Workplace Wisdom from an Entertainer

BookI met CBS’ national correspondent for Inside Edition, Megan Alexander, last week. She was a speaker at a film and television conference I attended and had a signing for her latest book Faith in the Spotlight. Between the pages are applicable suggestions designed for the person that wants to honor their faith, while thriving in the professional workplace.

Her husband Brian is a man committed to their relationship and family, a standard that she can count on in her weekly travels. Brian engaged me in a short chat and I soon realized the sacrifice their family quietly suffers in order to help and encourage professional woman (and men) to influence their marketplace with wisdom, advice and good ole fashioned morals.

Megan lives with her family in the Nashville area and commutes to New York and other locations for 3-4 days each week. It takes a toll on her and her family, but they know it is the right thing to do at this time. But being the right thing doesn’t stop a professional woman in the entertainment world from facing unhealthy and relentless demands that Megan must counter to maintain her faith.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” Eleanor Roosevelt

A clear example from a couple years ago was Megan’s “after the Oscar” segment that challenged her beliefs. When she came into the studio that morning, the wardrobe person pointed to the dress she was supposed to wear. It was a knock-off dress made for less than $100 designed to look like the $5,000 dress Angelina Jolie wore on the red carpet.

The dress was provocative including a slit that went so far up the leg there wasn’t much left for the imagination. In that moment Megan was faced with a career decision that might compromise her faith. She took a few minutes to think about how to solve the problem and reached for a black conservative dress, suggesting someone else would be better suited to show off the white dress.

Not only did the contrasting dress allow her to maintain her beliefs on what’s proper attire to wear, but it demonstrated to the audience a valuable lesson on how great professional women can look without compromising their beliefs. Another lesson came from the moment that was helpful to everyone in the room.

Most compromising situations can be precluded if we think through several scenarios we might face every day.

Megan learned that talking about a less expensive version of a red carpet dress is an annual segment after the Oscars®. She now knows to chat with wardrobe in advance of the show to predetermine the types of dresses she will wear. She also learned that the wardrobe person is only doing their job based on the directives given from the segment producer.

In her climb up the career ladder, Megan has attended several churches that catered to stay-at-home moms with morning Bible studies. Her needs for fellowship and spiritual encouragement were not facilitated by the churches because she didn’t fit the stereotypical model of a Christian woman.

The person impacting millions of people every week had no one ministering to her.

It didn’t take long for Megan to start her own Bible study. She still gets together every week with a group of women in New York for encouragement and camaraderie in maintaining their faith in the entertainment industry. And yes, you would know every woman in the group if I shared their names.

Every one of us needs to have accountability to maintain our beliefs. Megan’s new book Faith in the Spotlight gives golden nuggets of wisdom that are practical and easy to apply. Her words come from the heart and are laced with years of experience navigating a fickle industry where you can be “the toast of the town one day and yesterday’s news the next.”

Take it from a woman who has to battle fierce competition where “someone is always looking to take your job or steal your spotlight.” Megan knows what it takes to stay relevant and her book empowers the reader to do the same. This book is for anyone who wants to thrive in their career, while maintaining their beliefs.

Copyright © 2018 by CJ Powers

 

3 Types of Skilled Movie Directors

DirectorProfessional movie directors make most movies, but few in the audience can discern the difference between which of the three types of directors made the film they watch. The three types of skilled directors are: Technical; Performance; and, Arts & Craft.

Technical Director

Directors fascinated with the technology know how to capture images that look cool and stir the soul. They are most likely first attracted to splash videos before understanding the subtleties of story-based cinema. He or she works well with the crew, but pretty much leaves the actors alone to do their own thing. Sometimes this relaxed process flows from the director’s inexperience, or ignorance of not knowing how to communicate with the actors.

Performance Director

This type of director may have once been an actor. He or she understands the nuances of performance and the depth it can bring to a story. Instead of focusing on the technology, the director spends time with each actor and determines how to draw out the best performance possible. Regardless of the schedule, time is allotted to capture the best performances through coaching, experimentation, and augmented performance technique.

