became more involved in the backend of television and film production, financing, and distribution, it was only then when I saw how those in power positions and who had the “real” money lived and interacted with those in perceived “subservient” positions.

As part of striving to being of value to others in my chosen field, as well as to myself, I’ve always found myself surrounded by those of successful means. The saying, “success breeds success” is very much true. I’ve been fortunate to have had mentors who taught me a lot about the importance of being of value, as well as the multiple tiers of finance, more specifically in my travels around the distribution-end of content creation. The more money someone has, the less likely they are to have any associations with anyone below their own tax bracket.

For example, if you have a feature film and are looking for an angel investor to invest $100,000 towards your project, but the person you are meeting with has a net value of over $100 million, they may see your project as a waste of their time, simply because of the value they put on their time-itself. Even though the financial risk is not so high to them, and can probably be some sort of write-off in the event of the project tanking. However, if you are looking for $1 million and have enough star-power attached to it, then they may take an interest, if the terms are met to their satisfaction, usually, meaning they get their return before anyone else. Make sense?

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For most of us, we never are around others of substantial wealth to see the way they perceive others outside of their immediate circle. And for a large majority of them, their circle is based mostly on what they are worth financially. So if you have a net value of around $1 million dollars, someone of a net worth of $10 million may not see much value in building any kind of relationship with you. The same can be said of someone worth $50 million, and their view of someone worth only $10 million. And the tiers just go up, and up, and up.

Of course there are exceptions to this rule. But many of those that are in and around the Hollywood machine that are of substantial wealth, certainly follow by this “class” structure. And for most of us, we just don’t fit in.

Another thing worth mentioning, it is believed that if the top 10 Hollywood actors made sure there was a 50% hiring clause in their contracts, within 3 years, all hiring would be 50/50. The problem not addressed by this is that this clause would have to get past the agents of these same actors.

Something most people are not aware of, most of the agents in this town have a lot of power and are motivated only by their financial gain. So much so, they sometimes don’t even present projects to their clients unless it is in the agent’s financial benefit first. Since so much of this industry is about payoffs, and for agents in particular, it is not at all uncommon for them to be paid multiple times by their own clients. So unless a project that falls on the desk of their client with this hiring clause, ensures the agent will get paid by others the agent brings in, often by other on-screen talent, or other above-the-line artisans, the deal will go no further.

Another thing that often is left out of this dialogue is creating content for television and for the web. Much of the development-through-production processes are the same as it is to create motion pictures, but the distribution sides are different. And right now, there are a lot of opportunities presenting themselves for cable and streaming services and will only grow.

Don’t be too proud to get involved in creating content for television or for a streaming service. With the right preparation, just like anything else, it can be rewarding. I myself came to Los Angeles over 20 years ago with my eye on special digital effects and becoming a visual effects supervisor for feature films, and fell into motion graphics. Most of my success was working on major television shows and networks, which also brought a level of stability very difficult to acquire in the feature film arena before establishing oneself. Plus, a handful of awards too…

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It’s details like these that are left out of the dialogue about lack of opportunities for women in film. This is why it is crucial to be less reliant on hoping for a shot directing a big motion picture for a major film studio, until you have a body of work that shows you have the drive, resilience, and talent to be a successful filmmaker. But instead focus on what you can do now, today, and build up your own skillset, while contributing to the filmmaking community.

This is true for anyone who wants to be a filmmaker, not just women, but for all of us. And always keep in mind; many first-time filmmakers become one-time filmmakers. It is an arduous process not at all intended for the meek.

As members of the New Hollywood Generation, take the time to assess what your short-term and long-term goals are. Create a timeline of where you are today, and where you would like to see yourself in a year, two years, five years, ten, professionally, financially, and personally. Do your research and learn what you can about technology, distribution outlets, contracts, and of course set etiquette and protocols. All of these things are important and help to make you of value to others in our industry, and to yourself.

Before we wrap up, I’m going to give you a little something to think about.

The lessons learned as a content creator can help build leadership qualities and an entrepreneurial approach to life. The process will help you build structure and the discipline needed to truly be a success. Use this information as a tool, so that you can protect your integrity, and yourself better. And don’t forget to have fun with it.

Making a film takes a lot of effort to see it all of the way through, but definitely can be worth it. Your experiences stay with you for the rest of your life. Make your plan. Take a breath. Go for it! You can do it once you believe you can.

The world is greatly influenced by what is seen on the screen and heard on the radio. Let’s be the “New Hollywood Generation.” Let’s give them something that will drive everyone to do something bigger and to make a positive difference in the world.

Something I’d like to leave you with: We are all in it together. Each and every one of you is an important part of our future. You are important to the lives of those who surround you. You are important to your communities. You are important to our industry. No matter what, remain optimistic and focused on your goal. Never stop believing in yourself! And always remember: You are the key to your own success. Take a breath. Move forward.

Together, let’s create a revival; the resurgence of Hollywood, and bring back the auteur to cinema. Be an active part of the “New Hollywood Generation”! YOU are a representative of the “New Hollywood Generation”. And please subscribe to our channel, and share. Interviews are coming. Don’t forget to check out our other videos in the series. And follow the link below to check our or swag.

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