Digital Production Buzz
November 6, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor ReporterTroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter
Dror Gill, CTO , Beamr
Jessica Sitomer, President , The Greenlight Coach
Voiceover: The Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by Blackmagic Design, creators of the world’s highest quality solutions for the feature film, post production and television broadcast industries; and by shutterstock.com, a global marketplace for royalty free images and videos. With over two million royalty free HD and 4K video clips, Shutterstock helps you take your creative projects to the next level; and by Other World Computing, providing quality hardware solutions and extensive technical support to the worldwide computer industry since 1988.
Voiceover: Live from Ralph’s Maytag Museum and Podcast Studio in beautiful downtown Burbank, it’s the Digital Production Buzz.
Voiceover: Production, post production, distribution.
Voiceover: What’s really happening now and in your digital future?
Voiceover: The Buzz is live now.
Larry Jordan: And welcome to The Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for creative content producers covering media production, post production, marketing and distribution around the world. Hi, my name is Larry Jordan and joining us is our co-host this week, the ever affable Mr. Mike Horton.
Mike Horton: Excuse me, let me swallow. I’m done.
Larry Jordan: It is good to see you back again, sir.
Mike Horton: Nice to be back at the beautiful Larry Jordan studios in the Maytag Museum again, as I look over the sea of washing machines.
Larry Jordan: Well, you know, the thing I like best about the bay window behind you as opposed to in front of you is the view that we have of Burbank. It’s always fun to look out and see all the traffic going by.
Mike Horton: And I can see the washing machines and you can’t.
Larry Jordan: If you haven’t joined us in the live chat recently, do make a point to check it out. It’s a chance to add insult to injury and talk to us while the show is going on. By the way, thinking of wonderful things that are happening, Jonathan Handel, the entertainment attorney of Counsel at TroyGould and entertainment labor reporter for The Hollywood Reporters joins us to talk about how live web streaming is causing major union jurisdictional issues between major actors’ unions, and the reason this is important is, for those of us who want to do more streaming, we need to pay attention to what’s happening here.
Larry Jordan: Then Dror Gill is the Chief Technology Officer at Beamr Video. He talks with us from Tel Aviv about their new technology, which recompresses already compressed video to retain image quality yet reduce the file size, which makes a major difference in reducing bandwidth cost.
Larry Jordan: And Jessica Sitomer, the President of The Greenlight Coach, has some ideas on how we can overcome our complacency and power our careers to the next level.
Mike Horton: Looking forward to that one.
Larry Jordan: I am too. She’s always fun to talk to. By the way, just a reminder that we’re offering text transcripts for each show, courtesy of Take 1 Transcription. Now you can quickly scan or print the contents of each show, as well as listen to it. Transcripts are located on each show page. Learn more at take1.tv and thanks, Take 1, for making the transcripts possible.
Larry Jordan: Mike, I’m looking forward to talking to our guests tonight because it continues to illustrate the challenges we have in coping with new web based distribution formats.
Mike Horton: Yes, all this new technology. What are we doing here?
Larry Jordan: I was just wondering how you as an actor deal with the blurring lines of what used to be the difference between traditional media and the web.
Mike Horton: Well, I’m actually looking forward to hearing what he has to say, because not only is the Met New York broadcasting to theaters all over the country, but now some 99 seat theaters in Los Angeles will be streaming to the web, so it’s going to be an interesting thing. Everything is changing.
Larry Jordan: Are you involved aside from The Buzz with web stuff?
Mike Horton: Digital Production Buzz, yes.
Larry Jordan: That’s what I said, aside from The Buzz, are you involved with web stuff?
Mike Horton: Yes, I am, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Man, I tell you, it’s so hard to get from Point A to Point B.
Mike Horton: Your questions are just so hard to answer.
Larry Jordan: Remember, for people who want easy answers to question, visit with us on Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com; also on Twitter @DPBuZZ, and subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Mike Horton’s taking his shoes off to allow him to count past ten and we’re going to be back with Jonathan Handel talking about the intersection of traditional media with web streaming. It’s going to be cool. Be right back.
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Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an entertainment and technology attorney of Counsel at TroyGould in Los Angeles. He’s also the Contributing Editor on entertainment labor issues for The Hollywood Reporter and has a blog at jhandel.com. When it comes to labor and the law, nobody understands it better than Jonathan. Hello, Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: Well, hey, Larry. Thank you.
Larry Jordan: It is good to hear your voice. It’s been way too long since last you checked in.
Mike Horton: Yes, it has been a long time, hasn’t it?
Larry Jordan: We’ve got to get you back more often, that’s all there is to it. Jonathan, there are three different issues that I want to talk with you about. All of them relate to live events and web streaming. The first is the confusion, you could almost say conflict, between Actors Equity, which are theatre actors, and SAG-AFTRA, which are film and TV actors, and producers who want to stream live theater productions. The second is the impact of all the money the New York Metropolitan Opera is making in live streaming events, which is now in the millions of dollars; and third is SAG-AFTRA’s new media contract, which last time I looked was still in progress.
Larry Jordan: But the one that I’m most fascinated by is the conflicts between Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA and producers involved in live streaming. Set the scene for us.
