Archive for the ‘lessons’ Category
Why not add a few more words to the gazillions that have been generated this week about Steve Jobs?
The computers & gadgets he had a hand in creating provided me with the tools I’ve used to make a living most of my working career, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
I met the Steves (Jobs & Wozniak) at the West Coat Computer Faire in 1979, when I worked for the software company Stoneware. We were showcasing the revolutionary (at that time) DB Master – a comprehensive database program for the Apple II. We chatted small talk about our software & the computer business.
Later, my work at various software companies had me visiting the Apple campus many times, working at most MacWorlds, etc., but I never encountered him again. I also heard hundreds of anecdotes about him – both how difficult it was to work for him, as well as how wonderful it was.
While I was VP, Business Development & Marketing for Final Draft (#1-selling scriptwriting software), part of my job was to visit retailers and demo our software. At end of October, 2001, I went to the Apple Store in Glendale, California, which had been the first to open on the West Coast a few months before. Before my demo, I was talking to a group of young employees – 2 female, 6 male, I think – and asked what costume or character they were planning to be on Halloween, which was that evening.
Every one of them answered “Steve.”
That’s both funny and kinda creepy. And not surprising.
Granted, it’s an easy costume and one that now almost become iconic, but that’s a very telling testament about the devotion they felt for him.
How many company’s employees willingly want to dress up as their CEO to honor him?
I am stating the obvious, but I’m still going to say it anyway… This great article by Bethlehem Shoals about the evolution of the song Try a Little Tenderness reminded me about how amazing and fun the internet is, how it has changed the way we learn & discover history, etc. It would have been impossible to deploy this research in this fashion just a decade ago. And its incredible that YouTube has all these different versions of the song:
[a slightly shorter version of this article originally appeared in Write On! Online]
Pitch Video for Mary Kerr’s IndieGoGo Project “Swinging in the Shadows”
Many writers, filmmakers and other creatives are considering using crowdfunding sites to help raise funds for their projects. These sites allow you to pitch your projects to the public so that funds can be collectively raised. You can create your pitch from a mix video, images, and text. Like PBS or NPR fund drives, potential patrons are offered cumulative ‘rewards’ or ‘perks’ at levels determined by the amount they contribute.
The main crowdfunding sites are IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. IndieGoGo was founded in 2008, Kickstarter in 2009. Both have raised millions of dollars for thousands of projects. Recently, Kickstarter had some headline grabbing projects, such as an iPod Nano watch that raised nearly $1 million (when their goal was to raise $15,000).
That is the exception rather than the rule. Many projects attempt to raise less than $3,000. Regardless of the goal, most fail to reach it.
I was asked by producer/director Mary Kerr to help her set up a crowdfunding campaign to raise finishing money for a two-part documentary she’d been shooting on and off over the last 15 years about the untold story of the California Beat Era. She has self-funded the project until now and the docs are now complete and edited. She needs to raise $8,500 to add audio sweetening, pay her editor, create a boxed set of DVDs with bonus materials, etc.
The biggest difference between the two is that in order to receive contributions at the end of the campaign, you have to make or surpass your goal on Kickstarter (all or nothing), where IndieGoGo dispenses whatever funds have been pledged, whether or not the goal is reached (any money raised is yours). Kickstarter takes a 5% fee; IndieGoGo takes 4% if the goal is reached and 9% if it is not.
In addition, Kickstarter requires contributors to use Amazon Payments (limiting contributors to having a US bank account or a US address); IndieGoGo accepts direct credit card or PayPal.
Check both sites FAQs for more details.
Ultimately, we went with IndieGoGo as Mary wanted to be able to receive whatever funds are contributed.
The process for both is the same:
- Decide how much money to raise and set the goal.
- Determine how long it may take you to reach the goal (up to 120 days)
- Post a project and create a pitch
- Offer gifts and perks to donors based on how much they contribute
- Share your pitch with others
In the pitch video, description text and the perk levels, being clear and clever is a big plus. For example, here are clever, successful Kickstarter campaigns for a book on design and another by a musician.
Perhaps the most important part of a campaign is what you do after you launch – marketing and sharing the pitch to others. Both of the examples had a built in fan base to start and that helped.
As I post this we only have a weeks to go. Feel free to contribute to the project or encourage others to do so.
