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Thoughts and Musings

Do You Have Creative Works for Sale?

Do You Have Creative Works for Sale?  

I have been doing book publicity for over ten years and the business of selling books has changed tremendously during that time.  Self publishing has become respected and mainstream; buyer habits have changed; social media has become the new broadcast, endorsement and merchandising tool; and distribution has narrowed.  In fact, selling books has changed so much and is changing so rapidly that to be successful, one must be as dynamic as the market.  

The same thing is happening in the film, music and art markets.  I would submit that film, music, art and books have become or are quickly becoming one business.  The reason?  Technology. Technology is the new distribution method for all artistic endeavors.  It is the voice, the kiosk, the measurement tool, and the power.  

A producer of creative works can now see in an instant where they are, what works and what doesn’t, and they can control and distribute the message like never before.  It’s no longer enough to produce the work—how you have to sell it, baby!  And the MBAs running the music, publishing, film, and art businesses are looking for the producers of creative works to be ready to go. This means a creative must have a platform.

 The best book I have ever read for writers wanting to build a platform is Chuck Sambuchino’s book, Create Your Writer Platform.  You can follow him at @ChuckSambuchino or at his website @WritersDigest   The principles in the book apply to the music, film, and art business as much as they do the business of selling books.  Buy the book and energize your creative platform.  Please follow me at @SherryFrazier

Is Your Book Ready for Film?

I get a lot of calls from writers who have been told that their book would make a great film.  I am lucky to be able to work with some very good story tellers and they all have one thing in common:  They have a great story and they are the best person to tell that story.  My favorites also learn the process and continue working while the big engine takes their project to film.  They understand that there are no guarantees, it takes time, and one step leads to another. 

It takes years for a film to be made.  Just look at the films at Oscars 2014.  Some of those projects sat for years, but because someone stayed with it, committed to the project and didn’t give up, a movie was born.  And Oscars were won.  Miracles happen but they only happen after years of hard work, belief, tenacity, and a big talent attaches to the film.  I am so inspired by the actors who believe in making a difference and are committed to contributing to society through their voices and influence.  I loved Jared Leto’s speech at the Oscars--he made me want to be a better person.  And to cherish my dreams.
 
That being said, the writer has toiled, sometimes for years, to create a unique and compelling work.  If the work is a book, it can be sold and enjoyed.  If the work is a screenplay, the project flies under the public radar.  I am always impressed with a writer’s confidence and patience as writing is not a job for those who need constant accolades.  Easy compliments can be found in the chat rooms where writers congregate to talk about the best thing anyone ever said about their work….but those people are not real writers.  They are people who wish they were writers.  The real writers write.  Someone who spends time talking about what they are writing or going to write just takes the spirit away from the story.  Writing is a need, the soul’s demand to create.  It cannot be satisfied by talking about it.  It can be diluted by doing so, though.  Talking about it and then writing is like photocopying a copy.  The work is not as sharp as it could be if it went directly from heart to story without the filter of ears and mouths offering opinions.  All that noise should come after the work is done, but before it is published. Not before it is written. 

Once the story is optioned, the producer takes over.  And he/she is the boss of the story.  I probably get three calls a week from new writers who want total control of their script when it goes into production.  They want to participate in all aspects of the project, get a producer credit, star in the film, and have the ability to change decisions that are made during the filmmaking process.  When I tell them that their demand is impossible, they say that they want to work with creative people, not business people.  6.5 – 9 million dollars will allow them to take that approach but it will take a better person than me to strike a deal with a producer to give a new writer any kind of control over the film.  Unless, of course, they bring money along with their demands.  And even then, it is all about the work. 

In the end, the art of film making is a business.  The story is important.  The script is important.  A great movie cannot be made without a great script.  A great script can sit around even if all of the stars in the Universe are aligned.  A film will never happen if all the players who make a film get a sense that the writers demands make it feel like the whole project is starting out with bad karma.  “If it is this difficult to work with them BEFORE we begin, what will it be like after?”  Producers have to have a passion for the story, distributors and financers have to know they can make a profit, and talent has to believe the project is managed by people who know what they are doing.  

Making a film is a confusing, frustrating, emotional, and physically tiring process.  It is not for everyone but for those who prevail, film is an art form.  It takes on many shapes, personalities, and messages.  Crooked edges are the norm, Murphy’s Law prevails.  The story is the catalyst for everything that comes afterward.  The story touched someone who is in a position to attempt to make something happen.  It is the critical first step but it is just one of many important steps that must occur. 

Getting a film deal is like sending your baby to war.  The baby will cross dangerous waters, be hit by friendly gunfire, be blown up by roadside bombs, and it might die.  It might come home a hero or maimed.  Being quietly confident and easy to work with is the only way you can show support.  Your child doesn’t write, doesn’t call, you don’t even know where they are until suddenly you are notified that the film is going forward.  Or it isn’t.  It is a 3000 mile journey and everyone with experience knows this.  Don’t be the writer asking if they are there yet when the odometer says 100 miles.  

