Inside the Producer’s Corner with Suzanne Lyons
This is a series of articles that film producer and best-selling author Suzanne Lyons (listen to her interview here) will be writing over the next 6 months. I personally asked Suzanne to share her knowledge, experience, and motivation with you the IFH Tribe. Whether you are a director, producer, cinematographer, screenwriter or editor I think you’ll get a ton out of this series. Check back every week for a new post that will help you on your journey as an indie filmmaker.
10 Tips on Goal Setting for Your Career
When I was doing some coaching to groups of people from the corporate world years ago I always started with this question, “How many of you have set your goals (both long and short term) this year?” Every time 99% of the hand would go up. A few years later when I asked the same question in seminars filled with folks of all facets and levels of the entertainment industry the exact opposite would happen. Only a couple of hands went up.
Goal setting is fun, exhilarating and life-altering. So why don’t we do it? Why don’t we set goals for ourselves? I think why so many of us in our industry don’t set goals is because we think it’s someone else’s job. We hear it all the time… “That’s my agent’s job,” or “That’s my manager’s job.” Putting your career in the hands of someone else is crazy. This is not the place to relinquish your power.
I’m not saying having an agent or manager is not great. Of course, it’s helpful to have a team supporting you. But that doesn’t mean that YOU are not 100% responsible for your career.
I also believe that we, as creative people, feel that we don’t need to set goals. I’ve heard folks say,
“It will be far too restrictive and get in the way of my creative self-expression.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Not setting goals is like taking the rutter off a ship. It will drift endlessly in no particular direction with no destination in sight. You want to live life by design, not by default.
For those of you who are frightened by the idea of setting goals please look at goals not just as acquisitions (acquiring things, money, etc.) although that part is fun to do, but also as expansion. When you think bigger, desire more, raise the stakes for yourself, you get bigger and that impacts not just you, but everyone around you. It’s all good!
When you get in your car you have no problem setting your GPS with your destination clearly in mind. So why not do the same for your career. Businesses do it all the time. There is not a business in the world that doesn’t set goals and YOU are a business. In fact, you are the president and CEO of your company. Here are “10 Tips and Exercises on Goal Setting” to help get you on track and put you back in the driver’s seat charting the course of your career.
1) THE BIG PICTURE
There is something very powerful and freeing about looking at where you are in the future before you start to look at your yearly and monthly goals. You get to have it be any way you want. It’s the future and there is no past to influence it in any way.
There are no rules, no restrictions. In the Flash Forward workshops, I used to start with this exercise and I’d tell the participants that the big picture is like being in a candy store where you can have anything you want. I suggest you look way way out in the future… 25, 30 or 35 years out and list the highlights of the outstanding career and life you’ve had. What contribution have you made to our industry?
You are welcome to include your personal life here as well. Hellen Keller said something that I always keep in mind while doing this exercise…
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
2) 5 YEAR VISION
Moving back in time from your 25 or 35 years out in the future look to see where you are in five years. List those accomplishments. What are you most proud of? What are some of the achievements that have happened at the five year point? Given where you are 25 years from now, where are you in five years. Also, take a look at this great question… who would you need to be in five years to fulfill on who you are in 25 years? Be bold here. Really play big.
3) YOUR 1 YEAR GOAL
Still moving back in time I want you to create a one-year goal for yourself. It may not be something that you know how to do right now, but it is something that is doable. It’s not a pie in the sky pipe dream. How I always look at it for myself is, “could somebody on this planet do it?” And if the answer is yes than I know that I can as well. Here are some things to keep in mind when creating your goal.
A goal has a specific measureable result, a single focus, it’s doable, it will be a breakthrough for you and it’s proactive. Also, if your palms aren’t sweating a bit and your heart’s not pounding then you’re playing too small. As Tony Robbins says,
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”
4) YOUR TIMELINE
Even a one-year goal or six-month goal can be pretty daunting if you don’t break it down into doable pieces. When the Romans were building roads they would put a rock on the road after each mile to let them know what they had accomplished and to let them know exactly where they were at any given time. Isn’t that brilliant?
Breaking your goal down into a timeline with milestones will give you that same advantage and as far as I can tell it takes the mystery out of success since you know exactly what needs to be done along the way to ensure your goals are accomplished. I take a big piece of paper and put all twelve months across the top…. January 1st, February 1st, March 1st, etc.
Then I write my one-year goal at the end of the page (you may do three months or six months or however long your timeline is for your particular goals). I then back time it, writing down the necessary list of things that need to happen by the beginning of each month to ensure that I reach my goal. These are not the long list of the daily and weekly action plans, it’s more a short list of the essential items that need to happen at each milestones.
5) ACTION PLAN
What specific actions can you take this month, this week, today to fulfill on your milestones. There may be a lot of actions to take between now and your first milestone, but it’s so much easier to know what actions you have to take now that you’ve broken your goal down into a timeline and milestones. When I was writing articles and doing informational videos for www.mastertalentteachers.com a few years ago I interviewed a number of very successful people from our industry about the topic of Goal Setting and specifically about creating action plans. Go to the ‘career’ section and watch part 2 and part 3 on Goal Setting. You’ll find a wealth of information.
