Media Industry Career Trek


Lots of people ask me: “How do I get a job in the media industry?”

This has always been a tricky question. But something has happened in the last few years to make this even more complicated. Naturally, it has to do with Star Trek…

But first, a little illustrative background

I went to film school and graduated as a screenwriter. My first job was… as an Avid video editor. Then I started producing and directing. Most of the writing I did was sculpting my boss’s politically sensitive interoffice emails. Flash forward past years of intense and circuitous skill-expanding mania—now I write, produce, direct, edit, and mograph (as of this moment I’m making “mograph” a verb) on TV shows, movies, commercials, industrials, docs, and live events. I do good work, get lots of creative control, get paid well, and there have been many rewarding and award-winning projects. But what do I want to do most and don’t have much time for? Writing.

Media careers on the Enterprise


In a nutshell, for any media project to get finished, a bunch to stuff has to get done. In the old days, there was a person for each bit of “stuff.” And that’s true today on well-funded movies, commercials, etc. and in big production companies. Each project has a producer, writer, director, cinematographer, production crew, editor, graphics guy, sound designer, mixer, colorist, etc. etc. as needed—and theoretically these people are all different people.

The idea is, if someone wants to be editor, they learn how to edit try to find a job as an editor.  Often, folks who specialize get really really good at what they do.

The shift from specialization to non-specialization has been going on for years now…


Here’s the trick—most projects nowadays simply do not have the funding nor the time to get a full crew.  The mind-boggling democratization of media production power and the insatiable consumption of media by the public have created a new quadrant of the media galaxy, rapidly taking over the others. My first video production boss said: “Good, fast, cheap—they can pick any two.” But come on, have you ever had client agree with that?

In my experience (and rule #1 in this industry is get input from lots of different people), you are much more likely to get a job as an editor if you can shoot and you know some mograph (it’s a noun again). You are much more likely to direct something if you can write and produce. Many production companies these days simply can’t afford to keep a full-time writer or director, let alone editor. A few years ago they could charge $250/hour for editing time on their $500,000 Avid on hard drives that costed $1000 per gigabyte, and shooting HD was a wild extravagance. Those prices don’t usually fly anymore. Not when I’ve got uncompressed 4K raw running on a $2500 machine in machine in my basement baby!  The mighty producer-editor is someone to be reckoned with these days.

The idea is, a Starfleet cadet gets lots of skills and gets a job cranking out good, cheap media.  It doesn’t mean one person wears every single hat (as only Spock could), but the idea is that you make yourself very marketable by becoming a jack of many trades.

So am I recommending the all-Spock approach?

Not necessarily.  It’s just something to be aware of. I was well on my way to becoming an uber-Spock when I offered a job to a film school buddy of mine. He said, basically: “No way, man. I don’t want to get stuck.” Now he makes docs for HBO and directs big commercials. Other guys I know funded their reels right out of film school (by forking over the dough to produce super high-end spec commercials), got repped, and now make insane day rates.

On the other hand, I also know many master “specialists” who struggle to find work, big time. Ultimately, they’ve had to acquire new skills to get enough jobs to feed their families. A super talented actor friend of mine makes a living doing After Effects work. And I remember a high-end Director of Photography—whose reel blew mine away—who came to me for a job, and I couldn’t hire him because all he could do was shoot. Just writing that makes me feel like a jerk!

On the OTHER hand… Just because you have a DSLR and understand depth of field, it doesn’t make you a professional director of photography.  On the OTHER OTHER hand… just because you have an agent, it doesn’t mean you can write a screenplay worth a darn.  On the OTHER OTHER OTHER hand…

Ultimately, I think every media pro should…

…specialize. You can’t be awesome at everything. And I don’t think it would be that fun. For one thing, it’s too much work wearing all those hats! For another, it’s really wonderful to collaborate with others who are stellar in their individual fields.

The real question is, how do you make a living until you’re able to do what you love most?

Most of the biggest movies, TV shows, commercials, etc. are made with a full and specialized crew.  But then again, some amazing things, including feature films, are being made by indie nuts wearing lots of hats.

