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Today’s guest is bestselling author and creativity expert Jeff Goins. In this episode, he dismantles the myth that being creative is a hindrance to success by revealing how an artistic temperament is, in fact, a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
For centuries, the myth of the starving artist has dominated our culture, seeping into the minds of creative people and stifling their pursuits. But the truth is that the world’s most successful artists did not starve.
In fact, they capitalized on the power of their creative strength. In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Jeff Goins debunks the myth of the starving artist by unveiling the ideas that created it and replacing them with timeless strategies for thriving, including
- Steal from your influences (don’t wait for inspiration)
- Collaborate with others (working alone is a surefire way to starve)
- Take strategic risks (instead of reckless ones)
- Make money in order to make more art (it’s not selling out)
- Apprentice under a master (a “lone genius” can never reach full potential)
Through inspiring anecdotes of successful creatives both past and present, Goins shows that living by these rules is not only doable but it’s also a fulfilling way to thrive. From filmmakers to screenwriters to graphic designers and writers to artists and business professionals, creatives already know that no one is born an artist. Jeff Goins’ revolutionary rules celebrate the process of becoming an artist, a person who utilizes the imagination in fundamental ways.
He reminds creatives that business and art are not mutually exclusive pursuits. In fact, success in business and in life flow from a healthy exercise of creativity. Expanding upon the groundbreaking work in his previous bestseller The Art of Work, Goins explores the tension every creative person and organization faces in an effort to blend the inspired life with a practical path to success. Being creative isn’t a disadvantage for success; rather, it is a powerful tool to be harnessed.
There’s no need for filmmakers, screenwriters or any artist to starve anymore! Enjoy my eye-opening conversation with Jeff Goins.
Alex Ferrari 1:50
So guys, today's guest is Jeff Goins. And Jeff is the author of an amazing book called real artists don't starve. And I read the book and it man, it really just just rang so true to me. And what I try I'm trying to do here at indie film hustle, how I'm trying to show you guys how to survive and thrive in the film business and that you don't have to be a broke starving artist. That is a very old mentality. In today's world, you have to be able to make money doing your art. And that's what I tried to do here at the podcast and on the blog, and all the other places I'm at, to try to show you to do that. And Jeff's book is awesome. It really kind of hones in on this mentality on this thought process. And I needed to have Jeff on the show. So he can share with you tips and techniques on how you can monetize your art, how you can build a career around your art around your films around your writing, whatever you want. And he is also the best selling author of The Art of work as well, which is an another amazing book, which we'll talk a little bit about as well. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with author Jeff Goins. I'd like to welcome to the show Jeff Goins. Man, thank you so much for being on the show.
Jeff Goins 3:06
Hey, Alex, good to be here. Thanks for having me.
Alex Ferrari 3:08
I'm a huge fan of your book. Real artists don't starve. And I wanted you to come in and talk to the tribe. Because I think it's something that it's a message that a lot of filmmakers and artists around the world need to hear because of this whole myth of the starving artists, artists. Can you talk a little bit discuss a little bit about that myth? And how wrong it could? It actually is?
Jeff Goins 3:31
Yeah, so a myth is a story that we tell ourselves to help us make sense of the world around us. So there are religious myths, there are political myths. There are cultural myths. And the myth of the starving artist is a story that creative people have told themselves for hundreds of years, to try to make sense of the reason why it sometimes feels difficult to sell your art. And I want to debunk this myth, because I think it no longer serves creative professionals, I think it actually hurts your work. And because I think we live in this age where creative success is not only possible, it's probable as long as you're willing to actually do the work. I think we live in the era of greatest opportunity for creative people to succeed today. But in order to do that, you have to stop telling yourself this story, which is there's no money in art, you can't make any money off of wheat or whatever it is writing film films. You name it in I mean, it's really interesting because you can go into almost any industry, and you're gonna find two groups of people, thriving artists and starving artists and starving artists are saying, Well, you can't make any money off of blank, whatever it is, again, writing, storytelling, art, you name it, and and while those people are saying that there is always a great group of folks who are thriving at it by simply applying, you know, certain, certain principles, smart business tactics, which are talked about in the book to help them succeed. So I believe that being a starving artist today is a choice, not a necessary condition of doing your creative work.
Alex Ferrari 5:20
Now, can you discuss some of those business principles?
