Story and Audience Targeting

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The number one problem producers and pastors have in common is their ability to bring the right story to the right audience. Both have to target multiple age groups with a story that’s broad enough to touch everyone, yet only a percentage within the larger group will find that the story resonates with them.

To compensate, many pastors will tell several stories within their sermon to help demonstrate how the teaching applies to each generation. Filmmakers do the same thing by having some scenes aimed at Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z. The scenes must play well enough for all generations to accept it as a functional part of the film’s story, but the generation that the given scene is aimed at will find that particular scene speaking into their lives.

I wrote a screenplay titled The Professor that is aimed at a four-quadrant audience. Some scenes are specifically for Gen Z, while other scenes jointly aim at Millennials and Gen Xers, and a few scenes speak directly to Baby Boomers. The results are clearly spot on when my script is read by each generation. Not because each of my scenes work for everyone, but because there are specific scenes that speak into each generation’s life without detracting from the other generations reading the story.

To develop a story that speaks specifically to each generation takes a tremendous amount of work. The four-quadrant audience, which is broken out between old and young, and male and female, is the basis for each generational viewpoint. In other words, to speak directly into each guardant within each generation will take a minimum of 16 scenes. Those details are better shared over several chapters in some future book I might write.

For now, I’m going to share the three base drivers that must be used to target a story to the right audience. Since only one driver can be clearly used through the protagonist, I’ll use the hero model for my explanation.

Story is about change. The person who changes the most is the protagonist or hero (yes, there are exceptions, but I’m trying to keep this post short). The hero has a worldview that is driven by a core belief that can be categorized as lawful, moral, or ideological.

LAWFUL: The hero believes in institutions like government, religion, schools, and any other man-made system used to protect or grow our communities.

MORAL: The hero takes responsibility to make a difference when something goes wrong with our institutions or thinking. This might be a whistleblower, vigilante, or a (fed up) underdog.

IDEOLOGICAL: The hero believes in something that is overarching and sees each life as a small pebble in the greater scope of humanity. However, the hero also understands that each pebble might be the one that creates the avalanche, like the final straw on the camel’s back.

From these three vantage points we can quickly direct the perceptions of the audience as they follow the hero on his journey. Gen Z is all about the ideological and they want it in the form of what is real. They can see through the fake or the trumped up.

The Millennials and Gen Xers both relate to the moral and feel a responsibility to correct the wrongs put in place by the Baby Boomers. And the Boomers, well, they are all about the lawful and supporting the institutions that made their generation great.

Pastors find their words about the institution of communion and worship resonating with the Baby Boomers. Those pastors who empower church members to help those hurting in the community find their messages speaking to the hearts of the Millennials and Gen Xers. And, those pastors who talk about the actions we must take in order to participate in God’s overarching plan find Gen Z embracing every activity required of them to fulfill the big picture.

The pastor who wants to teach on prayer would tell Boomers to pray without ceasing according to the scriptures. He’d teach the Millennials and Gen Xers how prayer changes us and thereby changes our communities for the good. To Gen Z he’d teach the truth that some prayers go unanswered, but for the ones that are answered, they are only answered when they are prayed. For God’s overall plan to work, we each have to pray daily for our part in the matter and for others.

The filmmaker has to break things out in a similar fashion. If he is making a film that suggests we can’t be great living a life of apathy, the message must be contoured for each generation. A scene designed to resonate with a Boomer might include the hero learning the discipline of football basics. The Millennial and Gen Xer might be moved by a scene about the hero realizing that he must perform well at the game to earn a scholarship to lighten the financial load of his parents concerning his college tuition. The Gen Z scene could show the hero playing defense across from the starting offensive line to prepare them for the sake of all the students counting on a homecoming win.

By targeting each generation with the right portion of the story drives box office success. Films that only reach one generation must be all the more targeted in its marketing approach to draw the right crowd. By creating a universal story that can touch multiple generations, a filmmaker and a pastor can stir far more people with the right message than others who don’t target their story.

© 2018 by CJ Powers

 

The Film and Corporate World Flex or Die

PosterIt was an amazing weekend for the box office. Independent film Beautifully Broken exceeded the film distributor’s (ArtAffects) lifetime box office gross (including adjustments for inflation for its previous titles) in its first weekend with just under $500K as a limited release. However, the small ad budget restricting the film’s promotions and the lack of available screens for expansion in this saturated market might kill the picture’s chance to surge this weekend. In other words, this weekend might be its last in theaters.

