The Eeek True Hollywood Story

gen_meeting_size03_lgOn Sunday afternoon, I spoke on personal branding to a group I’d never guessed needed to be coaxed into communicating: Hollywood screenwriters. But, there I was on behalf of Voyage Media and a line-up that included a producer, director, development exec, agent-type and other uber-connected people who have come together to help get these people packaged, pitched and on their way to the bottom of the food chain that is the life of Hollywood screenwriters.

Wow, once you look behind the curtain of how a script makes its way onto the screen, you really would rather watch sausage being made – at least if you look at it from the writers’ perspective. Just getting “covered” (which on horse farms means a stallion mounts a mare but in Hollywood means your script is being passed around an agency) is pretty close to what’s happening to that mare. Ouch.

It’s like that old joke that ends: “we know what you are, now we’re just discussing the price.” There’s no question about selling out. It’s the answer.

Selling out

Here’s why. Once a script magically makes its way past the gold toned gates of a talent agency, production company or management firm, one executive after another takes a stab at the writer’s work. Each time, the result is “notes” that the writer must incorporate. Oftentimes, this feedback completely changes the tone, the characters, the story and even the genre. Oh, that romantic comedy we’re thinking of buying from you? Make it a sci-fi fantasy and let’s talk when you have the changes – not ready to pay you option money yet, okay?

Whatever you do for a living, it’s nearly impossible to believe your work product could be treated worse than a script. But like every Sisyphean task, there’s always a Sisyphus to do it. And, this is Hollywood. There’s a long line waiting to get to the bottom of the mountain.

As today’s event planner put it, I was the “clean-up” hitter, the last speaker before everyone came back on stage for a full on panel discussion. So, I’d had a head full of OMG as each speaker before me laid it on the line about what these writers had to do or endure.  The audience was amazing – literate, imaginative, soulful people who have stories that perhaps the whole world may see in more than living color – could be coming to your multi-plex in 3D!

It was – and it is – my job to help people define and communicate their personal brands. In Hollywood, there is a tsunami of competitors – probably a lot like your industry or job. And, it turns out that writers – professional wordsmiths – struggle to define themselves, promote themselves and capitalize on their unique talent as much or more than most of us.

The great aha I had today is this. The struggle with personal branding is the amount of content we accumulate about ourselves.

What you are likely struggling with isn’t a lack of greatness, depth or breadth of your interests, talents and ambitions – or your awareness of all that you are and can become.

The struggle is limiting yourself to just a few words. But, that’s all we – your target audience, prospects, referral sources, recruiters and the like – can take in. That’s all we can carry as we try to place you, recommend you or remember you.

So, write the whole story – and then, as they would have said in old days, leave everything  but a few choice words on the cutting room floor.

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