Jonathan Handel: The effort to live stream stage plays was pioneered in 2010 by a company now called VirtualArtsTV and they live streamed a play called Better Left Unsaid and found that some things indeed were better left unsaid. Weeks after the production closed – and they did that, I should say, under an AFTRA new media contract – Actors Equity sent the actors a letter threatening disciplinary charges for participating in an unauthorized production.
Larry Jordan: After the show closed? After the streaming was done?
Jonathan Handel: After the streaming was done, that’s right. To set the stage, no pun intended, what these things tend to look like – and maybe ‘tend to’ is the wrong phrase, because there have just been a few experiments – is they look like stage plays. You go to a little theater, you sit in the seats and watch a 99 seat stage play, but meanwhile there are cameras often fixed in place, two or three cameras with operators, and back in the video village someone is editing it or cutting between cameras on the fly, just like in live television coverage of any other event. It’s mostly wide shots, sometimes relative close-ups – there are artistic choices, are you going to make real close-ups and make this look like TV or are you going to stick with wide and medium shots so that it’s more of a theater experience but streamed over the internet? – So it really combines disparate talents.
Jonathan Handel: You’ve got everything that goes on in a stage play with the usual tech stuff, lighting, video if they’ve got video projected, audio, blocking the actors, all of that, and meanwhile you’ve got a live streaming component with all the expertise and specialization that that implies.
Larry Jordan: What’s the significance of the 99 seat house?
Jonathan Handel: There are a couple of ways to answer that. One is the focus that some of what’s going on is experimental, although there have been Broadway shows that have been streamed, not over the internet but live streamed to cinemas, the same way the Met is streaming to cinemas, as we’ll talk about in a couple of minute. But the other thing is that, in Los Angeles at least, the under 99 seat theaters, if you do an Equity show, you essentially don’t have to pay the actors anything. You pay them $15 a day or a performance and the idea is that the actors are getting professional exposure. Of course, the irony here is that, with live streaming, the actors get even more exposure and there is the potential for profit sharing with the actors so that they’re getting more than just tips and car fare. But Equity is very concerned – as has been expressed to me in the past and they’ve refused to comment on what’s going on now, which I’ll get to in a sec – about the primacy of live performance.
Larry Jordan: Hold it, hold it, time out, just a second. Let’s back up a step. Actors Equity is the union that represents theatrical actors. So the reason the Actors Equity is involved is because they’re in theaters, web streaming a theatrical play.
Jonathan Handel: Exactly.
Larry Jordan: And the reason SAG-AFTRA is involved is because why?
Jonathan Handel: Because it’s web streaming a performance and SAG-AFTRA is the union that represents actors in performances that are mediated through media, through the internet or television or theatrical motion picture.
Mike Horton: Are these 99 seat theatres web streaming for profit or are they sending out there for free?
Jonathan Handel: No, for profit. It’s pay per view. To put this concretely, I’ve just written a story in The Hollywood Reporter – you can see it at thrlabor.com – and it’s about a performance that is opening this weekend in LA. It opens tomorrow, they’ve already sold out their Friday but they’ve got three more performances over the weekend. It’s called The Noir Series and the production company is called Heretick Theater Lab and they are live streaming it, so for 20 bucks you can buy a ticket to be in what they refer to as the studio audience, but it’s at a typical small LA 65 seat theater. Or, for eight bucks, you can buy an online pass and watch a performance online; or for 20 bucks, you can watch the whole weekend’s worth of performances online. They’ve got that option as well. The producers are obviously happy with whatever choice you make. Actors Equity? We don’t know. As I alluded to, they’ve refused to comment on this. The show is under a SAG-AFTRA new media contract.
Larry Jordan: Well, we’re going to talk about the new media contract in a second, but it sounds like there’s a real issue of defining whose jurisdiction this is. Up until the light hits the lens, it’s Actors Equity and as soon as it goes into the lens of the camera, it’s SAG-AFTRA. It sounds like they’re having a hard time deciding how to divide this up.
Jonathan Handel: That’s right, and the woman in New York who pioneered this stuff spoke to me and said that, in the years since that initial performance where Equity had sent the threatening letters then backed off, that Equity has often vetoed attempts to do this sort of thing, even under a SAG-AFTRA agreement. She said there are situations where SAG-AFTRA has said, “Ok, but we’ve got to check with Equity,” and then they call back and say, “Sorry, Equity says no.” Sometimes Equity seems to have a veto right; other times, Equity seems to be saying it’s ok. It’s not clear what the rhyme or reason is to that.
Larry Jordan: What do producers take away from this? Clearly, The Buzz is deeply vested in web streaming. Is this something that we need to start to pay attention to? And, if so, what should our go to steps be?
Jonathan Handel: This fits in the context of the Met, and of other live performances being streamed, and the fact that people today want to see things on their phones, on their screens of whatever sort. Hopefully, it’s additive or creative rather than cannibalizing existing live revenue, so you get more viewers, and this does represent an opportunity, I think, for Buzz folks who are involved in the various aspects of streaming. The theater company here in LA, for example, is actually using a streaming services provider that normally streams sporting events and they’re actually out of Colorado, so they’ve flown into LA for this. It’s definitely a business opportunity, to put it in those terms. The union issue, you definitely want to deal with SAG-AFTRA rather than trying to get an Equity contract and you want to take the position that this really is a hybrid. It’s both a dessert topping and a floor wax, so to speak.