Crazy_Rich_AsiansCrazy Rich Asians was the biggest winner with a $25MM take at the box office. While most films’ ticket sales drop 35-60% during its sophomore weekend, Crazy Rich Asians fell less than 6%. This is in keeping with the new movement of audiences looking for lighter films with redemptive endings. You can read more about it in my post titled Gen Z Drives New Stories.

Filmmakers always need to be ahead of the curve to lead shifts in the marketplace, rather than try to catch up to the trends. Corporations have also been forced by the demands for innovation to be flexible and agile with every market shift. The good news is that trends are not only trackable, but they give off hints 3-5 years in advance—for the alert CEO.

IMG_0142In my latest talk, No Box Creativity: Building Innovative Teams, I speak to the patterns of change that every company faces. From entrepreneurial and boutique businesses to Fortune 500 companies, I share case studies of why some companies fail and others expand.

Companies like Radio Shack and RCA disappeared due to inflexibility, while Britain’s GKN, originally a coal mine, became a cutting-edge aerospace company since it launched 144 years before airplanes were invented. GKN’s flexibility allowed it to transition to iron ore and become Britain’s largest producer by 1815. Shifting again in 1864, the company produced fasteners and became the world’s largest producer by 1902. By 1990 the company sold off its fastener business and provided services to Boeing. GKN clearly knew how to think out of the box.

Earlier this year, Adobe and the Forrester Consulting group released their findings from a survey dedicated to learn more about creativity in business. Numerous Fortune 500 companies participated in the survey of which 82% of the companies saw a correlation between creativity and business success.

With innovation being a big influencer in the marketplace among startups at the turn of the century, most people weren’t overly surprised by the findings. The real surprise came further into the survey with the revelation that while companies saw the correlation, only 26% did anything about it.

The first two decades of the 21st century have started to see numerous out-of-the-box oriented companies meet their demise due to disruptive innovation brought on by competitors. Large agile companies like Lucent Technologies with 165,000 employees quickly dropped to 25,000 employees due to its improper handling of its own disruptive innovation—IP phone technology switches. Lucent was soon taken over by Alcatel, which was then absorbed by Nokia.

The business community in a short period of time shifted from a box mentality, to an out-of-the-box mentality, to a no-box mentality. Unfortunately, only an estimated 10% of the market shifted with each change and another 45% attempted to catch up. This left 45% of the businesses to waver and shrink, if not totally collapse like Radio Shack and Polaroid. The survivors that held on either purposely or accidentally stumbled upon a sustainable customer need that had not yet been disrupted.

The survey made it clear that innovation is the only thing that will save businesses in our future ever-changing, no-box marketplace. That innovation can only flourish when led by creative thinkers that understand our new intangible marketplace. Companies desiring to be leaders in this new frontier are forced to learn more about No Box Creativity to drive their innovations and catapult their disruptive market share-grabbing initiatives.

If you know of any companies looking for a guest speaker on surviving the trends using creativity to innovate, please let them know about my latest talk No Box Creativity: Building Innovative Teams.

© 2018 by CJ Powers

 

“Beautifully Broken” Interview with Director Eric Welch

Eric_WelchI met Eric last spring at a media conference where I watched 2-3 films a day during the week. The screenings were 1-6 months ahead of their theatrical release date. I was only impressed with two of the films: I Can Only Imagine and Beautifully Broken. Both films were hybrid films that were closer to being that of a redemptive story like The Blind Side, Les Misérables, or Gravity, than a faith-based film.

Unfortunately, both movies released as faith-based films, greatly reducing its potential audience. However, I Can Only Imagine survived with a cumulative $83MM box office against 10 new releases. Beautifully Broken released today against 23 new films with far less promotional dollars, yet the emotional story is every bit worth watching.

I had to give the film’s director a call this morning to chat about his first feature being released. Here is my conversation with Eric…

CJ:        Beautifully Broken is about three families that end up being intertwined and they’re from different walks of life.

Eric:     Absolutely. The film is about three families coming from different worlds. Two completely different worlds. The springboard of our story starts with action. It begins in Rwanda, and William Mwizerwa, a Rwandan businessman, is thrown into a decision when he is forced to flee Rwanda because of the genocide that’s taking place and the tribal warfare. He has to leave his [extended] family behind and escape to Kenya with his wife and his daughter.

