08 February 2010

HyphenNation - Part 1

by guest columnists Joke and Biagio.  Follow them on Twitter.

You're reading this blog because you have a dream.

Maybe it's to make movies. Perform on the big screen. Sell a reality TV show. Write award-winning screenplays. Compose songs that win Grammys. Create ad-campaigns that shape our world.

Work hard, work smart, and you have a real shot at making your dream come true.

After all, we're living proof.

We're Producers.

We're a husband and wife team. Together we own and run Joke Productions, Inc. While we're best known for our work in reality TV (Like VH1's Scream Queens, and Beauty and the Geek) we're making our first strides in scripted features and TV as well. 

In a relatively short time (in Hollywood, anyway) we went from working out of our tiny one-bedroom apartment to operating in almost 8,000 square feet of offices with over 20 edit bays, a VO booth, and a staff that accordions from 10 to 200 at any given time.

We're officially living our dream.

If we did it, you can, too. So how?

Surest Path to Success

If you've spent anytime visiting our blog, you know we're big on Hands-On-Producing.

Why? We firmly believe any creative who wants to work in media should learn to write, shoot, direct, edit, create graphics for, sound-mix and online any project they take on.

Developing these skills is crucial. Here's just a few reasons why:

1.) Hone Your Craft

No matter what creative area your passions lie in, understanding the jobs of your collaborators will make you better at what you do.

Directors: take acting classes.

Writers: produce a few projects and learn to "write big" while keeping your screenplay produce-able.

Cinematographers: edit your own footage for some shocking revelations on why your favorite shots don't always make the final cut.

Producers: perform every single job in pre-production, production, and post as often as you can.  Do this, and you can also...

2.) Make Yourself the Last Line of Defense

When something goes wrong on one of our TV shows (and it does happen) both of us know, in a worst case scenario, we can step in to any position. Write, shoot, edit, direct, sound mix, online...we can get it done ourselves. Hopefully that never happens, though, because of reason number 3 to be a Hands-On-Producer...

3.) Know How to Hire People Better Than You

Gaining experience in every level of your field gives you the good taste to hire people that are better than you. Nothing makes us happier than finding DPs, editors, sound-people, graphics companies, or any professionals who are better than us.

We hunt them down and beg them to work with us. They help us better execute our vision, and we're thankful for them.

Don't be so afraid, insecure, or egotistical that you don't actively seek out good people to make your projects better. The worst kind of leaders hire sub-par employees to make themselves feel like the "big dog." The best kind of leaders find experts they can collaborate with. After all...

4.) You Can Now Drive A Vision

Many creatives have a great vision for their project. Most will never execute that vision at the highest level because they don't understand the techniques, technologies, and truths about the resources they have available to them. However, spend time working on every skill-set related to your field and something amazing will happen. New, creative solutions to problems will come to you. For example, a filmmaker may not have money to shoot aerials in a budget, but if that filmmaker has studied a bit about Visual FX he or she could use some simple photogrammetry techniques like camera-mapping to fake an aerial...something Hollywood's been doing for years. (Something we're learning how to do right now for one of our projects.) That producer could learn to do it him or herself, or hire someone they know. Chances are, the shot will be far less expensive than renting a helicopter.

That's just one example of how being aware of other disciplines in your field can lead you to creative solutions.

    Jack of All Trades?

    The old saying goes, "Jack of all trades, master of none." That piece of wisdom implies a very-real trade off in years gone by: You knew much about many things in your field but were a master of nothing. Or, single-minded focus lead you to mastery of your skill set, but you sacrificed exploring other disciplines to get there. Oh, those were kinder, gentler times. Gone are the days when an 80 hour workweek was the perfect excuse for mastering just one skill set. In today's Hollywood, you have to be a Jack of All Trades, and a Master of AT LEAST ONE, preferably two or three. You need to be a multi-hyphenate in today's Hyphen Nation.

    Just One More Thing...

