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market for an e-book

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market for an e-book
on Feb 28, 2006 at 2:56:24 pm

Do you think there is a market for an e-book that would educate people on how to break into the professional video and film industry without a formal education?
I started without a degree and feel grateful to have worked my way up to a General Manager position of a major Northwest company. The company I run produces several travel/adventure programs for HD television. Over the last fifteen years I have been an Editor, Director of Photography, Producer, and now a GM.
What a lot of people don

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Mark Suszko
market for an e-book
on Feb 28, 2006 at 4:56:46 pm

I want to begin by stating I have great respect for the self-made man or woman in this business, the auto-didacts who made a career without any degree. Certainly not everyone who goes thru university training comes out a competent instant pro. I strongly feel that just as you did with your "bootstrap method", you have to work hard to make the most of a formal education's opportunities as well. I know I could have coasted thru my courses in school, but I was driven to squeeze as much experience from the opportunities of the program as I could, so I did lots of extra stuff on my own, after hours, playing and learning, outside of structured class time. It gave me a practical, experiential edge I needed when I came out of school. I felt a Bachelor's degree was plenty for me to get started with, and didn't pursue further studies. I myself tend to poo-poo the postgrad/doctoral degreed folks, perhaps unfairly, as pursuing overly esoteric or frivolous areas that don't see much day to day usefulness in production. But you can't just make blanket generalizations about them, either. Engineering and design doctorates in particular lead to much of the innovation in our business. And there is always room for the far-seeing dreamers, imagining new ways of communication and perception.

Having said all that, I wonder how useful such an e-book as you propose is as a practical guide, specifically because all the self-made folks are each so unique and each one had particular circumstances and even sometimes plain good luck. How do you quantify that in a generalized book of advice?

It's like selling a plan to become a rich millionaire by saying: "step one: go buy lottery tickets. Step two: Win the lottery. It worked for me." Yes, that's an over-simplification, I know. But do you get the problem I'm seeing with the concept?

I think if it was a collection of strategies and philosophies of successful people that made it on their own, one that found the common threads of experience in these people, you would have something that might inspire a newbie just starting out.

But a five-step systematized plan? I think you just can't get too specific because every experience is unique, and people may not buy your book unless you can guarantee that 1,2,3 system. The longtime head of Paramount started his career, not by going to school or by buying a camera but by sitting by the pool at the Beverly Wilshire hotel one midweek afternoon and catching the eye of a recently widowed studio exec's wife. He made pants for a living. She got him cast in a movie as an actor. He liked it and the rest is in the very entertaining movie "The Kid Stays In The Picture", the story of Robert Evans.

How does one prepare or plan for THAT kind of serendipity? You can't. The best you can do is perfect yourself and your craft by whatever means you decide, then try to place yourself in positions where you can take advantage of fickle fortune or generate opportunities. Or you can build a business, like any entrepreneur does, step by step, over a long period of time, seeing business and marketing opportunities and grabbing them when you can.

It's great reading, no question. But I can't see how you make any kind of a TEXTBOOK out of it, is my long-winded point.

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Frank Otto
Re: market for an e-book
on Feb 28, 2006 at 11:30:54 pm


There is always a market for knowledge. However, it is not one size fits all.

There are plenty of self-help, self education books and websites out there. Being as informed and educated on a particular (or many) craft(s) an understandable goal and these guides/books/sites can do nothing but help.

As you're aware, it's about getting the ol' foot in the door and using that knowledge to keep the door open. I've been in the industry for 52.5 of my 53 years - born into the talent side but had to connive my way into the technical side. My experiences are what I had to do to get where I am now but my story is unique...had I been able to afford USC or Cal Arts my contacts and oportunities would have been vastly different. And my education would probably have been the less for it.

If you have the willpower to write a book, by all means do it - I'd read it just because your experiences are different than mine...I've got a few more years to expand my career.


Frank Otto

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Re: Do you think there is a market for an e-book that would educate people on how to break into the professional video and film industry without a formal education?
on Mar 1, 2006 at 5:27:10 am

I think there is, and I'll help you with it.


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Re: Do you think there is a market for an e-book that would educate people on how to break into the professional video and film industry without a formal education?
on Mar 1, 2006 at 6:40:06 pm

How about making it a professional autobiography? How YOU made it in the industry. That would not only give someone else ideas that they could use, but also give them the inspiration that they might be able to do it themselves.

"I have just modeled successful people and read many books that I have forged into a sound game plan that has always landed me a job in the television industry." I would be interested in just what that game plan was. Even though I got the college degree, I'll bet there is something in it that I could use.

Just make sure you emphasize that it takes hard work and dedication to make it!

Let me know when it comes out, I'll be interested in reading it.


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Bill Stephan
Re: Do you think there is a market for an e-book that would educate people on how to break into the professional video and film industry without a formal education?
on Mar 3, 2006 at 5:52:54 pm

Someone already beat you to it. There is a softcover book called "$30 Film School" that covers much of this territory. Reading this book will not get you any closer to a career in film. The sad fact is that you could spend that same $30 on a book such as "Cinematic Storytelling" and get the equivalent of a university level course in screen direction as used by top directors and editors in the business. That book has truly useful knowledge that will enhance a career.

Knowledge is power in the film and video business as it is in most other industries. The top actors, directors and editors all have spent years in the classroom perfecting their craft, and most never stop doing serious work on developing their craft. This is why I have never been unemployed for even a single day in 30 years of being an editor.

There always will be people who are truly geniuses who have the vision and brain power to transcend traditional education (the obvious example being Bill Gates), but these people are very rare.

Bill Stephan
Senior Editor/DVD Author
USA Studios
New York City

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