Tag Archives: Actor

It’s a New Year and I’ve Been Thinking

UnknownOnce again, it’s a new year.  OK, a little past New Years.  I’ve been kind of busy lately (I’ll get to that in a blog post next week). Anyway,  Is it going to be a fresh beginning?  Is it going to be more of the same?  Well, that’s always the question isn’t it? Maybe not for some people, but I think that if you can’t point to lessons you’ve learned and acknowledge that wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you’re learning. If you are paying attention, you can avoid making the mistakes of the past.  If it seems like you’re not learning, you’re just not paying attention.

Over the holidays, I take time to reflect.  Not just on the last year, but I think about what I’ve done over a course of many years to get where I am (wherever that is). It’s a process and there have been victories and mistakes.  Every once in a while you have to take stock and hone things down to a few concepts you know have worked for you.  In that spirit, here’s what I’ve been thinking about that has worked for me.

Invest in Yourself.  Here’s why: no one else is going to do it. At least not in the long term.  People will invest in you so long as their short term needs are being met and so long they maintain their profit margin.  So, be an owner, and if that’s not possible yet work towards being an owner.  How do you do that? Invent your job and when you’re done inventing your job, reinvent it.  You do that by doing way more than your job description. Own your position and commit to your evolution within it.  I’m not just talking about business. Invest in your physical well being, your mental well being, your spiritual well being. Own it all.  If you are not doing the investments, own it and change it.  If you are doing the investments, own the process, own the failures and successes equally.

If you’re already an owner, a freelance entrepreneur, an Artist: Examine your investment.  Are you constantly making it more valuable with everything you do? Or are you undermining it with time wasters, vamping, avoiding issues or excuses? Be honest and make sure you are on track.


Study and Be Curious.  When the world famous cellist Pablo Casals was 90 years old, someone asked him “why do you still practice 4 hours a day?” he replied: “because I think I’m making progress.”

When I’m not studying I notice.  When I’m not studying I have the nagging feeling I am falling behind.  Why do I care so much? Because this isn’t a frickin dress rehearsal.  I’m on stage right now. My career is happening right now.  I’m mentoring those around me right now.  I’m building a business right now.  

What are you trying to accomplish?  Are you seeking out the best information to accomplish it?  Are you stretching your mind and your skill set?  People who know me well, know that I am a big fan of listening to business books on my commute.  I am always looking for new ideas.  If I could do it all over again, I would have started and maintained my discipline of studying whatever endeavor I was involved in a lot sooner than I did. If you are not constantly bringing new ideas into your life, if you are not practicing what you choose to master, you run the run the risk of maintaining your own status quo.  Essentially, status quo doesn’t exist.  It’s against the laws of physics to stand completely still.  You’re always moving in one direction or the other.  Make sure it’s forward.

Trust Your Gut – When people say “my gut is telling me…” they are usually right.  You’re gut is the outward extension of your subconscious.  Our subconscious is much more in tune with how we are really feeling, because it’s not susceptible to the constant brain chatter we engage in.  The key with gut feelings is to separate them from excitement and fear.  After you work through your reasoning on a decision, take a moment to breathe and be silent and let your gut weigh in.

Feel Like an Imposter – I am driven by fear, I admit it. I’ve also found that it’s a good place to be.  So long as fear doesn’t paralyze you, it’s good to worry that you might be “found out.”  It’s good to feel not as smart or talented as people think you are.  It’s the trait I find most prevalent in successful artists.  It makes you humble and focused. Fear handled correctly will make you study harder, practice harder and be more driven. Confidence is great, over confidence breeds mistakes.

6a00d8341c630a53ef013480b8a92d970cTake Risks  “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – Wayne Gretzky.  Usually attributed to Michael Jordan, but indeed he stole it from Gretzky.  This one is very tough, especially if you have a lot of responsibility.  It’s easy to stay where you’re at, do the things that got you to where you are now and maintain. You have to force yourself to step out of your comfort zone and try things that just might not work.  We have two parts of the brain, our modern brain, which reasons and our primitive brain which controls our fight or flight response.  Our primitive brain hates taking risks, because back when we were living in caves, if you took a risk that didn’t work out,  you usually died.  Our primitive brain doesn’t know the difference between a lion and making a cold call.  You have to push through the physiology and risk failure. You also have to fail a lot to succeed.

