Multi-Hyphenates: Doing it All

Last night we attended The Multi-Hyphenates: Jay & Mark Duplass (hereafter referred to as “The Brothers”) on Doing it All at the Writer’s Guild Foundation. Events hosted by the non-profit are open to all and are very informative.

Here’s what The Brothers had to say.

A volume of work is helpful in this industry and if you’re a writer, you should have 100 stories to tell. Don’t allow yourself to be held up. If you’re experiencing writer’s block, have an affair with another script. The one you have the affair with is the script you should be doing.

The Brothers suggest waiting to write until you know exactly what story you want to do. And know your first draft is going to be anything but perfect. Try writing a vomit draft or a sprint, where you cannot stop until you’ve written the entire movie. Almost stream of conscious. You can even try dictating your first draft and transcribing it later. Assume only 30% of your vomit script will make it into the final draft, but your pacing will be organic and right for the piece.

And once you’ve written the story you want to tell, share it with a few trusted friends who can and will tell you the truth and help you clean it up. Obviously your first draft is going to stink. And that’s okay. Value yourself and your work but let go of your ego.

Keep your story really simple so you can adapt. Sean Baker (writer/director of “Tangerine” shot entirely on iPhone) advises to greenlight a project that is 70% controlled, 30% uncontrolled/unstructured. Why? Because certainty does not make good art. Art is uncomfortable. Be okay sitting in chaos. It’s going to be painful but happy accidents will happen. Accept them.

And then when you’re closer to shooting, have your editor read the script. His input is invaluable. Are you writing the same scene over and over again or are you missing a scene that will help tell the story?

The Brothers do caution adding a lot of collaborators onto your project. The bigger you go with your budget or through a studio, the less power you have, especially creatively. They advise you don’t need to overextend price points. Look for the bare minimum you need to not lose money on the project and stick to that budget. Your project will be more magical and can potentially earn you more on the back-end. In this current world of content overload, you should aim for extreme niche audiences. You will be more successful than if you try to cater to all four audience quadrants. And your project may become more popular than your wildest dreams.

Most importantly, the Brothers stressed that no one is going to do anything for you. You have to do it yourself. They say immediately set a date for the shoot once your script is written and proceed with or without help. When in meetings with potential financiers, they say, “We are making this with or without your financial backing on such-and-such date. If you would like to be a part of it, great, but we are making it either way.” They have found success because people want to be a part of something that already has momentum.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and create!

Other tidbits:

In a network general meeting, ask what they need, and then take one of your existing ideas and creatively tailor it to fall into that need. It’s a good way to develop a show you can deliver and be excited about. And has a better chance of selling.

It’s helpful for writers to have directing experience. An easy way to start is to take the best scene from your feature and direct it with actors you know. Shoot with an iPhone, with no money and just experiment. Keep shooting the same scene over and over. You’ll discover the best way to illustrate the scene. And the final scene you shoot can be a great asset when pitching your project. Who knows…you may end up being hired to write AND direct your project.

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The Importance of the Right Attitude

Here’s more of what we learned at Digital Hollywood about attitude.

You become the people you surround yourself with, and bad relationships suck up a lot of time and energy…you waste more time when you are depressed.

Acknowledging a bias will eliminate almost all of it. It’s best to call out the elephant in the room so that everyone can move on and focus on what you’re actually there to accomplish.

Competence and confidence are perceived as one in the same so own what you’re saying. Speak with confidence and you will own the room you’re in.

If you leave your lane, do it to gain a new skill or solve a problem. That will be what is rewarded in the workplace. Don’t do things that are trivial or beneath you.  It’s okay to ask to do something out of your comfort zone. Just know you most likely will not get everything right the first time. Don’t be afraid to fail so that you can learn and improve.

In business, be open and honest with facts, not feelings.

Never shut down a colleague’s ideas. You can disagree, but find a way to do it respectfully. People will be more open to criticism if they don’t feel attacked.