CJ:        I understand he faced the difficult decision to accept an opportunity in America, but he had to get established there before being able to bring his family.

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Eric:     So, he leaves Kenya, and ends up going to America where he meets Randy Hartley, a man who’s going through his own set of challenges. Through the friendship that these two [men] strike up, an amazing story unfolds that shows the redemption and power of God in people’s lives. Through the course of the film, we see these men in their relationship save each other’s families. Then there’s a third family involved that’s a little bit of a curve ball in how that family interacts. The stories blend together in the end for a very inspirational and powerful film.

CJ:        When I watched the film last spring, it felt like an international version of The Blind Side. There were similarities where a family decided to help somebody else and in return, they received blessings within their own life.

BB4Eric:     I think that’s an interesting parallel. I think the thing that is unique about this film, is that you have certain assumptions and stereotypes out in the world today about people in other countries. Just like The Blind Side challenged some of those stereotypes, I believe this film does even more so. You assume that just because … one of the lines of the film is, “Just because you see no tears does not mean the person hadn’t cried.” That’s really true of so many stories in this film, but also in life. We have assumptions that people live Facebook lives. Everything is perfect because you see they’re out traveling or doing this, that, and the other, but people have things in their lives that hurt. They have things that they don’t wanna share. There’re scars. There’re pains. The glorious thing about this film is that you see how God can use different people’s stories to bring hope and healing to other people.

CJ:        I certainly picked up on that theme of helping others can actually change the world around us. Did that theme just rise from within the three stories that came together, or did you find a way to bring focus to it in the film?

Eric:     The way the movie unfolds is true, and people may think that it’s hard to believe. If Hollywood wrote the story, no one would believe it, but Hollywood didn’t write this story. God did. It’s just an amazing true story, and a lot of things that happened will really shine and inspire people.

BB5One of the craziest things is we had the premiere the other day. We had the premiere in Franklin at a place called The Factory. The first job William got when he came to America, was at The Factory. It’s mind blowing to think this man escaped Rwanda, came to America, first job that he had was at this factory, and 20 plus years later we’re celebrating a film about this gentle, quite hero in the same place that he had a job.

Now if that isn’t God, I don’t know what is because you couldn’t have written that. That’s just such an amazing way that God just kind of sees the larger narrative.

CJ:        I’m always amazed anytime there’s some form of providence that occurs. We had talked a while back about the fact that this film wasn’t quite a faith-based film, but it’s also not quite categorized as a redemptive film. The film is in between both camps. I Can Only Imagine was also more redemptive than faith-based and ended up making $83 million. What was it like creating that unique balance between a faith-based and a redemptive film?

Eric:     It is a bit of a challenge to walk that line. Our film deals with some real issues, and that’s what’s resonating with people. We don’t shy away from tough topics, and we show them in the light of God’s redemption. But the quote that the friend of mine had encapsulated on this film when he saw it was, “I don’t wanna call it a faith-based film because it’s a different type of movie. I wanna call it a film about faith.” You’re seeing how faith infuses in real-life stories.

CJ:        I appreciate the naturalness to which the elements came out. They weren’t forced like in many faith-based films, but rather came out of the circumstance that each person faced.

Eric:     Yeah, there’s not an agenda that we’re trying to push on people. We’re really just trying to tell a story of how these people were able to overcome … hopefully you’ll find yourself in one of these characters, or someone you know, and identify with these people.

CJ:        I know you come from the world of short films and music videos. You’ve made quite a few. Was this your first feature?

BB6Eric:     Yeah. Coming from the world of music videos, it was a challenge. It was literally like filming a music video every morning. Every morning, five, six o’clock in the morning you show up on set and you’re just like boom, go. Most music videos you only get to film a day based on budget and usually the artist’s availability. So, this was like doing a music video every day for two and a half months. It was a marathon.

And continually I was telling myself, “Okay. Pace yourself. Pace yourself.” There’d be nights where I wouldn’t go out to eat after being offset. I would just go home, look over what we had to do the next day, and go to sleep because it’s a grind. It’s 14, 16-hour days sometimes and you’re up, standing up on your feet, directing, working with people and then the pressure cooker of the clock is a real thing. So, yeah. It was a challenge. Like an idiot, I took on a film that has three storylines weaving together in two different countries. So, I jumped into the deep end of the pool, if you will.

CJ:        The last time I saw a film with three interwoven stories was Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Now, he had the added issue of showing parallel action while each timeline was different. One took place in a couple hours, one in a day, and one over several days. You fortunately had a more equally based timeline. But what was it like being able to track the three stories and how they kept interweaving?