In my youth I knew the theater impresario Hal Prince quite well.  He once told me that only one third of the shows he produced over his career made money.  It wasn’t lost on me that he he had to produce 9 shows to get 3 successful ones.  He had to work on every one for years to find out if it was a success or a failure.  That is commitment to process.  That is knowing the math and accepting it.  So, accept the math,  get out there, take some risks, fail a lot and start realizing some successes.


Look to the Horizon – When I was learning to drive, I remember the instructor teaching us the concept of looking as far down the road as you can see and let your peripheral vision handle what is directly in front of you.  That way you can see problems as they develop long before they reach you.  This also pertains to opportunities.  I’ve always been interested and excited in the future.  The excitement of what’s coming.  I’ve always looked down the road, it’s just now that I’m realizing how well it’s served me.

Have Some Things in the Pipeline – This is the game of what’s next? In the music industry, you can have a song, an album, a tour, but you’ll never get a record deal if you can’t tell the label what else they can sell after they’re finished selling what you have now.  For every deal I’ve got, I have two more that are gestating in the background. For every move I make, I have two more long range ones that I’m working on. Some will work out in the long run, some won’t, but that’s not the point.  Things worth the trouble take a long time to develop.  You have to put in time on a variety of options and that’s hard when you’d like to have some instant gratification.

And Finally…….

The truth never lives in what you say, the truth is always found in what you do – This is the most important one of all.  People say a lot of things.  I say a lot of things. Sometimes I’m thinking or fantasizing out loud.  I do a lot less of that now, because as a leader, people tend to believe me when I say something and they expect it to happen. So, when I say something I have to back it up with action or lose my credibility. I’ve found it’s very powerful to put yourself in that position. The need to act based on my words will eat at me until I throw down and do something about it.  Declarations may set a standard to be held to, but what you take action on is how you will be judged. What you take action on will determine your success.  What you take action on tells the world your values, your standards and your true intent.

Good luck out there this year.  Make some magic!

25 Rules for Surviving and Thriving In Hollywood

As an actor (my first career in entertainment) I came across a list of rules for making it in show business. I can’t remember who it was by, but it was funny, succinct and to the point.  That was a long time ago and I don’t remember the rules other than the mantra which I’ve repeated here in rules 3, 8, 16 & 25. Also, rule 1. came from an English blogger who’s blog I can’t find now (credit where credit is due… sort of.)

So, here we go.  My first rules for making it in Hollywood. Based on my experience, I wrote down  the 25 most common sense things I could think of. Why 25? I figured you could handle that many.  If I thought if the cast of Jersey Shore was reading, there would only have to be four and I’ll let you guess which ones they are. If you think there are some missing, feel free to chime in.  With no further ado, I bring you my 25 Rules:

1. Always carry a pen.

2. Have specific, time sensitive goals.  Use the pen to write them down. Keep them in a place where you can see them.

3. Save your money.

4. Don’t neglect your family and friends. When the bottom falls out, they are the net that will catch you.

5. Go easy on the cosmetic surgery. There’s a fine line between looking younger and like a surprised floatation device.

6. The best route between Hollywood and Beverly Hills is Fountain Avenue to La Cienega to Burton Way.

7. Always remember that youth and skill are no match for age and treachery.

8. Save your money.

9. There’s no such thing as overnight success.  There are only years of hard work that suddenly pay off.

10. There is a big difference between leaving your mark and marking your territory. Don’t confuse the two.

10. Failure is not an option, it is an inevitable and necessary ingredient of success.

12. Getting knocked down in Hollywood thins out the herd.  Always be sure to get back up.

13. If anyone ever says you’ll never work in this town again, realize it’s only until they need you again.

14. People don’t need a good reason to sue you, they just need a lawyer. Don’t take it personally, it’s just business.

15.  If you don’t love the movie business, find something you love and do that instead.  Love expands and so does bitterness.

