Best Ever Death Metal Band out of Denton

I was talking with a professional musician a little while back.  I mentioned The Mountain Goats song The Best Ever Death Metal band out of Denton and I was surprised by two ideas.  First, I was surprised he didn’t know the song – why did I assume everyone did?  Second, I’d never examined how strongly I identified with the song’s characters.  The ideas in this song keep coming back to me.  It is a tragic song and a bittersweet fuck-you to naysayers (Hail Satan!)

Ideas I keep coming returning to:
Band & startups need support, moral and commercial –
I was reading Antonio Garcia Martinez startup memoir and he said NYC was a terrible place launch a startup. (Few Angels, 2nd tier VC, competing with Wall Street for talent)  Immediately I was struck by the idea Denton is a bad place to launch a death metal band.

A small team sharing a dream –
Cyrus and Jeff’s band is just the two of them practicing in a bedroom.  Isn’t this where all amazing ventures start?

The tragedy of dashed hope –
The song’s tragic note is Cyrus gets sent to a school where they tell him he’ll never be famous.  This is an allusion to a true story about a kid Darnielle knew.  I’m reminded of Wayne Coyne, lead singer of the Flaming Lips, literally one of the worst singers on earth but he beloved by millions.  This band is from Norman Oklahoma, certainly not LES NYC. They hustled for 20+ years before any mainstream attention.  I’ve heard tails they lent gear to more famous bands touring through town in exchange for being allowed to open.

Dreaming & working on crazy plans is healthy –
We should all work & dream more. “when you punish a person for dreaming his dream, don’t expect him to thank or forgive you. the best ever death metal band out of Denton will in time both outpace and outlive you.”

Hail Satan!
Hearing a clean-cut crowd listening to a guy playing an acoustic guitar all singing along and shouting ‘Hail Satan’ is surprisingly super uplifting and hopeful.

Here is a link to a live recording:

Lyrics:
the best ever death metal band out of Denton
were a couple of guys, who’d been friends since grade school.
one was named Cyrus, and the other was Jeff.
and they practiced twice a week in Jeff’s bedroom.

the best ever death metal band out of Denton
never settled on a name.
but the top three contenders, after weeks of debate,
were Satan’s Fingers, and the Killers, and the Hospital Bombers.

Jeff and Cyrus believed in their hearts they were headed
for stage lights and Learjets, and fortune and fame.
so in script that made prominent use of a pentagram,
they stenciled their drumheads and guitars with their names.

this was how Cyrus got sent to the school
where they told him he’d never be famous.
and this was why Jeff,
in the letters he’d write to his friend,
helped develop a plan to get even.
when you punish a person for dreaming his dream,
don’t expect him to thank or forgive you.
the best ever death metal band out of Denton
will in time both outpace and outlive you.
hail Satan!
hail Satan tonight!
hail Satan!
hail hail!

Golio was built for Cyrus and Jeff.  These guys practiced twice a week and for me that’s huge.  To some people, they are dreamers in their childhood bedrooms but I say they were putting the time in and making real steps forward.  My aim is to strip away barriers & incentivize the behaviors that lead to success. My ultimate goal is to connect the next Cyrus and Jeff with a graphic artist to draw killer pentagrams and an engineer to help them record.  Hail Hail.

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Andrew W.K. followed me on Twitter!

Andrew W.K. is a rock musician who has morphed into a bit of a ‘party guru’.  He records and has a new album and tour.  He also does speaking engagements about his party philosophy.

I saw his last show in Toronto and it was amazing. The crowd was happy, the bouncers and bartenders were happy, the band was happy.  There was a ton of dancing and crowd surfing.  Every song drove home the message – ‘let’s party!’

The Onion’s AV Club recently recommended his new single and I forwarded the link to his Twitter profile.  New Andrew W.K. video

Andrew W.K. followed me and sent me this reply “Thank you, Ian! Party single, party double, party triple, party infinity.”