    By the way, in your most important meetings...you know, the ones that will launch your career, change your life, and make your dreams come true...you almost NEVER want to reveal you're a multi-hyphenate.

    How come? Find out in part two, coming soon...if Tyler will have it, that is!

    [You're welcome ANYTIME! - Tyler]

    Joke and Biagio met at UCLA, and funded their first film with money Biagio won on a game show and Joke earned selling knives.  After Biagio stalked Joke for nearly 9 months, she agreed to date him as well, and they've been together ever since.  Now a husband and wife team, they produce reality TV, feature-length documentaries, and are currently returning to their scripted roots with the comedy-hybrid ROOKER starring actor Michael Rooker.  They blog and tweet about producing in Hollywood at http://www.jokeandbiagio.com and http://www.twitter.com/jokeandbiagio. Catch season 2 of their VH1 show SCREAM QUEENS later this summer.


    chip said...

    Great article, guys -- can't wait for part II. All so true. In my quest to better understand the industry, and be a better writer, I've shot, directed, storyboarded, handled art direction and props, and taken acting classes. That last one, in particular? HUGE for writing when you discover how hard it is to say the words you think are so perfect. :) Your success is inspiring... Keep 'em coming!

    Philontilt said...

    Fantastic! Hands-On-Producing is right on the money. Great piece, I'll be looking forward to part 2.

    Maria said...

    Hi Joke and Biagio – great post, you’re spot on.

    With every production I learn something new, and it makes me a better producer because I know what can and can’t be done from personal experience. I also understand that most things are in fact possible.

    Biagio of JokeAndBiagio said...

    @Chip: Thanks! So great that you and many others are embracing production from every angle. Just because budgets get tighter doesn't mean quality has to drop...just means we all have to work a little harder. Sounds like you've got no problem doing that!

    @Phil: Too kind. Love following your tweets. Hope part 2 is helpful!

    @Maria: We're huge fans of yours. You keep a terrific blog, and we're honored you stopped by to take a read.

    @TylerWeaver: You're doing a great thing here. Hope our small contribution helps make a difference on your journey to big success with Multi-Hyphenate.

    moderndaystoryteller said...

    Geez, that was like a great TV drama Ep where someone gets shot, the killer is about to be revealed, and... Stay tuned for next week's episode. Who shot JR Ewing? Why don't we want to reveal we're Multi-Hyphenates?

    Thanks for a terrific post. Priceless tips - informative yet infinitely entertaining. Sheesh. No pressure posting after you lot. *sweats, bites nails, fixes self stiff drink.*

    howdidyougetthere said...

    I especially like the part where you seek out employees who are "better than you". That shows a real smart business sense in that your end goal isn't to be an ego maniac but to produce the best product.

    I've always believed that the best owners/bosses are those who inspire and put together the best team.

    Found you via Modern Day Story Teller, who's one of my fav reads...Love your great success story!!

    howdidyougetthere said...

    I especially like the part where you seek out employees who are "better than you". That shows a real smart business sense in that your end goal isn't to be an ego maniac but to produce the best product.

    I've always believed that the best owners/bosses are those who inspire and put together the best team.

    Found you via Modern Day Story Teller, who's one of my fav reads...Love your great success story!!

    Steve Farnsworth said...

    Since we normally interact on Twitter, it is great to have a larger peak in to your world. I am struck by how your industry specific advice parallels my advice in social media: get your hands dirty. Most people believe that if they want to be the best at something they should do more of that thing, but the key to what you are saying is to push beyond your comfort zone and do something deferent. An executive can intellectually understand Twitter or blogging, but unless they get out there and not just walk, but run in someone else’s shoes they live in an experiential silo with a beautiful myopic view. Enjoyed your post immensely! -Steve Farnsworth (@Steveology)

    Copyright 2009 Multi-Hyphenate. Powered by Blogger Blogger Templates create by Deluxe Templates. WP by Masterplan