My early filmmaking goals were embarrassing. I used to just want to be in production…. Even if I wasn’t getting paid. Looking back now, I get it. From the outside, production is sexy. Cool equipment, a buzz of activity by what can only be described as a pirate-ship-like group of men and women dressed in cargo shorts, tool belts, tattoos and ironic t-shirts, amazing onscreen talent (famous or not), a lieral beehive of energy. When I would be directing on location, I wanted to be seen doing it. Sure, I was committed to what I was doing, but as a 20-something filmmaker, production fed my ego. It made me feel really good, so I wanted more of it and if a crowd formed to watch while I did, even better. Like I said, embarrassing.
Fast forward a couple decades and if I never see another c-stand again, I’ll die a happy man. That’s not to say I don’t still love production, I do, but I look at it differently today. Production is one part of a very large process that is both art and commerce. When I was young, I only focused on the art., but then as I got older, I realized I liked to eat and live indoors. Don’t get me wrong, I care deeply for the art as it is what the final product rests on, but on average, production and artistry are only 20% of what makes up the content business.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the 80/20 rule. That’s the idea that in order for a business to be profitable it should concentrate on the 20% of the effort that it takes to get 80% of the results. With that in mind, production is the exact opposite of that; It’s time intensive, resource heavy and very expensive. So as someone who has employees and freelancers depending on me to be sure they eat and live indoors, I have to be very careful of how long I’m in production.
So, what the hell do you do with the other 80% of your time? It’s simple, sales and promotion. That means 20% creation/production, 80% sales and promotion. I know, sales and promotion sound horrible. It leaves one with the feeling of being a door-to-door pen salesperson, living in a studio apartment and sustaining yourself on toast and canned beans (at least that was my oddly specific version of it). Instead, think of it as telling a thousand little stories about why your work is important. Sales and promotion are a massively creative process. They revolve around you putting out the best version of yourself and giving the market context for why it should invest in you.
What sales and promotions look like today is a shit-ton of micro-content distributed across every conceivable platform on the internet. Appearing as if you’re everywhere. As a result, a currently unknown creator can punch above their weight and get noticed. Remember, you don’t need to be famous to everyone to get paid well in this industry, you just need to be famous to the right people and micro-content (i.e. sales and promotion) are the quickest, most cost-effective way to make that happen.
On the other side of that pancake, if we’re in a constant state of production as content creators, no one will ever know we exist because there simply isn’t enough time to let them know we do.