There was not much about Ronald Reagan’s politics that I agreed with. From his days as Governor California, he stood for many of the political beliefs I found and still find abhorrent. But for a moment, I got a glimpse of Reagan as a human being…
In the ’80s, I was a partner in a software for film & TV production business in a hangar at the Santa Monica Airport. The office was funky, the rent was reasonable, and the neighbors great.
Across the runway, there was a fairly trendy restaurant called the DC-3, named for the Douglas DC-3 aircraft that was a staple of WWII & the early airline industry, which had been built there. You can see a DC-3 and more at the Museum of Flying, located at the airport.
My partners & I went over for lunch one day in March, 1989, shortly after Reagan left office. We were regulars and had a good relationship with the staff. As we entered, the hostess told us there was a surprise guest having lunch and escorted us to one of the smaller, alcove, semi-private areas.
As we approached, we saw two Secret Service agents standing guard at the doorway. We then realized who the surprise guest was. We were quite used to seeing agents at the airport, as Reagan always had Air Force One land at the airport when he came to LA (which was frequently). We’d always be alerted that he was coming from the sound of them stomping around to take up positions on the metal roof of the hangar about an hour before he landed. We’d sometimes go out and wave ‘hi’ when we heard them.
As we entered the alcove and were seated, we saw the former president sitting with an aide about 6 feet from us. He was eating lunch and smiled and nodded as we sat down at a table nearby. I don’t recall if there were other diners there as well.
One of my partners was a big fan of his and immediately approached him and scored his autograph on a napkin. My partner looked liked he had received communion directly from the pope. The napkin was his holy treasure.
I just watched. The aide left. Here was the recently most powerful man in the world, simply savoring a quiet lunch. A man I had always disliked immensely & mistrusted.
The waitress brought him a hot-fudge sundae for dessert. He ate it with immense gusto and then… he licked the bowl, clean… like a little kid. And savored it just as much as a kid would. He was beaming as he put down the bowl and wiped his mouth with his napkin.
He noticed we were watching, winked, and quietly said “Please don’t tell Nancy…”
And for those few seconds, all I despised about him disappeared. He became just another, regular guy, enjoying something – and behaving – in a way maybe forbidden by his wife.
Charisma can’t be quantified, but there it was, shining. It really was overwhelming. His charm disarmed me momentarily. It was impossible for me not feel affection him… for an instant…
We all laughed and said we would not.
The aide returned and they left.
I went back to thinking about Iran-Contra, Oliver North, what he said at Bitburg, cocaine smuggling of the CIA, the end of the Cold War, and other parts of his legacy.
It was a beautiful, clear, and warm January day. I was visiting Florida and was with my step-cousins on the beach in Boca Raton, about 175 south of Cape Kennedy. We were not even thinking about what had become routine Shuttle launches…
We noticed an odd looking cloud up in the sky, which turned out to be the Challenger blowing up.
As with many tumultuous events & disasters, it was a surreal experience. Part of the mind refuses to see what it is seeing, while your emotions are running at full speed. All the radios on the beach were broadcasting the news and everyone was pointing at the cloud.
This did not stop the space shuttle program, but that is about to end. The robot explorers to Mars and deep space have been wondrous. The Hubble telescope has sent back beautiful, amazing, awe-inspiring images. Virgin will be flying rich tourists to the edge of the atmosphere soon. Other countries are about to begin other ambitious space programs.
52 years after Sputnik, 25 years after Challenger, we’re still just beginning…
Some interesting thoughts on how the disaster transformed some children from Boing Boing.
While taking a shower or a bath, we all have many thoughts, epiphanies, insights and Eureka moments.
Whether it’s encouraged by the relaxing effects of heat, the background white noise, the solitude, a combination of those factors or other reasons does not matter so much to me as the fact that it happens on a regular basis. The problem is keeping those ideas fresh afterward and being able to take them to the next step.
Now that I’ve discovered AquaNotes, there is no need to rush out of the shower to write an idea down. Their tagline says it all – No more great ideas down the drain.
The waterproof paper and pencil work great. It’s easy to jot down all your (hopefully) brilliant thoughts easily.