For me, starting out I couldn’t make a living without wearing lots of hats. And there have been some surprisingly fun moments in my quest for diversity—such as doing things I thought I’d never do, like producing live shows and feeling the energy of thousands of people going nuts.  And when it’s time for some job hunting, I flatter myself that I could get hired in a lot of different places.

It’s worked well for me and my family, but I’ve found that I’m good at lots of things, but not AWESOME at the skill I want most.  I’ve had put off my true passions for years and work ludicrous hours to get an audience with my muse.  Then again, had I focused on a specialty from the beginning, would I have avoided the challenges I had?  Uggh.  It’s maddening!

Engaging the warp drive

Star Trek UNO rocks!

Star Trek UNO rocks!

I’ve duped you into reading all this way and I actually don’t have the answer! Sorry, everyone’s path through this tangled industry is different. I don’t have a ton of advice, just information. But when I got out of film school, I was too dumb to acquire much of either.

I’m fairly certain however that the answer for everyone lies somewhere between these five coordinates:


  1. Get advice from lots of people—industry pros, your barber, your kids, grandma
  2. Be nice to people
  3. Have integrity
  4. Network – whether you’re great at one thing or a lot of things, people will hire you because they know and trust you
  5. Don’t freak out. The best things in life don’t have much to do with your career

Thoughts anyone??  Maybe together we can save the next generation of filmmakers a lot of heartache!

Coming full circle


Well, in timespace we don’t deal so much with “circles” per se.  We get more of these these weird shell-type constructs.  But the connection is the same.  Thanks to some big news that will hopefully come next week… I feel I can safely say that this project is reaching closure.  Years ago when I began chronicling the 95ers indie film adventures in this blog, I wrote about some of the core mysteries and struggles—and grand misconceptions—we were facing.  A reprint seems very appropriate now.  Enjoy!

(To give you a little chronological perspective… It is now 2012.  The following (except for the last line) was written in 2009.  95ers was first conceived in 1998.)



When people ask me about my movie, what they usually ask is something like: “So how do you get it out there?”  Or in other words, how does a nobody get their movie in theaters or on TV or at least on DVD?  In fundraising, the most typical question seems to have been: “Do you have distribution?”  And in fact, when I first embarked on this journey, that was the biggest obstacle in my own mind—getting it seen.  Little did I know that was the least of my worries.

For most of the people I’ve met, filmmaker or no, the great and mystical gate in filmmaking where success is on one side and failure is on the other is the gate of “getting it seen.”  Also known as “distribution” or “getting picked up.”  This is the point at which a giant creative blob that seems to be only an eccentric hobby, suddenly becomes something useful and worthwhile.  It is creativity legitimized.

I was fully steeped in this fallacy.

The truth is, as any artist whose creative aspirations have been in the emergency room for most of their existential existences will tell you, the distributor’s gateway is absolutely not the plague an artist needs to worry about.  Most indie movies die horrible deaths long before the question “So how do we get it out there?” is ever seriously addressed.  In fact, I would hazard to say that a careful autopsy of 99.99% of indie ventures would reveal that distribution problems had nothing to do with their demise.  Perhaps the fear of non-distribution plays a role, but rarely non-distribution itself.


Here are some of the true terminal illnesses which plague indie movies:

