What do the Top 1% Know that You Don’t?


Millions of people love movies and TV…hundreds of thousands want to generate work for the screen themselves.  But of those, only a few ever will.

And the number of them who will end up with successful careers?  Well…

Only about 10% of movies that make it into Sundance get distribution.  Only about 50% of screenwriters in the Writers Guild will earn any kind of money as writers, and of those, only about 1% will make over half a million dollars per year.    The statistics are daunting, but the real question is this:

What are the 1% doing that you aren’t?

The odds are just as bad for them as they are for everyone else, and yet somehow they convince others of their value, and you can bet that in 2012 they’ll be reaping bigger rewards today than ever. 

What’s the secret sauce?

Well, here’s my opinion-and this is from our observation of hundreds of our successful TV and Film clients over the last decade:

Having a clear vision; a realistic plan; and the right habits to execute that plan day after day after day

Success stems from consistent professionalism in a number of different ways, exhibited on a daily basis. 

It’s about constantly planning, pushing forward, investing in yourself, thinking big when necessary, thinking to scale when necessary, taking action, and making ALL the right moves so that you deliver the goods and build upward momentum with every deadline, meeting, and screening.

The truth of the industry is that it’s not about overnight success-because even when you get that, if you don’t handle it right it’ll be short-lived. 

The fact is that you’re building something big – a career.  And to compete with the A-List you need to use the same tools they do.

A lot of people approach their creative careers with die-hard passion, belief in their talent, and lots of people pulling for them-but no strategy. It’s no wonder that so many reach a certain level of success and then find themselves stalling or stagnating somewhere “comfortable” and doing work that doesn’t really satisfy their true ambition.

Plainly put, if you don’t take steps to decisively tell the industry who you are, it won’t know-and certain decisions will be made for you (most of them will come with a “no”).

One way to combat inertia is to define your plan and figure out what it will take to progress from one milestone to the next-i.e. map it out using these 5 laser-guided business tools and best-practices that produce results time and time again.

Tool #1 – Strategy

You have to start with your dream. And a great way to ensure that you’re truly passionate about your dream is to write it down and then multiply it times 100 – that’s your real dream (scary, I know). Go for it. Another great building block of strategy comes from Jim Collins (author of “Good to Great”) – Collins’ personal “hedgehog strategy” lies at the intersection of (1) What you’re truly passionate about (2) what you’re genetically encoded or “made” to do and (3) what things can you be paid for.

Tool #2 -Milestones

You can’t eat a whale all in one sitting. Break impossible dreams down into achievable goals and work through them one at a time.

Tool #3 – Process

Are you doing things in the right order, and with the right timing? For example, if you’re an unknown writer you might want to build a body of work and (these days) an online presence before you go out to agents and producers with a project, and if you’re an unknown director you might want to get your indie thriller in the works before you call in your favors and spend a bunch of money on a sizzle reel for a big tentpole-style action pic…

Tool #4 – Schedule

When are you going to do all this, and, realistically how long will it take? Lay out your other commitments on paper, look for windows of time, and block off time for the specific tasks that will take you to your milestones.

Tool #5 – Deadlines

Set them, create reminders, and hold yourself to them or hire someone who will!

Many creative and talented people—even very successful ones in the industry—firmly believe that luck figures greatly into success in entertainment. You might hear it so much, and evidence might be presented so convincingly that it will seem impossible to deny. A writer sells a script because he was in the right place at the right time, a producer sits next to the right person on a plane and ends up with financing.

But if the “all luck” argument is true, then how does anyone stay on top for any extended period of time? That 1%, that A-list of people who have had many projects come to fruition– is their success really determined by luck?

How many times can anyone roll sixes in one lifetime? How can certain people, who have hit after hit, be so consistently luck over and over again? That’s the real impossibility.

It’s not luck, it’s decisions they’re making and opportunities they’re taking– that others don’t act on.


1 Comment

  1. Hi Nat. My partner Pamela Brooks and I have created numerous hot scripts (drama, comedy, faith/inspirational, and period)! However, I due to these economucal times, I can register now, but not be able to pay fees until February. And, when you spoke at the Scriptwriters Network seminar in December, you offered a $100 discount. Is that still available? We are definitely excited and interested in submitting our scripts to you. Warmly, Angela

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