Mike Horton: I know we’re talking about The Digital Production Buzz, but The Buzz goes out for free. If it went out for profit, people would have to pay for this thing, does everything change?
Jonathan Handel: No. It isn’t a question in Equity’s mindset or in the rules and regulations as to whether it’s a free stream or a paid stream. That’s just not the issue. There’s nothing in the union agreements. For that matter, if you wanted to make a theatrical motion picture and make it available in theaters for free, there’s nothing in the union agreements that says you can’t do that. But obviously here, the opportunity is to make these productions perhaps more financeable by creating an additional revenue stream and the Heretick Lab folks here are hoping to build a company around this, both in the sense of a corporation and theater company, so that they’ll be able to finance additional productions and rely on a revenue stream that works.
Larry Jordan: Well that, I think, leads directly into what the New York Metropolitan Opera is doing. If my notes are correct, they did something like $22 million on live streaming of opera to theaters, where you go to the theater to watch rather than watch on your computer.
Jonathan Handel: That’s right.
Larry Jordan: How does that relate to what’s going on so far with Equity and the 99 seat theaters?
Jonathan Handel: It doesn’t direct relate to Equity, because Equity doesn’t have jurisdiction over opera. Another union called AGMA – American Guild of Musical Artists – does and my understanding was that before the Met was able to do the work they’re doing, they did have to work out an agreement with AGMA. I was also told in one instance, going back to plays for a minute, that one play was treated as a SAG-AFTRA production in the morning and an Equity production in the afternoon. It really is dancing on the head on some very fine pins, but the relationship between these two and the Broadway experiments – there have been several Broadway plays that have shown in theaters this way also. I spoke to the head of the Broadway League and she said this is really just four or five companies dipping their toes in the water.
Larry Jordan: How are they handling residuals? Really, it all comes down to money. Actors want to be paid for their craft and they want to make residuals. How are they handling that?
Jonathan Handel: Again, from Equity’s standpoint, it doesn’t just come down to money. Equity doesn’t like this at all, it seems, but in terms of the money question the new media agreements explain in their usual opaque fashion how residuals work. From the standpoint of the new media agreement, the fact that it was originated before a live studio audience and has the characteristics of a stage play doesn’t matter. It’s a new media production and ever since the language established after the Writers’ Guild strike in 2007/2008, there is new media language that talks about residuals for pay per view and for ad supported and so on and so forth.
Mike Horton: Do these Met live stream productions eventually go to DVD and do the performers get residuals?
Jonathan Handel: I don’t believe that they go to DVD. I don’t know how compensation works there, whether there are residuals or some kind of a profit pool or any of that.
Mike Horton: So these live streams are one offs and that’s it?
Jonathan Handel: Well, the Met has a continuing series. That’s one of the difficulties and differences between theaters versus the Met. If you’re putting on a Broadway stage play, they have done one-offs, basically, but the Met has a continuing series, because they rotate lots of different productions on their stage.
Mike Horton: Yes, you can also go outside the Met and watch it if it’s a full house. You can watch it on a big screen outside. You don’t have to go inside, you can watch it on a big screen outside. They’re doing all sorts of really cool stuff for us poor people.
Jonathan Handel: And for their own poor people. The Met is very challenged budget wise and 22 million, which is not a lot of money in the movie business, is actually a lot of money in the opera business and it makes a real difference to them. The National Theater in London has been live streaming plays over the last, I think, year or so around the world and that too is an interesting effort. In England, there’s a single actors’ union that represents both live stage and media. Also interesting, there is some work being done experimentally around the world, and this isn’t a union issue but I think it’s of interest, of putting on plays where the actors themselves are in different locations and are conjoined using Skype or Google Hangout or whatever.
Mike Horton: Oh wow.
Larry Jordan: Before we run out of time, there’s a third thing I want to talk about, which is the new media contract that SAG-AFTRA is working on. How is that holding up right now? What’s going on?
Jonathan Handel: To tweak that a little bit, they’re not actually working on a new media contract right now. What they’re working on right now, what they’re negotiating is the so-called front of book contract for daytime television and syndicated TV, things like unscripted shows – and also unscripted shows even in primetime. The host of ‘Dancing With The Stars’ or something like that, a soap opera, the host of a game show, those kinds of things are covered by this contract and the current one expires in about ten days. So they allotted just a short amount of time to negotiate because there really aren’t any particular difficulties anticipated, it seems.
Larry Jordan: Here’s a question. I had a brainstorm for this really cool idea that I wanted to do and I decided that what I would do is I would go to look at the SAG contract to see if I wanted to become SAG for this really cool idea for a show. The new media contract runs exactly eight, maybe nine page – I was really impressed at how short it was – except on page seven it says: ‘We are including by reference the entire SAG contract, which is 208,000 pages long’. Two trees died as we printed this thing out. As a new media producer, where do we go to figure out what the heck is going on and what we have to pay attention to?
Mike Horton: Call them up. They have an 800 number.