Jeff Goins 5:23
Yeah. So in the book, you basically what I did was I interviewed hundreds of thriving creative professionals today from various industries, from theater to film to writing, visual arts, cartoonists, dancers, you name it. And basically, that's the question like, what do these people have in common, because obviously, not every person's success is identical to another person's. But if you read enough biographies, follow enough stories of people who have succeeded with their art, you tend to start seeing some similarities, at least this was my hope. And what emerged from that experience of talking to all these people reading all these biographies, studying 500 years of history, particularly folks in the arts, and seeing what do they do to succeed, and I identified 12 principles. I call them the 12 rules of the new Renaissance. And it turns out these 12 things that thriving artists do to succeed are 12 things that most starving artists actually avoid or don't believe they need to do. So these are things like, the first rule is the is the idea of the rule of recreation, that at any point, you get to decide what you want to be and what you want to do, you get to change paths in life. And this is debugging this idea that you're just born with it, right? You're just born with a taste, or an artistic ability, or the ability to tell a story. It's not true. You're not you're not born. I like what Seth Godin says about this, we're all just born pooping in our diapers like, we all start at the same place and environment can shape us and yes, I don't disagree that genetics can come You know, come to play in certain physical or athletic activities. But if you want to be an artist, if you want to create for living, if you want to tell stories, you want to make something that's going to connect with people's hearts, I don't care if you're born doing this, or this is something you decide at 20 years old, 40 years old, 60 years old, you have the ability to do that. So that's one of the things that you know, a couple others, is the idea of marketing. most creative people I know want to work on there are they don't want to have to market their work. And I think a thriving artists does this in a really smart way where they're not like putting flyers, you know, all around town saying artist for hire, you're not just going to cocktail parties throwing out, you know, your business card, it says filmmaker like this basically leads to nothing other than you getting a really bad reputation. But what I do think works is what I call practicing in public. And this is one of the rules, this is the smart way for an artist or creator today to market their work. So on one hand, you can't just make the work and let the work speak for itself, which is what we all want to do, I get that it doesn't work exactly that way. What thriving artists do, however, is, is they're not just like walking around, you know, with a megaphone saying, hey, look at me, it's sort of a blend of the two and I call it practicing in public. And so what that means is you are doing your work, and then you are sharing your work in very specific channels where it has a likelihood to succeed. So if you're a writer, that may mean that you're blogging or writing for a popular column. If you're visual artists, it probably means that you're sharing works in progress on Instagram. And it's very important that whatever you whatever your practice is that you do it on a regular ideally daily basis, so that you are producing a lot of work you're putting it out there and again, this is just like snippets of your work. You're not like writing a movie scripts and you know, giving it away for free, but you are sharing your your stuff. And what you're doing is you're demonstrating your competency. And and if you're good, you're also building an audience in the process, which eventually allows you the opportunity to, you know, obviously make money at some point. And then you know, I would say another rule that artists struggle with is the idea of working for free which is like this is sort of the Other side, the corollary to practicing in public, which is, like you're doing that for free, but you're marketing lots of people pay to market, you're basically finding creative ways to do work, which you love doing, and then giving it away in certain channels, where it is much more likely that you're going to find an audience and it's going to help the work succeed. But on the other hand, you don't want to set a precedent that your work doesn't have any value. So practicing in public means giving away little pieces of your work in different places where people, you know, are getting sort of a free sample, they can get a taste of it and go, Okay, I want to find out more. Like, I have a friend who's a filmmaker, and he does these little like 32nd clips on Instagram, where he's actually not sure he's not sharing, you know, like the documentary or whatever that he's working on. Typically, he's like, doing some fun thing, like, one day, he did, like a 30 seconds, overview of his day. And, and he followed his wife around and just did these like, quick, like two to three second clips, and told a story about you know, the day in the life of him and his wife. And but it was like, really cool. And it was done really well. And so obviously, if you're watching this, you're going, Well, if he can do that, you know, with just an ordinary, you know, Day in the Life, what can he do with you know, X, Y, or Z, that sort of that idea. And, but you know, like, it would be a bad idea for him to do free gig after free gig after free gig. And this is like really bad advice that I hear today, you just have to work, do a bunch of work for free, and then you get noticed, and then eventually people will pay you. And that's just not true. And most of the thriving artists I talked to had a very strict rule that they very rarely did work for free. And if they did it, they were being charitable, you know, they were doing it for a nonprofit or a cause that they believed in, they weren't, like doing it as the norm, expecting to like that and eventually get, it would lead to some sort of paid work.
Alex Ferrari 12:10
So now those are three things. So with the whole working for free thing, because a lot in our industry, in the film industry, there is a lot of that working for free, because you're not working as an artist yet, you're basically trying to get into the business, you're trying to learn the different aspects of the business, because filmmaking is a combination of many arts all put together, so and many crafts. So you learn almost like a either a apprenticeship, or by just learning by watching and doing and I always advocate like when you're starting out, get on as many sets as you can, if you have to work for free work for free for a little bit, but you're not creating for free, you're just kind of watching for free and giving of your time for free. And that way you do make those connections and you do learn is that I because I completely agree with you. I'm like, don't start making movies and giving them away for free constantly, because then you're going to devalue yourself as an artist. But do you agree that learning as much as you can, and sometimes doing that for free, not for years, but for a little while, at least to get your foot in the door is not a bad idea.
Jeff Goins 13:12
I totally agree. And it is like his weird thing. And like, it can sound like a contradiction. But I'm like rule number three is apprentice under a master. So the ideas in the book, you start out, you're not born this way you but it's a decision, like you choose to be an artist and it's it's a decision and I want you to put filmmakers in the artist category you're creating, you're creating art, you're creating stuff that is going to change and move and impact people in hopefully, you know, transformative ways. And so this is a choice and you have to keep working on it. But if you think that you're gonna arrive on the scene, just awesome the way you are practicing in your basement or on your laptop. You're kidding yourself. As you know, as your stickers indicate, Alex, you've got to find out what it actually takes to be a professional. And reading a book listening to the podcast, watching a bunch of YouTube clips, is a poor substitute for putting yourself under the mantle of somebody who has mastered your craft. And so I absolutely am a big fan of apprenticeship and apprenticeship, you know, in the Renaissance and in the Middle Ages did take years. And that's different from working as a professional and doing lots of gigs for free. And I like the apprenticeship model of basically seven years you're an apprentice that means you're a student. This is your education, many apprentices paid to get an apprenticeship just like that, you know, we paid to go to university or film school or art school or whatever. So if you can get a gig on an internship where you're like getting done It's like you actually get to sit in a room and, and see the sausage being made, and, and get to eventually hopefully participate in some of that process that's incredibly valuable. And so I tell people, when we're talking about not working for free, the goal here is to always work for something. Right? And so the problem Alex is, you know, if you're whatever screenwriter, right, because that's a very competitive field where everybody's sort of undercutting each other and, and it can get really cutthroat and hard to make a living, and you're writing all these, you know, treatments or whatever, and, and not getting compensated for them. And you're doing this, you know, for years. And you're a professional and, and you're just doing lots of gigs for free hope and somebody saying, well, this is a good opportunity, right? This is going to lead to something. Now, I talked to Steven pressfield. About that, who, you know, we used to work in Hollywood as a screenwriter. And he says opportunities are bullshit. He says, I've never like, like, I'm sure these things happen, you know, once in a while, but I've never done a gig for free, where somebody said, it's gonna be a great opportunity. And it's led to anything. And so my encouragement to PS, and like, look like there's, there's always that one story, right?
Alex Ferrari 16:22
You know, there's, of course, no, but you're right. And anytime that someone walks up as like, Hey, this is a really great opportunity, this is going to lead. If you do this one for free, then you're you know, we've got four other ones lined up. I've fallen for that a few times early on in my career. And now, you know, on the post side, you just like, Look, look, I can't do it for free, guys. You know, I don't need any more things on my reel. But But yeah, it did never generally, I don't think there's ever been one of those sales pitches that ever panned out.
Jeff Goins 16:51
Yeah, and what they're saying is, I don't have a budget, right, like, that's what they're really saying. And like, this could be big, which is true for any creative project ever. But there's no guarantee that it is going to be big. And I mean, it's like the story of, you know, the guy who says, you know, build your parachute on the way down, like, that's essentially what you're saying is, you know, hey, like, just jump out the airplane and build your parachute on the way down. And the one guy who survived, you know, because hey, I made it, you can make it too. And that's because you don't hear from the 99 other debt gun. And that's what this is like, it's like, do it for free, and it'll lead to something and you're hearing from the one guy who didn't die. And so I'm not saying you've got to be a jerk, or you've got to be too big for your britches. If you're brand new in an industry, you should be humble, you should be apprenticing under different people learning from them. And that shouldn't honestly be an attitude that you carry throughout your career, by its don't set a precedent that your work is worth nothing. And so I you know, I do this with speaking, there's some events where they want you to come in and speak for free. And, you know, I've done the thing where they go, you know, Hey, why don't you speak for free? And early on? I was like, Yeah, that's great. That's great. I'd get my message out there. But I have no way of actually quantifying what is actually doing for me. And a friend of mine is a well known speaker used to tour with Ray Charles, he was the opening comedian for Ray Charles, okay. And it has crazy stories, and he was like, stop doing gigs for free. And I was like, but this and that is no, stop working for free, they can afford something, I was like, No, they have no budget, he was trust me, they can afford something you're so just a low price doesn't have to be a lot, but just set some price that, like, your wife will actually allow you to go travel for this. And I remember, you know, like, and so I think that's a pretty good rule of thumb early on, is you've got a low price and a high prices, if you don't have some, you can sort of say, this is what I'm worth. But if you really want the good or you're just trying to get some work, you can, you know, say hey, this is as long as I will go but having this bottom, you know, number that you that you're willing to turn work away, you know, for if you don't get it for me, that was like five bucks. And, and and it was I know that if I get a check for 500 bucks plus travel and lodging, like that's, that's, you know, like, that's a good day. And, and so around, like people would call me and say, Hey, can you speak at this event? And I would say you have a budget, they say no, we have no budget. I said, Okay, well, you know, normally and I would quote my high price i'd like you know, I'll try to get, you know, 1000 bucks, but I really can't do it for less than 100. And first time I did this and somebody said, oh well yeah, we can do that. Yeah, that's why you know, budget. So there is that thing where you want to have no budget, they kind of do have a budget. The market is always willing to sustain more than you think it can. The other thing is just because they can't pay you doesn't mean that the gig isn't worth doing. If you can get something out of it. So remember, the idea here is you always have to work for something. So if somebody wants you to get freed, you really want to do it. And it's fun. And you're like trying to build your portfolio. Cool. But maybe you say, Hey, I like as a rule, I don't work for free, but maybe we can negotiate something else out, you know, I give this and you, whatever, you know, like, give me something for web, you know, maybe you're doing a small film project, and somebody is a web designer, and they can design your website for you. And so, you know, now you're giving several $1,000 worth of value to them in and they're compensating with several $1,000 worth of value, there's something or maybe you're just going, Hey, I'll do this, but I need five referrals, right? Can't tell them that I did this. For free, I have a friend who's a photographer, who occasionally does that he'll do a gig with like, a very influential musician or whatever, here in Nashville, and I'll do it for free. Because he knows, you know, they could pay him, you know, a few 1000 bucks or whatever for his day, right. But he knows that it'd be more valuable to get five referrals to you know, his his friends where it can be, you know, 15 or $20,000 in values. So I'm not opposed to not like to you occasionally not getting paid for your work, as long as you're getting something of actual real measurable value out of it. But just I mean, like this surprised me. I spoke with hundreds of writers, filmmakers, dancers, creative entrepreneurs, and they did not do their work for free. There was a study I mentioned in the book, where it contrasts unpaid internships and paid internships, and they followed 1000s of college graduates. And if you had an unpaid internship, even if you had a few of them, you were half as likely for that that internship to lead to paid work. And so something like 30% of unpaid internships lead to jobs after college, whereas paid internships is like 62%. And, you know, we listen to this, and we go, Well, yeah, that makes sense. You know, if you if you set a precedent that you're not getting paid, they don't want to start paying you That makes sense. And yet, like we continue to go into situations not getting paid thinking is going to lead to paid work. And if you do, do work for free, because you want to be generous. Do it because you want to be generous, not because you're expecting it to lead to a paycheck. And don't be mad when it doesn't lead to something like
Alex Ferrari 22:22
A perfect example on in my world. When I was first starting out in music videos. Someone came to me with a Snoop Dogg music video, and they said, Look, we have no money. I'm like, I'll do it. I'll color it for free. Yeah. Because it's Snoop Dogg and I plastered Snoop Dogg's face everywhere on my reel on my website, and it led to 1000s upon 1000s 10s of 1000s of dollars worth of work by doing a day of work for free.
Jeff Goins 22:48
Yeah. And that's not working for free, Alex. Yeah, that's, that's trading your time for reputation? You know, and they could have said, No, you can't you can't put this on your reel you can't talk about as at which point they would have been screwing you.
Alex Ferrari 23:04
Yes, of course, of course. But so I made sure that was clear on the way in.
Jeff Goins 23:09
Yeah, exactly. And so like, that's a great example of, we don't have money. But yeah, you can tell people that you did that. And that's a risk. And I'm not opposed to taking risks. But Gosh, I know so many creatives who have made a habit of giving away their work as a rule for the time they've been doing for 234 years, waiting for their big break, and they are destroying their break, you know, exactly, it would just be better to charge a little bit of money up to an artist, visual artists who start went from zero to $20 per print, she was selling prints. And I was huge for her because now she could go from 20 to 5050 to 100 100 to 1000, and so on the gap between zero and one is exponentially greater than the gap from one to two. So you don't have to, like go in guns blazing, saying I you know, I'm worth all this money, you just need to get paid for your time.
Alex Ferrari 24:06
And it doesn't have to be minimum wage sometimes. You know, just when you're starting out, it is what it is. Now that
Jeff Goins 24:12
You just start, you just start low. And then over time, you can start raising it like that $500 speaking right, is now $15,000, you know, but going from zero to a few 100 bucks. Like that was huge for me, but it did start setting a precedent that I value it. And I think the idea here, the principle here is nobody's going to value your work until you do.
Alex Ferrari 24:37
Hmm, amen. Amen. Without question. Now one, one thing I want to talk to you about, is this, this kind of virus that's in artists, in artists heads of always trying to be 100% original, and yeah, being afraid of stealing art from someone else or anything like that. And I've tried debunk this a bunch of times, I really want to hear what you have to say about it.
Jeff Goins 25:04
Yeah, well, I mean, there's a quote by a guy named wil Duran. He's a historian, he says nothing is new except arrangement. And, and so it's the idea that like, we're all we all have the same source material, the same ideas. You know, there's a Joseph Campbell monomyth idea. There's only one story, the hero's journey, and we're just all retelling it in different ways, the hero with 1000 faces kind of Sure. And I think this is true in creative work. Michael Caine, the actor said, you have to steal, you have to steal everything you see. So creativity is not so much about coming up with an original idea as it is borrowing from other people's ideas, rearranging them and saying, Here, look what I made. I mean, I think a filmmaker who is like the best at this, and I'm like,
Alex Ferrari 25:56
I know, I know, you're gonna say to,
Jeff Goins 25:59
It's Quintin Tarantino. So yeah, of course. And he's like, like, on a bashatt about it. Right. And, and it's, I mean, it's fascinating, when you whatever, you know, watch Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, or the, you know, The Hateful Eight, and he is like, totally intentionally ripping off all of his heroes. And it's an Omar's, like, he's, he's giving credit to the films and the people that he loved. But you know, what's interesting about like, the average movie goer, I'm guessing looks at Quentin Tarantino's films and goes, Oh, isn't that interesting? Isn't that original? And he's like, no, what are you talking about? You know, is that original, it is the opposite of original. But that's what we're all doing. From music, to film to literature, we are all building on the work that has come before us. And hopefully, we're borrowing from enough different sources, that as we recombine these elements and rearrange them and reinterpret them, what we're coming up with is our remix our understanding of that story, that idea, and people look at it, and they don't see all that they don't they don't see the work that went into it. They go, Wow, isn't that interesting? And if you don't do that, because I think people say, Well, I'm not gonna do that. I'm just gonna create something original. If you don't do that, what ends up happening is you create something ironically, that looks really derivative where you subconsciously borrowed something from one person. And you wrote that song, you made that movie, you wrote that book, and it and it's, it feels flat, right? Because Because when you aren't trying to steal, you end up becoming a copycat, and it's better to be a thief than it is to be a copycat.
Alex Ferrari 27:44
And I think there's a big difference between that I think the audience really should understand is that being a hack, and being on a tour is different. The big difference to that, in my opinion, is being a hack, you copy from one source. And so and then if you're on a tour, or you're paying homage, you copy from multiple sources, and you rearrange them, and that's the big difference between literally being a hack where you just copy something and literally just replaced it with a couple of changed elements, and changing it from multiple different sources. And then one of the best examples of what you're talking about. I'm assuming you saw the movie Point Break. Yeah, the original, not not, not whatever they came out with recently. They're the originals of them, actually. Did you see that? It was horrible, wasn't it? The second one?
