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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Set Yourself On Fire

As the immortal celluloid mentor Dicky Fox says to Jerry Maguire, “I love the mornings! I clap my hands every morning and say, 'This is gonna be a great day!”, I too, love the morning and the potential it brings. 

The Media Guy had a mentor too once upon a time. He used to tell me: “Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must first set yourself on fire.” When motivation is low, I pull that line out a get the motor running.

When you are trying to get your creative project off the ground, it’s easy to dip into a valley and wallow your days away. It’s difficult to get someone to believe in your projects like you do enough to green light them. With each passing year Andy Warhol’s quote – that everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame – rings truer.

Recently I bumped into Kerstin Karlhuber and Daniel Jay Paul. She’s an award-winning filmmaker and director. Kerstin’s work in the arts has been seen around the world, from off-Broadway to Cannes, the Los Angeles’ Arclight Theater and Good Morning America. She is the founder and director of the film production company Silent Giant Productions based in New York City. He’s a songwriter who recently released “Clean Getaway” on the Sunlight Communication Arts label. His songs have been described by “music you hear with your heart ….” For good measure, he is the author of the novel The Last Sunset

Kerstin said that the caveat of the Warhol Theory is that some people get more than 15 minutes, in large part because they actually work at their success. In fact, she calls this the “golden era of self-starters,” because this is an unprecedented time in which creative doers have access to achieving an audience.

“While there are some people who see the rise and fall of their name shortly after a quirky incident on a reality TV show, the more important success stories come from devoted artists who’ve worked their entire adult lives on a dream – and then something clicks,” says Karlhuber, who recently completed her latest project, Tides of the Heart, an avant garde feature-length music video with no dialogue.

With some talent, a vision and that irrepressible itch to do something, amateurs such as Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James, or the co-creators of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, initially shot by three non-professionals before the FX channel contracted the show, are changing what and how audiences are receiving entertainment, says Daniel Jay Paul. “Clean Getaway”, not only makes up much of the score for the film, but also structures the plot. “We’re living in a golden era of self-starters when it comes to the arts,” he says.

So how can this work out for you and your project? Karlhuber and Paul discuss three ways those just starting out can kick-start their projects:
  • New methods of financing: Sites like are making it easier for self-starters to raise money for a variety of independent projects. It’s a 501c3 non-profit that utilizes a “crowdfunding” platform in which those who seek to raise money can create campaigns to detail their story and get the word out.
  • Alternative distribution: A decade ago, it wasn’t easy to get your self-made film out to audiences. If a committee liked your work, then you might get picked up by an indie movie festival, shown at the odd art house theater, Karlhuber says. Now, there are some households that go without cable or satellite, whose inhabitants rely completely on sites like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, where the Karlhuber-Paul project can be found, for their entertainment. An independent filmmaker can reasonably expect their video to be watched tens of thousands of times, if not much more. Despite these handy advances, utilizing traditional methods is a good idea, says Paul, who is continuing to enter “Tides of the Heart” into film festivals after having won awards in past events. He is expecting more theater screenings in the future, and hardcopies of the film are available.
  • Marketing: The old way of advertising – billboards, newspaper space – can still be effective, but no longer necessary. If you’re not utilizing a method for online marketing, including the usual suspects such as Facebook and Twitter, then you’re not doing your job as a passionate artist, Paul says. “Unless you have the means or cash for a professional to handle your PR, then you have to ask yourself a simple question: What good is your project if nobody is exposed to it?” he says.
Light your fire and watch the wave of success roll in.