Jonathan Handel: I would say that what you want to do is be sure that your team includes an entertainment labor lawyer. You’re absolutely right, the new media agreement looks like it’s a lightweight thing, but what it’s incorporating is actually literally about 700 pages or so of contract.
Larry Jordan: You’re not cheering me up here at all.
Jonathan Handel: This is definitely the friction side of working in a unionized business. There are a lot of very strong positives about unions. Without residuals, for example, a lot of actors wouldn’t be able to afford to stay in the business and then, great, you’ve got Tom Hanks in your movie, but where are you going to get an actor to play the waiter that brings him his dinner? You need a professional core of actors. But there are downsides and there are frictions that come with it and one of them is just how detailed and abstruse the union agreements are.
Larry Jordan: Well, ok, so ‘Son of Friends’ is going to have to wait a while longer before I start to put this show together. Jonathan, where can people go to read this incredible article? I had a sneak preview and I really enjoyed what you wrote. Where can people see it?
Jonathan Handel: Thanks. They can find the article at thrlabor.com and they can find more about me at jhandel.com.
Larry Jordan: What’s the next blog you’re working on?
Jonathan Handel: Oh…
Larry Jordan: See, you’ve been sloughing off again. You’ve been writing articles for The Hollywood Reporter and you get nothing done on the J Handel site and we are bereft of new information.
Jonathan Handel: I’ve got a few things up my sleeve.
Mike Horton: Thanks for doing this. This is an important topic.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an entertainment and technology attorney of Counsel at TroyGould. He’s also the Contributing Editor on entertainment labor issues for The Hollywood Reporter. He’s got his own blog at jhandel.com. Jonathan, thanks for joining us today.
Jonathan Handel: Thanks very much, guys.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Jonathan Handel: Bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: Dror Gill is the CTO, that’s the Chief Technology Officer, of Beamr Video. This is a company that has found a way to reduce the costs associated with storing and transmitting media files. Both the company and the technology are brand new, which is why we’re talking with Dror today. Dror, thanks for joining us.
Dror Gill: Thank you very much for hosting me.
Larry Jordan: What is Beamr Video?
Dror Gill: Beamr Video is a perceptual media optimizer. We take a video stream and we reduce the bit rate of that stream by up to 50 percent without having any effect on the resolution or the quality of the video stream; and best of all, the stream remains in the same format that it was before this innovation. If it’s an H.264 AVC stream, we output to an AVC stream. If it’s an HDVC stream we output to that format and the only change you will notice between the output and the input is that the bit rate is lower.
Larry Jordan: Basically, what you’re doing is you’re taking an existing file, keeping it in its existing container and just pulling out bits that aren’t necessary?
Dror Gill: Exactly. We’re removing bits that cannot be perceived by humans and this is actually based on a patent pending perceptual quality measure that we developed and that we use in the optimization process.
Larry Jordan: How can you have a bit that our eyes don’t see?
Dror Gill: The way video is encoded is that the encoder tries to produce as little a bit as possible to represent that video and the decisions that the video encoder makes at any point in the encoding process is based on a lot of empirical data that has been gathered. But at no point in the video encoding process does the encoder look at the output frame and compare it to the input. This is what is unique about our method. We actually take the output frame after our compression optimization, compare it to the input and, using our quality measure, we verify that no artifacts that are visible by humans exist in that output frame and this really ensures that we do not hurt the quality of the video. We’re actually taking advantage of redundancies that have not been utilized by the previous generation of encoding.
Larry Jordan: When you’re doing this kind of comparison, you pull the input frame, you compress it, then you compare the result with the source. This has got to be time consuming, so how much time are we investing to have this kind of file reduction take place?
Dror Gill: Yes, it is time consuming. Overall, doing the optimization using our method is about twice as CPU intensive as regular video encoding, but the benefits of doing it outweigh by an enormous amount the effort that you need to put into the optimization. If you think about it, if you take a video clip that is viewed thousands or millions of times and the bit rate is lowered by half than the original one, then you save a lot on your storage costs. But even more than that, you save on your delivery costs to those thousands or millions of people. A one time investment in optimizing that video really pays off in the long term.
Larry Jordan: Help me understand where this fits inside the compression process. I’ve just finished editing my piece in my non-linear editor, whether Premiere or Avid or Final Cut, and I’ve exported a master file, so I’m sitting with a DNxHD or a ProRes 422 file which we’ll say is 75 gigabytes for the master file on output. Do I compress it first and then give it to you? Or do I give it to you and Beamr compresses it? What’s the workflow?
Dror Gill: There are two possible workflows. The more common one that’s worked for our customers today is an optimizing streaming file. You take your file, you encode it through various resolutions and bit rates that you actually stream to the end user and typically you record to several of them if you use adapted bit rate streaming; and if not, you encode to different resolutions because you want to support different types of devices. These are the streams that will actually go out to the users. After encoding the streams and before packaging them or trying any DRM, you optimize it with our technology and then the bit rate is lower and you use those optimized streams to do the packaging of the actual streaming to the end user.
Larry Jordan: Ok, we edit and export the file as normal, compress our file, reduce it in size as normal, then optimize it to get the smallest possible file size with the least damage to image quality after the compression is complete using your product.
