Monthly Archives: May 2017

ONE MORE FROM HB – “Interview Questions That Stand the Test of Time And Your Best Responses”


Just when you thought I said all I had to say, I share this – now get out there!

IN THE QUEST to find great employees to build their companies, hiring managers are continuously looking for perfect questions to ask that will predict whether someone will be a superstar or a comet of doom to the organization. Although there is a multimillion dollar industry built around predictive tests and as many interviewing theories as there are hiring managers, there is still an almost ubiquitous comfort around some old standbys regardless of their actual predictive validity that virtually guarantees you will encounter them sooner or later. So, here are five questions you will likely be asked and the best answers for them:

What are your greatest strengths?

Many interviewers feel that candidates are accurately able to identify and articulate their strengths and that the interviewer can then determine whether the candidate’s strengths are a good match for the requirements of the position. The reality is you have a lot of strengths that you can draw upon in any given situation. The best answer here is the strength (that you actually possess of course) that best corresponds to the need of the position. For example, if you are both a skilled communicator and meticulously good at follow through, and you are interviewing as research scientist, guess which strength you should mention?

What are your weaknesses?

Although many experts question the predictive validity of this question, interviewers still tend to feel that it provides valuable information. Although unlikely to be answered one hundred percent candidly, it does actually serve you in the long run to be honest about this. For example, if you are not a good micro-manager, it’s a good idea to admit it. It will either go in your favor, or save you from getting a job you’d hate.

Where do you want to be in five years?

Traditionally, the purpose of this question is to make sure candidates have just the right amount of motivation. If you are applying for an entry level position and state that you want to own the company in five years, you’ll reveal yourself to be potentially delusional. On the other hand, if you are applying as a senior manager, it may not be in the company’s best interest to invest in you if you are planning on launching a start up in two years.

What makes you the best candidate for the job?

This question is usually asked near the conclusion of the interview and while it’s impossible to literally answer this question, considering you likely don’t know a thing about the other candidates, you should have a sense by now whether you are in fact a good fit or not. Revisit the needs of the organization and why you are uniquely suited to solve their problems.

And yes, you will soon be asked this question, too!

Why did you leave your last position?

Another potential hot issue here, depending on the reason. If you moved, or were part of a massive restructure, this is fairly simple to explain, but quitting without having another job, or being released can be potential red flags for future employers. Avoid the cardinal sin of speaking ill of your former employer, but make it clear you are a valuable employee. “We mutually agreed to part ways,” or “I decided it was time to find a position with a company whose values more closely reflect my own”, are about the safest ways to communicate a less than amicable parting.

So in conclusion, be prepared for the old standbys with answers that clearly and concisely reflect the great catch that you are!


Partners for “Life” – Blake Snyder and Me…


I was asked to post remembrances of my late, great partner, Blake Snyder – the young man who taught me to write, a young man I was blessed to call “partner” when we first started out – on his website.

After spending the week with you, my students at ASU, and being asked about my writing career, and writing partners in particular, I humbly share it with you now.

If, after hearing me sing his praises this past week, you still don’t “know” Blake, go here now…

Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat website!

…and learn about him, about his wonderful series of “Save The Cat” books on screenwriting, then get his books, study them, and join the “Cat Club” of writers, producers, directors and filmmakers making a living in Hollywood thanks to his brilliant insider guide to storytelling.

Thanks, HB

Old friends, old friends
Sat on their park bench like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes of the old friends

Old Friends, music and lyrics by Paul Simon

Ever since I was kindly asked to start (or is it end?) the Save the Cat! year of 2012-13, Simon and Garfunkel’s tune has been running through my head, a song Blake and I referenced in a script long ago. Only then we were new friends, well, new co-workers anyway, as true friendship came later. At that time, we were all-work-and-no-play-“writing partners,” and all our togetherness was strictly work related.

It’s fitting, then, than after much thought, I have decided to make the focus of my visit to Blake’s site the dynamic of working as writing partners, or a “writing team” as defined by the MBA via the WGA website:

  • The MBA defines a team as two writers who have been assigned at about the same time to the same material and who work together for approximately the same length of time on the material. When it comes to credit, writing partners cannot divide their joint work into separate material written alone. The MBA does not permit more than two writers to work as a team unless the Guild has granted a waiver prior to commencement of writing services, or certain economic minimums are increased in cases of bona fide 3-person teams. If one member of the team is a production executive (director or producer), then there must be a collaboration agreement under terms approved by the Guild. In addition, the production executive may be required to fill out certain forms with the Guild. Please note that a production executive who gives instructions, suggestions or directions, whether oral or written, to a writer regarding the literary material generally does not fall under the MBA definition of a writer.

  • You should recognize that you have a choice in accepting work as part of a writing team. If you question the validity of the team collaboration, it is strongly recommended that you do so by contacting the Guild’s Credits Department at the time the writing is being performed. The Guild will not divulge your objection to the other person in the claimed team, or to the employer, without your consent. Do not wait until the time when the Guild is determining the credits to raise your objection.