Moments after I read about AquaNotes in Shawn Blanc’s blog in July, I ordered my first pad. I’m now on my second as they are not refillable (when I ordered again, I bought their 5-pack).
Though I can’t say my ideas have gotten any better, at least they no longer disappear into the steam.
I believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase until we reach a music produced through the aid of electrical instruments which will make available for musical purposes any and all sounds that can be heard. ~ Composer, performance artist & visionary John Cage
The quote is from the early 1950′s. Anyone that creates music with a laptop, samples, or mash-ups, owes him a lot.
Here are 15 facts you may not have known about what neutrality on the Internet actually means.
We shot No Way Out in the late spring. It debuted on MTV in June (I think) when the album Nuclear Furniture was released.
In July, Irv got approved to direct another video with the Starship. In the interim, founder Paul Kantner had left the group and was suing them over the word ‘Jefferson’ in the band’s name. The song was Laying It On The Line which had a number of political references – political abuse of power, the fighting at that time in Nicaragua, Mid-Eastern oil problems, etc.
Coincidentally and very conveniently, the Democrats had just completed their 1984 Presidential Convention in San Francisco, where Walter Mondale & Geraldine Ferraro were nominated. A good friend of the drug dealer/wannabe-producer was able to secure all the convention hall decorations.
The story for the video was that Mickey Thomas & Grace Slick are running for office in 1988 (Mike & Slick in ’88) and are addressing convention – their acceptance speech , so to speak. Irv storyboarded the basic shots and we started to plan it out.
We secured a great location for the pseudo convention – an emergency water pumping station. After the 1906 Earthquake when most of San Francisco burned down, the city had build a number of emergency pumping stations that, if needed, would be able to draw in seawater and hydraulically pump it into the system. It was essentially a big empty hall, surrounded by humongous pipes. It was never used unless there was an emergency, it was out of the way and almost soundproof – perfect.
For the convention’s attendees, Irv decided to use the wannabee-producer’s extensive contacts and rounded up as many local celebrities and politicians as we could. They included (in no particular order):
- Bill Graham, the great impresario and promoter
- Hon. Willie Brown (them Speaker of the California State Assembly, later to be Mayor of San Francisco)
- Comedian Pat Paulsen
- Members of Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Avant-garde music and visual arts group The Residents (known for anonymity – always dressed as big eyeballs)
- Grace & Paul’s daughter China Kantner
- Local rock writer & personality Sheila Renee
- The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
- Artist Gage Taylor
- Plus hundreds of colorfully clothed extras and dozens of babies
The 3 day shoot was about as fun as these things can be. It was a lot of work – especially wrangling the babies/kids – but the story worked, the energy of the crowd and celebrities was fantastic. It was inspired, but controlled chaos.
I also got to be a Secret Service Agent, guarding the stage.
There were a few scenes shot outdoors, but the majority was done at the pumping station.
For the final shot, we used a close-up with a phone number – perhaps the first attempt to do direct marketing in a music video.
I was probably more help during editing than I was during shooting, as I had much more experience there. Many of my suggestions made it into the final cut.
Though once again I was paid nothing, watching and learning as Irv and all the other crew worked was worth the effort.
I already had great work habits, but my experience here confirmed that showing up first and leaving last is the best way to stay organized and on top of things.
I thought rock n’ roll was a different form of show business. I thought it unlocked something different about the human spirit and about the artistic process.
Of course… it didn’t. ~ Guitar virtuoso Pete Townshend
photo © Linda McCartney
I want nothing from Hollywood but money and anyone who tells you that he came here for anything else or tries to make beautiful words out of it lies in the teeth. ~ Supreme Satirist & Poet Dorothy Parker
Sometimes doing a search for people from your past brings you back together – other times it can deliver sad news.
I had not been in touch with Director and Cinematographer extraordinaire Irv Goodnoff in over 20 years. When I searched for him last week, I found he passed away in 2009. That brought back the memories of the work & time I spent with him. Irv had numerous credits, more than his IMDB listing indicates. Variety’s obituary said he’d worked on over 50 films & TV shows. It was interesting to learn had been teaching cinematography for the past few years, as that was his great love.
