Embarrassment or Creativity

© IvicaNS - Fotolia.comCreativity is the one thing that brings everyone happiness. It founded our world and it created what many call the “happiest place on earth”—Walt Disney World. Unlike joy, which is eternal, happiness is fleeting at best. It comes and goes in the moment and can seldom be reenacted with the same level of enthusiasm that it originates.

For the creative soul, or the creator, the release of art is more precarious than most would think. Stepping out fully vulnerable with a creative performance, concept, or product can cause the recipient of a mediocre response to feel embarrassed. The newfound boldness of the audience can bring great praise or a debilitating embarrassment capable of shutting down a vulnerable heart.

Creatives need to protect their heart, yet remain open for their creativity to be successful. While that notion sounds like an oxymoron, creatives will always find someone to hate their work. They will also find someone who admires it. This makes the protection of the heart difficult.

The only way for a creative to protect his heart is to learn from the experts. While this is true in all fields, the entertainment industry seldom employs experts to help a creative get to the next level. All too often the creative person is seen as an end unto themselves and not as one key factor among others who collaborate in a successful product launch.

I was fortunate to have a professional actor as a next door neighbor when I was growing up. We produced numerous plays in his garage for families living on the block. While it seemed to be a hobby for the girls, every guy that participated in the plays went professional later in life.

My good fortune continued in high school when I had great phone conversations about directing with Ken Burns and Ron Howard. I also had a theatre coach that developed shows during the summer at Disney in Orlando. He took me under his wings and taught me a lot about the collaborative process. I was thrilled to be mentored by a pro.

Those who submit themselves to a mentoring process find their skills excel beyond the average creative. The most important reason is the additional confidence created from the relationship. However, for those who can’t seek out a mentor, there are four steps that can be taken to instill a similar affect of growth and confidence building.

STEP 1: Find the current expert in the field that can supply a solution to the creative problem. If we are confident that a particular person has what it takes to solve the dilemma, by researching that person and the steps they took to arrive as a master, it’s possible to shift our perspective in parallel to brainstorm solutions.

STEP 2: Mimic the master. Learning from a master includes the understanding of his perspective, style and panache. By trying these behaviors on, our mindset will change and give us ample opportunity to see things from a new perspective and energize our creativity.

STEP 3: Follow the expert’s methodology. All professional creatives have a process they follow for the sake of speed and profitability. The standards were proven and later developed into a process over time. By reenacting the process or using a version of it, the creative can open his mind to new opportunities and solutions.

STEP 4: Seek the risky solution. Creativity is at its best when we’re on the edge of what we’re comfortable producing. During the times we stretch ourselves to be competitive with the expert, we force ourselves to a higher level of performance. These moments that balance on the proverbial fence between creativity and embarrassment drive success to an all time new high.

The key to learning from others is realizing the difference between a great idea and one that was polished by a pro. Those who must hold fast to their ideas and won’t consider other perspectives are doomed to a short creative lifestyle. But those who consider various pieces offered by other professional creatives can polish off the bulk of their idea with experience, which will be evident in the final product.

No creative wants another to change his idea, but the good ones will allow the pro to improve his idea. Sometimes a simple sentence from a mentor can change the entire tone of a product to something more suitable for a different generation. The comraderie alone is of great value, but the output of the relationship will be impressive—Giving rise to confidence, not embarrassment.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers


Box Office Mendoza Line

Mendoza Trading CardMany times critics and filmmakers argue about the quality of a film’s content or message against its story. Star power and a filmmaker’s ability to draw in an audience also factor into arguments about what makes a film successful. But, one factor stands the test of time and survives all arguments about the monetary success of a film: the box office Mendoza line.

Named after baseball’s Mario Mendoza, whose mediocre batting average defined the threshold for incompetent hitting, the box office marks the threshold when theaters drop titles from its screens for the next best opportunity to make money.

The moment a film drops below a per screen average of $2,000 per weekend, it’s no longer viable as a money making device. This amount has stood the test of time based on competitive new releases, negotiated house nuts and the duration of marketing budgets.

When a film crosses the Mendoza line distributors stop promoting the film in order to cut its potential losses and replace it with new selections. Films that fail to rise above the Mendoza line rarely survive past the second week in theaters, as numerous films fight for the few open screens during each release period.