Whew! Who knew? Certainly not Blake! Certainly not me! Because like most couples who jump headlong into a relationship, we did not give a second of thought to the rules and regs of teaming up. No, we just started writing, happy to have another voice in the room — a living, breathing human being to help us stave off the fear of failure we also never acknowledged, terror lurking just beyond the next “Fade Out.”

And for a long time, it was good. Hell, for me it was great, a true blessing. Blake was a real writer: trained, polished, brilliant, talented. I was the imposter: a sometime actor who talked a good game and through happenstance, would learn his craft at a true master’s side.

Specs followed. Dramas. Comedies. Action & Adventure. Even half-hour pilots spilled from our IBM Selectric. No sales, lots of bites. Pitches came next. Every genre, every market, and still no payday, but we remained undeterred, optimistic even, Annie-confident that the “sun would come out tomorrow,” that our time was near.

How, you ask? We had each other. And that’s the real secret sauce of being on a team for me: the comfort of knowing you are not alone.

Then we got some work; assignments long and short, funny and not; even landed a “video game” gig for a new VHS based platform from Hasbro and Warner Brothers; writing “interactive scripts” based on the Police Academy franchise we smartly titled: Police Academy 4.0

And one day, the sense that we were in this fight for fame together just wasn’t enough and we were done. Too much struggle + too much ego + too much face time = get out before I start to hate you.

Blake, having a rough time with the WGA strike and his father’s death, knowing that I would likely try to stay our inevitable divorce if for no other reason than I was more of a hanger-on type than he, left a “Dear Howard” note on my door and fled Los Angeles for the beaches of Santa Barbara, where he would regroup and come back strong.

I sulked for a while, cursed him for “leaving me,” then refocused on my producing persona, turning to production work as my way of avoiding the reality of facing the blank page without my partner, Blake, at my side.

Time passed. Blake became the “King of the Spec Sales,” with features his domain, while I ended up slugging it out in the world of the MFT, a career choice that has lasted, miraculously, to this day. Every few years we would reconnect; once for an assignment to reboot an old spec for a chunk of change, and several more times when someone who knew us when wanted the team back together again. And every time, almost like magic, as if we had never parted ways, the rhythm and dynamism of our relationship would surface and take hold. Yes, “crazy wonderful” is the best way I can describe my time with Blake.

Of course as loyal followers of Blake, you know that he worked with other writing partners, too, some enjoying great success, others not so much. And based on the conversations I’ve had with these lucky few, I’d say they all feel the same way: Writing with Blake was a gift!

Post-Blake, when it came to writing, I found I wanted – hell, needed – the security and energy of a partnership. Sadly, other than Blake, only two partners in a half-dozen profited from our time together. Not the best odds. But for me, well worth the effort, as writing is not the “most fun” one can have with a keyboard. I like(d) being on a team.

And you have to if you are going to take on such a close relationship, because you will likely spend more time per week with your writing partner, than you will with your life partner. Which takes commitment.

In return, beyond the comfort and support that comes with knowing someone has your back, you also get the benefit of another writer’s talent, vision, humor, experience, and their skill at creating, selling, and marketing yourselves and your content — a true win-win if you are winning. Of course, you also get to share in their dating adventures, divorces, childcare issues, substance abuse troubles, etc., a price you must be prepared to pay for letting someone else into your life.

All in all, the bottom line that I have found, both among other writing teams I know, as well as the majority of my former partners, is the overriding consensus that being half of a writing team doesn’t suck if you are making money together, and quickly sours when you are not.

So there you have it – an unscientific, totally anecdotal look at one of the oddest oddity’s of show business known as the “writing team.” If it suits your personality, I heartily recommend the habit. However, if you are a brooding, must have silence or blaring music, lock me in a room and leave me alone type, then please disregard the preceding.

Lastly, if you will allow me one small indulgence, I leave you with the rest of Old Friends – shared with love for my dear partner Blake…

Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settle like dust on the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today?
Sharing a park bench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends, memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fears

Time it was and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you


A MUST READ from Vanity Fair


With theater attendance at a two-decade low and profits dwindling, the kind of disruption that hit music, publishing, and other industries is already reshaping the entertainment business. From A.I. Aaron Sorkin to C.G.I. actors to algorithmic editing, Nick Bilton investigates what lies ahead.


A few months ago, the vision of Hollywood’s economic future came into terrifyingly full and rare clarity. I was standing on the set of a relatively small production, in Burbank, just north of Los Angeles, talking to a screenwriter about how inefficient the film-and-TV business appeared to have become. Before us, after all, stood some 200 members of the crew, who were milling about in various capacities, checking on lighting or setting up tents, but mainly futzing with their smartphones, passing time, or nibbling on snacks from the craft-service tents. When I commented to the screenwriter that such a scene might give a Silicon Valley venture capitalist a stroke on account of the apparent unused labor and excessive cost involved in staging such a production—which itself was statistically uncertain of success—he merely laughed and rolled his eyes. “You have no idea,” he told me.

