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Who Did What For Me When: Sharing Knowledge
By Ted Hope
I want to give thanks. I want to show gratitude. I want to encourage others to do likewise. But most of all I want to share what I have learned so that others can utilize it to. All of it is one big” thank you”. This blog (not just this blog post) is a big thank you informed by those who gave to me when I still had so little.
This post is a shout out to those who taught me the process and business of film.
Of course, this is just the film business version of this list. There is a bigger version to write on my life in general, but for now this will have to do.
Chitra Mojtabai and Julia Cort taught me how to schedule a film. They taught me how to read and organize a strip board. Before there were computer programs for it, you laid it all out by hand and shuffled it around until you figured out the most logical order. I was so hungry to learn when I was PA and no one was willing to share originally. I wanted to work in the art department, but they wouldn’t have me. If Chitra and Julia weren’t generous I would probably have not become a producer.
David Sperling, a cinematographer, taught me how to do a film budget in Lotus. Lotus was the initial spread sheet program, before there was Excel. Movie Magic and specific film budgeting software was just a dream at that point. Really very few people in the film business even knew how to use computers at that point. Budgeting on computer allowed me to get a nice jump on a few others and helped my producing.
Janet Grillo taught me how to write script coverage — and gave me the chance to do it. I had agreed to read 10 scripts for free, and then when I was done, good fortune hit. New Line had just done the first “Nightmare On Elm Street” and it was a monster. After my 10th script, they started paying me. I used that to get jobs at many other NYC film companies. Soon I was a professional script analyst. (And yes, that is the same Janet Grillo who introduced me to James Schamus).
Jim Stark sat both James Schamus and I, and Hal Hartley and I, down, and walked us through the business of independent film. He taught us the international sales model and the benefits of building a library. He showed us how to project revenues so that we could raise money. He treated us as equals even though we were starting out.
Jill Godmilow showed me how to collaborate well between a director and a producer. James Schamus and I were going to produce her script based on Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. It was a beautiful project and I wish we could have made it. We spent hours talking about the movie — and ultimately the political ramifications of our creative choices. She made feel like the project was mine, necessary, and wonderful. I recognized I was someone who had something unique to give and that was precisely how I wanted to use my labor. Granted all this was a bit abstract, but it was a key part in my process. Let’s call it mentoring.
Lance Weiler taught me not to fear social media (Christine Vachon helped in this too) and to think well beyond the feature film form. He shared his hopes openly for what the future could be. Most people approach this in a secretive manner or one shaped by fear, whereas Lance is open, collaborative, and hopeful.
Michael Morgenstern taught me WordPress and without it I would not have this blog. I was already using it, but the generosity of time to build it out more and get it working allowed me to keep it going. Charles Peirce has also come along and stayed with me as a resource that I can turn to when something goes wrong or I am trying to accomplish more. If you enjoy this blog, you have to thank both of those good men.
Scott Meek showed me how someone with experience can help someone starting out to grow and gain confidence. Scott used his position at a funded production company to get movies that I produced, and others that Christine Vachon produced, to get made. He helped us enter the world of international film. Who showed us what was expected of us in a business sense, and what you could expect (when you were fortunate) from an Executive Producer. It remains a model I aspire to today.
It’s sort of funny. Most of this list dates back to events twenty years back. It’s not like opportunities to learn diminished as I got older. I would argue that I was in a better position to learn as I matured and learned more — but less people extended themselves to me. It’s not like I did not need their help. I want to learn. I know I have a lot to learn. I can think of all the recent times when I could have learned more, if only those around me were willing to share. I think we have to make an extra effort to help those who already know something to know more, or else we all plateau.
But I am so thankful to all those who shared when they did, and gave me the platform to grow today. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
And just in case you missed it earlier this week:
Who Did What For Me: Introductions http://bit.ly/17WqWaZ
Who Did What For Me: Generosity, Guidance, & Support http://bit.ly/1iWsUdZ