A milestone, of sorts....
I just wanted to take a sec to share a little good news with my friends in the B&M forum. Hopefully I will sound at least a little bit humble and grateful, and not braggadocios, as that is what I truly am.
This week is my tiny little company's anniversary... 20 years.
It was April 3, 1997 when I signed the incorporation papers founding Fantastic Plastic. In many ways, that seems just like last week or so. Maybe a month.
I still vividly remember the very FIRST call I got on my business line 20 years ago, as a one-person business in a spare room of my house. It came at 5am. I was very excited because no one had called my business line before. I jumped out of bed, dashed down the hall to the office phone where the voice on the other end of the line said "Hey, are ya'll hirin'?"
Sadly we weren't... for quite a while.
I stayed in the home office for a year, but eventually the FedEx guy got tired of seeing me in my underwear and I moved to our first real studio space.
We began serving exactly one client... one small advertising agency that did nothing but price-and-product weekly ads for grocery stores throughout the south. It was truly trained-monkey work, and they were bad... but voluminous. One week we cranked out 147 30-second spots.
Since those days we've made another move to bigger and better studio spaces, added an employee or two here and there, and worked for zillions of other clients. We have no way of knowing (who keeps up with these things?) but I figured that I've directed, produced, or overseen somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 television spots. I remember each one of them vividly. Not true, of course... I saw a lawyer commercial on TV a few nights ago, and the spot actually ran twice before I realized that I had directed it a couple of years earlier.
We've been very lucky and very fortunate. Some have been better than others, but we've never had what you might call a "bad year." With maybe one exception when a couple of years were flat, we've always been able to bill more in a year than we did in the previous one... and actually 2016 was by far our best.
Although I make decent money, as John Candy said in "Planes, trains..." I'm still a "million dollars short of being a millionaire"... but I'm mostly blessed to get up and go to work each day doing what I love doing.
None of that is particularly special or remarkable, except for this fact:
I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING.
I'm a terrible businessman, pretty clueless about it actually (but was smart enough to hire a guy who is good at that). I sometimes think I'm a pretty decent director and cinematographer... then I'll run into someone who really is good and realize that I'm just a big phony completely faking my way through it.
BUT... I think I do do one thing well: and that's find good people to rely on. That's where the COW comes in.
I probably would have never been able to survive without my friends in here and other COW forums indulging a zillion stupid questions that probably led to a lot of eye rolling on the other side of the computer screens. Just looking at my stats, I've made 13,119 posts on the COW (I know some of you have made a lot more), but I bet I have a higher percentage than anyone of the "Bonehead Question" variety... especially in the early days.
The answers to those, though, were always smart, polite, patient, and thoughtful (except of course for the legendary "Zelin Factor," which is heavy on the smart but not so much on the polite).
For this, I thank you all.
Ron, Kathlyn, Tim, and the scores of other early bovines that followed were lifesavers.
I started to write just a short post, not a Suszko-eque novel (burn!), but apparently had a lot to say. For those without the time or patience, I hope you will have just skipped to the end....
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Wow, this is fantastic, Todd! Congratulations! We here at the COW are happy to have played even a tiny part.
20 years is a long time, so I wonder if I could get your thoughts on how things have changed for you along the way. I know you're not shooting add much film these days 😁 but I'm sure there's even mire to it than that.
Also, we hear all the time about how tough it is out they're, and we certainly see it ourselves....so how is it that you're coming off your best year yet?
Do you think there's anything in your experience that you can offer as general advice?
Also, a personal thanks from me for your contributions to this specific forum. I had a business of my own, similar to yours, 20 years ago (started earlier, and unplugged after the turn off the century when I went corporate)....and of course Creative COW is a small, self-funded family business, so the Business & Marketing forum was created with our OWN needs in mind too!
And while there are indeed some folks who've made more total posts in the COW, nobody has made more posts in THIS forum!
Again, or congratulations, and our thanks!
Congrats Todd, that's a great accomplishment!
I've always looked forward to you threads and your comments!
Congrats on 20 years Todd! Thanks for always providing valuable advice to all of us on a regular basis!
Greg Ball, President
Ball Media Innovations, Inc.
Pretty cool...in this industry you have to deliver year after year and compete with all the new looks, techniques and business models, so 20 years is a big deal.
We've seen some of your work over the years and it's darn good. But the classic aluminum Christmas Tree has to be my most memorable moment at Fantastic Plastic!
Way to go guys!
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production, Post, Studio Sound Stage
Every community (real or virtual) relies on the citizens who pass along the hard learned lessons so the newcomers don't have to make all the same mistakes and re-invent everything.
It's how the world moves forward.
You've long been a voice of great insight, reason and value around here.
It quite simply wouldn't have been the same place without you.
Seriously, thank you.
Creator of XinTwo - http://www.xintwo.com
The shortest path to FCP X mastery.
Congratulations Todd! (Sorry for the delayed response, I'm in semi-retirement so I don't look at the forums much anymore). You are a real survivor! I have learned a lot in our conversations. We in the biz tend to work in silos, so it's refreshing to have bounced ideas and ask questions of each other.
I wish you many more successful years of fun and profitable projects!
T2 - You are truly someone who has earned every bit of his success. Congratulations on 20 and a hope for 20 more!
"There is a species of antelope than can
Jump higher than the average house.
This is due to its powerful hind legs.
That and the fact that the average house cannot jump."
Todd must be doin' *something* right all these years - you don't last that long thru dumb luck.
[Mark Suszko] "Todd must be doin' *something* right all these years"
As Mark should know, it's purely my clean, clean living.
I should have responded to the group earlier, but I've been directing on location like a madman for about a week+ and really haven't had the chance... but many many sincere thanks for the nice words to Mark, Tim, Andrew, Greg, Bill, Ned, and Nick...
...and to Rich who I'm glad enjoys our tree, and doesn't see it in its very sad in-storage state....
And again sincere thanks to my bovine brethren in here.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Todd, you made me look good this week:
I used your "one-light HMI trick" for a sitting portrait-style interview setup, in a room full of "challenges". Imagine the darkest shaft in an anthracite mine, sheathed in mahogany. Now add one daylight widow, 6 feet wide by 25 feet high, and no way to modulate it or overcome it. So we're suck with daylight color temp.
We used a small Joker Bug HMI behind the talent, bounced into a peened metal reflective board from my venerable Lowel kit, on a stand with an adjusting "tota-tilter". The joker provided a strong rim and hair light from behind, while the bounced light to the front face was soft yet easy to control for strength, and the ladies thought i made them look beautiful.
Strangely enough, I haven't used my "one HMI" setup in a very long time... until yesterday when it was the right thing in my bag-o-tricks for a setup that sounds awfully similar to yours... looked great.
The only difference in what you and I did was that I used a 1200w fresnel and a white 4x4, my usual setup for that (If I had had a Joker 800 with a beamer that would have worked just as well or better).
It really is the world's simplest setup... yet I've had even seasoned DPs (and I mean guys who make movies) see it and go "Hmmmm.... never thought of that," probably because it's so minimal.
Glad that worked for ya!
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Congratulations, Todd. And thank you for sharing your experiences and insights so generously. Your success couldn't happen to a nicer guy. I always enjoy your posts.
And yes, you are an extremely talented director/DP as well, no matter what you think.