After a brief pause, he relayed a recent anecdote, from the set of a network show, that was even more terrifying: The production was shooting a scene in the foyer of a law firm, which the lead rushed into from the rain to utter some line that this screenwriter had composed. After an early take, the director yelled “Cut,” and this screenwriter, as is customary, ambled off to the side with the actor to offer a comment on his delivery. As they stood there chatting, the screenwriter noticed that a tiny droplet of rain remained on the actor’s shoulder. Politely, as they spoke, he brushed it off. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, an employee from the production’s wardrobe department rushed over to berate him. “That is not your job,” she scolded. “That is my job.”

The screenwriter was stunned. But he had also worked in Hollywood long enough to understand what she was really saying: quite literally, wiping rain off an actor’s wardrobe was her job—a job that was well paid and protected by a union. And as with the other couple of hundred people on set, only she could perform it.

This raindrop moment, and the countless similar incidents that I’ve observed on sets or heard about from people I’ve met in the industry, may seem harmless and ridiculous enough on its face. But it reinforces an eventuality that seems both increasingly obvious and uncomfortable—one that might occur to you every time you stream Fringe or watch a former ingénue try to re-invent herself as a social-media icon or athleisure-wear founder: Hollywood, as we once knew it, is over.In the mid-90s, the first time I downloaded an MP3, I realized that the music industry was in grave trouble. People who were my age (I wasn’t old enough to legally drink yet) didn’t want to spend $20 on a whole compact disc when all we coveted was a single song on the album. Moreover, we wanted our music immediately: we preferred to download it (illegally) from Napster or eventually (legally) from iTunes without the hassle of finding the nearest Sam Goody. It turned out that this proclivity for efficiency—customizing your music and facilitating the point of sale—was far from a generational instinct. It explains why the music industry is roughly half the size it was one decade ago.

These preferences weren’t confined to music, either. I also felt the raindrop moment firsthand when I began working at The New York Times, in the early 2000s. Back then, the newspaper’s Web site was treated like a vagrant, banished to a separate building blocks away from the paper’s newsroom on West 43rd Street. Up-and-coming blogs—Gizmodo, Instapundit, and Daily Kos, which were setting the stage for bigger and more advanced entities, such as Business Insider and BuzzFeed—were simultaneously springing up across the country. Yet they were largely ignored by the Times as well as by editors and publishers at other news outlets. More often than not, tech-related advances—including e-readers and free online blogging platforms, such as WordPress and Tumblr—were laughed at as drivel by the entire industry, just as Napster had been years earlier.

Of course, the same logic that had decimated music would undermine print publishing: readers didn’t want to travel to a newsstand to buy a whole newspaper when they were interested only in one story or two. And, in so many cases, they really didn’t care all that much whose byline was at the top of the piece. Subsequently, newspaper advertising revenues fell from $67 billion in 2000 to $19.9 billion in 2014. Meanwhile, the same pummeling occurred in the book-publishing world. Many consumers didn’t want hardcover books for $25 when digital versions were available for $9.99. An algorithm generally provided better suggestions than an actual in-store clerk. And consumers never had to leave home to get the book they wanted. Amazon, knowing this, eviscerated the business. While print sales have finally leveled out (largely through a reliance on science fiction and fantasy), the industry has seen sales fall precipitously over the past decade.

Hollywood, these days, seems remarkably poised for a similar disruption. Its audiences increasingly prefer on-demand content, its labor is costly, and margins are shrinking. Yet when I ask people in Hollywood if they fear such a fate, their response is generally one of defiance. Film executives are smart and nimble, but many also assert that what they do is so specialized that it can’t be compared to the sea changes in other disrupted media. “We’re different,” one producer recently told me. “No one can do what we do.”

That response, it’s worth recalling, is what many editors and record producers once said. And the numbers reinforce the logic. Movie-theater attendance is down to a 19-year low, with revenues hovering slightly above $10 billion—or about what Amazon’s, Facebook’s, or Apple’s stock might move in a single day. DreamWorks Animation was sold to Comcast for a relatively meager $3.8 billion. Paramount was recently valued at about $10 billion, approximately the same price as when Sumner Redstone acquired it, more than 20 years ago, in a bidding war against Barry Diller. Between 2007 and 2011, overall profits for the big-five movie studios—Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Disney—fell by 40 percent. Studios now account for less than 10 percent of their parent companies’ profits. By 2020, according to some forecasts, that share will fall to around 5 percent. (Disney, partly owing to Star Wars and its other successful franchises, is likely to be a notable outlier.)

Show business, in many ways, has entered a vicious cycle set off by larger economic forces. Some 70 percent of box office comes from abroad, which means that studios must traffic in the sort of blow-’em-up action films and comic-book thrillers that translate easily enough to Mandarin. Or in reboots and sequels that rely on existing intellectual property. But even that formula has dried up. Chinese firms, including Dalian Wanda, are rabidly acquiring companies such as Legendary Entertainment, AMC, and Carmike Cinemas, a smaller theater chain, with an apparent goal of learning how Hollywood does what it does so China can do it better. As The Wall Street Journal reported last summer, more sequels bombed than did not. Fortune called it “a summer of big flops.” MGM’s Ben-Hur, which was produced by Mark Burnett, cost $100 million and yet grossed only $11 million in its opening weekend.