Eric:     We had a great script to work with. That really was my guideline, and laying the script to the timeline of what happened with everyone and trying to make sure that you tell each individual story of each family clearly, but then also [considering] how their stories are gonna weave in toward the end was a real challenge. There’re props that you have to consider, like this comes up later, so make sure you film this, but also the dialogue and what you could and couldn’t say. We had to be very careful because it’ll affect the story later on, but not just in one story. The other families are affected but nuances and changes in each story.

So, I had to be very specific. Had to know that story inside and out before we went filming because in the chaos of making a film sometimes, like we have this scene at a roadblock. It’s a pivotal scene in the movie, and we’ve got a car on fire here. We’ve got militia soldiers going from car to car questioning people. Then you have your main family there stopped at the roadblock and what are they gonna do? You have to capture dialogue, and there’s a prop that plays a really important part in the film. So, there’s all these elements that you have to capture and the sun is moving. You can’t stop it. I’m not Joshua. So, there’s that continual process of trying to beat the clock and make sure that you get everything in a pressure cooker.

CJ:        The scene with the car fire was beautifully cut together. In fact, it was almost like a music video, which I thought did a couple things. One, it really revealed the danger that the characters faced, and it softened the action enough, as a PG-13 film for families to better handle.

Eric:     Yeah, well I mean that’s the thing. Our film deals with real situations, but it’s not a graphic film and that’s something that I as a filmmaker have embraced. I think people … there’s a lot of times films, they have to be gratuitous and they have to go over the top to show something. It’s like going back to 300 and Meet the Spartans. There’s a Spartan, there’s blood splattering on the lens. It’s just like, “Okay. Got it.” I think people are sophisticated enough in storytelling these days that you can imply something is happening and people get it. They understand what’s going [on] without having to jump in and get in the weeds on things.

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It’s really a beautiful story that covers the common ground that we all have no matter what our social, economic, racial, or nationality of our background. It really covers all those bases and propels you to an inspiring end that is a beautiful story and really touches people’s hearts.

We had a pre-screening last night and the first person coming out of the theater was like, “Man, thank you for making this movie because I went through what this character went through…” This was a grown man in tears. I had four or five fathers come to me in tears, expressing their story, what they went through. I think we’re seeing a lot of people come through this film inspired and challenged and healed in some way.

CJ:        I remember when we met. I must have seen nine films by the time I saw yours. The one thing I remember clearly about yours is that it was, to me, the most real. It truly touched, not just through the theme, but also watching how, when we do something that we think is trivial or little, it actually can impact someone else’s life in a massive way.

Eric:     I appreciate you saying that. You saying that is very humbling because I know the other films you saw and that means a lot. Thank you for sharing that.

CJ:        I think certainly as a director you have certain hopes and aspirations for where your film is going to head and what you hope it will accomplish, but there’s so many other factors. For instance, it can be frustrating if the marketing department doesn’t agree with the directorial department. And, instead of your film release being up against 3-10 other films this weekend, your film is releasing alongside of 23 new films. That’s a lot of competition for the audience to search through for a good film. The good thing is that out of the three dozen movies I’ve seen this year, yours still stands in my top ten films worth watching in 2018.

Eric:     Well, I … hey, that … thank you. I mean, what can one say? That means a lot because I know your background. I know what your passions are. That’s a huge honor to be in that top 10.

CJ:        So, you’ve come out of the gate with a great first feature, so what’s next on your docket? Do you have any plans or thoughts?

Eric:     People will ask that, and they wanna know, “What’s he gonna do next? I really enjoyed this, what’s next?” I’m like, “Well, God only knows and he ain’t saying.” So, I am just taking it as it comes. The first thing, I promise you, will be rest ’cause we’ve been pushing on this film hard for several years.

CJ:        You definitely have to take time off and relax. Congratulations on your opening. I’m excited to watch the numbers and see how many people see your film over the next two weeks. I hope it does better than your 23 competitors.

Eric:     Well, I appreciate your support.

CJ:       All right. Well, have a great day and I hope you celebrate your weekend.

Eric:     Hey, thanks so much. I appreciate your support and reaching out and it was great talking with you.