Honestly, my day was kind of a drag and this was a great reminder that I’m chasing something I absolutely love.  Andrew’s gospel is you can turn any moment into a party if you have the outlook, so I decided to have my own party right there in my office (I got a fresh cup of coffee but truly focused on savoring it.).

Andrew’s Twitter feed is brilliant, @AndrewWK.  Look out for his PARTY TIPs.
PARTY TIP: If it was easy, it wouldn’t be called partying hard.
PARTY TIP: Get in a car. Pick up your friends. Play music you love. Open the windows and drive. Be glad you’re alive.
PARTY TIP: Imagine your dreams coming true. Now go work your ass off.
PARTY TIP: On a good day, we party. On a bad day, we party until it becomes a good day.

Further thoughts on Andrew W.K.

  • He didn’t have a full band when he started but through the sheer force of his party spirit he carved out his own space
  • He is incredibly good at keeping on message (party)
  • Positivity draws people

I’m chasing my dream, building an online space where people like Andrew can connect with great people and pursue their dreams (writing songs, recording, performing, making a killer video, throwing a good party :), … whatever they want.)  Some days are a little tough but he’s right, that’s why it is called ‘partying hard’.

Ray Dalio’s Principles

Ray Dalio is one of the most successful investors in history.  He built his hedge fund around a simple set of guiding ‘Principles’ and he has publically shared these, first in a PDF and now in a more expansive book.  twitter.com/RayDalio , wiki/Ray_Dalio

My message to Ray

“Hi Ray,

I see a lot of similarities between my venture and your goals. My platform shares features with your Dot Collector, Baseball Cards and 5-step improvement process. I’m building a marketplace / project tool that connects tasks to public profiles and structures collaborator feedback (golio.io).

My Goals:

  • Scale a platform that has a massive positive impact on creative project teams
  • Build into the framework tools that support and develop the smaller group that has the raw talent to synthesize amazing new assets

Do you have 30 min. for a call?

Best, Ian”

Why am I reaching out to Ray?

Ray’s looking to build tools and apps

Ray built some tools for his company Bridgewater. He posted on Twitter they are looking for developers to build apps for the wider market.  Golio may be aligned with his existing projects.

Dot Collector – Inside Bridgewater they use a tool to collect instantaneous feedback on individual’s meeting performance.  This collects insights into what people are really like.  These insights help people identify their own blind spots and help others around them understand their approach.

Pain Button – This app will help people identify the path to resolve a problem, guiding them to the ‘Principles’ that best relate.

Ray knows adopting a set of principles requires practice

In order to internalize Ray’s Principles or your own, Ray estimates it takes 18 months practice.  This is a long time, but well worth it if you buy-in to the massive benefits.

How do you get this practice? This is a big question.  For example, the dot-collector requires a group of people to all use the tool.

I believe Golio’s marketplace approach gives people the practice they need.  Data point – There are +500k Americans making their full-time income as Ebay sellers.  These people will all have very high seller ratings.  The feedback loops inside Ebay train people how to be good sellers!  If we are smart with our design and roll-out, Golio can do the same for contractor space, starting with the creatives.  We can train people to follow some key principles.

I have the sense Ray wants massive reach

Ray is worth billions, he isn’t tweeting to sell books for the additional income.  Promoting the book aligns with his goals.  Does Golio also align with his goals?  I hope so.

It would take 12-18 months for a consulting team to reach 100 employees at another hedge fund.  Without help, I expect this is a difficult transition for any organization.  My best friend works for a hedge fund and first read the Principles 4 years ago.  “In theory” he and several leaders are on board but this firm hasn’t made any progress yet.   So the question remains, “how do we get millions of people enjoying the benefits of Ray’s hard-won learnings?”

We need a viral component to this.  I believe Golio gives Ray’s Principles ‘network effects’.

Principles – markup

In all important decisions, Ray seeks out ‘credible’ feedback.  I went through Ray’s Principles PDF and made +500 notes that I’m circulating back to him.  I’ll leave it to him to decide if I’m credible but I have a strong feeling we share a similar worldview.

