By Ron Merk
In his book, Hope For Film, Ted Hope wrote:
“Indie film is not about community or culture – it is more about business and success than ever before. This is where I let my gray hair (what’s left of it) show. The folks in this business generally forget that we are first and foremost a community. We could be lifting indie film up all together, but no. When those in the business know you, but see no business in you, they generally don’t bother with a personal touch. If they pass on your film or your script, they rarely call or write a personal letter. I have seen the biggest of film festivals do this to some of the most successful of filmmakers. I have seen agents ignore former clients. I rarely see people in the business do that extra something unless there is something in it for them. Everyone asks, and few offer. I have witnessed this firsthand, and seen and heard of it with my collaborators. It is a shame, a downright dirty shame.”
Recently Ted commented on his blog, “Yet, one of the joys of having written the book is that I have had some organizations reach out and ask how we can work together to tackle some of these issues. And of course, there are also individual folks who reach out and put the challenge to us all. The conversation is happening. Action will be forthcoming. We can move forward. We will move forward. I believe we just need to craft the right opportunity for people to contribute their labor, ideas, and time. It’s exhausting though and we do need to support one another if we are to get there.”I wrote Ted after I saw this, and commented:
“Ted, The funniest and saddest comment I ever heard about the film business is this, “It’s a business where people talk like hippies but act like Mafia members.” Common courtesy has gone out the window. Remember when we said, “thank you,” the response was “You’re welcome.” The implication in that phrase is “it was my pleasure to help you.” Now the most often heard response to “thank you” is “no problem.” The implication is “oh, it wasn’t really a bother for me to help you.” People need to reconnect on a personal basis. Sure it’s hard to hear “no” from an agent or distributor. But at least have the courtesy to tell me, and not send an assistant to deliver the bad news. “No” often spurs us to action. Sometimes it’s back to the drawing board to work on the pitch, or take the “No” as a message from the universe that this project isn’t such a good idea. Only with time and wisdom can we tell which is which. One rule I try to follow is to treat everyone with courtesy and respect, at least until the day where they do something not to deserve the former and lose the latter. Life is too short for the BS with which we surround ourselves in the business. Directness is simple, fast and efficient. Regards, Ron”
Ted wrote me and further commented,
“Ron, Right on! I think some of the issue though is that we are overwhelmed. As much as technology has allowed us to connect so easily, it also buries us in the deluge. People sacrifice good behavior in the process. I know I struggle to keep up. I hope all is otherwise well and you are having some fun. Ted”
Here’s a simple way to deal with this issue. Don’t accept being disrespected, and the best way to accomplish this is that we all agree never to disrespect anyone. Sure it’s fine to vehemently disagree with someone on a particular subject. Agreeing to disagree (a term that particularly irks me, especially when it mean that people won’t even try to understand a polar opposite opinion) is a beginning. It implies that we respect the other person, no matter how “misinformed” they might be. Yes, that was said with tongue in cheek, of course.
Something that I’ve been trying to impart to people lately is the idea that all of our communication devices have had an intentionally opposite effect on our ability to connect with each other. I watch tourists walk around San Francisco, cell phones in front of them, taking in the sights electronically, instead of directly. People are texting without speaking to each other. Face to face meetings become more and more rare, especially in business. Human connections are being lost to the drone world of electronics. Will we soon become “Borg” (reference Star Trek:The Next Generation, if you don’t know that term) creature with electronic and mechanical implants all connected to each other’s minds with no individual consciousness.
Suggestion: Turn everything off for a day. Everything! Except Yourself. Turn THAT on. Go out for along walk. Don’t take your cell phone with you. Find a place where there are green trees, where your bare feet can touch the soil, where you can breathe in the earth. At the end of the day, meet some friends for a drink or a meal. If they immediately take out their electronic devices as you sit down together, ask them, as a favor to you, to put them away. Explain what you are trying to do today. Then just do what people used to do before all these devices made it so easy to “communicate.” Commune with each other. Commiserate. Talk about your hopes and dreams. Explore ways to help each other make those dreams a reality. Or even better, just talk to each other about what’s on your mind and in your hearts.
When you go home, don’t turn on the TV. Don’t turn on your iPod. Just listen to the music inside your mind, allow yourself to feel how you spent the day. Appreciate the fact that you’ve really reduced your stress, and then go to sleep. You’ll find that you’ll have a great night’s sleep. You’ll awaken refreshed. And then try to put all these electronics in their place IN your life, instead of in place OF your life. They can be your friends, too, but they should never be your master. They are just tools, like a hammer or a screwdriver. Use them that way, and then put them back in the toolbox. You’ll be simply amazed at the perspective this will give you for the work ahead of you, and the road of life at your feet.
And just a small plug for Ted’s book, “Hope for Film,” and his blog of the same name, please check them out. They are amazing sources of information, wisdom and insight for those of us in the entertainment industry (and for those who are just interested in learning more.) The book is available on Amazon and elsewhere. The URL for Ted’s blog is hopeforfilm.com