What’s the biggest challenge in the media industry when trying to balance the creativity/artistic aspect along with the business aspect?
I think in today’s environment you need to have an understanding and appreciation for both. I am not saying that the business guy has to be creative but the business guy has to appreciate what the creative guy brings to the table. It used to not be that way, you use to be able to be in the business area and continue to exploit people. We’re now in the information age and people quickly know what’s going on, so its much more difficult to keep people in the dark.
This works well for a guy like me because when I went around and was talking to music companies on how do they combat what’s going on, you have p2p networking, file sharing and Napster. What in the world do you do? One of the things I told them is that you go back and change and modify your relationships with the talent. You no longer base your relationships on keeping musicians dumb. You take them on as partners.
How do I balance it? I’m transparent, I work in partnership with creative people and together we all collectively try to get a project accomplished. For myself my creativity is often helpful but not just from a creative side but from a business side as well Aaron.
For an example, there was this film “The Coffin” that was sitting in Thailand that couldn’t get made. We ended up getting investors out of Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand to do this movie. Now putting a movie business deal like that is very difficult because you got four different parties, four different interests, three different languages, three different agendas, it was very difficult. My creativity allowed me to get everyone at the table to find everyone a way to get involved in this project with their own agendas being met.
What is the biggest difference between working with Hollywood and Asia?
Building relationships is very important in Asia. I’ve spent years building relationships with executives here before we even to start talking about business. This is because the business is an extension of you and when the trust is there that is when people would want to do business with you.
One of the major differences here is that most people in the film industry here don’t get rich. I don’t mean just stars but the service people and everyone involved. In Hollywood if you work in the film industry regularly you make a lot of money. If you pull cable or if you’re an electrician or a carpenter, you make a lot of money. In Thailand you don’t, its a job just like any other job, you might make an extra $100 bucks or so compared to someone in a different industry.
For example all the TV actors (not movies) here make very little money, so the promise of big dollars in Thailand, you can’t sell it the same as you would in Hollywood.
Hollywood really is an American General, they think globally and internationally. In Thailand they don’t. They large movie and distribution companies here are so focused on Thailand, that when I come in and say to them “listen it’s great, Thailand’s wonderful but you got this big marketplace.” They neglect to see this whole other side outside of Thailand, it’s not in their thinking, business plan or mission statement.
I have to spend a lot of time educating them on that aspect and after years of education, they say “ok we’re going to take a chance and give you one shot.” But the film business doesn’t work this way, normally a director would say to an investor “give me enough money for 5 movies, one would fail miserably, 2 might barely make their money back, 1 would make a little bit of money and 1 would make a lot of money.” So much money it would take care of all the other losses and make a lot of profit.
What about the difference in terms of working with actors and actresses?
Not much difference, but there is one small exception. In Thailand there is this hierarchy level of respect you have going on. In Hollywood, you’re not only dealing with actors and actresses, you’re dealing with agents and managers. You have to be careful because not only don’t you piss of the actor but also their agent and manager. In Thailand its very different, for example when I speak to Ananda who is the biggest actor here in Thailand, I go out with Ananda we go out and have drinks or catch a movie. It’s easy, in Hollywood its much more complicated.
I have a story where one of my friends who wanted an actor who had an agent who is was so difficult that when he asked to talk to the manager directly, the agent said “if you go to the manager, you will never work with this agency again.” That’s the challenge in Hollywood.
Finally do you have any advice for people out there who want to get into the entertainment business?
Number one, go get a complete mental and physical examination because you are crazy (joking).
Learn the business, the major difference between 20 years ago and now is that you have to have a clear and firm understanding of the business that you are entering. You can’t just be a guy who can play guitar, you have to understand what you mean in the equation. Like how valuable are you? You know how to go in and ask about things that are important with your business dealings. – If you’re a creative person.
If you are a business person, START NOW!! And throw away most of what was going on before with the exception of a few things. I tell people that I think that this is the best and the worst time for the music business because technology (filesharing etc..) have made it difficult to for traction. BUT it has made access to your fans much easier, back when I was coming up you couldn’t do that. The record companies controlled your access to the audience. You can put something up on Youtube and get 25 million people viewing what you just did in your bedroom. Understand how to do that and you would be very valuable to the entertainment industry.
If you were a guitar player and singer and you weren’t very good and you manage to get 20 million people to watch your video on Youtube, any record executive would tackle you before you left the room.
This is the end of the very long interview I had with David Allen Jones, I hope you all enjoyed reading it and maybe even learnt something from it. A big thank you to David Allen Jones for spending a large amount of time contributing to this!
Happy New Year Everyone!