Jeff Goins 28:31
Yeah, well, yeah, it got really good. Like reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. And I was like, I was on a plane. I was like,
Alex Ferrari 28:37
Sure, why not?
Jeff Goins 28:38
Okay, but I was like, how can you like remake a movie with Keanu Reeves? Patrick Patrick.
Alex Ferrari 28:46
Jeff Goins 28:46
It's an iconic movie. Yeah. But I mean, it's almost a caricature unto itself, you know, right. Because you can't they they just remade it. Seriously. You know what you can't like, like, when they were like, like when they did like Baywatch as like an R rated movie. Yes. You know, Dwayne Johnson. I was like, Okay, cool. Like they're having fun with it. And they're doing something different. But they remade Yeah, it was it was kind of fell flat. It was okay.
Alex Ferrari 29:11
But if you see, but if you see point break point, there was a movie in a multi billion dollar franchise that stole Point Break. I mean, beat per beat, which is fast and furious. Yeah, you replace the surfers with car racers. And it's the exact same story FBI agent infiltrates gets involved with the girl. The girl says, boy, it's the same story and they become friends at the end and they don't want to. It's it's the same story. It's the exact same story. But look, it was done in a company it was rearranged. It was rearranged in a completely new way. Could you argue that it was stolen almost beat for beat? Sure, but that's Hollywood. We'll be right back after a word from ours. Bonser. And now back to the show.
Jeff Goins 30:08
So, you know, another example of this is and it really like, I love that and I use all the time with movies and I'm like, Guys, don't you know what's going on here? Like when I went to see the movie cars, the Pixar movie? Sure. Do you know, you know, you know what I'm talking about?
Alex Ferrari 30:24
I don't know, I don't actually I'm I'm very interested.
Jeff Goins 30:27
Okay. So you go see cars, cars is the story of the hot shot, you know, race car, young kid who's from the big city, and then he's got gone to his next race, he's driving cross country. And he, in the middle of the night, crashes his car into somebody's fence. And, you know, and then the next day, he wakes up, and he's in jail. And, you know, the guy who, you know, crashed into his fence is the, you know, town sheriff, and he's the judge. And he's, you know, sentencing him to, you know, community service, he's got to rebuild the road that he's messed up in the fence and all that.
Alex Ferrari 31:09
So my cousin Vinnie, No, I'm joking.
Jeff Goins 31:12
There was a movie in the 90s, I think, with Michael J. Fox, called Hollywood Oh, my god of Hollywood, is this story of a Hollywood plastic surgeon who's driving cross country for some big promotion or something that he's doing. And in the middle of the night, he wrecks his car drives through a fence, and the guy whose fence he wrecks is also the town judge and sheriff, and he's a doctor too, and, and he sentences him to community service, where he's got to, you know, be a doctor in a small town. And it is the same story, by the end of the movie, you got this hot shot kid who adopts these small town values, and goes back to the big city and then realizes, you know, he's got a love interest all these things. And he's got the mentor who's the, the older guy who did what he did, and has his own ghosts and stuff. And he has to learn from him. And he leaves and then eventually comes back, it is the exact same story.
Alex Ferrari 32:09
Oh, my God, you've just blown my mind.
Jeff Goins 32:13
Is like, I didn't hear anybody talking about this. Why? Because it's a cartoon, cuz they're, they're talking cars, but I never watched cars is Pixar up to that point, mostly, quote, unquote, original stories. And I just thought it's so interesting that they were borrowed from, you know, some 90s romantic comedy with Michael J. Fox, and I, and I am sure that was a remix of something else, and so on, and so on, and so on.
Alex Ferrari 32:39
That's amazing. But really just wanted to clarify that that you cannot be afraid to read to to not submit, honestly, it's steal, you steal from other art forms other. I mean, you see artists constantly taking from paintings, and you know, and writers are taking from novels and all these kind of things, you just have to rework it and take from multiple sources, and not just one and and then you can, then you can create a brand new work. And also when you do that, you also just start your own juices flowing, where you start with someone else's work. And then maybe you start twisting around kind of like with filmmakers, we all want to be a Kubrick or a Fincher or Spielberg or Scorsese. And we might start down that road. But then eventually you find your own voice by studying the masters.
Jeff Goins 33:28
Yeah, yeah, I think before you find your wall, we all want to be original, we all want to be somebody that somebody else copies. And I think you can do that. But I think what we forget is all of these masters, all of our heroes, started out copying their heroes. So you start by copying, then you curate the influences, you rearrange them. And then ultimately, you do do something creative. And it is by using all the same source material it is by getting the skills and the techniques embedded into your you know, muscle memory, so that you're not just doing you know what Quentin Tarantino did, you know, mimicking it, you you have gotten technique down, where you understand why he did that. And once you mean, once you do something enough, you you get to the why. And then you begin to make creative choices from that deep well of understanding. But at the very beginning, you know, we're all just audience members, and we're watching you know, going Why did Stanley Kubrick do that? That was weird and you know, in 2001, Space Odyssey and and and you study it, and I don't think you really understand it, until you copy it, you mimic it, you get it into your bones. And then from there eventually you do stuff that the world there's to call original, and you're kind of going well, this just like it's like when somebody has a bond Oh, how they got that originally used to sound which everybody's been copying for 30 years now. Right? And he said, you know, we all we were trying to do was cut copy all of these bands around the, you know, 80s a lot of hair bands and stuff. And we just weren't that good. We weren't good enough to play guitar solos like that. And you know, and shred like that. And so the edge would like, turn up the delay and, you know, do it this way. He says, we're trying to copy everybody around us, we weren't that good. And this is what came out, obviously, 30 years later, how long it's been
Alex Ferrari 35:25
There one of the few that they're still remembered,
Jeff Goins 35:28
Yeah. And they're very intentionally doing those things that at the time, were just improvisations, just what we could pull off right now. I mean, it's like the story of Kevin Smith, when, you know, he does clerks for like, $10,000. And he gets all of his friends from film school to volunteer, you know, to be in the film, it takes 19 days, his parents take out a $3,000, you know, equity line of credit out of their mortgage. And he makes it you know, and it has that and it's raw and rough. And, and, but it has that kind of iconic Kevin Smith feeling it becomes You know, it wins. It goes to Sundance and and then every film after that he has a much larger budget. But he realized that there are certain things from those constraints and copying from these different influences that people really liked. And so eventually, you realize, like, I want to continue some of these things that maybe at the time are me just doing my best to copy. The people came before me. And in fact, the way that I did it actually produce something original.
Alex Ferrari 36:30
Absolutely. And can you talk, you talk a little bit about your book about owning your work? Can you elaborate a little bit about that?
Jeff Goins 36:36
Yeah, so I mean, it is what it sounds like it is the idea that most creative people sell out too soon. And I'm not opposed to selling out in the sense that you let somebody else acquire your intellectual property. I've done this with books, I've done this with, you know, a number of projects. But you need to understand that if you are spending hundreds of hours or years of your life, creating a piece of IP, and then you sell it to the first bidder, first of all, the first bidder is going to be the lowest typically, you no longer control that work. And you no longer depending on the agreement. Get paid for that. And writers do this a lot with film options and wares
Alex Ferrari 37:27
And books as well.
Jeff Goins 37:28
Yeah, and books as well. And a great example of this an exception to the rule of JK Rowling, who, a lot of people don't know this, but Disney wanted to acquire the film rights for Harry Potter. And she turned them down because she wanted like a 1% royalty for all the films. And like we're not doing that it's insane. It is it is not typical either. And then she said, okay, and universals like, we'll do that deal. And that one decision made her a billionaire. similar story with, you know, the guys who started Pixar, where, you know, very early on, they were Disney came along and said, Hey, you know, we like what you're doing. And again with john Lasseter, actually was fired from Disney. Left, join George Lucas, Steve Jobs, you know, and Lucas Lucas sold Pixar to Steve Jobs and, and lasser was, you know, working with these people at Pixar. It was basically a computer company, not a film company. And they're like, well, maybe we can make some films with this. They ended up you know, winning a Short Film Award, an Oscar I think and, and the Disney goes way, way, way way, we want you back and they were going to triple his salary, they're going to bring john back because I understood his ideas are actually good. And we need good ideas right now. And he turned them down. And and so they continue to make their films and Disney came in and said, Hey, we like we want to be a part of this. And they and and they started helping fund Toy Story. And and and they started to lose control of the work. And if you've ever seen you know, any of the behind the scenes, documentaries about Pixar, like pick, like Toy Story resupport was really, really bad. And nobody liked it. And it was because they were losing ownership of the project. And they eventually had to say, Okay, we have to own this. You know, like, we really have to own this process and make the story what we believe it is. And, you know, obviously eventually Pixar, you know, sold to Disney for billions of dollars, but they just kept resisting these early opportunities. Then you get I mean, they talked about this in the book, creativity, Inc, where people wanted to come in and buy the company and they just kept saying, No, no, no. And so you if you have an idea, you have a story of some art that you want to share with the world. Understand that nobody cares more about that work. If it's if it's your work, it's your intellectual property. You've traded, nobody cares about it and understands it better. You, I'm not opposed to you selling a book, or a film, or a company to the right buyer. But understand as soon as that transaction is done, you do not get to speak into that. And you're not, you should plan on not making another dime off of it. So what we find is starving artists tend to sell their work off quickly want this, you want this movie script, you my services, you want this, you want that, there you go, you create something, and then you sell it and you make a quick, you know, you get a quick payback. And they go and you know, maybe they paid you five grand for this to go make hundreds of 1000s of dollars off of that, and you get mad about it, you shouldn't be mad about it, like you understood you were giving up your rights to that. But also understand that when you go out too soon, you don't get influenced anymore. And this is what really drove Lasseter is was the, you know, like it wasn't the money, he could have made more money at Disney. It was the idea that he was in control of the work and jobs gave him so much creative control. And he really helped build Pixar into what is today, you know, the storytelling powerhouse that is so much when Disney acquired them. They said, We have to tell the stories like we still have to retain this. And they did. So yeah, I mean, that's the idea. And eventually, you know, it might make sense for you to sell your creative Empire or your idea to somebody else. But what starving artists do is they often do that too soon, whereas thriving artists, they wait, wait, wait, wait, they're holding out for two things. One, they want to make sure that they really develop this idea as much as they possibly can into what it is. George Lucas is a great example of this, where it got to the point where he couldn't make Star Wars any better. Like, I feel like I can say that, you know, without being too biased. You know, it got to the point where his retention of ownership of Star Wars was hurting the Star Wars story. And so it makes sense to sell out when it's for a lot of money. And his was, you know what, whatever that was billions of dollars. And, and the person that you're selling it to the company that you're selling it to, they can make it better, they can reach more people, they can take your vision and see it through in a better way. And so I'm not opposed to quote unquote, selling out, I am opposed to selling out too soon. And musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers often do this too soon. And they they regret it and those who are making a living off of their art, really resist the temptation to give away their intellectual property too quickly.
Alex Ferrari 42:38
Now, do you know the Shawshank Redemption story? I don't know that story. So Frank Darabont, who's the writer of that of the script, was shopping it around town, and obviously, everybody who read it was like, Oh, my God, this is an amazing script. And they were offering him high seven figures. And if he was started ABC TV writer, basically he was doing TV work, he had not really done anything of any anything in the film industry and feature films yet. And when he, when they when he said, Look, I'll sell it to you, but I need to direct and everyone's like, No, no, you've never directed, you're not going to do it interesting. And he decided to sell his script for $250,000, which in the grand scope is a lot of money, but not when you're being offered high seven figures. Yeah. And he's like, I want a directing career. And that launched him. And he was smart enough to know, he didn't want to sell out his script, because that might have been it, he might have not gotten a shot, there would have been no Green Mile that would have been there possibly wouldn't have been a walking dead, you know, because he's the one that helped create Walking Dead and created what it is today. All of that, based on that one decision, hey, I don't I need to direct and that's a great example of holding to your guns.
Jeff Goins 43:58
So I you know, I've made good decisions about this, I sold off, you know, books and pieces of intellectual property for pennies and, you know, been frustrated afterwards. And I don't judge any buddies decisions, you know, in terms of what you need to do to take care of yourself or your family. But I just think it's worth noting that the people who have created a body of work for lifetime have typically made a habit of not selling out too quickly. There's that story. I don't know if you know the story of Alex about Marlon Brando. Where What is it called? We're like an actor gets points like shares back
Alex Ferrari 44:39
and the back end points. He gets get back at girls points or net points, God forbid, but gross points generally or back end points.
Jeff Goins 44:47
Yeah, so he based he was in debt, right. And he basically was like, $100,000 in debt or something. And he sold all of his points to whoever Francis Ford Coppola, I guess So all of his points, and so they can pay off this debt. And you know, then this is for the Godfather, and then obviously goes on to be very successful film, arguably by some of the best, you know, best film ever. And those points would have been worth like, you know, 50 or 100 million dollars today,
Alex Ferrari 45:19
Right! Yeah, absolutely. And and well, he did all right, because he got 7 million for Superman for 10 minutes of work. So I think he did all right. At the end of the day,
Jeff Goins 45:28
He did, okay. It's just an example of when, for example, when you're not managing your money, well, you can make a short term decision where you're like, I just need this money right now, without thinking long term.
Alex Ferrari 45:44
Right. Exactly, exactly. Now, I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. Jeff, what advice would you give a filmmaker specifically wanting to break into the business today?
Jeff Goins 45:56
Well, obviously, I don't know a lot about
Alex Ferrari 45:58
But it's from coming from an artist standpoint.
Jeff Goins 46:01
Sure. Yeah. I think I mean, I wish every creative person would do this one thing. And I find that in any industry, and you can speak to this better than I can, Alex. There is in any creative industry, there is this purity, where which is not good. Like where your art is really precious. And I think I would imagine this is true with filmmaking. Music, certainly true with writing, where you're the the narrative that's going on in your head is 50 years old, or 30 years old, where you're going, well, Marlon Brando never had to do this. It's a different world not even talking to talk about JK Rowling, Stephen King. I mean, these are people who, you know, their books and you know, started their careers pre internet. And so it's just a different world. And I think marketing is one of those things that so many creatives struggle with, well, how am I going to do that? I can't do that. And I think the practice in public is the number one habit that I see, thriving, creative professionals say like, that's what they're doing. So I think a very practical thing that you can do is find a way to share one piece of your work in public every single day. And so that could you know, like I mentioned, you know, I doing a short like Instagram Mini Movie, right every single day, just to say, these are my chops. And it doesn't, it doesn't have to be mass media, it doesn't have to be, you know, billboard on Time Square. But the point is, you need to be practicing every day, obviously. And you need to be sharing your work showing your work in public so that other people can find you, Austin kleon says before people can find you, you have to be finable. So I challenge you do one thing, every day that you can share, you know, on the internet, or in some public place where people can eventually look upon your work. And when they do, or when you meet people and point them to your website or your Instagram or Facebook or whatever channel you're using. They don't just see what like one video, they don't see one about page, they see a body of work. And so when people find you, they realize that you're taking this very seriously.
Alex Ferrari 48:12
That's another thing. Another piece of advice, I think you could you could I think I can grab from that statement is that create as much as you can and constantly be making work and not just stick around with. I'm going to spend five years on this one movie, unless you're James Cameron, but he already has a body of work. But, but generally speaking, just do as much work as you can. So you could be become prolific. And when someone does notice you, which they will, they'll go Oh, look, they've got five features six features under their belt, or they've written 20 screenplays or something along those lines. Would you agree?
Jeff Goins 48:45
Yeah, totally. Because first of all, you're not that good when you start. And so you want to get better, faster. And then second, you know, when people do stuff upon your work, they realize you're not just a one hit wonder or a hack or a beginner. And if nothing else, producing a body of work demonstrates a strong work ethic, I'm willing to do a bunch of stuff. You know, no matter what, in a short amount of time, which I think communicates more than just I got lucky ones or I'm hard to work with or a prima donna or whatever. And so, yeah, I love that. So it's great idea.
Alex Ferrari 49:26
Now, can you tell me a book besides yours, of course, that had the biggest impact on your life or career.