But the real threat isn’t China. It’s Silicon Valley. Hollywood, in its over-reliance on franchises, has ceded the vast majority of the more stimulating content to premium networks and over-the-top services such as HBO and Showtime, and, increasingly, digital-native platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. These companies also have access to analytics tools that Hollywood could never fathom, and an allergy to its inefficiency. Few have seen the change as closely as Diller himself, who went from running Paramount and Fox to building his own tech empire, IAC. “I don’t know why anyone would want a movie company today,” Diller said at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in October. “They don’t make movies; they make hats and whistles.” (Half of the people in the audience, likely representing the tech industry, laughed at this quip; the other half, from Hollywood, cringed.) When I spoke to Mike Moritz, the iconic venture capitalist, backstage at the event, he noted that a nominal investment in a somewhat successful tech company could generate more money than Hollywood’s top-grossing movies. “In my mind,” he said, “Hollywood is dying.”


Part of the problem, it seems, is that Hollywood still views its interlopers from the north as rivals. In reality, though, Silicon Valley has already won. It’s just that Hollywood hasn’t quite figured it out yet.When Netflix started creating its own content, in 2013, it shook the industry. The scariest part for entertainment executives wasn’t simply that Netflix was shooting and bankrolling TV and film projects, essentially rendering irrelevant the line between the two. (Indeed, what’s a movie without a theater? Or a show that comes available in a set of a dozen episodes?) The real threat was that Netflix was doing it all with the power of computing. Soon after House of Cards’ remarkable debut, the late David Carr presciently noted in the Times, “The spooky part . . . ? Executives at the company knew it would be a hit before anyone shouted ‘action.’ Big bets are now being informed by Big Data.”Carr’s point underscores a larger, more significant trend. Netflix is competing not so much with the established Hollywood infrastructure as with its real nemeses: Facebook, Apple, Google (the parent company of YouTube), and others. There was a time not long ago when technology companies appeared to stay in their lanes, so to speak: Apple made computers; Google engineered search; Microsoft focused on office software. It was all genial enough that the C.E.O. of one tech giant could sit on the board of another, as Google’s Eric Schmidt did at Apple.

These days, however, all the major tech companies are competing viciously for the same thing: your attention. Four years after the debut of House of Cards, Netflix, which earned an astounding 54 Emmy nominations in 2016, is spending $6 billion a year on original content. Amazon isn’t far behind. Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are all experimenting with original content of their own. Microsoft owns one of the most profitable products in your living room, the Xbox, a gaming platform that is also a hub for TV, film, and social media. As The Hollywood Reporter noted this year, traditional TV executives are petrified that Netflix and its ilk will continue to pour money into original shows and films and continue to lap up the small puddle of creative talent in the industry. In July, at a meeting of the Television Critics Association in Beverly Hills, FX Networks’ president, John Landgraf, said, “I think it would be bad for storytellers in general if one company was able to seize a 40, 50, 60 percent share in storytelling.”

It would be wrong, however, to view this trend as an apocalypse. This is only the beginning of the disruption.

So far, Netflix has merely managed to get DVDs to people more quickly (via streaming), disrupt the business plan of the traditional once-a-week, ad-supported television show, and help solidify the verb “binge” in today’s culture. The laborious and inefficient way shows and films are still made has not been significantly altered. That set I visited in Los Angeles with its 200 workers wasn’t for an NBC or FX show; it was actually a production for a streaming service. The same waste and bloated budgets exist across the entire industry. To put the atrophy into perspective, a single episode of a typically modest television show can cost $3 million to shoot and produce. By comparison, a typical start-up in Silicon Valley will raise that much to run a team of engineers and servers for two years.

But all those TV workers feel as if they are in safe harbor, given that the production side of a project is protected by the unions—there’s the P.G.A., D.G.A., W.G.A., SAG-AFTRA, M.P.E.G., and I.C.G., to name just a few. These unions, however, are actually unlikely to pose a significant, or lasting, protection. Newspaper guilds have been steadily vanquished in the past decade. They may have prevented people from losing jobs immediately, but in the end they have been complicit in big buyouts that have shrunk the newspaper industry’s workforce by 56 percent since 2000. Moreover, start-ups see entrenched government regulation, and inert unions, not so much as impediments but as one more thing to disrupt. Uber and Lyft have largely dominated unions and regulators as they have spread around the world. Unions did not impede Airbnb from growing across American cities. (The company has 2.3 million listings in 34,000 cities.) Google, Facebook, ad-tech giants, and countless others have all but stampeded demands for increased privacy online from groups such as the A.C.L.U. And that’s just to cite the most obvious examples. In the 1950s, the movies were the third-largest retail business in the U.S., surpassed only by grocery stores and car dealerships. Look what Silicon Valley has already done to the other two sectors.