When you’re on the phone, always make sure you are smiling. It changes your voice.

Don’t think of the word “networking.” Think of it as “engagement” instead.  Ask the person you wish to connect with an insightful, intelligent question. They will appreciate you for it.

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Your Next Project

Here’s some of what we learned at Digital Hollywood about how to approach your next project.

Have a long-term vision for your project and start with the end goal in mind. Where do you want your project to land? Do you want to win Sundance? Gain 10K YouTube subscribers? Get an agent? Create for the sake of creating? Then, ask yourself, What is the feeling you want to deliver through this experience? What do you want to watch? Why would someone want to invest? What do you want to see differently on television? Do you want to see more ethnically or age diverse actors? Write to those goals and be the change you want to see.

Next, research other projects you want to emulate. What do they do well and what are they lacking that you can improve upon? Look for what audiences are already responding to and ask yourself why. Is there a more popular niche? Find a way to differentiate yourself. Be uniquely talented and authentic. You will attract viewers.

Know why you’re choosing to write this idea over others. Remember: if you are successful, you’ll be living with these characters for years. Fall in love with them. The easiest way to do that will be to deeply think about your characters. Develop, develop, develop until they are real and dynamic. In turn, the clearer your idea, the easier it will be to build a quality team around you. It can take 1 to 2 years until you are discovered because there is already so much content. You have to let your passion drive you.

If you’re clear about your vision, you can be open to opportunities that could pop up if you know it fits with your brand. You don’t need to know what the ultimate outcome is before you start. The most important thing is to just begin. Give yourself permission to start when you’re only 85% ready. Trust that you’re smart enough to figure the rest out along the way, and you may end up in places you never dreamed of before.

Other takeaways:

For every minute of screen time, it takes ten hours of work to complete. From the writing, pre-production, shooting, editing and marketing.  You might as well create something you’re passionate about.

A true creator has the opportunity to create many things across multiple platforms. Let passion drive you and be okay with letting go of an idea if it’s not working.

When working on a project for YouTube, stay in your lane. Don’t try a billion things all at once. Focus on what you do best and what gains followers. Limitation is the mother of creativity.

Right now audiences are looking for love, integrity and happy endings.

Audiences can lose focus after the first 12 minutes of a project. Try to schedule commercial breaks around that.

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The Internet and the Power of YouTube

Here’s some of what we learned at Digital Hollywood about the power of the internet and YouTube.

YouTube is the #2 search engine, right behind Google. It’s a discovery platform where people constantly turn for information, how-to’s and to be entertained. That said, Linear Television is far from dead.  $70 billion are spent in TV ads every year. A big issue with linear is that less than 11% of their shows stick around for a second season. Because there are so many hands in the pot, the original idea can get diluted and you run the risk of losing your audience. Your project can lose its authenticity and its uniqueness. Today’s YouTube world can see right through that.

Right now, the internet is just another distribution platform. There are no “water cooler” moments coming out of YouTube yet. There’s simply too much content there and no easy way to discover what is truly great. Another fun fact: Every second, one hour of video is uploaded to YouTube. That means that every 30 days, the equivalent of what was released in the first 60 years of television is released on YouTube. It can be overwhelming.

So how can you use the internet to your advantage as a content creator? Think of YouTube as research and development. Today’s consumers are all about inclusion and engagement – they are used to being heard. In our world of social media, online viewers will give you feedback about your project almost immediately and you’ll know what is resonating with your audience. You are essentially co-creating your project with your fans.

Because this type of content creation is more personal, fans feel responsible for creating internet stars. They feel important in the star’s journey and become more die-hard fans than we’ve seen with traditional linear TV. To be successful on the internet, you must be authentic, vulnerable, and treat digital communication the same way you would interact in person with a friend. Intimacy leads to trust leads to you becoming an influencer.