6) VISUAL RELATIONSHIP DISPLAY
I have mentioned this exercise in previous articles and feel that it fits here as well. It’s so powerful to create a MOR (map of relationships). It reveals a couple of things. When you categorize everyone you know in the industry… directors, writers, actors, producers, composers, etc. it lets you know how many people you actually do know and it also lets you know who is missing from your list.
When Kate and I were starting to work on our first film projects we realized that who was missing from our MOR was directors. So, one of our main goals for the next three months was to meet and get to know directors. We didn’t even realize that it was a weak area for us until we created this visual display. Very powerful! Take a big poster board and give it a try. It is something you want to have around and keep adding to all the time.
7) MAKE REQUESTS
Making requests is the language of business. It is a common daily occurrence in every business around the world. Yet, in the entertainment industry we just don’t do it. We speak in terms of favors when we ask someone to listen to our composer reel or read our script. When you ask as a favor it takes the power out of your hands, the ball out of your court.
Favors just don’t work in business. So start to practice making requests. “Thanks for agreeing to read my script… Can I call you next Friday afternoon to get your response?” Call everyone on your MOR, get back in touch and make requests. NOTE: When you’re making requests of friends and colleagues please end the conversation with, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
When I was writing an article a few years back I interviewed Eve Honthaner about the power of making requests. Eve was a production manager for many years and author of “Hollywood Drive” and “The Complete Film Production Handbook.” Eve is currently Deputy Director for the California Film Commission. She shared a great example with me. “When it was first suggested that I make requests for what I want, I was nervous about doing it. But I did it anyway and it worked! I had wanted to meet two production executives at two different studios but couldn’t get past their assistants.
I was, however, on good terms with an executive at another studio and he knew both people. I met with him and explained how I needed his help and made my request. He immediately got both execs on the phone while I was sitting there, and said, “You’ve got to meet this woman… she’s terrific!” I walked out of his office with two confirmed meetings. I was thrilled. I make a professional request (the language of business) and he was glad to help. Don’t be hesitant to ask for what you want. It’ll make a huge difference in your career.”
8) KEEPING TRACK
I know what you’re thinking and I totally agree. I hate statistics too. But what a great wake-up call they are. How many actions are you taking… really taking to reach your goal? Make a list of three to five categories you can track for yourself to make certain that you are taking actions. How many meetings? How many pages have I written? How many referrals? How many phone calls? How many auditions? I use a weekly list for myself and each day I keep track and add up the numbers at the end of the week. Give it a try.
9) GET A MENTOR
You must be sick of me harping on this one. I have mentioned it in previous articles and I plan to continue to bug you about it. Getting a mentor is so so so important to our success in this industry. You don’t have to do it alone. As of this year, 2017, there are 7.6 billion people on our planet. That’s a clue! GET A MENTOR! Somebody who’s been there… done that.
The important thing to remember is to be respectful of their time. I suggest you request three 10-minute conversations either on the phone or in person over a specific period of time. Or a half hour coffee meeting, or perhaps a lunch meeting.
Make it easy for people to say yes. Prepare your questions in advance. It’s important that you generate each conversation with your mentor and that you be professional and call when you said you’d call. And, of course, always acknowledge them for their time and advice.
10) BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE BY A PARTNER OR TEAM
You’ve all heard the expression “when the going gets tough the tough get going.” Well in our industry it’s no different and it may even be more common. All of us need a partner or team to hold us accountable for our actions. You can have a partner where you call each other a couple of times a week to report in on your goals, what you’ve accomplished and what still needs to be done to fulfill on your weekly goals.
Or you could meet with a team once a week and do something similar. Whatever works best for you is fine… the important thing is to set something up now. I promise you, it works.
BONUS: You never have to worry, “Am I making the right decisions here?… am I taking the correct actions?” When you are standing in the ‘big picture’ having set your goals from the future, and then back timing them to the present, all your actions will be perfect! And the best part is… it will be fun and effortless!
Also, please don’t forget that it’s all a great game. Life will always unfold exactly as it should. So have some fun with this and enjoy the ride. I recently read this great quote by Abraham-Hicks…
“You think that the goal is to be over there, and we say the goal is the journey over there; the goal is the fun you have along the way on your way over there.”
Suzanne Lyons is President/Producer of Snowfall Films, Inc. having produced/exec produced 12 feature films to date. She co-founded the Flash Forward Institute which focused on teaching the tools of business needed to market oneself in the entertainment industry. She’s the author of Indie Film Producing: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking published by Focal Press. She has also hosted over 125 informational videos on the film industry. When time permits she does private career and business coaching. Suzanne is originally Canadian and lives with her husband in Los Angeles, CA.
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