At the heart of the disruption is the most profound element of Hollywood: the theater. Just as customers now generally eschew albums for singles (or streaming services such as Spotify), and hardcovers for more economical e-books, we will eventually stop going to the movies, which are already expensive, limiting, and inconvenient. Instead the movies will come to us. If the industry continues the process of “windowing” (in which studios wait weeks, or sometimes months, to release a film that has already been in the theaters onto other platforms), people will continue to steal a movie they want to see, or they’ll simply stop watching them altogether. (In 2015, the top films in theaters were illegally downloaded more than half a billion times.) Meanwhile, consumers will continue to opt for other forms of entertainment, such as YouTube, Netflix, and video games, or turn to Instagram or Facebook.

And it’s only a matter of time—perhaps a couple of years—before movies will be streamed on social-media sites. For Facebook, it’s the natural evolution. The company, which has a staggering 1.8 billion monthly active users, literally a quarter of the planet, is eventually going to run out of new people it can add to the service. Perhaps the best way to continue to entice Wall Street investors to buoy the stock—Facebook is currently the world’s seventh-largest company by market valuation—will be to keep eyeballs glued to the platform for longer periods of time. What better way to do that than a two-hour film?

This might begin with Facebook’s V.R. experience. You slip on a pair of Oculus Rift glasses and sit in a virtual movie theater with your friends, who are gathered from all around the world. Facebook could even plop an advertisement next to the film, rather than make users pay for it. When I asked an executive at the company why it has not happened yet, I was told, “Eventually it will.”


The speed with which technologies can change an industry today is truly staggering. Uber, which is eight years old, is worth more than 80 percent of the companies on the Fortune 500 list. When Silicon Valley goes after a new industry, it does so with a punch to the gut.Hollywood executives may invoke their unique skills, but engineers are unlikely to see things quite that way. We generally assume that artificial intelligence poses a risk to lower-skilled jobs, such as trucking or driving cabs. But the reality is that the creative class will not be unharmed by software and artificial intelligence. Researchers at M.I.T.’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory are looking at ways to teach computers how to corral information so as to perceive occurrences before they even happen. At present, this application anticipates events that will move markets, or monitors security cameras to help emergency responders before something tragic occurs.But there are other applications for these kinds of technologies, too. If you could give a computer all the best scripts ever written, it would eventually be able to write one that might come close to replicating an Aaron Sorkin screenplay. In such a scenario, it’s unlikely that an algorithm would be able to write the next Social Network, but the end result would likely compete with the mediocre, and even quite good, fare that still populates many screens each holiday season. The form of automation would certainly have a massive impact on editors, who laboriously slice and dice hundreds of hours of footage to create the best “cut” of a film or TV show. What if A.I. could do that by analyzing hundreds of thousands of hours of award-winning footage? An A.I. bot could create 50 different cuts of a film and stream them to consumers, analyzing where viewers grow bored or excited, and change the edits in real time, almost like A/B testing two versions of a Web page to see which one performs better.Actors, in many ways, have been disrupted for years—from the reliance on costumed superheroes to the rise of C.G.I. filmmaking.Many agents whom I’ve spoken with already seem to know this and have moved their portfolios away from Hollywood to include, among others, clients from professional sports. There is a reason we see so many once promising actors, from Jessica Alba to Kate Hudson to Jessica Biel to the Mowry sisters, looking to re-invent themselves in new careers during their 30s and 40s, once their prime. The future augurs less of a need for actors other than, despite Donald Trump’s puerile objections, the Meryl Streeps of the world.Kim Libreri, who spent years in the film industry working on special effects for films such as The Matrixand Star Wars, predicts that by 2022 graphics will be so advanced that they will be “indistinguishable from reality.” In some respects, that is already on the verge of happening. If you watched Rogue One, you will have noticed that Peter Cushing appeared as one of the main actors in the film, which was shot last year in London. Cushing, who died in 1994, was (mostly) rendered in C.G.I. The same was true for Princess Leia, played by the late Carrie Fisher, who has a cameo at the end. The C.G.I.-enhanced version of herself hasn’t aged a day since 1977. “While stars used to be able to make a movie, now they can hurt it,” one Hollywood producer lamented to me. His outlook resembled Moritz’s: “The movie star, like everything else in Hollywood, is dying.”