You can also use the internet as a calling card for your type & quality of work. Most shows are looking for more than just a paper resume. They want to see what you are creating on your own! Writing and content creating is viewed as a passionate field and most people in charge believe there’s no excuse not to share your vision in today’s world. Creating and distributing content is cheaper and easier than ever, so people won’t take you as seriously if you don’t already have a body of recent completed work up on the internet. Since everything is more personal and tight-knit now, everyone wants to collaborate with others just as excited as they are to create daily. And it is becoming more and more common for linear TV networks to pick up internet shows and develop them for traditional TV.

You may find you enjoy creating projects for the internet. You can use video to empower others, be heard and start a dialogue on a topic you are passionate about. The internet just helps you reach more people faster. And there are many vehicles to monetize those types of projects on the internet. You just have to be open to them. After all, you’re only one show away from being a millionaire. Why not make it on the internet?

Another fact to consider:

While YouTube is a platform for discovery, Facebook is a more engaging platform.

YouTube is better for views over time because it is a search engine. Facebook makes it easier for a video to go viral but the fad can end just as quickly. Therefore, serialized content is best on YouTube.

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Digital Hollywood Fall 2015


The Real Value by Michael J. Herman

After debating the pros and the cons, the insights and the banality, and the investments and the payoffs of last week’s Digital Hollywood, I have come to realize the intrinsic and indisputable value of Digital Hollywood and events like it.

It is not the seminars, nor the instructors. It is not the location, the weather, the prestige, or the technology. It is the social equity and contacts made during the conference.

Immersing yourself in content is one thing, but it’s as true today as it was 100 years ago that nepotism & relationships win over talents & training almost every time.

It’s networking face-to-face. Your chances of making a deal with Spielberg are slim to none, but your chances of making one with PewDiePie are much more likely.

We want to do business with people we like. We want to do business with people we know. And we want to do business with people that they know and like.

Social equity, the value that people put in relationships is King! In fact, it’s tantamount to currency.

I challenge anyone to show me where this is not the case. We’re not talking about selling shoes, or painting a house, or working in the lab. We’re talking about media and entertainment; an environment that exists thanks to social interaction.

The fact is that it doesn’t matter what you know, and it doesn’t matter who you know. Nowadays it only matters who knows you.

It doesn’t even have to be in a professional context. People who know people get hired and people who cocoon in their larva-like state simply do not progress.

It has taken four consecutive Digital Hollywood conferences of connecting with the same guy who manages a talent and literary agency for him to ask me if I’d like to have lunch and see about working together. We’ve connected and built a relationship. This could not happen unless I got in front of him and shook his hand.

So when someone suggests that Digital Hollywood is nothing more than dots and dashes, remember that some of those dashes are in the phone numbers you get from being at the event.

What’s the real value of Digital Hollywood? The same as any other live and interactive event… human contact.

Michael J. Herman is a writer-producer-entrepreneur who specializes in creating client and audience specific content for message-driven marketers.

Day Four

The Grand Finale by Michael J. Herman

Wrapped up like a burrito, Day 4 included more VR, more streaming, OTR, and Social Media training, but what it also had was important content about the business end of Digital Media.

On this final day of the semi-annual conference, the content came to a crescendo when the real, in-depth discussions got underway.

Santa Monica-based Expert Dojo’s Brian Mac Mahon led the day’s sessions which focused entirely on the nuts-and-bolts of Entrepreneurial Digital Media and playing-to-win.

MacMahon led a high impact session on startups and setting yourself up for success as a new enterprise.

“The missing ingredient for most startups is lack of planning which comes down at its core to B-R-A-N-D-I-N-G.”

What’s Branding? It’s not just your logo and your art work.

“It’s your product and your niche.” offers Mac Mahon to the 85 or so gathered audience members. “Good is not good enough anymore. You have to be clear and your audience has to know what they’re getting from you.”

Forget about apps and web video. The hot topic here is Virtual Reality and Virtual Reality. Pretty much nothing else. Everyone is vying for the next Oculus Rift and hoping they’re it.