© 2018 by CJ Powers

 

Gen Z Drives New Stories

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Screenwriters will shift the perspective of their screenplays next year to reflect the lives of Gen Z (born after 2001, although some groups have labeled them from 2000) as they move into decision-making roles in America. In 2019, this upcoming generation is also expected to outnumber the Millennials. According to Bloomberg analysis, our population next year is estimated to be made up of 32% Gen Z and 31.5% Millennials.

The tonality of many films will also shift from dark stories to happier and more optimistic ones, in keeping with Gen Z’s outlook on life. This generation is the first to have only known a digital world. They were raised during the war on terror and the global recession, driving them to seek out things associated with joy, peace, and happiness. To capture this market, studios will have to shift to stories that bring hope and joy to audiences.

Faith-based production companies will have to be careful with how they proceed. Films with a utopian worldview go too far to the opposite extreme and will be seen as silly. This is due to Gen Z being surrounded by a tremendous amount of darkness in their upbringing, and yet they were able to learn how or found ways to overcome it. Films with redemptive endings will quickly capture the market. Stories depicting true life with happy endings, which Gen Z can directly relate to, is expected to dominate the box office.

Having planned ahead for this shift in the market, several companies will join the streaming and video-on-demand competition. Due to the disposition of Gen Z for happier programming, you’ll see Disney and WalMart enter the market in 2019 and 2020. In the meantime, Netflix will hit its saturation point and may have to rebalance and reduce its original programming to meet the slowing subscription growth and the influx of Gen Z decision makers.

Niche companies like Pure Flix will also have to adjust to the shifts in market demand. Their primary (Baby Boomers) and secondary (Gen Xers) market is rapidly shrinking, so Pure Flix will have to develop new lines of programming to satisfy the Millennials and Gen Z. However, they might have a wider window to adjust than most companies, as their evangelical audience lags in the area of change by 10-20 years depending on demographics.

This lag effect began in the 1980s with religious programming on TV stations, and then moved into Christian Contemporary music. Prior to the 1980s Evangelicals created cutting-edge entertainment that competed head-to-head in the general marketplace. Most Christian entertainers today are no longer able to manage a livelihood in the field of entertainment, let alone create cutting-edge films, TV shows, and music.

While there are less than 15,000 TV stations (includes low-powered stations) still working that once carried a few hours or more of religious programming each week, today only 100 TV stations broadcast evangelical shows. The story online is a bit different with Roku offering about 200 religious channels. However, most of these channels are large churches uploading their sermons for their congregation with little narrative stories to choose from.

The top three companies perfectly positioned for this new generation are Disney, Marvel, and Pixar. Their upcoming shows have just enough darkness in them to keep the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers coming to the theatres, while stepping up the Gen Z joy indicators. As for the Millennials, the only satisfaction aimed at this people group comes from the Millennial stars playing the characters within the Gen Z stories.

For those tracking the entertainment news carefully, most have already noticed the companies that led the release of darker films a couple decades ago have hit financial and political struggles. If they haven’t already, most will see bankruptcy looming or larger companies buying out their libraries.

The best news about these major changes in the industry will be at the independent level. Film budgets will slowly drop, making name artists more available for new cutting-edge and uplifting stories aimed at Gen Z. Redemptive stories will be salted with romance, chivalry, and patriotism. Heartwarming films like The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins have even begun to see a resurgence.

This is not to say that people will long for the sappy; those days are over when it comes to Gen Z. This generation wants reality with silver linings. They know that happiness can be found in the darkest of situations, especially since darkness can only prevail for a shortened duration.

I’m looking forward to these changes and can’t wait to see all the films written with Gen Z in mind. The doors will be open for more mainline films with universal stories that are filled with redemptive qualities, wholesomeness, and morals.

© 2018 by CJ Powers

The Special Gift

Davey felt like a 12-year-old misfit. While his peers were showing an interest in soccer and football, he preferred to play. Make-believe was his favorite pastime and he was good at it. In fact, he’d find himself daydreaming when he least expected it.

His penchant for creativity trumped all other areas of his life and the girl he met at the park during his preschool years, Susan, had both a serious side and a playful one. He daily contemplated how to get her attention and every year he longed to send her a birthday present, but he didn’t want his weirdness to show.

No matter how many other girls at school caught his attention from time to time, he thought of Susan far more often, except for one girl who moved away before his seventh birthday. But he figured that he was too young to hunt her down and wrote off any potential relationship as being an immature infatuation.