16. Save your money.

17. Always make sure you’ve removed the lens cap before rolling.  Success is in the details.

18. The town can smell fear and desperation. Find a way to erase these emotions from your business life.

19. Be nice to waiters, valets and receptionists.  Someday they’ll be green lighting your projects.

20. When someone’s assistant says “actually he/she is in a meeting and can’t talk now.” They “actually” just don’t want to talk to you.

21. Know the difference between providing opportunity and mentoring.  It’s the difference between making someone opportunistic or loyal.

22. Movie making is problem solving. If there are problems, it means that you’re still in business.

23. Never say “to be honest with you” or “I’ll be totally honest.”  These phrases mean that you are not usually honest and your current honesty is an exception to your standard operating procedure.

24.  Anything positive you do or say is instantly forgotten.  Anything negative you do or say follows you forever and makes you a suspect in all the ills of humanity.

25. Save your money.

Culture? I Got Your Culture Right Here

Here’s a question for you; as an artist, entertainer or freelancer, what does corporate culture have to do with you? You’re not a CEO with hundreds of people working under you, so why would you have to think about it? We all have to think about it.  If we don’t, no one will work with us.  Or at the least, if you’re hyper talented, but impossible, people will work with you begrudgingly.

I’ve been involved in a lot of different cultures throughout my working career.  At my first production staff job I was told early on “Our credo is: assume everyone is dumber than you.”  Brilliant!  Grammatically incoherent, promotes arrogance while belittling you all at the same time.  Teamwork wasn’t our thing. It was every idiot for themselves.

My first job at a talent agency was different. I was told by the guy who hired me: “The object of the game here is to devour the top. I won’t be satisfied until you make me obsolete and I’m on the sidewalk looking for a job.”  I don’t think he realized that it would only be three months before he actually was on the sidewalk looking for a job.  I can’t take credit for it.  There was a sudden palace coup that dispatched of him quickly and finally.  Brutal.  It taught me to keep my head down, work hard and never let my bookings or revenue slip.

Looks like the right gear for storming an agent's office.

See, rather quickly it became obvious to me that big talent agency culture was simple: you can have dead bodies piling up in the corner of your office and as long as your bookings are strong, all management will do is send out for air freshener. However, let your bookings slip and they’ll call out for a SWAT team.

So, what is corporate culture?  In essence, it’s the spirit in which groups of people work together.  But, it’s up to each member of the group to individually contribute.  For example:  Good culture would be a movie set where the various departments communicate well towards the common goal.  Great culture would be that the team and individual attitude is ‘serving’ the other departments and the common goal.

Culture tends to be established from the top down, as in the two examples I gave you previously from my own experience.  My favorite movie example of this is in “Tropic Thunder” when Tom Cruise‘s studio head Les Grossman commands the Key Grip to punch the director in the face via Satellite link.  In the real world of movie making there are also examples of establishing culture good and bad.

Jack Nicholson is known for starting up an on set poker game with the cast and crew at the beginning of each movie he does. Invariably, when making movies there’s a lot of waiting around while different departments get ready for a scene. Jack doesn’t hide in his trailer, he spends the time with who’s ever available, building commraderie and passing the time having some fun with those around him.  He’s the boss and he knows it, so he sets a fun relaxed tone with the built in message that waiting is OK.

There’s another actor in Hollywood that arrives for each work day by helicopter. When the crew hears that chopper overhead, they have 20 minutes to be ready to roll camera.  If they’re not, the actor gets back in ther chopper and flies away. Now, there may be good reasons for the actor having to work this way, to each his own. But, the net effect is that the rest of the crew becomes paranoid, anxious and has flashbacks when seeing traffic copters or the opening titles of M*A*S*H.

The individual in the group dynamic is important!  Though it starts from the top down, any team member has the power to make the culture positive or to undermine it.  To make that point, imagine a big lighting setup.  While you are shooting away, someone randomly keeps pulling out plugs. As soon as you get it plugged back in and are rolling again, another one gets pulled on the other side. That is the power of the individual!

So think about it.  What is your individual contribution to the corporate culture of your crew, team or group?  Is it positive or negative? Is it about serving the group or your personal aspirations?