Ray’s value-add

I need advisors who are 100% behind the vision of Golio.  Golio aligns with Ray’s goals and Ray has faced many execution issues inside Bridgewater already.  A 30 min debrief every 2 weeks would accelerate Golio’s adoption!

Thoughts on ‘Agile’

Today’s economic shifts favor teams using agile approaches

The incremental cost of the digital sale of a song, web-series, e-book, or software, is zero. Small teams can produce billion-dollar intellectual property with very little overhead or working capital. Similarly, most business improvement ideas in traditional businesses require effort but little capital. However, aligning a team to the market is not a simple exercise. Pulling the best work and ideas out of each of your team members is neither easy nor intuitive. It is not a matter of hiring ‘top talent’, rather, structuring the work and daily interactions to ensure each team member delivers their best contribution. Studying why agile software development teams beat waterfall approaches in terms of speed, cost, and quality, gives some insight into the elements that drive improved performance.

The Mass Manufacturing Paradigm

Mass Manufacturing represented a paradigm shift from small owner-operators with few to no staff to large organizations with potentially hundreds of people contributing labor to a single item produced. When Henry Ford put assembly workers on a line he produced cars more quickly, but he also completely changed how other companies approached manufacturing, design, quality, engineering, and management. Forward-looking business owners outside of the auto industry took note of Ford’s methods and recognized how they could apply standardized work to their industries. These leaders quickly outclassed their competitors on unit costs and product quality.

Mass Manufacturing Management

I believe Mass Manufacturing was fundamentally a management innovation. A production line aligns the efforts of a huge group of people, all with different micro-perspectives, skills, and duties. However, assembly lines are not the only way to achieve alignment, agile software development teams extract a lot more skills, creativity, and innovation.

Is agile the manufacturing revolution of 2017?

Adopting agile approaches allows skilled teams to out-compete completion on cost, quality and speed. If you aren’t the first to go agile then you might not survive long enough to catch up. Remember, there were many cobblers, blacksmiths, etc. who looked at Ford and said ‘that’s fine for cars but my business is fundamentally different so I don’t need to worry.’

Drawing a line between ‘agile’ and ‘Agile’

Like many other management strategies before it, ‘agile’ has spawned an offshoot consulting industry offering to sell the secrets of the ‘Agile’ method. Training consultants have difficulty selling general theory & principles so they opt for rigid processes and recipes they can spell out in jargon-filled workbooks.

‘Agile’ Jargon: Acceptance test-driven development (ATDD), Backlogs (Product and Sprint), Behavior-driven development (BDD), Business analyst designer method (BADM), Continuous integration (CI), Domain-driven design (DDD) …

Here is the lower-case agile manifesto, agile approaches started life jargon-free:

· Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools

· Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation

· Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation, and

· Responding to Change over Following a Plan

The manifesto is a little abstract and software focused, here is my view of agile:

· Work with customers to prioritize and translate needs into SPECIFIC deliverables

· Team members volunteer to own individual deliverables creating COMMITMENT

· Publicly post individual deadlines to create ACCOUNTABILITY

Let’s look at what happens when you remove Specificity, Commitment or Accountability

S x C x (0)A = Agree on what & who BUT without Accountability deadlines slip

S x A x (0)C = Defined plan BUT without Commitment there is no ownership

C x A x (0)S = Who & when BUT the Specific work doesn’t meet the project’s needs

DNA for all recent management movements

This formula, Performance = SPECIFICITY x COMMITMENT x ACCOUNTABILITY, is actually embedded in a lot of other management movements. For example:

Case example: A consulting practice applying this abstract ‘agile’ formula around the world – Partners in Performance

Partners in Performance (PIP) is a consulting company that uses team alignment tools to improve their client’s operations. Its founder, Skipp Williamson is world leading expert Organisational Behaviour and is laser focused on extracting performance out of teams.