Arts & Crafts Director

This is the rare breed of director who understands the technical and the performance aspects of film production. He or she takes time to work with the actors and tweak their performances, and to help the crew understand exactly what needs to be captured. The director takes these same skills into post-production as well, where he or she represents both the technical and performance sides of the production team in the editing suite.

Most technical directors gravitate toward television where story decisions are made by the producers, head writers, and show runners. Performance directors lean more toward live stage shows. And, arts and craft directors typically thrive in the motion picture industry. Unfortunately, all too often directors are misplaced and find themselves battling to survive, rather than thriving in their ideal environments.

The best combination is for a director to figure out which type resonates within his or her soul and enter the appropriate market. The same holds true with directors that lean toward specific genres. The sports enthusiast director should think twice about making a Hallmark movie, unless he or she is prepared to stretch him or herself creatively.

I’ve directed numerous genres in my life, but I’ve only won highly competitive awards for adventure films. I’ve also won several awards for my dramas, but they came from lesser competitions. In other words, my best combination where I thrive is directing a fun adventure film that’s salted with dramatic moments and humor. That’s not to say I can’t direct other types of stories, I’ve done numerous successful shows outside of my core expertise. But in all honesty they were never on the same level as when I’m paired to an adventure film.

Do you know your favorite director’s core genre?

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Analyzing Donald Trump and His Muslim Ban

TrumpDonald Trump is one of the best personalities for generating millions in free publicity based on his “off-handed” remarks. His latest remarks about banning Muslims from entering our country until we figure things out were a part of a well-planned announcement. The campaign generated huge visibility worldwide for Trump and high ratings for the radio and television networks.

It was also a big enough event for those entering the publicity queue to take advantage of riding Trumps coat tails. It generated thousands of interviews across the nation for every level of “expert” that local stations could find.

Analyzing the announcement and the world’s reaction can be revealing.

The first point of analysis surrounds the fact that Trump’s remarks were thought out, written, and accomplished his goal of grabbing the attention of the media. Trump typically appears to say things off of the top of his head, but with this announcement he sent out a press release with his exact wording and read it from the sheet of paper in the video I watched.

Here is the exact quote:

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

The “newsworthy” reactions from people like Mohammed Ali and others coming out of the woodwork were expected. All publicists know that reaction based news stories fuel the extended duration of free publicity, allowing the frequency of Trump’s name to be used well beyond what normal publicity could afford.

Keep in mind that none of the responses have anything to do with what Trump specifically meant, but what could be molded to fit their agenda for publicity. This pattern allows the original speaker to refute the comments or clarify his own, while allowing the responders to promote their agenda. It’s a media game that was started in the 50s and further exploited by bloggers to their sub-markets.

Trump’s campaign requires a media spend of $100MM to gain the predetermined number of votes needed for election. However, estimates show his free publicity stunts generate $20-30MM in media reach and frequency for his campaign. Last summer’s free controversial media campaigns were so significant that Trump was able to cancel $15MM in television commercials set to air.

Trump is the first person to effectively use the media for a highly visible and free campaign (although Obama’s campaign got some free publicity based on his use of social media).

Trump’s style of brusk and controversial remarks has driven much of the news since his announcement to run for office. Meanwhile, those candidates who are more diplomatic in their approach of “temporarily closing borders to all immigrants” until representatives can figure out what’s going on get little news coverage. But those opposing the controversial Trump by suggesting that America will always keep its borders open are getting plenty of airtime.

Free publicity requires a lot of showmanship and little knowledge of political science. Obama’s contrasting “change” campaign did the very same thing. Neither campaign revealing how the candidate would actually run the government once in office. Instead, we were entertained with showmanship.

The publicity is also filled with noise of ignorant people trying to make a name for themselves. The anger driven comments about Trump being a racist fit that foolish category. The reason is because Muslim is a religion, not a race. However, many are now trying to say that he has a racist attitude toward a religion, but the attempt of this positioning insults those who have endured a lifetime of real racism.

The bottom line is that Trump knows how to use his First Amendment rights to gain attention in the polls. And, those who try to ban him, like he wants to ban the Muslims, forget that they are opposing our First Amendment – The very Amendment that allows us freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

But there’s more to consider in a good analysis. We also need to reflect on what’s not being said. Hillary Clinton is purposely staying out of the arguments and playing it safe. Many know she is slipping in the poles and Bernie Sanders is gaining momentum. The key is to keep low until Trump falls, shifting the voting population from a “guaranteed” Republican ticket back to the Democratic ticket.