In all of these instances of technological disruption—A.I., C.G.I. actors, algorithmic editors, etc.—there will be the exceptions. Like everything else involving money and creativity, there will indeed be a top category—those who have great, new, innovative ideas, and who stand above everyone else—that is truly irreplaceable. (Indeed, this has proved to be the case in music, journalism, and publishing.) There will be great screenwriters and even great actors. The real winners, however, are the consumers. We won’t have to pay $50 to go to the movies on a date night, and we’ll be able to watch what we want to watch, when we want, and, most important, where we want.And while Hollywood could take control of its fate, it’s very difficult for mature businesses—ones that have operated in similar ways for decades and where the top players have entrenched interests—to embrace change from within. Instead, one can imagine the future looking something like this: You come home (in a driverless car) and say aloud to Alexa or Siri or some A.I. assistant that doesn’t exist yet, “I want to watch a comedy with two female actors as the leads.” Alexa responds, “O.K., but you have to be at dinner at eight P.M. Should I make the movie one hour long?” “Sure, that sounds good.” Then you’ll sit down to watch on a television that resembles digital wallpaper. (Samsung is currently working on flexible displays that will roll up like paper and could encompass an entire room.) And you might, through the glory of A.I., be able to watch with your spouse, who is halfway around the world on a business trip.There are other, more dystopian theories, which predict that film and video games will merge, and we will become actors in a movie, reading lines or being told to “look out!” as an exploding car comes hurtling in our direction, not too dissimilar from Mildred Montag’s evening rituals in Fahrenheit 451. When we finally get there, you can be sure of two things. The bad news is that many of the people on the set of a standard Hollywood production won’t have a job anymore. The good news, however, is that we’ll never be bored again.


How to Prepare For Jobs of the Future: By Jennifer Kushell


I am thrilled to share this piece from JENNIFER KUSHELL, author of the New York Times Bestseller, “Secrets of the Young & Successful.”  Called the “Career Doctor” by Cosmopolitan and a “guru” by US News & World Report, Jennifer has worked with tens of thousands of young people around the globe for more than 15 years.  She is co-founder and president of – Your Success Network – a network of emerging adults in 110 counties that arms people with the tools they need to discover their passions, launch their careers, and build powerful online identities that they can be proud to share with the world.

The article:

With the world changing as fast as it is – industries rising, evolving and crashing; technology leading to more efficient, effective ways of doing everything; globalization interconnecting us all; and a whole new generation emerging and entering the workforce – how do we best ensure young people are prepared for the world of work from here forward? Keep in mind that along with the jobs being phased out, countless more jobs don’t even exist yet.

In order to create employment for those who are graduating, it’s important for us to review a system that has become antiquated. Even more critical, however, is to note that our current models of education, career planning and job searching are not just in need of a facelift – we need a major paradigm shift in how we think about training our emerging workforce and the skills they need to have to be relevant, let alone have a chance at being wildly successful.

But we do not need to wait for this shift in order to start teaching the new rules of success every day, in every forum, and every possible platform and channel available to us. It can be done in simple conversations or formalized programs – everyone can play a role in training our young people; they are, after all, our kids, cousins, neighbors, friends, colleagues and employees. The bottom line is that we can all ensure this emerging generation is primed for success, and it’s in our best interest to do so. Our future depends on it.

The following 10 skills are most vital to young people entering the workforce:

Ambition changes the opportunity outlooks for a young person dramatically. Employers are increasingly looking to hire for attitude and train for skill, so cultivating ambition and an eagerness to learn and do well are really Step 1 toward a solid future. Young people who are hungry, interested and engaged are infinitely more employable, and when they have a passion for achievement, there are no limits to what they can do. Rather than just hire warm bodies, companies would much rather choose people who show promise and a solid foundation.

Understanding what it means to add value to a company or organization is a fundamental question that should be answered by anyone looking for work, along with appreciating why that’s an important question in the first place. Employment is an earned privilege, not a right – even with a fancy diploma in hand there are no promises or guarantees. People are typically the biggest expense in any organization, and those who add most value have the best job security. Those who don’t usually don’t stay employed for very long. In a corporate world that is looking more than ever before at operating lean, it’s no longer possible to hide and not contribute to a company’s financial well-being.

The vast majority of young people struggle with explaining what they want to do, what work-related activities interest them, what transferable skills they have, and which industries or positions might best suit them. As a result, when they set out to market themselves, or interview with potential employers, they offer little useful information, and instead rely on those doing the hiring to find the right fit and figure it out. Recruiters are not career counselors – selling oneself in the job market is the responsibility of the seeker! Relying on our institutions or parents to “place” young people in jobs is a practice fraught with problems, and enabling entitlement or minimizing the importance of self-sufficiency – or the fortitude to secure meaningful work – are only a few of the drawbacks. Teaching people to pitch themselves effectively early in their working lives enables them to find employment on their own over a lifetime.

The basis of any solid employment marketing campaign (job search) is the actual skill base a worker presents to potential employers. At the most fundamental level, soft skills like interpersonal communication, the ability to speak and write correctly and present ideas clearly, are the areas most often cited when employers discuss the downside of hiring young people. Dressing appropriately (highly subjective these days) is also considered a critical part of communication. So despite the constant “communication” through technology that has dominated young lives, they are at a massive disadvantage because in person those soft skills are not present.