Many good writers are very goal oriented so they believe that there must be something they can do to move faster.  The fact is, go with people you trust and then let them do their work.  Work on your next project, fill your pipeline, and create!  I always say that you can’t put nine one week along pregnant women in a room for a month and produce a baby….it takes as long as it takes.  Your activity will not produce better, more, or even any results.  In fact, your activity can blow up the whole deal.  In an industry where so much can go wrong, the worst person to be on the film team is the person needing constant attention.  

In the creative world, artists trust their gut.  The good ones don’t care what anyone thinks about their idea; they just know they have to do it.  There has never been a greater time in history to be a writer.  Work.  Live with passion.  Make people feel.  Tell the story.  Be authentic. Work.

Photographs and Memories

It was a great honor to interview photographer Richard Lee Benson last night.  Richard Lee Benson’s five-decades long career included photographing John Wayne, Bob Hope, Erte, Danny Thomas, Willie Nelson, Santana, Joe DiMaggio, Faye Dunaway, Reggie Jackson, Halston, Dianna Ross, Brooke Shields, Dick Clark, Jack Nicholson, Jose Feliciano, Shaq, Alan Alda, and too many more to name. 
 
Mr. Benson’s career began as a U.S. Army photographer and journalist stationed in the United States and Viet Nam.  He went on to work for Esquire Magazine for a short period before he started his own photography studio in NYC where he had a tremendous opportunity to meet and shoot the high powered and the famous of NYC, the Nation, and the World. 
 
Later, his move to Florida gave him the opportunity to shoot commercial photos and broadcast video for CBS Sports, Bloomberg Communications, MSNBC, and E! Entertainment.  He once interviewed 136 year old Charlie Smith, a former slave and member of the Jesse James Gang. 
 
Benson is now semi-retired but, like all brilliant creative people, just can’t stop working.  He is finishing work on a book containing photos of interesting people he meets while touring the United States.   He is open to opportunity, completely authentic, and still passionate about telling stories through his work.  He is a true artist.
 
The interview made me think of photography on a personal level, what it means to me and to all of us as we travel on this conveyer belt called life:
In our lifetimes, we have never been without photography.  At the personal level, we have photos documenting every important part of our lives---school photos, christening photos, baby photos, wedding photos, anniversary photos, dad sleeping in his chair photos, fishing photos, skiing photos, sports pictures made into magnets on the refrigerator photos. We own every kind of photo for every type of occasion.  And it is perhaps because of a photo’s intimacy and familiarity that make it difficult to call it “art.”  It seems sad that the very accessibility of photography reduces its importance or the perception of its importance.  Until time passes.  And then photographs are the only evidence we have that what our brain remembers is true.  I think photos are wonderful treasures…personal, poignant, and precious.  They recall a place in time.  And they will live on forever.
 
We are lucky to enjoy photos memorializing our lives and the events that surround us during our lifetime.  When I was a kid, there was a marvelous newspaper, The Whidbey Press, with a magnificent editor who was also a photographer.  His name was Wallie Funk.  He had the energy of 10 people and he seemed to be everywhere-- taking shots of people in the crowd at games, players as they ran onto the gym floor or were hauled off the football field, parade participants, jets flying overhead, Flags flying, honors given, Navy Squadron Families greeting loved ones after a 9 month deployment.  His newspaper pages were filled with Town Council meetings, band performances, graduations and Homecomings---everyday life full of everyday people.  He recorded every moment, every emotion and he made us all part of his community.  He made our lives feel important and his magical photos helped us understand those people around us who were different… but the same.  He built a tremendous body of work that lives on in our collective memories, a vast tapestry of Island life—colorful, beautiful, American to the core.  Every week he wove more evidence of our passage through time, illuminating truth, and spotlighting his vision of our little town between the pages of weekly newsprint.  Those pages were our childhood, they were our community.  He celebrated the human spirit and it was through his eye that we graduated to an enlightened understanding of our little town that made us all part of something greater than ourselves--more appreciative, sensitive, and willing to embrace humanity …..He created and punctuated our memories.  He made us notice more, feel stronger, celebrate louder, care more.  And the acknowledgment through his work made us look closer and gave us an appreciation for the simple things we might have missed without his passion to share. He was dedicated to tell his story.  And that is the story we remember.  That is the town we cherish.
 
Bless the artists and the visionaries who make us feel, make us better for having experienced their work.   Thank you, Wallie Funk.
 

