So, as a bit of follow-up, all last year he did a monthly income and expense report about his business, often detailing what worked and what didn’t, what his predictions were, and what the basis of those predictions was. It was wonderfully detailed stuff: data you almost never get to analyze unless you’re doing it yourself.
One of the notions you’ll see in the links above is the idea to just go ahead and do it. Carpe that diem, even if it annoys Latin scholars that you just mangled that phrase. Mister Keating has your back. Alea iacta est and maybe this time it’s a natural 20.
So, on the one hand, it’s nice to see an industry professional mirror some of those sentiments, which is what Christopher McQuarrie did on Twitter back in October. Not being a Twitter power user, I only picked up on it when someone posted No Film School’s recap recently in a writer group.
The main thrust of his tweet thread is that those asking him for where to find an agent, read their script, etc., are asking the wrong questions, because on one level, it’s about submitting to the status quo of “the lottery,” the often random way one finds success and builds a career in Hollywood.
That he notes he realized that he was asking the wrong question and after winning an academy award no less (surely winning the lottery), made me sit up and take notice. In fact, hearing some of the same notions from someone who is absolutely “in the system” and has “won the lottery” that I hear from indie folks encouraging each other was striking.
The whole thread is worth reading, but I wanted to highlight some parts. One is the overall implication that he has played –and won– the lottery, but all that gets you is the ability to play the lottery again. This squares entirely with repeated anecdotes I get from people that Hollywood is a very binary environment, where you can be a one or zero at any time as far as various people believe.
And another implication is that if you’re not making something, you never get to be a ‘one’ in anyone’s eyes. And sometimes that something is not seen hardly at all, or it is seen and judged lacking, yet you focus on the “execution and not the result.”
That’s what I liked about him going beyond the oft-repeated idea of “doing what you love” You have to execute and keep on executing until you there’s more people that find you to be a “one”
On the Wordplay site (where the “Never Wait” column comes from), they mention writing a script is like writing your own lottery ticket. But McQuarrie makes the point several times how making a film, making more than just a screenplay, is actually giving you more chances.
“And it’s infinitely harder to sell a screenplay than it is to sell one’s proven abilities.”
I love that he closes with the notion that the business isn’t something to be broken into so much as you are the business to be acquired, that the creative folks we might look up to like-as-not made their own luck, and many –if not all– of them failed spectacularly along the way.
One energetic creator and entrepreneur whose resources I’ve shared before is Russell Nohelty. One of his recent posts goes into all the various ways you can try and build up the business side of your creative business, including the prime importance of having and cultivating a mailing list. But lest you want more, he does go into detail on all sorts of things.
Seriously, he goes into the weeds. He wants to go into the weeds. He’s like Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio’s site Wordplayer where they want to explain what muscles in your hand are used when picking up a pencil to begin writing. I’m talking about that level of detail.
As an inveterate geek who can pass as a “muggle,” I’m well acquainted with the concept of downplaying any connections to nerd/geek culture. My reluctance to unfurl my own weird flag has waned greatly over the past 15 years or so, but I understand that reticence.
This past week at work, talk drifted to Tolkien and constructed languages, or conlangs, because that’s how we roll.
Now, I’m not about to present any paper to the Language Creation Society. It takes a lot of time to create a full, working language. For Rogue Tyger, I have actual world languages stand in for the various human and alien languages, otherwise I’d be up to half a dozen conlangs by now.