Besides being a good person to work with and around, bringing some substantive expertise to the table cannot be urged enough. It doesn’t matter what the topic, as long as it’s valuable in the marketplace (remember the “Adding Value” piece above?). Ideally, expertise is transferable to other applications and industries too – and it’s important to note that attending specialty schools and formal training programs are not the only ways to acquire expertise. It can and should be cultivated constantly, with young people maximizing every opportunity to read, learn, volunteer, train, practice or work.

Every industry relies on its own lexicon of terminology to operate and communicate. Often these are technical concepts, processes or acronyms that sound foreign to people new to a field. Teaching young people to learn the language of a given workplace, industry or role is directly related to how smart they will sound and how well they will function in an environment, and dramatically improve their chance of securing jobs because companies will first choose someone who needs less time to be brought up to speed.

When young people are supported in pursuing fields that are of true interest, they are more likely to want to learn more and become well-versed in those areas. Intellectual curiosity leads to better educated and more informed workers, who can quickly cultivate themselves into real talent with a little help. The more inspired and motivated they are, and the more space they are given to explore, create and innovate, the more their potential becomes unlimited. This is an important consideration given that school curriculum often focuses on a core set of skills, and other programs such as art, music or other non-academics are eliminated.

The concept of context is a vital one to address with young people, from 4 key perspectives:

1) The working world operates by a different set of rules than most homes and schools. Training young people to acclimate to the adult world of work requires a dramatic shift in routines and expectations from a lifetime of studying and attending classes.

2) Different workplaces have different expectations about dress, attendance, communication, metrics for success and even use of personal technologies. Expectations that aren’t clearly understood are difficult to meet and that sets everyone up for failure.

3) It is a big problem that most young graduates don’t understand how business fundamentally works and is organized. For example, what is the difference between marketing and sales, or operations? What signs would signal that a company or industry is hiring, or worth studying or pursuing jobs in? How does one company fare in a market of other competitors (who happen to be other potential employers too)? What do industries look like?

4) How do we all fit into the bigger context of the world economy as global citizens? With a billion young people entering the workforce, there’s a lot of competition, but also plenty of untapped opportunity.

All of these conversations, if nothing else, break young people from the idea that they’re the center of the universe. Or, conversely, that their world is small, restricted and their options are limited.

Students, unemployed people and those in jobs they hate are all missing opportunities to improve their circumstances and marketability by building experience, which can be acquired in countless ways. In many cases, they can do so simply by volunteering time to local organizations, businesses, campaigns and community events. The more relevant to the skills or the industries someone wants to use at work, the better. With countless organizations struggling to survive and grow, but desperate for help they cannot afford, volunteering or interning can be the perfect opportunity for people to gain practical experience and connections, and to seed future opportunities. Even if the opportunities are unpaid, by staying active and engaged makes the unemployed infinitely more marketable.

Teaching young people to be solution-driven (rather than easily deterred by failure) makes them more valuable, competitive and self-sufficient. When people are resourceful, they will always entertain new ideas, approaches and possibilities. Entrepreneurship education and experience is an excellent way to drive this home and make young people more resourceful, as are hackathons, leadership activities and organizations. Cultivating resourcefulness as a skill prepares young people for jobs that may not yet exist; in fact, the more resourceful they are, the more likely the next generation will be to create their own jobs – and companies that will create jobs for others.



When asked what “one” book I would recommend to a student of film, I find myself, time and again, going back to…


A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting.

By William Goldman. 418 pp. New York: Warner Books.

Written in 1982 his book has stood the test of time.  Sadly, many students today don’t know the works of this great, two-time Academy Award winning screenwriter; some of his many produced screen credits include:

The General’s Daughter (1999)
Absolute Power (1997)
The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)
The Chamber (1996)
Maverick (1994)
Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)
Chaplin (1992)
Year of the Comet (1992)
Misery (1990)
Heat (1987)
The Princess Bride (1987) based on his novel
Mr. Horn (1979)
Magic (1978)
A Bridge Too Far (1977)
All the President’s Men (1976) Academy Award
Marathon Man (1976) based on his novel
The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)
The Stepford Wives (1975)
The Hot Rock (1972)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) Academy Award
Harper (1966)
Masquerade (1965)




By Janet Maslin; Janet Maslin is a film critic for The New York Times.

Published: March 20, 1983

WHEN, after several ventures in playwriting, William Goldman wrote ”The Season,” his shrewd and entertaining 1969 book about the Broadway theater, he was considerably less experienced than he is today. Now, with nearly 20 years of screenwriting behind him, Mr. Goldman has undertaken a similar study of Hollywood, and to this he brings the cheerfully pragmatic wisdom of those years. So one of his chief conclusions, printed in capital letters in ”Adventures in the Screen Trade” and well supported by any number of amusing anecdotes, is that ”NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING” about whether a film will succeed. Nevertheless, Mr. Goldman knows a thing or two about how the movie business operates, and he reveals plenty of it here.