Though I had been writing, creating, shooting & directing videos for over 15 years, I had never worked in film or with a DGA Director. In the spring of 1984, a drug dealer/wannabe-producer I knew met Irv and I was asked if I’d be an Assistant Production Manager for a music videos for the Jefferson Starship. I was actually a glorified Production Assistant, since I was not paid.
Irv had just won MTV awards for his cinematography of Weird Al Yankovic’s Eat It video and Huey Lewis and the News’ Heart of Rock ‘n Roll, and he had recently started directing music videos.
He was repped by Fran Kapsalis, who later became my business partner. A few years later, we would open the first company distributing productivity software for the entertainment industry (scriptwriting, storyboarding, scheduling, budgeting, etc.) – but that’s a story for another time.
Working with Irv was a great learning experience and began to prepare me for working with other Hollywood professionals. Irv’s background was in commercials and his manic, shoot it fast, improvisational work style first appeared to me to be absolutely crazy. But I learned it worked for him only because of all the preparation he did prior to a shoot.
Irv was both D.P. and Director for these shoots. This worked well for him. When he’d grab the camera off the tripod to shoot hand-held he knew exactly what he was doing. Again, his preparation allowed him to get inspired on the set and to go for it – without hesitation or questioning his creative-side. Sometimes the results were not usable, but the lesson for me was it was always worth a try. Happy accidents can make great art.
We were in San Francisco and it was 1984, so there was an abundance of Peruvian marching powder on the sets (even though by then Grace Sick was straight and sober). It may have taken a toll on some of the band and crew, but it did not hurt the budget as it was supplied mostly by the wannabe-producer. It did make for long hours, though.
It didn’t matter. I was psyched. I was working on a ‘real’ set with a real director and with some my long-time, much admired rock heroes.
No Way Out
The first shoot was for No Way Out, a story of betrayal and comeuppance… maybe. It was a 3 day shoot with some pickups done later in LA.
MTV was in its prime and every band tried to out-do the other bands in the outrageousness of their productions. This video was no exception. The wannabe-Producer had many connections to Bay Area celebrities and he was able to get Father Guido Sarducci (Tom Novello) as a special guest. Tom started his career locally and was then a semi-regular on Saturday Night Live.
We used graphics and titles from an Apple ][, which no one had done before. They look so archaic & rudimentary compared to what’s possible today.
We constructed some surreal sets. One was a confessional booth opening into a bedroom.
No Way Out was voted one of top 5 weirdest videos ever shown on MTV.
Watch it and you’ll understand why it deserves that honor.
The skills of studio accountants are a legendary, never-ending story of deceit and flim-flam. Now that the studios are essentially doing all their TV production in-house, it’s getting worse. But sometimes the good-guys/creatives get what’s theirs.
Celador, the creator of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ won an award of $269M (they will fight on appeal, of course).
Don Johnson is set to receive $23M from ‘Nash Bridges.’
Jack Klugman is still fighting NBC over money from the 1976 series ‘Quincy.’
And it goes on….
Here’s the net profits top sheet from the accounting for ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ (via Deadline Hollywood). read it and weep…
Everyone complains how the Internet is preventing artists & creatives from making money from their IP and efforts, but studio accountants do them worse.
In 1979, I was a partner in the first video production, VCR sales, and TV repair facilities in San Rafael, California. One of my business partners was the Bruce Herbert, son of Frank Herbert (author of Dune, etc). Bruce had previously worked with Mark Watts, son of Alan Watts – best known as an interpreter and popularizer of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience.
One day Mark showed up with a stack of ¾” videotapes, which was the broadcast standard format of the day. He wanted them transferred to the then new Beta and VHS formats. Though there were hundreds of hours of radio and audio recordings of his dad’s lectures, these were the only videos that Alan ever made.
It fell to me to perform the transfers. The first tape I picked up was called Work as Play. Up to that point, I’d had a causal interest in Eastern philosophy. This lecture blew me away with its message.
Though at times I have gotten lost and forgotten to follow this lesson, the fundamental truth that work doesn’t have to be boring — that all work can be exciting, fun and something to look forward to — remains. Work can and should be an outlet for your creativity and imagination.
To do otherwise is to make your life drudgery, when it does not need to be so.
The lecture is a little over 20 minutes, but worth the time.
Since then, I have enjoyed and learned quite a bit from listening to Alan’s audio lectures and reading many of his books.