PIP does not do anything branded ‘Agile’ where the buzz words are more important than the delivery of results day in and day out. But they do rescue a lot of Agile projects and bring a performance edge to them. The key in everything they do, operations, sales, capital projects, etc. is helping teams focus intensely on Specificity x Commitment x Accountability.

PIP has delivered $10bn in EBIT uplift, and $40bn of capital reductions over the last 4 years. (results)

Some quick highlights from their founder’s individual work

– US$300m per year EBITDA uplift for a global nickel producer, US$100m per year improvement for a major back-office processing company across 20 countries in 15 months, US$20bn in capital design improvements, … 100m annual improvement… 100m cost reduction… 75m cost saving…

Partners in Performance publishes a lot of very insightful material on how they deliver these incredible results. Essentially every engagement comes down to creating Specificity x Commitment x Accountability in critical client roles.

Personal Experience

I used SxCxA to lead teams to deliver hugely profitable projects across legal teams, maintenance operations, procurement and chemical systems control. This formula helped extract great ideas and efforts from experts because they gained personal satisfaction from their ownership stake. I am a huge believer because I have witnessed the compelling results and happy team members who are reinvigorated and invested in their organization’s success.

Marketplace solution designed to encourage projects to follow the formula Specificity x Commitment x Accountability

Golio, www.golio.io, was designed to create a virtuous cycle where people following the agile work philosophy quickly advance to the top of the rankings. This platform connects task or story-driven project management to individuals’ public profiles and layers in a feedback system.

Individuals all self-optimize, this is human nature. Good incentive systems are designed so individual goals and overall goals are aligned, i.e. we bonus sales people on sales numbers and everyone wins. The system was designed so that through self-optimizing the overall project performance will improve. Golio is designed to

– reward leaders for creating Specificity through feedback scores

– contributors volunteer to complete tasks creating Commitment

– public deadlines & deliverables generate Accountability for leaders and teams

If you would like to try using the public www.golio.io or an in-house white-labeled version please contact the founder Ian Nichol, ian@golio.io.

Conclusions

Mass manufacturing started by putting a few people in a line which aligned everyone around a common goal. Today, teams applying agile approaches align their efforts to develop new solutions to open-ended problems. This alignment is driven by Specificity, Commitment, and Accountability rather than using a paced moving assembly line.

If you look around and you cannot put your hands on specific deliverables, if individuals are not committed to finding solutions, and there are no public highly-visible deadlines then there is definitely room for your team to improve. Someone following SxCxA may already be competing with you and beating you on quality, cost and speed.

Are you naturally agreeable?

I was on my way to a meeting today when my wife reminded me to try to project a sunny disposition. I like people, generally think good things about them but for many years my role was to spot problems. This is okay sometimes but not for example when you are talking to the host of a dinner party 😉  My goal today was to make a friendly first impression and sometimes it is important to be mindful of the situation.

Are you agreeable?
There are many different ways to describe people’s personalities, many different dimensions, for example introvert vs. extrovert. Recently I have been thinking about my own ‘agreeableness’.

Big Five personality traits

Spectrum of agreeableness
Researchers have developed some techniques for measuring agreeableness. One interesting but unsurprising finding is people in prison are very disagreeable. The world says the sky is blue and they will say ‘not really, it is more grey’. These people pathologically rail against everything and everyone.

At the other end of the spectrum is the person who seeks to make peace always. They mold their behavior and even their beliefs to the people around them; some will virtually agree 2+2=5 if everyone else does.

We need a spectrum
If we had only disagreeable people we would never settle on anything, language, social norms, everything would be in a constant state of debate.

If we only had agreeable people there would be no progress, no scientific advancement, no business innovation, no civil rights movement.

I expect Oprah tests as pretty agreeable.  This makes sense for a talk-show host.  Letterman might be a bit more disagreeable.  Most of the time Dave balanced his disagreeableness with zany humor but in some interviews he let the guest look pretty bad.  This ‘edginess’ suited his late-night slot.

Where do you fall?
If the team thinks things are going well but you see problems do you speak up?
Are you the last to give up your point when the team clearly wants to go in another direction?

Here is a lecture from UofT’s Prof Peterson (if you know who he is you know he has sparked some controversy)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOJR-nEhNMk&index=2&list=PLkLeOr1qRjsaNmIj-yQqfmNx4FpaTT8i1

Most exciting projects were a little uncomfortable.  I imagine some agreeable people really find themselves challenged when they are working on something that might go against what they think the crowd wants to hear.

Based on your Agreeableness – what should you watch out for?

Agreeable People

  • People letting you down because you “won’t mind” (apparently agreeable people often find themselves feeling neglected and ignored.)
  • Pursuing something that is familiar & comfortable but not particularly effective
  • Trying to recreate earlier successes (a lot of very talented artist end up rehashing things they think the audience likes and end up dated & irrelevant)
  • Seeking consensus and watering down their own vision
  • Let collaborators do whatever they want rather than what is right for the project

Disagreeable people

  • Battle over everything and exhaust their collaborators
  • Avoid and ignore input from others
  • Buck social conventions that may signal to others rudeness or arrogance

MyGolio’s Kudos system
We vouch for each other’s attitude on MyGolio. I personally think this is pretty important. For example, there aren’t any excuses for put-downs. I know many quite disagreeable people who can function very well working with collaborators. We don’t all need to agree to get along.

There are 6 hrs left today to get start an exciting project. This is a great time of year to do your planning and pre-production. Come NYE there will be a huge number of people who made resolutions that this year they will finally start pursing their creative dreams and out looking for new projects. Pull together your plan and post it, this world needs leaders (agreeable and disagreeable ones are both valued!)

Would Die Hard sell at TIFF?

During TIFF I spent some time with volunteers working the industry screenings and they tell me the process for selling a movie is really tight.

  • Buyers schedule their days to watch part of as many movies as possible (80+ over TIFF)
  • They show up, watch 5-10 min and decide if the movie is either a
    • ‘hard no’ – not at all suited for the buyers’ specific audience and platform
    • ‘maybe’ – the first bit of the movie was promising
  • Then they move on to the next screening
  • Later they circle back to a special buyer screening area at TIFF with a closed network on-demand system where they can watch movies on their ‘maybe’ list
  • They may decide to watch with an audience to gauge how the crowd reacts

Understanding buying is important!

Making something good doesn’t guarantee you can sell it.  The volume of content available continues to increase and we see this impacting the writing of films.  Think about the number of shows that open with a big action sequence, big gag, gruesome murder, etc.  This big opening wasn’t always the case.

Quality vs. Buying pattern – Consider Die Hard

I love Die Hard and I raise it to illustrate the problem of selling a movie of overall quality vs. a big showy opening 5 minutes.  [forgive me, I’m going a long way back to a time when studios developed big ‘new’ movies rather than remakes, comics, etc.]

Reading through the script of Die Hard not much happens at the opening…  John flies in to LA from NYC, he’s told to take off his shoes and to curl his toes to help with jet lag, he calls his kids, the party at the tower gets started… (couldn’t find a link to a clip of the opening) http://www.imsdb.com/scripts/Die-Hard.html

Don’t get me wrong, it is skillful film making.  Here is a detailed breakdown – https://emilygcw.wordpress.com/textual-research/die-hard-opeing-scene-analysis/

Further note about selling movies – Star Power

I’m told there are pretty detailed financial projections built around who is in a movie -> essentially- Star A & Star B each sell a minimum of $15M separately so the film should be worth at least $30M. If your star value is less than the cost of the film you can find a buyer. However, agents know the value of their roster so costs increase in step with cast-based sales forecasts.

