Film Threat archive logo


By Hammad Zaidi | January 4, 2011

Wake up filmmakers! It’s the first week of 2011 and your career is waiting. Studios, distributors, and other powers-that-be in Hollywood are trickling back into their offices this week, and they’re as relaxed and re-energized as they’ll be until this time next year. If that’s enough incentive to contact them about your project, here’s another one:  Their spending budgets have just been replenished for 2011.  So, this is the week to jumpstart your career, year, month, whatever! Before you dive into the first month of the second decade of this century, here’s a quick “To Do List” to help you structure and navigate your journey.  While these tactics may not change your life, they will save you time, increase your confidence, and create forward progress. So, without further ado, here’s the 2011 Going Bionic 2010 “To-Do List.”

Take The Word “No” Out Of Your Vocabulary
When I was a graduate student at the UCLA Film School’s Producers Program, one of my professors, Peter Guber, always said that whenever he heard the word “no,” he turned it around into the word “on,” as in it’s time to “move on” and charge forward with the project. That tactic has been tattooed in my mind ever since I graduated UCLA in 1994. For those of you who are wondering who Peter Guber is, he’s one of the most successful producers in the history of American cinema. Batman (1989), Rain Man, (1988), The Color Purple, (1985), Flashdance (1983), An American Werewolf In London (1981), and Midnight Express (1978), are just a few of his hits. Peter Guber was also the head of Sony Pictures Entertainment in the 1990’s, (Sony is the mother company to Columbia Pictures).  He currently owns Mandalay Entertainment, and co-owns the NBA’s Golden State Warriors – among other sports ventures. Thus, Peter Guber is living proof that not hearing “no” works.

Cut The Naysayers Out of Your Life
Life is hard enough in this economy, and more than twice as hard in the film industry during this economy, so the last thing you need are negative people holding you back. Of course it’s always good to absorb healthy criticism from people who are try to make your project better, but negative people will do nothing more than waste your time and force you to second-guess yourself. Cut them out of your life like they’re a bad cancer. Doing so will enrich your life tremendously.

Contact Five Companies/People About Your Project
Do this before this Friday. Why wait? All they can say is “no,” and you already know what to do when you hear a “no.”

Get Answers on Pending Submissions
If you have a project that you’re waiting for an answer on, touch base with the person or company that has it. If they have considered it, you’ll find out your fate before the weekend. If they haven’t considered it yet, ask them when they will. If they say, “within a week or two,” tell them you’ll touch base with them in a few weeks.

However, if they inform you that they can’t consider your project for another “six to eight weeks,” then politely ask them to mail your script back to you, or to delete the file and send you confirmation of such (if you sent to them electronically).  Trust me, if they can’t find two hours to consider your project over the next two months, it’s not high on their list of potential purchases. All you’ll be doing is wasting two months that you could be spending submitting to other companies that may want to buy your project.

Set Up Five Meet And Greet Meetings With Game-Changers
I don’t mean you have to go meet with multi-billion dollar game-changers like Peter Guber, James Cameron or Mark Zuckerberg. I mean you should meet with “game changers” for your career. Meet with a distributor, a production company executive, or an agent/manager. Many won’t have time for you, but some will, and it’s those people who may be instrumental to helping you move forward. Remember, “meet and greet” meetings are under 10 minutes by nature, so don’t expect them to give you more time than that.

The other thing to remember is phone meetings or Internet based chats are actual meetings – so treat them as such. Modern technology has afforded entertainment industry professionals the opportunity to meet you, without actually “meeting you.” Don’t worry, if your work impresses the hell out of them, you’ll meet in person soon enough.

After you finish all five meetings, set up five more.

Circle Your Birthday As a Date To Finish Something
For those of you with birthdays in January like me, you’d better get started tonight! For those of you with birthdays in late-December, this is not an excuse to only accomplish one thing this year. For everyone else, using your birthday as a day you must accomplish something huge for your career is a great way to get motivated. The key is to make sure your goal is hard enough to take time and effort to get, but not ridiculously unrealistic like “I’m going to make 100 million this year.”

Divide Your Year Into Seasons, Months, Weeks And Days
Make goals for each day, week, month and season. Of course you can’t expect to hit each goal on time, especially since you’ll be at the mercy of others taking their time to get back to you. But, if you stay on course, at the end of the year you’ll find that you accomplished a lot more than you can imagine today.

If You Write, Then Write At least One Page Per Day
Think about it; writing one page per day means that you could have a script written by Easter (April 24th) or a novel written before Labor Day (September 5th). I know everyone is at least as busy as I am, but all of us can find time to write one page per day. Remember, procrastination is not your friend.

Start Reading Film Trade Publications
Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are excellent sources to learn what deals are being made in town, and what the current trends are. Needless to say, you should also be reading Film Threat – but then again, you are because you’re reading this.

Get Your Pitch Down To One Magical Sentence
Simply put, if you can’t clearly describe your project on the spot, in one sentence or less, then it’s not ready to pitch yet. Always remember how busy people in this industry are, and that they’ll rarely give you more than one sentence to convince them to carve out more time for you.

Be Accessible
Have multiple ways for people to contact you, and make it easy for them to do so. Make sure your e-mail address is easy to read and that it’s not offensive or incriminating. For example, I know a filmmaker whose e-mail address has the words “big dick” in it. Naturally, several women professionals chose not to respond to his emails, even though his project had potential. The filmmaker never accepted my opinion that his e-mail address was limiting him, but based on the lack of responses, I think it hammered several nails in his project’s coffin.

Start Today
Not tomorrow, next week, or when the weather gets better. Jumpstart your year today, because doing so puts you one day closer to reaching your goal.

2011 is going to be a magical year for you, because you’re going to charge toward your goals fearlessly and riddled with positivity. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be fun, because chasing your dreams should be fun – or they shouldn’t be your dreams!

Thank you for lending me your eyes, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon