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Marlett & Me: Lessons on Juggling Fire—Poise Counts!

Marlett & Me: Lessons on Juggling Fire—Poise Counts!

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If you’re like me, you’re certain you are not a one-trick pony. Heck, the four scripts and 11 treatments you’ve got shortcutted there on your desktop prove otherwise, right? Maybe. But maybe shuffling projects is your one trick. Juggling too many fire sticks can really burn you, permanently!


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Wait, first…did you get the Spring issue of MovieMaker yet? If you read the “Marlett & Me” column (and, of course, you did!) you saw I have an obligation to tell about a ballsy gift I took to ICM to get them to do coverage on my Of Kings & Cowboys script (the story of a young rancher turned pro polo player). With four agents sitting at a conference table, I dumped out a bucket of used polo balls across the polished walnut, rolling them toward the four. I said, “I was told it takes balls to come in here and ask to be repp’d… so is 47 enough?”

Yeah, corny, I know, but I said it with a smile—i.e., don’t take yourself too seriously. A couple of them laughed, one seemed confused and there was, of course, the one who just seemed pissed to be there regardless. No matter. The real point was for them to take the balls back to their offices and assistants and toss and mess with them. Hopefully they’d work as seeds and get people asking around the ICM halls, “What’s the deal with all the polo balls?” In any case, ICM gave my script glowing coverage and more meetings followed. So, be creative… you are a creative person after all…but stay clear of being ridiculous.)

Okay, I return you now to our previously scheduled program, still in progress:
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As I’ve yammered on about here in earlier entries: This is a numbers game. And there are no rules to winning… with acceptance and funding being doled out on highly subjective terms. Thus, if you’re determined to succeed, you must have a collection of projects at-the-ready, at all times. But there’s a fine line between having a few well-polished wares for your “customers” to choose from and being a full-time slimy salesman of projects that’ll never get made.

So, if you find yourself spinning your wheels with the same ol’ projects, here’s my advice: FOCUS ON ONE! Choose one project and dedicate yourself to it. Everyone knows you have others, but what will separate you from the pack is your ability to get ONE done. Then let the ride take you where it will.

But no two situations are the same, so you have to take what you can from this blog entry. For example, if you look at my production company’s site, www.BlueRunProductions.com , you’ll see a host of films and miniseries in development (and soon we’re adding a high-profile television series). The difference with what I’m saying above and what we are doing at BlueRun is the objective sought. With BlueRun we’re building a brand (equine and historical projects) and raising capital for the whole “store.” Thus, we must demonstrate an ability to create a diverse spectrum of cohesive and thematic projects.

But, if your focus is to raise money to make one of your scripts (as I think is the case for most readers… but maybe I’m wrong), then the Kenny Rogers lyric comes to mind: You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run. It’s all about your audience, your ambition, your passion for the project and, frankly, how good it is in the first place. My general feeling is that if you’ve given a project your all for a good six months and you’re not getting anywhere, you’d better seriously overhaul your project or move on to another.

No, of course I am not saying to give up. But put that pot on a back burner and get on with another dish. Capiche? Don’t get stagnant. It’s terrible for your reputation in the business, but even worse for your creative soul. Trust me, I’ve been there. In major ways to little daily panics… I’ve been right there with you… staring at your screen asking yourself, “What the hell should I work on today?” Yeah, I’m right aren’t I? Tell you what; this entry is long enough. Next week, let’s dive into prioritizing our time.

But for now, take a look at what you’re peddling. Do you appear to be trying to do too much and thus easily dismissed? Are you wearing people out promoting that same film project that you first told them about three years ago and weekly since? Or are you seen as fresh, determined and flexible, and thus taken seriously as a professional? There are no easy answers here. But begin with being honest with yourself. It’s much better to have that one burning baton flipping neatly in the air than a bunch out of control and turning you into a human torch.

Ride on.

David Marlett is a writer and director currently producing and directing the feature film, Of Kings & Cowboys. Marlett’s desire to direct and control his own work led him to create BlueRun Productions in 2007. He’s been acting for most of his life, and is also a non-practicing (“recovering”) attorney and CPA, with 20-plus years experience consulting and managing a wide assortment of companies in industries spanning from healthcare to entertainment. The Spring 2009 issue features his latest installment of his print column, Marlett & Me, with this sister blog on MovieMaker.com.

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