Star Power is a funny notion, Die Hard is an iconic role and I can’t imagine the movie with anyone else playing the lead.  However, Bruce Willis wasn’t a big star at the time; the posters didn’t even feature him prominently.  In fact through the development process the studio wanted a bigger actor to anchor the project & sell tickets but it was turned down by a whole collection of stars: Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Don Johnson, Richard Gere, Clint Eastwood, and Burt Reynolds.

What is the case for Die Hard?

Die Hard is pretty great film-making.  It presents a lot of ideas in the opening in cinematic ways:

  • The terrorists have a plan, seem organized & intelligent
  • There’s marriage tension: John flirting, Holly not using the name, being separated from the kids
  • Crass capitalism: drugs & deals
  • The paranoia & patriotism around Japan’s growing international dominance
  • Bruce Willis!  the term ‘breakout role’ exists because it is a real thing, the right film can make a career

Ultimately however, I don’t know if you could sell this at TIFF.  Its value does not tie neatly into any sales formula I know of.  At a minimum I think it would have been reworked to star someone ‘bankable’ and opened with a throw-away intro action scene showing this star chasing down a random bad guy and explosions.

Like selling at TIFF, MyGolio must nail how me make first impressions

As I look at the next stage of development for MyGolio I’ve learned an interesting statistic – 50-60% of growth is a user’s first time experience.  This determines if they will come back and if they will refer the platform.  To app users this isn’t surprising but when I think of the platforms I use daily it seems unrelated..  I use Word, Excel, Gmail, all are super powerful but not designed to wow a first-time user.  I’m like the filmmaker who is so close to the project they are thinking about the lighting in the third act twist BEFORE they nail the opening.

NAIL the opening first

  • Iterate until you find something compelling that instantly connects with the audience
  • so-so isn’t good enough
  • ‘but it must set up this other thing’ doesn’t matter if the audience never reaches that point

12 hrs left today to make something amazing.  It takes a great leader to set & execute on a priority (like nailing the opening scene or a user’s first experience).  Execution also requires a great team, pulling their weight and focusing on the same goal together.  MyGolio allows leaders to build a track-record and structures projects for success.  Find your team or join a team led by someone who has the skills and the plan to make something great. 

 

“What don’t you want?”

Black List scripts don’t always turn into amazing movies.  A script in only a component of a great movie.  It looks like the script for Hell or High Water, a 2012 winner, has turned into a hugely successful film project.

I say all the time that in a brief few min I can pretty accurately tell if I’ll like a movie.  This clip is quite short but it has me totally enthralled.

“What don’t you want” Hell or High Water

I’m into:

  • The dialog
  • This actress’s delivery kills me – the joke about “hot” but not the “good kind”
  • Acting in general
  • Jeff Bridges in Texas
  • look & feel of run-down small towns
  • bank robbers
  • t-bone steaks

I’ve tried to find what this movie cost to make.  From a few interviews I can infer it was pretty low budget ~$4M.  It has production value, stars, a bespoke soundtrack, etc.  This isn’t DIY.  BUT if you prove yourself by making great DIY features it isn’t inconceivable to make the jump to raise funds to make a film of this caliber yourself.

11 hrs left today.  Remember a project is anything with a plan and a finished product.  Script outline, look-book, etc. are all mini-projects.  Use your MyGolio track-record to find collaborators, finish some projects & build a portfolio of cool completed work.

Upstream Color – Netflix pick

A test I’ve started to apply to movies is watching the first 5-10 minutes.  Something should grab you.   Terminator opens in 2029 with flying death copters and great 80’s synthesizers.  Upstream Color is on Netflix, watch 5 min and you’ll be sucked in and trying figuring out what is going on.

I’ve written and rewritten drafts for 2 weeks trying to find an angle on this film.  Here is what I want to say in summary – this film is really worth watching & even worthwhile rewatching and if you break as many rules yourself you’re project is likely dead.

Primer followup
Upsteam Color is the second movie made by Shane Carruth, maker of Primer.  Primer was a fantastic time-travel based movie shot for only $7,000.  Where Primer was heavily dialog driven Upstream relies heavily on image, sound and context, it could be confused with Terrence Malick.