One summers day, Davey’s imagination got the best of him when he came across a giant troll lying on its back in the park. The troll was twenty times larger than he ever imagined, and friendlier too. Davey cocked his head to see what the troll was looking at in the sky, but one of the trees was in his way. Hustling to the troll’s other side, Davey laid down in the grass and tried to see what had sparked the troll’s interest.

Troll_Lying

“Hi, Davey,” said the sweet voice next to him.

Davey turned abruptly and found Susan lying next to him with her arms behind her head. Jolted to an upright seated position Davey asked, “How long have you been here?”

“I watched you come around this big troll with your eyes so glued to him that you never saw me,” she said. “Do you not like how I look?”

“I love how… I mean, you look great.”

“Thank you.”

Davey leaned back and looked up in the sky. He shifted his head a bit closer to Susan’s to see what she was looking at. “Are you counting sheep or watching a parade of elephants?”

Susan giggled. She thought Davey was silly, but wondered if he ever paid close attention to her. She liked him a lot, but was tired of waiting for him to ask her to go steady.

“Davey, what do you see in the sky?”

“I see an adventure waiting to unfold.”

“Tell me about it, please.”

Troll_ClubA boisterous growl came from the tree line. Davey and Susan jumped to their feet. A large troll with a giant club came out from the trees. The kids made a run for it. They sprinted through the tall grass, across a footbridge that wasn’t patrolled by trolls, and down a winding street. They slowed once they realized that trolls couldn’t run fast.

BANG!

Troll_TossA large crushing metal sound reverberated from the parking lot. The two ran to the corner and saw a giant troll toss a boulder, crushing a car. Davey scanned the area and saw several smashed cars with people fleeing. As the troll raised another rock, he knew this was his chance to save Susan’s life and win her affection. He reached for her arm, but she was gone.

Davey moved quickly through the woods in search of his friend, but she was nowhere in sight. He wondered if she had been lifted up into the air and carried off by another troll. troll_cook.jpgEmerging from the bushes, Davey found the troll’s campsite. A kettle was boiling with the catch of the day over hot timbers—the poor man.

Troll_CageSuddenly he saw Susan dropped into a cage and held for an afternoon snack. Davey waited patiently for the troll to settle in his teepee for a nap. Moving silently around the perimeter of the camp, Davey unlocked the cage and ran with Susan through the tall grass and into the plains.

They were in the clear. They shouted with joy and twirled around. And like spinning flowers, they slowly dropped to the ground side-by-side and gazed up into the sky. It was a good day.

The alarm clock sounded and Davey woke up. He climbed out of bed and got dressed. His time with Susan was over. He felt a sense of loss and decided to grab his calendar to see if he had really missed her birthday. With only a couple days before she celebrated, Davey realized that he wasn’t going to be able to send her anything in time.

His sadness shifted and a smile rose on his face when he realized that he could send her an imaginary gift. He figured that if she really liked him, she would pretend to receive an imaginary gift, knowing in her heart that he’d want to give her something. And if their unspoken love was true, they’d both look forward to the day when they’d share what each other dreamt about. How amazing, Davey thought, if they both dreamt of the same gift.

THE END

© 2018 by CJ Powers

Troll_Canp

PC or Master of Craft

Academy AwardsThe Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences may have forgotten its charter. It seems to no longer care about giving awards to the best of the best in the motion picture industry, or protecting old films from decay that impacted our culture, but is instead now focused on answering to the politically popular.

A resignation letter was sent last April to John Bailey, AMPAS President, from board member Bill Mechanic, the former Fox studio chief, sharing a long list of serious problems that the organization failed to address. Mechanic was known for being nominated as a producer of Hacksaw Ridge.

In the letter, Mechanic reminded Bailey that “We have settled on numeric answers to the problem of inclusion, barely recognizing that this is the industry’s problem far, far more than the Academy’s. Instead we react to pressure.”

His suggestions that the #OscarSoWhite political bandwagon took the Academy off course included his mention and dismay for last year’s batch of invitations (774) to join the Academy that didn’t include a single white man, regardless of merit. This year’s invitation went out to a record-breaking 928 future members. By 2020, the Academy hopes to have doubled its number of women and diverse members.

No one doubts that Denzel Washington earned and deserved his nine Oscar nominations and two wins. His work and talent is obvious to fans, let alone the thousands in the industry that can speak to his techniques and why he is the best of the best. But with the flood of new Academy members that were invited in the name of diversity, rather than for having mastered their craft, the next Oscar going to an ethnically diverse actor may be questioned from the viewpoint of politics over talent.