This is partially due to distributors not wanting to lose a screen to a competitor and desiring to manage risk mitigation on the film’s current margins. Theaters also need to maintain a certain level of revenue stream in order to protect its house nut (its negotiated take on concessions).

While the exit strategy on films typically cause titles to have a long distribution tail, very little revenue is generated during this period. Most films only make 5-10% more unless it’s in a light distribution window that can generate an additional15%.

Analysts that estimate each film’s market potential and weekend predictions, use additional tools that determine expected thresholds of a film’s longevity. For instance, prior to making adjustments based on the impact of social media, all films will make 50% of its opening during its second weekend. The third weekend will make 50% of the second weekend’s box office and so on.

However, advertising and social media directly impact the percentage. The alterations can change the percentage from 50% to 35-55%. The addition or dropping of screens due to contract changes or regional performance success can also impact the percentage by a plus or minus 30-45%. While these sound like huge swings, an analyst who has tracked the market for two years can easily estimate within a plus or minus 5% of accuracy.

Analysts do take into account outliers and transitions within sub-genres, which paint clear pictures of market trends. This gives production and acquisition departments a leg up when determining future investments and expansion.

Production companies also benefit from understanding and tracking the Mendoza line. Any picture that never rises above it or falls too quickly below it either has too few super-fans or has a story that didn’t connect on a universal basis. In a fragmented market that’s filled with social media, a film only needs 1,000 super-fans (or influential fans) to succeed.

The combination of factors that keep a film above the Mendoza line for numerous weeks includes a great story, influential super-fans, star power and provocative social media. Writer/directors have also become a factor over the past ten years, but are still considered new to the promotional cycle.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers

Encourage Team by Casting Vision Using Four Simple Strategies

Ansel Adams TetonsComposition was a strong skill in my photography tool belt when I was in college. It attracted weekend wedding jobs, numerous awards and my first cinematography gig with CBS. My ability to artistically capture images through a lens was due to an employer who encouraged me by casting a vision for my future.

Alta was a writer and a photographer who took over the management of her parent’s local camera store. When I was in high school, she hired me for my technical knowledge and ability to sell. It was her hope that I’d free up her time so she could fulfill her love of writing for the trade papers.

On one particular day, she reviewed customer photo packets with me and pointed out the problems most had in composing an image. She then raved about Ansel Adams and suggested that I improve my skills to match. Once she saw that I bought into her inspiration, she asked me to enter Polaroid’s national photo competition.

After winning the award for best composition, I realized Alta had casted a vision that drove my skill improvements. I owed her a good deal of thanks for investing a vision in me and inspiring me to step up to it. And, I made a mental note of how she encouraged me, which I’d like to share.

Every leader can learn how to encourage their team by casting vision using four simple strategies.

Acknowledge a Recognized Problem

I was able to accept Alta’s challenge because she first pointed out what I could see and understand. The pictures in everyone’s vacation photos had no artistic value. We both saw it and could relate to each other’s perspective on the poor quality of composition. In that moment we were peers.

Share a Vision of What the Solution Looks Like

Alta then pointed out the great works of Ansel Adams, who I admired. His sense of composition was breathtaking and made the mundane look priceless. Developing similar skills promised equal benefits. I was sold on wanting to develop my eye for composition.

Suggest a Course of Action for the Team’s Success

I was given instructions to study and practice my composition for the up coming contest. Alta handed me a camera and numerous rolls of film. She only required the right to watch my development process and make suggestions along the way. After several months of intensive shooting, I came up with one perfect shot that would’ve thrilled Adams.

Ask for the Team’s Commitment

To benefit from the process, which would help the store and give her more time to write, Alta asked me to commit to practicing and submitting my best photo. I agreed and took first place in the category of composition. It was a thrill to have my name associated (for a few weeks) with the real pros that included photographers from National Geographic, Sports Illustrated and the like.

I was amazed at how a little encouragement through casting a vision impacted my life. It made me realize how much power rests in the hands of a true leader that can directly impact her company. And, its not limited to a few leaders. Every leader can encourage their team by casting a vision.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers