Category Archives: Film Spark!

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

STUDENTS,

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!

Can LinkedIn + You = A Career?

All of you who met with me should have heard my story of how my friend who is the head of HR at Warner Brothers stressed the importance of having a strong LinkedIn presence and the story shared here from today’s WSJ makes this point better than I ever could.
Read, implement, try and succeed!

Ignoring LinkedIn Is Hurting Your Career

With its refreshed app and some tricks, it’s time to make the uncoolest professional network part of your social-media routine

At Social Media High, Facebook is the all-star quarterback, Twitter is the school paper’s editor in chief and Snapchat is the mysterious, Harley-riding transfer student. That makes LinkedIn the nerd who skips prom for the mathlympics.

Yet, like in every great John Hughes movie, the underdog actually belongs in the in-crowd.

Admit it. Your most frequent interaction with the world’s uncoolest network is deleting those “Join my network” emails. You’re not alone: 61% of LinkedIn users visit the site no more than every few weeks, according to Pew Research Center.

I was the same, avoiding LinkedIn’s baffling design and incessant nagging. But a few weeks ago, when I decided to give it a real varsity tryout, I realized LinkedIn deserves a place on my phone’s home screen. I now check it a couple of times a week to find out what’s happening in my industry. Use it right and you’ll get ideas on how to improve your business, find new leads—and maybe land a job you didn’t even know you wanted.

What’s changed? LinkedIn has drastically improved its iOS and Android apps over the past few months, with even more iPhone app changes arriving just this week. With some tricks and assistance from LinkedIn pros, I’ve been able to zero in on the most important features within the overwhelming service. Don’t get me wrong: Parts of it are still inexcusably terrible. But what other social network allows you to connect with people in a professional way?  Continue reading Can LinkedIn + You = A Career?

Coming Soon To A “Screen” Near You!

From Nickelodeons to Screening Room, how we watch what we watch has been and will be a key element of the cinematic experience.

I am withholding my opinion on these following stories until I hear from you, dear students and graduates, as it is YOUR tomorrow that will be most impacted by this “breakthrough” in film distribution and exhibition.

It is your “stories” that are going to be impacted by this technology.

Read, think, debate, and share.

Sean Parker stood in front of a whiteboard at Napster’s dingy offices in San Mateo, Calif., and mapped out a hoped-for future for the besieged music file-sharing service.

It was late at night, and amid the detritus of discarded pizza boxes, a group of Red Bull-guzzling employees had assembled to hear the Napster co-founder’s plan to begin paying fees to artists and record labels, recalls filmmaker Alex Winter, whose documentary “Downloaded” covers the rise and fall of Napster.

“This was an impassioned explanation of why Napster at its heart was not a ‘stealing business,'” Winter said of the 1999 meeting. “He made it clear that if they couldn’t do licensing deals with the labels, they’d have to close down.”

Continue reading Coming Soon To A “Screen” Near You!

So, you can be the new Coen Brothers…

The other day I had the pleasure of meeting Andric L. Queen-Booker, Class of 2012 – a wonderfully talented and smart young man – and he mentioned that he enjoyed the HBO series, Togetherness, and was a big fan of the Duplass brothers.  As am I.  And my wife.  This is a win-win as it means she enjoys watching a show I enjoying watching, and when you’re in your 4th decade together, and TV wasteland time is limited, that’s a HUGE deal.

When I asked Andric why he liked the brothers, and Togetherness, he said: “It’s real. Truthful.”

So it is.  HBO worth paying for.

Imagine my surprise when the LA Weekly (a paper like the New Times for all my AZ friends) published today – did a wonderful story on the Duplass brothers that is perfectly timed to share with you.

Read this.

I did, twice.  And their story has ME pumped to do more, my way, now.

Go out there and be the STORYTELLER (actor, producer, director, writer, executive, agent, human being) that you want to be!

How the Duplass Brothers Changed Hollywood by Refusing to Change at All

MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2016 AT 6:30 A.M.

by Gwynedd Stuart

It’s an irresistibly warm weekday in late January, and Jay and Mark Duplass are in their office at Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood preparing to write the third season of their HBO series, Togetherness. I note the timing because it happens to be Sundance week, and they’re here rather than there (I note the weather because, goddamn, we’re lucky) — and it’s the rare year they don’t have a pony to show. Last year, Sean S. Baker’s iPhone-filmed, Hollywood-set dramedy Tangerine, which the Duplasses executive produced, was one of the festival’s most talked-about films. They also executive produced Melissa Rauch’s The Bronze, another 2015 Sundance selection.

And all of 11 years ago, their first full-length feature, the low-budget relationship drama–slash–road-trip comedy The Puffy Chair, was among the festival’s breakout hits, winning the Audience Choice Award and making their mutual inclusion in conversations about young filmmakers-to-watch almost instantaneous. They were among a handful of auteurs whose work was being lumped together to constitute what was called the “mumblecore” movement. Major record labels were fixating on all things indie rock, and major film studios were fixating on quiet, quirky dramas being made for $15,000 rather than $15 million.

After the 2005 fest, Mark and his now-wife, director-actress Katie Aselton, packed up and moved from New York to L.A.; Jay headed West that December. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s safe to say these were good decisions. Continue reading So, you can be the new Coen Brothers…

SO BAD IT’S GOOD – TV’s Money Game

“Breaking Bad” is a series I suspect we all watched.  As such I found this article to be an excellent one offering a good hard look at the numbers, the hows, the whys and the wherefores of a TV Series, and how a “HIT” can change the lives of everyone, especially the network and studio, “lucky” enough to “own” it.

If you only read one thing I post on TV, this would be a top choice.

HB

The Economics of a Hit TV Show

Photo Credit:  Lewis Jacobs / AMC

Ten million Americans can recall where they were the night of September 29th, 2013. They were watching the series finale of Breaking Bad. And they were watching it on AMC, a cable channel that once cut its teeth airing reruns of black-and-white movies.

The suits at the network were prepared. Like Walter White, the show’s ruthlessly efficient meth dealer, they knew they had a quality product on their hands. And they charged their customers accordingly. AMC extended the runtime of the last two episodes from 44 to 54 minutes – 75 minutes apiece with commercials – and raised its advertising rates to as much as $400,000 per 30-second spot. The 21 minutes of commercial airtime in “Felina,” the show’s final episode, may have earned the network $7-8 million in advertising revenue.

But keeping Breaking Bad on the air was a big investment. Shooting the show cost about $3 million per episode in 2010, and $3.5 million per episode in its final season. The show’s last 16 episodes cost approximately $56 million to produce.

And finding a hit like Breaking Bad – or even finding a viable show to put on the air in the first place – often costs networks hundreds of millions of dollars each year in development costs and pricey, failed pilot projects.

Things could get even more expensive. Breaking Bad uberfan Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder of Dreamworks, reportedly offered to pay $25 million per episode to produce three more episodes. That’s a total of $75 million, at an average of $568,000 per minuteof final air length. Continue reading SO BAD IT’S GOOD – TV’s Money Game

“No Money No Honey”

The above quote was first said to me by a Sushi Chef who had practically become a member of my family (after all, I was supporting him, his wife and kids with all the Omakase dinners I devoured), and it gets right to the heart of a point we talked about – that you have to make a living  in order to survive, and the more money the better the life you and your future loved ones will count on and enjoy.

This article is geared toward the business side of the industry, and provides a “tasty” snapshot of what you can make starting out in your first, post, non-struggling-assistant position on a desk at an agency or network or studio, and details income figures offering you plenty to incentives to work hard and harder if this career appeals to you as the rewards are ample and exciting.

Once again, this is from Producer Gavin Palone, and you are going to want to read past the big shot salaries and pay special attention to the “entry level” salaries of Rookie Development Executives and Baby Agents:

Polone: So How Much Do Hollywood Players Make?

By 

There are two topics in which we are all endlessly interested: sex and money. Specifically, how much of both other people are getting and from whom. While we get to hear quite a lot about these topics when it comes to celebrities, I’m far more interested in hearing about how much the more regular people with whom I regularly interact are getting — well, not so much the sex part, but certainly how much money they’re making. I don’t feel competitive with Adam Sandler, but there is certainly a part of me that wants to gauge myself against my peers, and while it is easy to gain some estimate of what Mr. Sandler makes in a year by doing a quick Google search, there isn’t much said about the earnings of the executives, attorneys, and agents whom I talk to all day long. So, to satisfy my curiosity, I did an unscientific survey of about ten top lawyers, agents, and executives who would have direct knowledge of compensation at their own firms, as well as many others. From these interviews, I was able to estimate compensation ranges for each job category. (I gave more weight to information that came from those who had more experience with specific deals: agents talking about what people are paid at their agency; lawyers explaining deals they’ve negotiated on behalf of studio executives, etc.) Here is my guide to Hollywood’s one percent: Except where noted, the following are “all-in” numbers, including salary, bonus, and stock awards. Continue reading “No Money No Honey”

Working in Development…

I am posting this piece that describes the JOB of working in Development for the FILM SPARK Students I spoke to in “Welcome to Hollywood,” that fantastic course taught by Professor Collis as part of “ASU in Hollywood,” as well as for all the amazing young film, television, and all-media artists and future agents and executives (you know who you are) I just had the honor of meeting at ASU Tempe.

It’s a pretty straightforward and will be followed by more pieces in this area.  

Enjoy!

THE DEVELOPMENT EXECUTIVE

by Rona Edwards and Monica Skerbelis

What exactly is a Development Executive anyway?

They are hard-working individuals who look for stories, screenplays, and material for their production companies, studios and/or networks. They oversee the writer(s) and give notes on the material in order to elevate the screenplay to production.

Development executives are hired for their opinions and their tastes. They are articulate individuals with a passion for movies, can look at material and see what works and what doesn’t work, and are able to work with both writers and producers to improve the stories and screenplays.

Development executives read and read and read. They form an opinion on the material, discuss it with their colleagues and/or bosses, deciding on whether the material is right for their company or studio. Everyone has an opinion about what they read or see at the movies – from assistants who want to get ahead to the Chairman of the Motion Picture Group. The development executive must have more than an opinion – they must be able to convey whether the material is marketable, castable, fills a niche for their company, and, above all, tells a good story.

Development executives at both production companies and studios have broad tastes in movies and contribute to a wide range of development projects to create a slate of films for their company to produce. They need to be open to a variety of material not just the blockbuster tent-pole movies (i.e., summer event movies) or mainstream commercial fare. They also must pay attention to the domestic market as well as the international marketplace in order to decipher what kinds of movies sell to that market.

In addition to developing material, development executives network with agents, managers, and producers. They attend breakfast, lunch, drinks and dinner meetings. They are aware of material (spec scripts and/or manuscripts) going out to the town via the agencies. They display a keen knowledge of actors, directors, and writers, and are aware of new directing, writing, and acting talent. They watch directors’ reels and read writing samples. They attend movie screenings, oversee dailies of their movies when they go into production, and take pitch meetings from writers and producers.

Oftentimes, being a development executive is a jumping off point to becoming a producer. After spending time developing projects, networking with industry professionals, establishing relationships with talent, and seeing their projects through to production, affords the development exec the experience necessary to produce their own films.

 

Continue reading Working in Development…