This is a fluid subject. I’m not the poster boy for creating good corporate culture. I think we teach what we most need to learn.  But, I’ve become aware that not only does culture count, if you want to keep your sanity and you want to love going to work everyday it’s essential.

So, how do you change a culture, in an office? On a set? If you’re the boss or department head take a good look at the tone you are setting.  Is it collaborative? Can people ask questions and feel heard in their concerns without feeling their jobs are threatened? Remember, the space shuttle Challenger accident?  The official investigation revealed that the engineers brought up concerns repeatedly. Their concerns were so aggressively rebuffed that they stopped bringing them up out of fear of losing their jobs.

After you’ve done some introspection, write down your personal philosophy of a good working environment and make sure those around you are aware of your feelings.  Then walk your talk and implement your point of view.

If you’re not the boss, it’s all about one thing: ATTITUDE! What attitude are you bringing to the team?  Is it positive? Negative? Self preserving? Secretive? Collaborative? Again introspection is in order. Ask yourself some hard questions. There’s always something to work on.

In the end, attitude always wins out, positive OR negative. But, only you can choose.  The beauty is that you can change the culture around you top down or bottom up. The choice is yours.

An Ode To Sweet Lou

Lou Pinella, the coach of the Chicago Cubs has announced he’s retiring at the end of the baseball season.  That makes 40 years in the major leagues, first as a player and then a manager.  He won World Championships as both.  I’m old enough to have seen him play, first with the Royals and then with the Yankees.  When I was a kid in the late 60’s, my Dad would bring me to a few baseball games a season and I saw Lou play once.  I never forgot him.  Before the game he came over to the stands not far from where we were sitting and struck poses for some pretty girls there.  Flexing his muscles and looking sharp for a camera that wasn’t there.  That’s why they called him “Sweet Lou.”  It’s not that they thought Lou was sweet.  It’s that Lou thought Lou was sweet. Everyone sort of laughed at his arrogance.  I just thought he was an idiot.

But he did something during the game that I’m not sure I fully understood until recently. He was at bat early in the game with nobody on base. A ball was thrown knee high a little on the inside, and Lou did something surprising.  He didn’t jump back.  He stood his ground and pushed his leg out.  The ball hit him square on the side of his knee.  Do you have any idea how hard a major league pitcher throws?  He didn’t even flinch. He was so intent on being the tough guy that he just dropped his bat and ran (slowly) down to first base.

It wasn’t until today when my friend Gabriel told me that my last post ‘Possibility’ reminded him about the need to “lean into” his gifts.  That got me thinking about Sweet Lou again.  It also got me thinking that we spend a lot of time jumping back when things scare us a little.  You see, Lou’s gift was not running or catching or throwing,  though he was good at those things.  His gift was and still is being a competitor.  He saw an opportunity to get on base in that game and he went for it whether or not it scared him or hurt him a little. He didn’t think about the fear or the pain, he needed to stay true to his gift, so he just leaned in. Did he take one for the team?  I don’t know, maybe he hated everyone on the team.  I think he was just doing what came naturally to him. Making sure he capitalized on an opportunity to compete and win.

Is it lack of self confidence that keeps us from fully leaning into our gifts?  Could be, as Lou certainly seemed to have more than his share of confidence.  I think the real lesson is that it’s more important to embrace our gifts and lean into every opportunity to use them.  That can be scary for an Artist as every opportunity seems to come with a judgement about the work.  Well, what would happen if we took the fear and potential pain of that judgement off the table?  How about if we believed in ourselves and built a confident mind as opposed to concentrating on another’s beliefs about our talent which only erodes our confidence?  Think about yourself for a minute. How far could that mental shift take you?

I guess it all depends. Exactly how far are you willing to lean in?

The Scariest Hill On Earth

Ellsworth Road, just mentioning the vast peak out loud brings back adrenaline fueled thrills and nightmares from my youth. It was named after Connecticut’s own Oliver Ellsworth (one of the writers of the US Constitution.) and the state’s first US Senator. This hill, for it was just that, although in my kid eyes it was impossibly large one, and the only one around,  so it might as well have been Pike’s Peak.  We would ride our bikes down in the summer and sled down in the winter before the plows came.  The evil part of this hill was this:  though the top of the hill was the end of the road in the middle of the neighborhood, meaning there was hardly any traffic on it, at the bottom there was a cross street named Riggs. There was no stop sign as it crossed Ellsworth, so cars coming through the neighborhood just barreled on by.  Riding your bike at top speed down the hill, as you approached Riggs, you had a choice:  try to be sure nothing is coming and charge through or hit the brakes and be safe.