Dror Gill: That is one workflow. The second one, which is more relevant to people in the production industry, is actually optimizing the master, optimizing your ProRes file. The ProRes takes up a lot of storage, as you know, you mentioned 75 gigabytes, and then it is, of course, possible to encode it into H.264, into AVC. The problem is that you don’t know what bit rate to use because it depends on the content, on the resolution etcetera. What we have is an automatic flow of ProRes to H.264 transcoding that creates an MP4 file with an AVC or H.264 video stream. It has exactly the same quality as the input ProRes and when we do this, because H.264 is much more efficient than ProRes at compressing video, you get a file that is three to four times smaller than your original file but still retains the full quality of the master. In this… case, we encode to ALL-I Frames. The H.264 stream would be on ALL-I H.264 stream, which would still enable editing, but the file size will be much lower than the master ProRes that you had before.
Larry Jordan: So in this second example, you’re taking the master file and taking it all the way down to final distributed compressed file and at the same time optimizing it.
Dror Gill: Yes.
Larry Jordan: And it works?
Dror Gill: It definitely works. That’s what our customers are telling us and they’re using it today for optimizing a lot of titles in… services and soon we will start optimizing for some of the studio customers of Blu-ray titles, especially for TV series, because they want to distribute less discs with the same content so optimizing the Blu-ray… makes a lot of sense.
Larry Jordan: Is this a product that we buy? Or is this a service that you provide?
Dror Gill: We have two models. One of them is an on-premise license. This is Linux software which you install on your server and it has an annual license fee. The second model is a web based service, a cloud service, that you access using a REST API, so you upload the files to us, we run the processing for you on Amazon EC2 and then we return the optimized files back through the same API. Both models are available.
Larry Jordan: The cloud model, it seems, would work best for a compressed source and the on-premise license would work better, it seems, for stuff that you’re compressing from the native ProRes file.
Dror Gill: Yes, that’s right. It depends. If your workflow is already in the cloud, it might make sense to send the files over, especially if you’re working on Amazon and it’s compatible with our system and the backbone is very fast. But if you’re doing your ProRes on premise, it really does not make sense to upload those dozens of gigabytes to the cloud and get the optimized file back, so in that case an on-premise solution will be better.
Larry Jordan: How is this priced?
Dror Gill: The price of a single instance of our software is $2500 annual license fee and the number of instances you need depends on the number of titles that you want to process to save time. It also depends on the turnaround time that you’re looking for. If you buy more instances, even a single title, you can segment it into various parts and optimize them in parallel and that really shortens your turnaround time.
Larry Jordan: With the optimization of the master file, the ProRes down to H.264, what kind of performance are you getting? Two times, real time or three times or what?
Dror Gill: It depends on the CPU power you have. On a very strong machine, you can get it to two times slower than real time, so one hour would take you two hours to optimize.
Larry Jordan: It seems that for film makers who are creating, say, a project a week or a project a month, a single instance is more than sufficient. You wouldn’t need multiple instances because you’re not doing dozens of files a day. But as your throughput increases, having more instances, having more servers able to work, allows you to just simply process more files. Is that true?
Dror Gill: Right. As you process more files, we’ll process a single file faster because we have this mechanism of segmenting the file into small pieces and processing each one of them in a separate core in their computer. If you have more instances available, your computer can work faster in optimizing even a single file. Again, if you’re producing one file every few days or weeks, then a single instance would be enough.
Larry Jordan: Is this released or is this still a technology preview?
Dror Gill: No, it’s already released and being used by customers. It was announced in September 2013 at IBC in Amsterdam and in September this year, we released version 2.0.
Larry Jordan: Congratulations. Where can people go on the web to learn more about Beamr Video and your products?
Dror Gill: Www.beamrvideo.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s beamrvideo.com and Dror Gill is the CTO of BeamrVideo. Dror, thanks for joining us today.
Dror Gill: Thank you very much. It was my pleasure.
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Larry Jordan: Jessica Sitomer is a job coach who helps people find work. She’s also a regular on The Buzz, which is one of the highlights of our week. She’s the President of The Greenlight Coach, but what we like best about Jessica is that she is really good at providing really helpful career advice. Hello, Jessica, welcome back.
Jessica Sitomer: Hello. It’s good to be back.
Mike Horton: And Jessica is also very good at wardrobe choices when she does webcasts.
Jessica Sitomer: Ay-yi-yi.
Mike Horton: I saw that. It was awesome.
Jessica Sitomer: Oh boy.
Mike Horton: Did you see that? She did a webcast just recently and she posted a picture of her on the webcast. Well, she wore this outfit which just basically revealed skin.
Jessica Sitomer: It was a wardrobe malfunction. It’s a dress that I wear very often when I’m at live events because it’s very colorful and eye-catching. However, it has a little thin strap that goes to the center of the chest and then it’s just across the chest and the web cam goes from your head to the top of your chest, so all they saw was shoulders and I just looked like I was sitting there naked.
Mike Horton: It was great if you’re a guy.
Larry Jordan: You were just trolling for votes. That’s it. You were just after links.
Jessica Sitomer: So do that and you’ll be successful, everyone.