Primer is really challenging to follow – here is a 20min video breaking down the twisty turvey plot – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUzy-xPf0MI.  If you don’t have 20min here is a summary chart.PrimerTimeline

Primer was self-financed and incredibly successful.  Shane proved he could manage a budget & produce a film that people wanted to see.  Yet, it took 9 years to finish this follow-up and again he was self-financing.

[Remember when I wrote ‘the calvery is not coming’.  Yeah, not even for Shane]

Gatekeepers
I was discussing one of my movie ideas with a very smart film contact.  He argued that the idea was too process driven and my pitch lacked a strong concise character motivation & journey.  This got me thinking.. is this a hard rule or some useful heuristic?  Who else is using heuristics?

As I work on MyGolio I’m trying to build something new and I meet a lot of ‘Gatekeepers’.  These are the people who control access.  Often they aren’t the end decision makers, they never get to say ‘yes’ but they spend all day saying ‘no’.

Facing ‘no’ all the time can be exhausting.  You see other people gaining access and it can be disheartening.  Eventually you realize Gatekeepers are basically bouncers.  They control access.  And just like a club, there is a separate VIP line for the rich and connected.  School ties, family, friends, there are ways into the VIP but these paths are always hidden.

Treat Gatekeepers like you would bouncers.  They aren’t the pretty girl you want to chat up, but they can shut you out of the party.  Be polite and avoid giving them any reason to say no.  Recognize that it isn’t fair, their decisions can be arbitrary, their job is to hold people at bay and to make the club look hot & exclusive.  Gatekeepers’ processes may be a little more sophisticated but it is still based in heuristics, i.e. no ball caps, no sneakers.

Was this movie heuristic correct?
Generally yes, most successful movies are character driven but it isn’t always the case.  In fact people love process stories.  Consider the success of How it’s Made, Law and Order, CSI…  Look at Terminator, very famous heroine but much of the story explains Skynet, Terminators MO, the rules of time travel.  World building is a hugely important driver of many great films.

This character-focused heuristic would have bounced both Primer & Upstream Color.

Back to Upstream Color
The first third of the movie builds this incredible world, hidden right beside everyday life.  Warning, even though at first glance this takes place in a regular US neighborhood, this is science fiction bordering on horror.

In the second part we follow characters as they try to make sense of their new circumstances in this cinematic world.  The theme of this movie is almost a total rejection of film rules.  Shane focuses on what happens when you strip people of all their surface character traits.  This is nearly the opposite of the conventional romance: manic-pixie-artist and hard-nosed business person falling in love.

The last third follows our lead as she attempts to regain control in her life.  This sounds traditional but the film is almost abstract through most of this chunk.

The first time I saw this film I was left with more of a sensory perception of the story than a strong logical understanding.   If you like the film and want to learn more I suggest watching Shane talk about the movie.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cjq_Lb2F2I

Shane built the world and the theme first, then the character arcs and plot points.

Learnings
Great projects sometimes break rules BUT if you break rules it might be difficult to leverage success to fund your next project.

$$$ funding doesn’t need to hold you back > DIY + Quality = legitimate strategy

11 hrs left today.  Do you have a project you’re trying to get off the ground?  What do the gate-keepers say?  If you can’t get past them you might be able to and end-run and find the team directly.  MyGolio connects great leaders with great teams.  Breakdown your project into manageable pieces, prove yourself & get people to buy-in to the idea.   Be clear with people when you create an ‘ask’ and make sure you exchange kudos with your collaborators.