If Clinton jumps into the mix too soon and becomes one of Trump’s knee jerk reactionaries, she could drop further in the polls. If she waits too long, then Bernie Sanders can gain even more in the polls and pull her “undecided” voters.

Don’t forget that if its in the media, it’s all about entertainment value and ratings. Unfortunately, there is no other national forum available to learn what candidates would really do in office. The “running for office” system is broken and fixing it would hurt the media, as everything is about viewership.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers

					

The Coming Demise of Independent Filmmakers, or NOT

Short Films Require Set-Up by CJ PowersMega studios are teetering on the brink of collapse based on the ratio of mega hits versus losers they field. The industry is already projecting a downward trend of the comic and action/adventure franchises that generated the rebound for Hollywood over the past ten years.

For the consumer, the blame is focused on increased technologies reducing the price of a high quality theater experience at home compared to the rising ticket prices at theaters. For the artists, the blame falls upon the marketing and business people forcing the creatives to regurgitate franchise installments and sequels over and over again – Driving the creatives to independent projects and “television” (in its latest Internet form), where they can create something new and unique.

Within this setting is the rise of independent niche production companies including, and most notably, the faith-based and horror genres. Today there are tens of thousands of production companies due to easy access to less expensive technologies. Anyone with a wealthy friend can now make a feature length movie.

Unfortunately, this glut of material is turning major distributors away from purchasing independent films, as the vast majority of the films lack great techniques and story structure. The films that can’t get a viewing with a distributor and those that are rejected by distributors, are creating a massive transition to digital releases to niche markets, sabotaging the numbers within existing audience venues.

Since no independent filmmaker has enough fans to perpetuate his products, the need has grown for joint ventures within the independent marketplace. This is closely following the corporate trend of jobs being farmed out to boutique companies that pool their resources from one project to the next.

The companies that are attracting the pros and generating sustainable work, rather than just collecting points for backend payoffs that rarely occur due to creative financing, are expanding into macro studios. This enormous growth is being tracked by studios who plan to infiltrate and take advantage of the new production finance models.

While Orlando was first considered to be the east coast of Hollywood, it evaporated when the economy dropped. This was due to the fact that studios only sent overflow work to Orlando. However, the high risk ventures of big box office mega pictures created additional constraints and forced Hollywood to pick up as many titles as possible without the up front risks.

Everyone, filmmakers included, decided they were capable of making films and created a glut of bad movies. Last year, out of the 400+ horror films produced, less than 50 got distribution deals. Out of the 470+ faith-based and Christian films produced, about 200 were self-distributed and 19 received a major release. The glut of bad movies that distributors had to sort through was on the increase; causing distributors to focus only on companies they can trust.

In other words, the onslaught of amateur films in 2014 made it very difficult for professional companies to start off 2015 with any traction. This trend will continue, as Hollywood knows that only great production techniques coupled with great storytelling is paramount to wide distribution success.

The ramifications will force the professionals to create macro studios and joint ventures in order to consolidate audiences and accumulate enough revenue to cover better techniques and storytelling.

Thanks to a new stream of creative control in cable and Internet television, many macro studios are already in place and waiting for the transition to grow their businesses. Unfortunately, some smaller studios are still trying to make films for the dispersing markets instead of consolidating audiences with like-minded projects.

This shake up is as significant as the one that hit in the late 70’s with the introduction of home video. In the long run, the mom and pop shop studios that survived were the ones who shifted to digital production over film. The ones who held tight to film fell by the wayside.

Over the next three years, production companies that partner on bigger projects will see a great deal of growth, while those trying to keep everything within their full control and low budget will be forced to stay within their niche markets. Horror film companies will be sorted based on the categories of thriller versus blood and guts. Faith-based films will be most likely sorted by denomination.

The companies rising to the top will be limited to higher budgets, production values, great unique stories, and universal appeal. Amateur companies can’t fake these key elements, which is why it will become the differentiator within the world of motion picture production, regardless of release format.