It isn’t hard to understand, reading Mr. Goldman’s animated if overly snappy prose, why he has become one of Hollywood’s best paid writers. (The economics of screenwriting, incidentally, is one of the few aspects of that craft not discussed here.) He’s a lively if ungrammatical writer, a colorful storyteller and someone who knows the importance of good organization (although this book itself is surprisingly slapdash, in view of the strict organizational rules its author propounds). If Mr. Goldman’s is not the most complex or sophisticated analysis of movie-making, it does take a nuts-and-bolts approach very like Hollywood’s own. This is a savvy, gossipy book by someone with considerable insight into the tricks of the trade.

‘In terms of authority, screenwriters rank somewhere between the man who guards the studio gate and the man who runs the studio (this week),” Mr. Goldman begins. That would not seem to afford any screenwriter much overall perspective on how Hollywood works, but Mr. Goldman makes a first-rate fly on the wall. On his first trip to Hollywood, he heard some of Paul Newman’s representatives discuss the scheduling of ”Harper,” saying ”Someday Paul will be Glenn Ford, but right now they’ll wait for him.” He watched Dustin Hoffman waste an hour of shooting time on ”Marathon Man” arguing about whether or not his character ought to have a flashlight on his bedside table. He traveled to Utah to consult with Robert Redford on ”All The President’s Men,” only to discover that Mr. Redford, a longtime acquaintance, wouldn’t give Mr. Goldman his phone number. Working on the same film, he recalls asking the director Alan Pakula which of several ways he might rewrite a sequence and being told, ”Don’t deprive me of any riches.” He notes: ”What I didn’t know then, of course, was this: Alan is notorious for not being able to make up his mind.”

In addition to describing such behavior, Mr. Goldman tries to account for its effects on film-making. He offers pointers, for instance, on why it’s legitimate and necessary to give all the best lines to a star, why the screenwriter should not describe the star in too much detail (”make your description like stretch socks – one size fits all”), and how the star can be made to look good under any circumstances. To illustrate this, he rewrites the basketball game scene from ”The Great Santini,” showing how Robert Duvall, the character actor who plays the sometimes mean-spirited father who loses the game to his son, can be made to seem bighearted and selfsacrificing in the role.

He explains why the mere casting of Barbra Streisand turned ”All Night Long” from a small flop into a large one; then he explains why a large flop may be preferable. He offers helpful hints on how to behave at meetings, imagining the series of conferences it would take to generate a Clint Eastwood version of ”The Little Engine That Could.” He envisions this all the way up to a meeting during which an executive declares, ”Well, God knows it’s a classic, I wonder what sales might say.”

Most of these rather disjointed tidbits turn up in the first section of the book, which contains random observations of a perspicacity that approaches, though never equals, that on display in ”The Season.” His new book’s second section is more specific than its first, concentrating on the films Mr. Goldman has written or tried to write. He tells why he thinks audiences rejected ”The Great Waldo Pepper,” why the Stepford Wives wore brimmed hats and long dresses and how it was possible, on ”The Right Stuff,” to find only six pages of his 148-page screenplay being used. (At this, Mr. Goldman left the picture.) He also tells of a pet project that never left the drawing board, a remake of ”Grand Hotel” that he hoped could be filmed at the M-G-M Grand in Las Vegas. The idea hit a snag when the hotel made it difficult to film there – and hit additional snags when Francis Coppola shot ”One From The Heart” on a set suggesting Las Vegas, and the makers of ”Lookin’ To Get Out”and ”Jinxed” somehow managed to use the Las Vegas Grand Hotel itself, while ”All The Marbles” featured the very similar-looking Grand Hotel in Reno.

THE last part of the book is Mr. Goldman’s slightly overlong attempt to provide practical illustrations of the points he has made, though most of them are quite practical to begin with. He takes ”Da Vinci,” an early story of his own and reprints it here. Then he analyzes it in terms of subject, characters, setting and so on, and turns it into a screenplay. Finally, he invites the opinions of such experts as designer Tony Walton, cinematographer Gordon Willis, editor Dede Allen, composer David Grusin and director George Roy Hill, asking each one how they might treat this story on the screen. The first four treat the assignment gingerly, while Mr. Hill declares, ”This script as written has things in it that set a director’s teeth on edge,” and explains why. Much of the action in ”Da Vinci” is set in a barber shop and revolves around haircuts, prompting Mr. Hill to remark, ”You’re on very thin ground when you start accepting a haircut as a work of art.”

The same might be said for movie-making, or at least for the behind-the-scenes aspects that are illuminated here. But Mr. Goldman makes fewer claims for screenwriting, as it is most commonly practiced in Hollywood, than he does for the art of the barber.

”In the world of the screenplay,” he writes, ”not only are you terribly limited as to what subject matter is viable; your treatment of the subject matter is infinitely more restricted by the power of the star.

”Which is why I truly believe that if all you do with your life is write screenplays, it ultimately has to denigrate the soul. You may get lucky and get rich, but you sure won’t get happy. Because you will spend your always decreasing days doing the following: writing Perfect Parts for Perfect People.

”And there’s got to be more to the human condition than that.



Adventures in the Screen Trade 92-99