More than once I laid down rubber on my bad ass Stingray banana bike right before ending up as a hood ornament.  More than once, my heart jumped into my throat.  Most memorably, the time a tough older kid named Dennis made me ride down on a skateboard.  Me, lying facedown on my belly, my nose inches above the pavement, and him on my back.  That time I forgot about the traffic, wondering how I was going to explain to my mother how my face got ripped off on Ellsworth Road.  But, I somehow survived that descent and many others.

Chief among our games on Ellsworth was to see how far you could coast without pedaling after crossing the dreaded Riggs.  We’d station a kid on the corner to make sure we could race through the intersection without braking. Then the rule was no pedaling, whoever went the farthest won.  As I was thinking about this week’s post, I thought about this game once again.

Momentum.  It’s hard to get it going, and much harder to keep it going.  Especially without pedaling.  When things are going well, the wind hits your face, all you hear is the whoosh in your ears and all you feel is speed.  The farther you go, you slow down almost inperceptably by degrees.  Before you know it, you’re moving quite slowly and not long after you’ve stopped.

Careers are like this.  Especially freelance careers in media and entertainment.  When you have a success or a series of successes, it’s easy to think the rush will never stop and the pace will never lessen.  But it does.  It’s the nature of gravity, friction and distance.  I heard the motivational speaker Brian Tracy once say: “You can only coast in one direction.”  Oh, too true.  I never once coasted UP Ellsworth Road.

The idea is to keep pedaling, even when times are good.  Find ways to keep the momentum going, even when you think you’re going fast enough already.  This is difficult when you are in the heat of one project, to be thinking of the next one, but it’s absolutely necessary!  You have to keep pedaling!

In my career as an agent, I’ve had far too many clients come to me after years of constant work and say, “I used to have momentum, but now it’s slowing down.”  When I ask who they’ve been in contact with lately, they reply:  “I’ve been working for years, I haven’t had time to keep contacts up, so now I don’t really know anyone. I’ve been too busy.”

Do you see why you have to keep pedaling now?  It doesn’t matter whether you are just starting out or have been making money as an artist for 30 years.  You have to do the work of getting work constantly, everyday, and let’s be real, having a freelance job today only means you have to find one for tomorrow.

Here’s my challenge to you.  Make a list of everyone you know in the business.  Make a list of every producer, director, studio, gallery, ad agency that you want to get to know.  Don’t stop until you have reached 50 contacts on each list. Now, find a way to retain or regain contact with those you already know, and ways to make contact with those you want to know.  These lists are the bike. Now you need to pedal a little everyday.

I heard a while back that NASA is proposing to send a spaceship light years away. They are suggesting what is called a perpetual motion rocket engine to power the craft.  This engine will use small thrusts of fuel, fired at timed intervals.  A seconds long burst of thrust from a nuclear engine once every day.  The idea is that over time, all these short bursts add up and the ship is going very far and very fast. The ship never coasts, it’s propelling itself a little each day.

That is pretty much the concept I’m proposing to you.  A small burst of thrust everyday to create huge momentum to gain speed and distance for your career.  Start doing this today, because I can tell you from experience that if you stop pedaling on Ellsworth, you can only coast to halfway between Newport Avenue and Four Mile Road.

Quote Of The Day

The potential of the average person is like a huge ocean unsailed, a new continent unexplored, a world of possibilities waiting to be released and channeled toward some great good.

-Brian Tracy

Time Keeps On Slippin, Slippin, Slippin……..

Back in the day, it seemed like there was plenty of time, extra time. So much time in fact I was constantly bored and made sure everyone around me knew it. Of course I was 15 at the time and I had trouble making people understand that not enough of the known universe was revolving around me. Alas , then I became an adult, and more and more responsibilities were added. My waking hours became horribly stretched and I began to long for boredom. I began to realize that not only did the universe not revolve around me, I seemed to be exhausted from hurtling through it aimlessly, barely avoiding black holes and bumping my head on the random asteroid.