Mike Horton: Absolutely, and that’s not being complacent at all.
Larry Jordan: Shameless hussy. It is good to have you back and I want to start by backing up a little bit. In a blog you posted in September, you wrote about inventing your career. What does inventing your career mean? I mean, Mike is a well established actor. What has he got to invent?
Jessica Sitomer: You have to invent the career that you want. I’m going to give a little tough love tonight because this is a subject that has me very fired up. People have this dream of what they want to accomplish, they have a dream of who they want to be, they want to be an A list star, they want be an Academy Award winning editor, they have these dreams and yet when I look at what they are doing to accomplish these dreams, they might be very busy but they’re busy being busy. They might be networking, but just because you’re at a networking event doesn’t mean you’re actually networking. My problem is you have hundreds of thousands of dreamers but they wake up each day and they are going through their life as if it’s just a dream, as opposed to it being an actual career goal that they are focusing on to become the top percentage of their industry.
Larry Jordan: Yes, but wait, wait, wait. Life interferes. We’re sitting here and there’s so much stuff we’ve got to do just to be able to survive from day to day. How do you focus?
Jessica Sitomer: Have you looked at any other industries that have successful people in it? Have you looked at our industry that has successful people in it? Life interferes with them too, but that doesn’t mean that the things that people are doing or not doing to generate work is any different. People should be every day spending at least three to five hours on their business. If they’re not, what are they doing? Most people go to work every day and they have to punch in and punch out. Well, in our industry we don’t, which means if you’re not committing three to five hours of business work, then you’re just dreaming. During that time, you should be creating target lists of the people who you want to meet, you should be looking at your contact list – who do you know? You should know at least 200 people. If you don’t, you don’t know enough people. Of those 200 people, who can give you referrals to the people on your target list? If they don’t know those people, you should be getting mentors. If you’re not getting mentors, then what are you doing? At least go visit some sets or go visit some post production facilities. Go to the places where opportunities will be created. That is what I mean by invent your career. No-one’s going to do it for you. If you have an agent and you’re waiting for your agent to do it, they get plus ten percent for a reason. They’re the icing on the cake. They can’t take care of every single one of their clients like they were the only client they have and you shouldn’t expect an agent to. An agent has responsibilities but your career is 100 percent your responsibility and if you are not doing these things, if you are not making phone calls every day, if you are not reaching out in direct ways – and I don’t mean just spending three hours sending out blind resumes and cover letters to things that you see online; that is just cold calling. That is not effective. That is not how people become successful.
Mike Horton: Yes, we’re not talking about just the entertainment industry. We’re talking about anything that you’re involved in.
Jessica Sitomer: Exactly.
Mike Horton: Exactly.
Jessica Sitomer: I deal with people in the entertainment industry, I deal with these dreamers and they keep saying, “I don’t have enough time. I can’t do this.”
Mike Horton: I had this argument with my son the other day, I really did. No excuse.
Larry Jordan: I am completely convinced that you have a new passion in your life, so I’m just going to throw a few questions in every few minutes and I’ll just let you go. But this brings up the issue of complacency, because we are so busy putting out the daily fires in our lives that we don’t have time to take action for the future. It’s all easy to say spend three to five hours working on your business, but get specific. What should we do?
Jessica Sitomer: It doesn’t have to be three to five hours. It could be 20 minutes. I had a reality show where I was the head judge and I would do career coaching for them in the morning before their challenge. It was ‘Top Chef’ meets ‘The Apprentice’ for the entertainment industry. We had 15 people in all different classifications and one of their challenges for the very first episode was, after getting coached for an hour on how to get a mentor, to get as many mentors as they could in 20 minutes. In those 20 minutes, the person who won the challenge got 11 mentors. Others got three, five, eight, and I was expecting to everyone to throw up and freak out and cry and have breakdowns, because every time I tell someone to get one mentor they freak out. But these people were on a television show, so there was a different level of commitment. So my question to the people who are listening is, what do you need to be motivating you to get that level of commitment? If you took 20 minutes to do what these people did, you could get mentors. That’s what made the drama and the show, because I didn’t want to make anyone look bad, so the drama came from having a short period of time. I know that everything I teach can be done in short periods of time. What is stopping you?
Mike Horton: I love that idea. That’s a lot of fun.
Jessica Sitomer: What are the action steps that you need to take? If I say, “What do you want to prove to yourself that you can accomplish this month and what action steps will it take to accomplish this?” I know everyone on this call can write them down. They can write down the answer to that. The difficulty is implementing the actions and my question is why? What are you saying to yourself that makes them hard to implement? What are you doing? Because the only fears you were born with were the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises, not the fear to make a telephone call, not the fear to post something on social media. Those you create along the way. You’ve got to get to the bottom of what’s creating your obstacles, because if you don’t it’s going to be five years from now and you’re going to find yourself in the same place, only worse because you’re going to feel badly about yourself and you’re going to feel frustrated that nothing works, when in reality you’re really not doing the things that it takes to make it.
Larry Jordan: It sounds like the biggest obstacle is our fear of making a mistake or our fear of people thinking less of us? What fear do we have to overcome?