Mike Weeks, whose stage presentation hypnotized and beguiled like Tony Robbins on speed, dazzled the crowd with his description of branding. “Your job is to find a way to make them say yes and feel greedy about getting what you have. Be identified as this and you’ll be in business for a longtime.”

The final discussions focused mostly on the actual business of Digital Media. Questions were posed and answered interactively by presenters and audiences members alike.

  • “Do you have your company/product/project ready to launch? If not, don’t! If yes, then what’s your plan? Have you covered development, manufacturing, marketing, strategy, financial, distribution, branding, marketing, social media, follow up, retirement, etc.? Few independent entrepreneurs ever even think about this and that is why there is an 88% failure rate in startup and in small business.”
  • Watch the money
  • Focus on action
  • All distractions are equal
  • Have great content
  • Give great service
  • Solve problems quickly and easily
  • Offer support
  • Get support and advice
  • Be gracious and generous
  • Always look for the win-win-win opportunities
  • Don’t haggle over small stuff
  • Celebrate successes

Not ground breaking maxims, but things we all needed to hear.

“Present, ask for feedback, retool. Present, ask for feedback, retool. Present, ask for feedback, retool. Until you get it right and someone says yes.” offers Weeks as a strategy that made multiple 7 figures and grew his tribe exponentially.

And, finally, join groups of people doing what you want to do actually making money at it. Sound familiar? It should, because Dr. Normal Vincent Peele told us the same thing in “The Power of Positive Thinking,” first published in 1952.

So I guess it’s good advice.

Michael J. Herman is a writer-producer-entrepreneur who specializes in creating client and audience specific content for message-driven marketers.

Day Two

VR – Very Real by Michael J. Herman

The second day of Digital Hollywood Fall 2015 focused almost entirely on VR or Virtual Reality. From programming to games, to telecom, and immersive technologies, there’s a palpable push to a VR world.

Lots of discussion on how content will have to be created specifically for VR and VR devices.

Lots of hope from production companies looking to be the next Oculus rift.

Lots of hoopla about the imminent advances in VR.

But I don’t buy it. I have heard nothing significantly different from what we were told in the past regarding VR. From what I have seen and heard today the technology has not made giant advances and the culture of VR still remains extremely niche.

I remember being at NATPE in 1988 and hearing the CEO of ATT proclaim that within 5 years we’d be able to teleport ourselves to the places we’re calling.

I’m still waiting.

I remember interviewing Frank J. Biondi, then Chairman of MCA-Universal (Blockbuster and McDonalds), in 1993, who told me that in 5 years a 1,000 channel world will be the norm and the prices would be a mere pittance per person.

The 1,000 channels showed up (sort of) but the prices skyrocketed.

And I remember when I was 9 seeing King Kong in 3D and thinking to myself, “Is that all?”

Yes, technology evolves, but, in my opinion, the heavy-handed push for VR technology is nothing more than a fad.

See you next year when Smell-O-vision makes its triumphant return.

Michael J. Herman is celebrating his 29th year as a writer-Producer-Entrepreneur.

Day One

The Creative Master Class TV Film & Video Panel  by Rachel Powell

The number one recommendation when raising funds via branded content: Your story should be your first priority –never graft a brand or a sponsor onto your show. If you use products as a resource, you need a seamless integration of them- or fans will react adversely. A second imperative is to figure out how to cut through all the noise out there, and make something that resonates and stands out, that is real and convincing, has depth and substance and zeroes in on your niche audience. If you pitch reality TV, try to come in with some of your budget, too, through sponsorship and, for all genres, they recommend talent who has their own audience which adds value to your project.  Hollywood is a heat seeking missile!

Go Digital Or Die – An Up-To-The-Minute update From Digital Hollywood Fall 2015 by Michael J. Herman

There’s an old adage in business, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” In media, the new adage could be, “If you’re not digital, you’re dying.”