Then something amazing happened. I did my first 20 hour day on a film set. Then another and another. I did years of this. Film production is like that, hours and hours and hours of work to get a project done The lines between waking and sleeping become so blurred that your whole life seems to be overtaken by the work directly in front of you. But, it made me realize just how far you can push yourself and just how much you can get done when forced to focus.

Those days are long behind me now. I’ve had regular office hours for the last 15 years. I get an awful lot done in my day, but I often wonder how I can squeeze a little more time out of the 24 hour cycle. I want to be more efficient (don’t we all,) so I decided to break it down to see where I could find more time.

According to the Julian calendar, We all have the same amount of time to begin with. 168 hours per week to be exact. Lets break it down: Take the necessities off the top.

• 40 hours typically goes to working a job. Office work, work at home, work from home, primary parent, taking care of a domicile. If you are a parent of kids under the age of 16 add another 20.
That’s 60.

• Add 8 hours of sleep per night, that’s 56 hours a week.
2 hours a day watching TV or reading, hobbies, 14 hours per week.
We’re up to 130.

• Time with your spouse out to dinner, movies, making love, fighting (yeah fighting counts), socializing with friends, average 7 hours per week.

• Exercise, 7 hours per week. We’re at 144.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, 1.5 hours a day, that’s 10.5 per week.

The total of all this is: 154 hours.

There are 14 hours left. The question is: What can you do with 14 hours? The answer is a lot. Are you busy already? Sure you are, I know I am, but until I did the math, I didn’t realize that I have been wasting more than a full work day a week on…. I don’t know what.

These numbers will vary wildly from person to person. You have to sit down and add up your own time, but I guarantee that you will find as I did, that you have at least 14 extra hours of time per week to be moving your life forward in the direction YOU CHOOSE.

Here’s the great part. I gave you a stereotypical average of how the hours break down. These are not how YOUR hours break down. My kids are grown, so I spend a lot less time parenting. You may not have kids at home. You may not have a significant other right now. You may sleep 12 hours a day. That’s bad for you by the way, take a minimum of 3 hours off that and go to the gym for an hour, then use the rest to work on your actual dream life.

Being aware of your time is the first step. There’s no doubt that time management is hard. Personally, it’s my biggest challenge. I like the freedom of a “loose schedule,” but I know it doesn’t serve me well. For me, having a loose schedule is an invitation to putter about. An avoidance of the hard work of managing my life and pursuing the activities that will help me reach my goals and dreams.

There’s only one way to conquer it. Plan your time on a daily schedule. Especially hard if you’re a freelancer, but, that’s why a daily, not a weekly appraisal and schedule becomes necessary. It certainly can be done. A good amount of success is measured on your capacity to get things done. How much can you handle in a given amount of time.

You have to find the answer for your life. What I’ve tried to accomplish here, is to point out the amount of time we all have in common, and that there really may be extra time in your life that you didn’t know was there. Here’s my challenge to you this week: Sit down and write down how you spend your 168 hours a week in broad terms. Then refine it against your goals. Then, for one week, take ten minutes every morning and plan your day accordingly.

If you are not spending enough of that weekly time on working towards the goals and future you imagine you will see it in your daily schedule. You will also see ways to adjust.. I like zoning out in front of the TV as much as the next guy and often do it for too long, but I know that I can spend that time more productively. When I have a schedule, I better know when it’s time for leisure and time for work.

If nothing else, do this exercise for fun, just to see how you are spending your time. Once you have done that, perhaps you can redraw the 168 hours into a life that you feel suits you better. I’m not just talking about goals here either. Do you spend TOO MUCH time working? Do your kids, spouse, friends need more of you? Think about it. Nobody on their death bed ever said “I should have spent more time at the office.”

We are creatures of habit. I think we all agree, some of those habits really don’t serve us well. This exercise will help you find some of those negative habits and redirect them into positive habits.

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.
-Benjamin Franklin