There’s a lot of talk in Hollywood about the big break. The moment that a magical person discovers your script or watches your reel and then taps you on the shoulder and says, “Kid, I’m going to make you a star.”
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I spent day after day wondering when someone would see the potential that I saw in myself as a producer and give me my big shot. I had countless meetings with kindhearted mentors who wanted to help guide me, but the tap on the shoulder never came. I got lots of great advice, but none of it immediately changed my life. I got depressed. I felt like I’d never reach my goals.
Then one day I had a revelation. I’d already met the person that was going to give me the break I was looking for… myself.
The best and the worst thing about this business is that there are no rules. It’s counterintuitive to the structured world that most of us were raised in. Your teacher gives you an assignment, you complete it to the best of your ability, and you move on. There are outward measures of progress and success and we look to others to define what they are.
In the film business, there’s no right way to get things done and there are a lot of other talented people like you with big dreams. Finding your own luck and achieving your goals is all about getting out of your own head and finding ways to align your ambitions with those of others. This is a collaborative business. No one is going to buy your script or give you a writing assignment just to be nice. They are going to do so because they understand your value and enjoy working with you.
So, how can you put yourself in a position to get lucky?
It starts with hard work and a clear head. With a sharp focus, you’ll be able to:
- Determine the skills that you have that add the most value.
- Think about others’ goals ahead of your own.
- Team up with a strong set of trusted collaborators.
- Find an undeniably good project that instills creative confidence.
In my first blog on mentorship, I wrote about how every project is like a train. It takes a great group of excited people working together in tandem to allow it to reach its destination. A good mentor can be invaluable in helping to guide you on the path to finding your role and voice but they can’t do the work for you… that must come from within.
So, how do you determine your most valuable skills?
Think about the market landscape and figure out what you can do better than anyone else. Work at it. Define both your skills and your weaknesses. Be clear with others about how you can help them to achieve their goals. The magic happens when the right group of people put their heads together and work hard. When each person takes ownership of their area of expertise, the entire group rises together. Perhaps you are fantastic at writing dialogue but struggle with plot; well there’s probably someone with a complementary skill set. You’ll add value to each other by being honest about your strengths and weaknesses and working together.
What’s the best way to find good partners?
It starts by looking inward. In order to find good partners, you need to become one yourself. Create a personal code of conduct and have a strong moral compass. Choose to be the type of partner that you want for yourself. Good collaborations come down to honesty and trust. Anything less can destroy them. Be clear about how you’ll add value to the team and be sure to hold up your end of the bargain. The better your relationships are, the better your luck will be. People who are great to work with find work more easily. It only makes sense. There’s a reason you see so many of the same people collaborating over and over. It all comes down to hard work and trust.
How do I get others excited about my ideas?
You can do so by getting excited by theirs and being a good listener. Often times the best ideas come from a great brainstorm session where each person feels comfortable to speak openly. They also come when you have a diverse array of voices weighing in. Leave your ego on the sidelines. When you become excited about others’ ideas and ability to add value, they’ll become excited about the same things in you. Humans feed off of each others’ energy. When you find positive momentum anything can happen. No one is an island and no great film has ever been created by a single person.
How do I find something undeniable?
Once you’ve determined your most valuable skills and found the right collaborators, you’ll start to understand if you have an undeniable idea. I wrote about the power of undeniable ideas in my second blog on how to find early financing.
When you find an undeniable idea, you’ll know. If it doesn’t keep you up at night and if you aren’t willing to give every ounce of energy you have to see it to the finish line, you haven’t found it yet. It’s hard to expect other people to get excited about your idea or script if you aren’t completely in love with it yourself. It’s unrealistic to think that someone will pluck your script out of the thousands out there if you don’t really believe in it. You’ll just be wasting people’s time.
Believing in your project with every ounce of your being will allow you to truly become the magical driving force that makes it happen. It’s an empowering feeling. You won’t rest until the cameras are rolling and you’ll have found the great champion that you’d been seeking in the industry all along… yourself.
You’ll probably still strike out a lot, but the more times you get yourself up to bat with confidence and a strong team behind you, the better the chances are that you’ll create your lucky break.
David Kaufmann is an independent film and television producer living in Los Angeles. He began his career as an NBC Page at Saturday Night Live. He spent over nine years handling film and television licensing and development at Major League Baseball where he helped create critically acclaimed films like Moneyball and 42. He has an undergraduate degree in Journalism from the University of Richmond and holds an MBA from NYU Stern with a focus on the media business and creative producing. He is an active member of the Producers Guild of America. For more on David, please visit his IMDB or LinkedIn.