 

South Park Pilot Do-Over

South Park Pilots

2 pretty different versions of the same premise  – Jesus vs Frosty & Jesus vs Santa
Newer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zltrcyBJz9c
First – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvjuarWNyJY

Improvements

  • Script is hits similar beats but better
    • Kids still swear but the escalation works better, Cartman is already a total jerk
  • Up the irreverence – the figure skater Brian Boitano saves the day
  • Same punchline “xmas is about presents” but funnier delivery
  • Voices are show more characterization (basically South Park characters are fully formed by the second video)
  • Animation is still cheap but has a ‘style’ to it rather than simply cheap

Most first drafts will be garbage.  Accept that.  Your best plan of attack is to get it out as fast as possible, move through the pain, and then begin the process of turning the rough material into something great.

Pro writing tip
Don’t write but dictate.  Your natural speaking voice subconsciously paces pretty well.  Dictating keeps you moving forward.  The point of a draft is to get the whole story down, not to dither, rework, word-smith, etc.

Sadistic version
http://www.wired.com/2016/03/sadistic-writing-app-deletes-work-stop-typing/
This app deletes your draft if you stop writing!!!  Heart pounding way to overcome procrastination.

Video drafts
With video (vs. costly film) there is no reason to not shoot drafts!  Going from the page to the screen is a huge jump.  Look at these versions of South Park, no money yet the potential for the show in the second version is very clear.

Early Mistakes = Cheap Mistakes -> Overcome your personal and team bias
It is better to make decisions earlier.  Shoot without locations, props, costumes, etc.  Shoot with zero budget and test the material.

Ever wonder what someone was thinking when they invested a lot of time and money into something that wasn’t great.  We all suffer from cognitive biases and these impact creative projects.

sunk costs – if you spend money you will keep something that doesn’t work because you want to get something out of the investment.  – delay spending the money!

confirmation bias – you’ll believe your idea is great because it is yours.  You need to honest feedback.  Share your work early and often.  Find people who’s opinion you trust.  Try to take action with their feedback.

Longer list – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

8 hours left today to work on something great.  There are people out there right now working on projects that may turn into amazing & profitable creative content.  Work with people who have the right attitude, are constantly pushing themselves and each other to improve, who have a voice and a point of view that comes out in their work.  Small projects might not sound sexy but these teams have a much greater chance of eventual success if the team keeps working the good parts & iterate.  

Check out our platform MyGolio – join, create a profile, post your project (zero budget is okay – in fact we feel your first round should have zero budget until you have some successful tests), find a team or join someone else’s project.  Work on projects that have realistic goals (i.e. pilot version 1.0).  Get feedback, practice, polish.  

Clear Accountability – Who, What, When, Done/Not-Done

The most powerful tool you will ever use – the colour red.  People hate seeing red beside their name! 

Killer tool

When I lead anything I focus on clarifying who owns what and having an honest conversation with that person about what they will deliver an when.  Once we AGREE we note down in some public manner (a shared document, whiteboard, MyGolio, etc.).

Who – again, we agreed on this before this goes on a board, nothing is assigned to someone in their absence

What – we record the deliverable in a way where it is either done or not-done.  E.g. ‘investigate’ could drag on and on whereas ‘recommend’ has a final product.

Date – sometimes these move due to things out of our control.  However, without a date there is no urgency.  It is better to have a date and move it back than to have no date.

Status – status is either red or green, done or not done.  A good team has some aggressive timelines, if everything is always green you are padding your schedule too much.

CHALLENGE – write down some deadlines & track how many are blown

93% of indie film crews face significant schedule slippage (flagging tasks as RED quickly addresses this)

70% of indie film crews face preparation issues (failed to nail down who/what/when)

22% of indie film crews report significant leadership issues (if you can’t hold people to the fire, have them commit & then followup when things are missed the whole team and production falters)

(data taken from the infographic below)

11 hrs left today.  That is plenty of time to breakdown the next few steps in a project to individual accountabilities.  If you can’t hit this weeks deadlines a detailed master plan is just a distraction & waste of time.  Forget the giant project plan and focus on exactly who will complete what in the next couple weeks.  MyGolio was designed specifically for this purpose, as your project progresses keep adding tasks and give credit to everyone for their contributions.

Life In Indie Film (Collaborating) (short)