One of the best pieces I've ever read is a blog post by writer/entrepreneur Derek Sivers entitled "No More Yes. It's Either HELL YEAH! Or No." In it, he describes his technique for becoming more selective about any and all types of choices. When faced with decisions, if something causes us to feel complete conviction and blows us away, then we say Yes. Anything less, we say No. I've come to love Produced By Conference for a variety of reasons (which I've written about in past years), though it's mainly because there are so many "Hell Yeahs!" packed in to the two-day conference. If you're an emerging producer (who perhaps also writes, directs, acts, etc.) who lacks not in passion but sometimes in direction and focus, Produced By Conference should be a "Hell Yeah!" for you each June. My top "Hell Yeah!" moments from Produced By Conference 2014 were:
-Witnessing 91-year old writing/producing legend Norman Lear be interviewed by "Modern Family" co-creator Stephen Levitan was 75 minutes of "Hell Yeah!", though there were a few quotes that stood out in particular. At one point, Lear said that one of the great things about "All in the Family" star Jean Stapleton was that she "was always where she was." Remaining present is tricky, especially as one whose mind often wanders. This stuck with me. An audience member asked Lear what would be the best advice he has to offer. Lear responded (paraphrasing): "Work at what you want to do, don't worry about being a pain in the ass, and make the phone call yourself." (I'll take this as the essence of producing.) Regarding Lear's outlook on life, Lear paraphrased what he described as an ancient parable: "A man should always have two sheets of paper with him in his pocket - one saying the world is for you, the other saying you're just a grain of sand and are here for everyone." Legend.
-In a panel titled "The Emerging Majors: New Possibilities For Scripted Storytelling," speakers from Yahoo!, Conde Nast, Cinedigm and Endemol went into great detail describing how emerging digital platforms present great opportunities for writers who lack credits to not only break in, but to also direct. All of these places have different business models, needs, and methods for measuring success, so it's important to know what the particular digital space is looking for prior to presenting ideas. Don't just assume that your TV concept will translate, even with more digital "networks" shifting toward producing longer form content.
-In a panel discussion called "The Revolution Has Just Been Televised" with reps from CAA, Amazon Studios, etc., there was much talk about intellectual property. It was even referred to as "the great equalizer for independent producers." There's so much great literary material being written all over the world, if you're able to get the rights to something great and create a demand, it's a shrewd way of making the game come to you.
-There was a lot of buzz about Slated, a new online marketplace/platform for indie filmmakers looking to fund and package projects. The concept exists somewhere between Kickstarter/IndieGogo and begging a Greek shipping magnate for $20 million. It's absolutely worth checking out.
-Getting to hear FX chief John Landraf speak live and in the flesh was an absolute Hell Yeah! He stated that he'd work with "any writer of any stature - it just has to be great", continuing to prove that he's probably the greatest boss for content creators working in television. (If you haven't heard his interview with Grantland's Andy Greenwald, listen immediately.)
-Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg made the entire conference for me. Here are two guys who are insanely productive and talented, doing exactly what they want in the world of scripted comedy. It's an inspiration. They hammered home that "the best thing you can do to get attention right now is to write something you can make and then make it" and that "it's hard to take someone seriously at this point who hasn't made a concerted effort to go out and make it themselves, regardless of quality." Rogen also stressed that for him it's simply "more fun procedurally to work on comedy." Hell Yeah! I could not agree more with all of this.