Bless the Writers

I had the good fortune to interview Elizabeth English tonight.  I closed my show with the following words for fellow writers:
 
For all you writers out there, I wish you passion, focus, and perspective.
I have never met a successful writer who wrote from their head....it's all in the heart, it's all in that space where you become one with the work and unaware of anything going on around you....you can't hear outside voices, time has no meaning. The only sound is the beat of the story, the timing of the message, the cadence of the characters.....successful writers work. They don't talk, they don't have time to make excuses, they don't look for reasons why not. Because it is the work that drives them. Successful writers don't join blog groups or chat rooms to answer the question "the best thing anyone ever said about your writing?" Because the good writers don't care if people like it or not as long as it tells their story the way they feel the story. A good writer is an artist, a musician of words, a painter of passion, a dancer with reckless abandon and thoughtful dynamics. A good writer writes. A good writer writes. A great writer rewrites.
A successful writer has the good sense to finish and move on to the next work.....putting the work in the hands of the professionals who bridge the gap between creativity and business, people who speak the "other" language and make it sing. Those business people are the sound system for the work, the speakers, the broadcasters, the pit bulls who make success happen. A successful writer knows that it is not enough to have written---if you simply write it, they do not come......You need those guys.
A successful writer has the good sense to maintain their privacy and their "eye" They have the ability to "see" things others don't see, to "feel" things others don't understand. And to encapsulate these delicious creatures into characters that inspire, horrify, teach, make us laugh.....and endure. Sometimes forever.
A successful writer does not bash Hollywood. They do not use the name of the most successful in vain. Because, in the end, the successful writers know it is all about the work. The BUSINESS of Hollywood is all about the people---and in a highly volatile business with a lot of variables and big budgets, people form alliances--they work with people they trust and understand. So, the successful writer is not only over-the-top talented, they are also consistent, pleasant, smart and easy-to-work with.......There is a lot of talk about writers not getting respect. Well, that is not true. The writers who write the best works are not among those complaining about respect---they live in a cocoon of challenge, opportunity, and grace. And they make a good living. We have never been in a time with so many opportunities for good writing. Content is needed everywhere and creativity can never be a commodity. The business needs us. We need only do what we do. Write. Write. Write. And Live with passion so we have something to give back to our work.
I leave tonight sending powerful and positive thoughts to all of you writers, filmmakers and artists. Work! Do your thing. See the forest and walk toward to light.

This Wonderful Life -- A Mom with Boys

After my interview with Brooke de Lench, I shared my own thoughts about football and being a mom on the sidelines:

In the beginning, football was just a little game--play some flag, have some fun, move up to C-League and learn the game. But that was before No Vacation In August became No Vacation At All.....

We never sent our boys out to become gladiators: To get beat up, yelled at, dirty, scabbed and injured. We sent them out to get a jump-start on what we know they have to learn eventually--that life is mostly unfair, talent trumps hard work, the boss does play favorites, you've got to do what you are supposed to do, and, even when you do--that the worst possible thing will happen at the worst possible moment. And you have to learn from all of it and push onward. Everyone survives. In the end, most of the time, no one dies.

We want our boys to learn from football that there will be another game, on another day--so you better be prepared next time. The score will start out zero to zero and, and on any given day, both teams show up, on time, and dressed to play. Either team can win. The team that wins is the team that is best prepared, does their job, wants it most, executes, and calls the best plays. The winning team only finishes after the game is over.

We send our boys out there to learn life lessons, to learn how to deal with adversity, to win with honor, and to lose gracefully. We want our boys to put themselves out there with their whole hearts and, win or lose, become better men. Somehow, we know that under that sweaty, dirty uniform, is the man they will become and we want that guy to drive into manhood with honor, dignity, confidence and experience.

We hope our boys make friends, have some laughs, and have fun. We really hope they have good men for coaches, and learn that in football, like in life, a person gets what they give. We want them to learn that nothing worthwhile is ever given freely--it is earned. And we want them to know that they won't get anything without putting themselves out there--with desire, trying, learning, striving, and mastering the game. Use your words! Ask for what you want! Go after it! Master it! Teach others! Lead!

We want our boys to learn that perseverance is everything. Focus is key. We hope they keep their eyes on the ball and their heart in the game--to the very end, no matter what is happening on the scoreboard. We want them to know that they won't always win, but if they give all they've got, they will have a winning heart. And that is really what we wish for our boys.

Everyone has to stop playing football sometime.....but the heart beats on until the end. So, it is their hearts we have been concentrating on. We focus on their hearts through loss, through adversity, through disappointment, and happiness. And for them--it is through the eyes of a team, that they will learn true appreciation--for the winning AND for the losing. Because after a whole lot of defeat, victory is sweet.

If our boys can celebrate their defeats and take the lessons learned to the next game or to the next phase of their lives--they've won. We want them to own that only a quitter loses every time. May our boys break out the swagger, contain the sorrow, remember the victories, and use it all to fuel their futures. A future with the sweet memory, and the benefit of football.

When they win, let's hope that they cherish the moment and take a second to look around, high five their teammates and feel, really celebrate with joy. Football has taught us that much of what they do on the field and from now on in life will be up to them. They do it alone. We can only support, love, and pray for them. And we will be in the stands, in their hearts, on the sideline, rooting them onward.

By Sherry Frazier, From A letter to my boys.
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