At the Digital Hollywood Conference happening this week in Marina Del Rey, CA, the conclave is convulsing over the huge opportunities Digital is bringing to the market. Speaking with Branden Stephens, an independent Media consultant and former writer-producer of traditional media, “things are definitely changing, but it’s still unclear as to which way it’s going.”

Referring to a recent study out of UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Center, Millennials are spending so much time on their digital devices that a severe increase in eye disorders amongst the demographic are being seen nationwide. In addition, the responsiveness of the Millennial as a buyer and as an audience is getting harder to capture.

Is it possible that the convenience of instantaneous access has finally found its tipping point? Not likely. While digital is here to stay, it’s still trying to finds its legs among the truly millions of distractions in our lives.

The goal, agrees nearly every panel member at the conference is to create content that goes viral and has stickiness to it. Yevgen Stupka, whose playground is the European marketplace, says, “No matter what language you speak, you must be able to translate your message across media and across audiences. It is now easier than ever to identify your key demographic and it seems to be getting harder each year to reach that same audience.”

Anders Smallen, who works with outlets like Yahoo, Google, and Bing, offers that is sometimes just as hard for the programmer to find the right content for their audience as it is for the creator to find their niche market. “I have to provide the right content or my audience will click out as quickly as they clicked in. It’s really a symbiotic relationship between those who can provide the right content and those who have the right audience.”

But the biggest trend discussed at the event’s opening day is clearly the cross-platform and multi-platform development that is now taking place.  Content has to be delivered not only on multiple devices, but also in multiple marketplaces.

Yes, you can have your base on YouTube and build your audience there, but your audience is now in multiple places at the same time and you have got to capture their attention wherever they go.

That might mean advertising across platforms, creating multi-versions of the same content, or partnering with MCNs and MCPs (multi-channel platforms) to get your message seen.

Michael J. Herman is a writer-producer-entrepreneur who specializes in creating client and audience specific content for message-driven marketers.

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Digital Hollywood Events

We’re now on Twitter! Please follow us @tvwriters for updates and to where we’ll be during the Festival.

In the meantime, below are some panels that may be of interest to you. For a complete list of events with more details, click here for a pdf.

See you there!

Monday, October 19th

The Power of YouTube: Unlocking the Power of Programming, Premium Content and Advertising 10:00 AM – 11:15 AM Ballroom Terrace

Valuing and Financing Entertainment Content: Movies, Television and Online Video, From VC & Equity to Crowdfunding 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM Ballroom Terrace

The DealMaking Process: From Feature Film, Reality TV & Specials to Web Series and Indie Film Making 12 Noon – 1:00 PM Marina Vista

CrowdFunding Update: Exploring Innovation in the Crowdfunding FilmTV-Start-up Process 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM Marina Vista

Cable, TV, Film and Broadband – New Content – New Networks – Streams, Platforms, Devices 3:45 PM – 5:00 PM Ballroom Terrace

Programming the New ‘OVN’s’ (Online Video Networks: the Next Generation of Niche Video Content  3:45 PM – 5:00 PM Poolside Tent II

The TV/Film/Video – Developing Strategies and Partnerships – Developing Hollywood Content as Brand and Franchise 3:45 PM – 5:00 PM Marina Vista Room

End-of-Day Poolside Reception 5:00 PM – 6:15 PM

Tuesday, October 20th

The Internet – Media – Hollywood Connection – Ubiquitous Broadband – Ubiquitous Content 12:30 PM – 1:45 PM Salon III

“How Do You Go from Idea to Pitch?”  2:00 PM – 5:00 PM The Directors Room

The Future of Enhanced Advertising: Addressing Brands, Message, Technology, Media and Entertainment  2:15 PM – 3:30 PM Marina Vista

Original Internet TV – The Cross Platform Explosion 3:50 PM – 5:00 PM Marina Vista Room