Jeff Goins 49:35
I'm trying to think of like, an artist book. I mean, like, I remember a friend of mine, who's a musician recommending this business book to me thinking grow rich. Which I was like, you know, I don't know. You know, as a creative person. I was like, I don't know about that. But this is a musician who is a no name, guy. And he was making millions of dollars a year just by following a lot of the principles we talked about, we've been talking about owning as we're being smart, like doing things that nobody else was doing, instead of, you know, being one more person vying for the big two, or you know, the big the big deal, or whatever it is just read it, you know, and I read it. And it really did change the way I think. And I love the quote at the beginning of the book by Napoleon Hill, where he says, thoughts are things. And I think that's really true. So the things that you think about, have a way of coming true. And I certainly tried to articulate that and real artists don't starve. So if you think you're a starving artist, if you think you're going to starve, and you're like, nobody will, will care about this, then that's probably going to come true. And if instead you go, I don't have to starve, I can find a way like, This work has value, and I'm going to find a way to make this valuable to other people. That ends up coming true, too. So yeah, I reluctantly was like, Okay, I read this book, and I said, Yeah, this makes sense.
Alex Ferrari 51:01
It's an amazing book. It's one of my top, top 10. Yes, it's a great question. Now, what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Jeff Goins 51:12
I think I think the lesson is life is not fair. Yeah. And, and, and I mean, like, today, right, I'm dropping my kid off at school. And, um, you know, there's traffic, right, and we left early. And I don't know, you know, like, nobody told me as a parent, that you basically go back to school with your kid, right? Like, homeworks, not just his responsibility, it's my responsibility to remind him and make sure he has all this stuff in the morning. And like, my life got a lot more stressful when we send our son to kindergarten. And he goes to the schoolwork. If he's late, you've got to lock the door, and you've got to go to the office. I feel like I'm 12 again. Yeah. Why are you late? Like it was the traffic, life is not fair. So that's, that's the lesson that I've learned. But I've also learned that it doesn't matter. Like the fact that life is unfair. First of all, it's unfair to all of us who, you know, there is a little bit of equilibrium there. Um, but the fact that it's unfair doesn't excuse you from your responsibilities and the work that you have to do. And as a writer, I spent years going, that's not fair. I'm better than them. They got lucky. They're just talented, you know, whatever. And adventurers just like so. So I just kind of like sit here, and excuse myself from the work that I'm supposed to do, because it's harder for me, or at least it feels that way than it is for somebody else. And it was around this time that I sort of adopted this little adage that I tell myself now, which is okay, like maybe some people get lucky. And some people are talented, which means like they're lazy, because I could just do without even trying, which is frustrating, also not fair. And I said, Yeah, but what can you do? And I told myself, you can outlast the lucky and you can outwork the lazy. And so anytime I feel frustrated at life's injustices and like, what can I do? Well, I can outwork that. I can just work harder than that person, I can do that. I mean, you have to be that smarter to do that. And that person over there who's like killing it. And work has worked half as long as I have and tried half as hard. Maybe I'll just Outlast them. Maybe they'll just keep going after they get bored. And you know, it helps.
Alex Ferrari 53:27
Those are great. Those are great lessons, honestly. And last question, what are the three? What are your three of your favorite films of all time?
Jeff Goins 53:35
The Godfather, part one, and I have this debate like between godfather part one and part two. Where I was like, I think two is better. And then I went back I went back and watched one I was like, No, because like two doesn't exist without one some pretty Yeah. So it's just Godfather, the Godfather Part One. Empire Strikes Back, and inception. I love that movie. I think it's a great movie.
Alex Ferrari 54:02
Inception is a great movie. It's a big Nolan fan. So anything he does is amazing. And Jeff, where can people find your work online and and where they can find you on social media?
Jeff Goins 54:13
Yeah, thanks, Alex is great conversation. You can find me at my blog, my website, Goinswriter.com. That's just my last name, g o i n s writer.com, goinswriter.com. And you know, I'm on all the social medias. And you could put all that information on my blog.
Alex Ferrari 54:29
Awesome. Jeff, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with thee in your in your message of hope for all starving artists. And starving filmmakers out there that you don't have to be starving. And there is a way out.
Jeff Goins 54:43
Yeah, that's right. Thanks for having me. Alex. I love the conversation. And yeah, I mean, I think the big takeaway is, being a starving artists today is a choice. So I hope you don't choose because the world does need your work as long as you're willing to get out of your own way and do that work.
Alex Ferrari 55:00
I hope this episode has inspired you guys to know that you don't have to be a starving artist that you don't have to just do your art on the side or this that you can turn it into a business you can make a living, doing your art and in all honesty, it is your responsibility to do your art because this world more than ever needs your voice, need your art, whatever that art might be, whether it is directing feature films, if it's being a costume designer, production designer, cinematographer, a screenwriter, any aspect of the film industry, but anybody listening to this that's not in the film industry. Whatever art you are creating, this world needs it and you can turn it into something that makes you a living. I've been able to do it and I know you can too. If you want links to anything we talked about, including all of Jeff's books, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/233 for the show notes, and a quick update on the new course that we just released in the film producing masterclass with Suzanne Lyons is selling like crazy. I cannot believe how many tribe members signed up for the early bird special and how many sales just keep happening even after the early bird special was over. It is amazing. I'm so glad you guys are liking it and enjoying it. It is again the best course that I've ever put out for indie film hustle and for the tribe. You definitely got to check it out. If you have not yet. Head over to producing masterclass.com and check it out. And as always keep that also going keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.
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- Jeff Goins – Official Site
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