1) Too many great ideas.
The filmmaker has so many great stories in his head, he or she just can’t settle on one long enough to write a script.  These movies die young.
2) The script never gets finished.
The filmmaker realizes the entire script needs to be re-written, and the task is so daunting he throws down his scalpel and leaves the patient dying on the table.
3) The money runs out.
The rich uncle’s blood type is actually not O-negative (universal), meaning he just doesn’t invest in ‘anything,’ and the filmmaker himself only gets $60 a pint when he donates.
4) “Dammit Jim, I’m a pizza delivery guy, not a physician!!!”
The filmmaker looks down at his instruments and his patient and is struck by a sudden fear—what am I doing here??  He is convinced (by himself and/or others) that his lack of training or talent will only lead the project to disaster!
5) Seeing ghosts.
Phantoms, relatives of #4, emerge all over the hospital where the filmmaker is trying to save his movie.  He thinks he’s been given some kind of second sight that allows him to see them.  But really it’s the shadow of his own fear that “opens his eyes” to the ghastly remains of all the creative projects that didn’t make it off the operating table.  Like banshees they croon their singsong tales of woe: “No money!  No time!  Your idea is lame!  Turn back now!”
6) The man behind the doctor’s mask.
The filmmaker is actually a charlatan who has no idea what he’s doing (which in and of itself is not a true reason for failure), and is too dumb or lacks the integrity to fess up.  The fair promises and blustering used to get people on board or string them along eventually reveal themselves and soon everyone is driven crazy, and eventually everyone is driven away, leaving the filmmaker to his own faulty devices and pitiful excuses.
7) The creative team dissolves.
It’s right during the catastrophic organ failure at some stage of the production process that one of the doctors on the elite team realizes he or she hemorrhaging themselves.
8 ) Will to live.
The filmmaker has called the ambulance so many times, and has been in the ICU overlooking the comatose movie venture for so long, he’s forgotten what makes the thing worth saving in the first place.  He begins to search for enough reasons and tries to find enough consolation, to pull the plug.

Indie movies don’t fail because they don’t get picked up for distribution.  For the most part, if they fail, it’s because they don’t get finished.

Thanks to everyone who helped me learn that for real.  95ers will be completely finished next week.  More news to come…

Spaceships in a time travel movie?


“But I thought 95ers was a time travel movie?  A quantum-delving, soul-impacting, spine-tingling, popcorn-munching paranormal time travel movie?”

It is indeed all those things, folks, and much more.  Time travelers do go to 31st century from time to time.  (Well, technically, in 95ers:ECHOES we only go to the 27th century, but who’s counting.)


Very few people, even in the Chronos Protectorate, know much about the “spaceship” component in 95ers.  And at long last, even as I go into meetings with distributors (in fact I have one tomorrow), the final visual effects shots are being completed.  And one of them includes SPACESHIPS!

The grand story arc of 95ers includes pitched battles in space as well as aerial dogfights much more akin to Star Wars than Top Gun.

Over the years various awesome artists have been creating ship concepts for the 95ers Universe.  And in a matter of days, you’ll see one of them come to life in the updated movie trailer.

Here are some early concepts.  Most of this work was developed for what is planned to be the third movie in the 95ers franchise.

Clark Schaffer for 95ers - click to enlarge

Clark Schaffer for 95ers - click to enlarge

Kip Rasmussen for 95ers - click to enlarge

Kip Rasmussen for 95ers - click to enlarge

Justin Kunz for 95ers - click to enlarge

Justin Kunz for 95ers - click to enlarge

Clark Schaffer for 95ers - click to enlarge

Clark Schaffer for 95ers - click to enlarge

Clark Schaffer for 95ers - click to enlarge

Clark Schaffer for 95ers - click to enlarge

Justin Kunz for 95ers - click to enlarge

Justin Kunz for 95ers - click to enlarge

Justin Kunz for 95ers

Justin Kunz for 95ers

Adam Kuczek for 95ers - click to enlarge

Adam Kuczek for 95ers - click to enlarge





Here’s a cool full color piece of concept art by the amazing Clark Schaffer.

And here’s one of my favorite early concept pieces, by Justin Kunz.  You can see teeny tiny ships in the distance.

This mega-cool poster concept for a future 95ers project also shows a glimpse of ships (including an old Spanish galleon…).

Finally, here are some LOW REZ UNTEXTURED AND UNLIT looks at the ships you’ll soon be seeing in 95ers:ECHOES—our current project, soon to be snapped up by a distributor.  This 3d model—and I stress that is it only a previz—is compliments of Adam Kuczek.  (Adam is new to the team and I’ll be giving him a full introduction in my NEXT blog post…)