End-of Day Poolside Reception 5:00 PM – 6:15 PM

Pitch, Pass or Play: Interactive Start–Up Showcase Competition 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM Poolside Tent I

Wednesday, October 21st

Indie TV – OTT and Streaming – The Gateway to the New Hollywood of Content to Phones, Tablets, TV and PC 10:45 AM – Noon Salon II

What Makes The Web Viable? Funding, Producing and Distributing Original Content  11:00 AM – Noon The Director’s Room

The Plaza Room Investment, Financing & Packaging Projects: Unique Content – Unique Technology – Funding & Monetizing Properties Across Platforms 2:15 PM – 3:30 PM Poolside Tent I

The Powerful Female Consumer Demographic and How It Influences Digital Media– Breaking Stereotypes and Clichés to Deliver Better Content  2:15 PM – 3:30 PM The Admiralty Room

End-of Day Poolside Reception  5:00 PM – 6:15 PM

An Evening of Great Ideas & Entertainment 6:15 PM – 8:30 PM Salon II

Thursday, October 22nd

Enabling YouTube Content: Monetizing and Enhancing Distribution & Consumer Engagement  11:05 AM – 12:20 PM Plaza Room

Twitter, Facebook & Social Media – Transforming Marketing, Transforming the World  12:50 PM – 2:00 PM Admiralty Room

The Power of YouTube: Unlocking the Power of Advertising and Programming  12:50 PM – 2:00 PM Ballroom Terrace

Crowdfunding in Practice: An Update on Crowdfunding Campaigns and Strategies  2:45 PM – 3:45 PM Salon III

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Digital Hollywood Oct 19-22

Thanks to Victor Harwood at Digital Hollywood, we have a limited number of all-access passes for the upcoming Digital Hollywood Winter Event, October 19th – 22nd (Monday through Thursday) at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Marina del Rey. Further details about this event may be found here.
To be eligible, you must be available to attend at least one day and willing to submit reports of events you attend for possible publishing on our website. The passes will be distributed on a first come first served basis.

If you wish to attend, please carefully follow the directions below.

  • Email us at with subject line DIGITAL HOLLYWOOD. Include your name, title & company/affiliation (if you have one), email address, and telephone number – all on one line. (Jane Doe, President, Jane Doe Productions,, 123-456-7890)

Here’s what our writers said about the last event:

Email us today to get your free pass.

See you there!

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Office Closures

Please be advised our offices will be closed for the following holidays:

Monday 10-12 (Columbus Day)

Wednesday 11-11 (Veterans Day)

Wednesday 11-25 through Friday 11-27 (Thanksgiving)

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Office Hours and Booking the Space

General office hours are Weekdays 11am-7pm. Hours may change based on employee availability and whether or not we are holding an event.

If you would like to book the space for shooting with the green screen, editing, etc. Please fill out the form below and we will accommodate you as best we can.

Please enter your desired date and time
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WGAW’s Feature Writer Access Project – submissions now being accepted

The WGAW Feature Writer Access Project is currently accepting submissions from WGAW members who qualify under the program Guidelines.

The goal of this peer judging program is to increase access of minority, writers 60 and older and women feature film writers to agents, managers, studio executives and producers of feature films.

Participants must submit one (1) current feature-length, unproduced spec script. Scripts written for hire under a WGAW contract are not eligible for consideration, nor are spec scripts that have been sold or are currently optioned to any company.

Each Project participant must be a self-identified member of a minority group (including American Indian, African American, Asian American and/or Latino), a writer 60 and older, woman or a writing team comprised of at least one such person. At the time of submission, a Project participant must be a Current Active (including Lifetime Current) or Post-Current Active member of the WGAW. If submission is made by a writing team, both writers must be Current Active or Post-Current Active members of the WGAW. Emeritus members are eligible if they meet all other criteria and take necessary steps to transfer to Post- Current status.

Deadline is 6 p.m. Friday, July 31, 2015.

Further details

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