Jessica Sitomer: It’s different for a lot of people. For some people, it’s fear of success. For some people, it’s fear of failure. For some people, it’s the fear of rejection. For some people, it’s the fear of the unknown. Every person has their own variation of what is causing their fear, but the bottom line is fear is just that, something that you’ve imagined, that you’ve created. Maybe it’s happened once and then you generalize it and say, “Well, that didn’t work.” Well, maybe it didn’t work on that person and maybe we need to look at why it didn’t work. How did you ask for what you wanted? I made a huge mistake when I first moved out to LA and I approached my first mentor – I used somebody’s name without their permission. I didn’t think about it because that person had introduced us, I’d been to this A list actress’s house, so it never crossed my mind that it would be a problem to use her name. As soon as I found that out, I never made that mistake again. But you know what? I also never stopped pursuing mentors. Other people would just stop and say, “Oh gosh, that felt horrible. I got reprimanded for that, so I don’t want to do that again.” No, I just changed the way I was doing it; and when I coach people, I have them learn from my mistake so they won’t do that. If you ever use someone’s name, you ask permission before using it.
Mike Horton: This is all wonderfully idealistic. If we do everything that you’re saying for us to do, we do it every single day, we keep doing it, we get our mentors, we get everything that Jessica tells us to do, and it’s not working, nothing is working. At what point do we just give up?
Jessica Sitomer: First of all, I will never tell you to give up.
Mike Horton: No, of course you won’t.
Jessica Sitomer: I watched a ‘60 Minutes with Dave Grohl’ two weeks ago. The guy said to him, “When do people give up? You see them on these singing shows and they tell them they’ve got no talent, they shouldn’t be doing this,” and Dave Grohl said, “Yes, you know what, what if Bob Dylan got on there and sang a song? He would have been told, “Never sing again.” Tom Petty, you know?” So I would never tell anyone to give up, but what I would say is I’ve coached over a thousand people one on one and when I worked at the Camera Guild, from one year to seven years, I saw the people who did everything I was telling them to do every day and for those people, for some of them things happened in a month, depending on the people they knew, and for the one who were starting from scratch, the maximum it took was two years. That was the maximum. For those who had really big fears to overcome but were still willing to put in the work, it took five years, but I’ve never had somebody not accomplish their goals who were doing the things I was telling them to do.
Mike Horton: But come on, some people are just not good at what they dream of. They’re just not good.
Jessica Sitomer: But that’s who I’m talking today. I’m telling them to wake up and make a decision that today is the day they’re going to stop this crap and stop fooling themselves.
Mike Horton: No, no, no, I mean they’re not talented. They’re just not going to make it. It just isn’t going to happen. They’re just not good.
Jessica Sitomer: How do you… who…
Mike Horton: I know it’s subjective.
Jessica Sitomer: It is. I can name quite a few actors right now who are not very talented, but I won’t, and they’re still doing it.
Mike Horton: Yes, but they’re cute. They happen to have the right genes.
Jessica Sitomer: Well, you know what? I don’t know what to tell you. If somebody has a dream, I’m going to help them work at it and we will look at it. I’ll tell you, the few people who are doing what I was telling them to do and were not doing well at it, it was usually a personality problem and that is something that either they want to work on, like either they are just egotistical or they are just socially troubled, and some things I can help with and some things I can’t. Look, talent can get better. You can always get better, you can always get feedback. I’ve seen plenty of people who were dialing it in and then their career started going in another direction and then they started acting, they started writing and they started doing the right thing. Talent can be improved. This is art that we’re doing, these are skills that we’re doing. It can be improved. You can always be learning and that’s why you need mentors. I’ve seen people in acting class and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, what in the world are they thinking?” and then five years later you see them again and you’re like, “Wow! What happened?” They had a breakthrough.
Larry Jordan: Let’s just take a step back. On many occasions, you’ve talked about the importance of a person who wants to get up in the industry developing a mentor. What should a mentor do?
Jessica Sitomer: The mentors I’m talking about are for business advice and guidance. You are not asking them for work, you are not asking them for their Rolodex. You want to learn. In every industry, there are successful people…
Larry Jordan: Ok, hold it. I’ll give you an example. I would say at least once a day, probably two or three times a day, I get emails from people asking for me to be a mentor to them.
Jessica Sitomer: And what are they asking for specifically?
Larry Jordan: Well, what I’m ‘trying to figure out is what should I be? What does a mentor look like?
Mike Horton: Like Larry.
Jessica Sitomer: A mentor looks like three conversations, minimum of ten minutes each either in person or by phone over a 12 week period where you are giving them things to do. You find out where they are, where they want to be and what they’ve done so far to get there and, based on that evaluation and based on what you know since you’ve been in the industry for so long, you give them some action tasks to go out and do. If they come back for that second conversation, you now have somebody who you are excited about because 50 percent of the time they don’t come back after that first call, and I learned that through the mentor program that I created at the Guild. Then you’ve got your 50 percent who come back the second time. Now you trust them a little more. Now you’ll give them a few more things that maybe you wouldn’t have before. Maybe you’ll invite them to something, like some people were invited to set. Maybe you’ll invite them to a networking party because you can tell from your two conversations that this person’s on the ball and they’re not going to embarrass you. Maybe you’ll give them a referral to somebody. By the third conversation, you’ll have really gotten to know what this person’s strengths are, what their weaknesses are. You really start to figure out what they’re gravitating toward and then it’s up to you to decide. You give them more things to do and if you choose to continue that relationship, which many mentors do for those people who make it through three conversations – and it’s rare. As I said, I had over 100 volunteers at the Camera Guild, worked there seven years. Some of the mentors were Academy Award winners. If I was at that guild, I would have written to every single person on that list, because who knows who could help and who knows how? Every one of them’s successful, so you’ve got something to learn from them. You should be reaching out to a minimum of 20 mentors, a minimum.