While I’d agree that diversity must be addressed, it’s not the job of the Academy. Diversity can only increase at the studio and independent levels, with the exception of the Academy’s own staff and board. The Academy must return its focus to only inviting members who have mastered their craft after years in the industry rather than inviting newcomers because of their ethnicity.

Many industry professionals feel that the recent announcement of the “Popularity” Oscar takes the Academy even further away from its charter of awarding the best of the best. Heated discussions concerning this new award, which has no rules concerning how a film gets nominated, has studio executives struggling to get answers.

Some say that if the Popularity award is based on box office or fan favorites, the award will always go to Disney/Marvel/Pixar. Several have joked that Deadpool, the Ryan Reynolds’ popular vehicle, would win every year that it releases another chapter in the franchise.

Mechanic also mentioned the need to bring the Oscar award show into modern times concerning its format and look. But the Academy instead decided to show less awards next February and hope the Popularity Oscar will be enough to draw and keep people tuned in.

Unfortunately, the recent decisions no longer guarantee that budding artists, who count on the Oscars to point them in the right direction concerning artistic accomplishments and quality, may no longer be able to trust the now politically-driven Academy.

© 2018 by CJ Powers

The Search that Launched a Career

Stacey_CJI met Stacey Montgomery after one of her speaking engagements. She is a woman who believes strongly about empowering kids. She moved to the Chicago area from the east coast for school and stuck around after graduation due to her landing a great job. Since then she’s become an entrepreneur. I asked her how she transitioned to being an owner of a growing company known for empowerment.

“I was looking forward to buying a Christmas card to send out because it was the first time that I sent out my own Christmas cards,” says Stacey. “To me, that’s what adulting is all about, sending out Christmas cards… I wanted a card that represented me, a card that had a relatable character, my skin tone, but also represented my personality.”

Our new inclusive culture hadn’t caught up to the needs Stacey faced in purchasing cards, so she went home and drew her own card.

“I sent it to family and friends, got great feedback, and some of them suggested, ‘You know, you should sell this.’”

Stacey acted on those suggestions and soon had orders from Marshall Field’s, Nordstrom, Carson, and numerous independent stores. She then shifted over to developing licensing deals with companies like Target. The positive cashflow allowed her to expand her offerings beyond Christmas cards. She soon developed invitations, note cards, stationery, and the like.

“I realized that my quest, my obsession with finding a good card, the perfect card, was all about confidence. It was all about me wanting to see something, or wanting to give something that really represented me, my personality, what I look like, all of that combined. I realized that that wasn’t just something that I want. It’s what people want. It’s what kids want. It’s what adults want. We like to see positive images of ourselves and what we like out in the world.”

We like to see positive images of ourselves and what we like out in the world.Her revelation focused her business pursuits on building the self-esteem of kids with diverse skin colors. She wanted her product line to encourage kids and build their confidence.

“I started making illustrations of kids with different skin tones, different skin colors, different ethnicities… I wanted people to see the diversity in the world, and I wanted people to see, kids to see, themselves… Kids would come up and look at it, and they would see something, and they’d say, ‘Oh, that’s me! That’s me!’ That was what it was all about.”

With thousands of kids trying to build confidence based on who they are, Stacey started crafting special guided journals to help them work through and find their intrinsic value.

“What I wanted to do was to… encourage kids to, again, think about themselves, about their gifts, to have a place where they can… navigate some of the challenging situations and the negativity. In school, there’s bullying, there’s name-calling… There are difficult situations academically, socially… A lot of situations are challenging. So I really wanted the kids to have a foundation that was all about self-love, belief in themselves, (and) self-worth.”

To continue driving success, Stacey sought help from a marketing strategist who had her focus on developing a mission statement, an ideal customer, and a family of related products. She was coached to use the mission statement and her ideal customer as a filter to determine what great products to produce and which ones to drop.

While the process was daunting, she stuck with it to help more kids.

“I’m not trying to reach just one kid, I’m trying to reach thousands of kids,” she says. “I now conduct workshops in schools, I have subscriptions to my journals, I work with somebody to develop a curriculum, and it’s all because I really honed in on my mission and my ideal customer.”

Stacey’s materials are aimed at kids 8-12 years of age. Her website is located at staceymdesign.com and offers an array of items that help build the self-esteem of kids who are of varying ethnicities.

©2018 by CJ Powers