Larry Jordan: Wait, wait, wait. You’ve shifted the role again. I don’t want to know what the person trying to get better is, I’m trying to figure out what the roles are for the mentor. Where does a mentor figure out what being a mentor is?
Jessica Sitomer: They can call me. I just basically gave it to you – three conversations, minimum of ten minutes each, either in person or by phone, over a 12 weeks period where you are giving them action advice that they can go out and implement and then it’s their job to prove to you that they’re going to do these things.
Larry Jordan: What would be a typical piece of advice?
Jessica Sitomer: You can tell them a place where they can go to network and meet five people there. For example, for camera operators, what the camera operator would say is, “Go over to Panavision and practice on the wheels. There you’ll have the opportunity to meet people. They’ll see that you’re interested in doing things and you can volunteer to help.” That was a good thing that camera operators could advise.
Mike Horton: That’s a great idea.
Jessica Sitomer: Yes. They can say, “Try and get a set visit and meet people and see what happens behind the scenes so that when you book a job, you’ll know what to expect once you’re there.” You can tell them to make a target list of all of the different shows that they’re right for. If you’re working with editors, what are the 20 shows that you want to be editing? Or who are the 20 film directors who you want to edit for? And don’t pick Steven Spielberg because everybody wants to edit for him. Who are the people in the one to ten million dollar budget range that will be moving up through the years? They’ll be mentoring you as that’s happening and then you might get a break with them one day.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got our live chat going and Grant from Australia sends me this link: www.mentorset.org.uk. They’ve got a nice set of definitions, as well as what Jessica’s talking about, in terms of what you can do from the mentor’s point of view. Jessica, because I know everybody wants to keep track of what you’re doing, what websites can they go to for you?
Jessica Sitomer: They can go to thegreenlightcoach.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s thegreenlightcoach.com and Jessica Sitomer is the Founder and President of The Greenlight Coach.
Mike Horton: And she is my mentor.
Larry Jordan: And she is amazing. Jessica, we wish you great success, as always, and we cannot wait for you to come back. Thanks again for joining us.
Mike Horton: Yes, missed you.
Jessica Sitomer: Great to be here, guys.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Bye bye.
Jessica Sitomer: Bye.
Larry Jordan: The thing I like about Jessica is she’s got so much great advice and I like the idea…
Mike Horton: Do you actually get a lot of emails asking you to be a mentor?
Larry Jordan: Well, a lot of emails asking for advice, what do I do? Part of it’s technical, but part of it also is how do I get a job in the industry or how do I get a better thing, and that I think is…
Mike Horton: I get a lot of those too.
Larry Jordan: I’ve often wondered, what am I supposed to do?
Mike Horton: I always respond. I don’t really know how to respond, but I do respond.
Larry Jordan: Now I know, I’m going to put a homework assignment together. I can do homework assignments. That one I’ve got down.
Mike Horton: I know, you get three or four hundred emails a day with this kind of stuff. You can’t respond to all of them.
Larry Jordan: I do.
Mike Horton: Do you really?
Larry Jordan: I really do. I make a point.
Mike Horton: You never respond to my emails.
Larry Jordan: Well, I respond to people that I like.
Mike Horton: Oh, ok.
Larry Jordan: Ta-da!
Mike Horton: Nice comeback.
Larry Jordan: Oh, it was quick, yes.
Mike Horton: I set you up for that one, didn’t I, Larry? You were waiting for that set-up.
Larry Jordan: I didn’t see it coming.
Mike Horton: And the comedy team of Michael and Larry.
Larry Jordan: Michael, we’re going to have to do this again. You’ve got to come back again next week.
Mike Horton: Yes, I’ll be here next week.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests this weeks: Jonathan Handel, entertainment attorney of Counsel at TroyGould…
Mike Horton: Yes, I’m looking forward to the article tomorrow. Hollywood Reporter.
Larry Jordan: It’s a great article, you’ve got to read it. Dror Gill, Chief Technology Officer at BeamrVideo; and Jessica Sitomer, the President at The Greenlight Coach.
Mike Horton: She’s my fave.
Larry Jordan: There’s lot of history in our industry. It’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com – hundreds of articles and past shows and interviews, all available, searchable and fascinating. You can talk with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ; Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Music on The Buzz is provided by Smartsound. The Buzz is streamed by wehostmacs.com. Our producer is Cirina Catania, engineer Megan Paulos. The handsome dude at the other end is Mike Horton, my name’s Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Buzz.
Mike Horton: Goodbye, everybody.
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