Have a story. And make sure it’s a good one. A DAMN good one.
I have a very old, dear friend in New York, call him Andrew.
Andrew is about forty, and a pretty successful film director. One of his films aired on HBO recently. He also has a thriving corporate explainer video business, which he works on when business in Hollywood is going slow that month. He’s not famous, but he’s done very well.
When I first met him he was in his late twenties, working as a bartender. Back then he had a vague idea of getting into the film business some day, but I didn’t know how serious he was, to be honest. A lot of twenty-somethings in New York blether on about getting into film, one tends to mostly ignore it.
But how he eventually broke into the film business is one of my favorite tales.
In the very late 1990s he finally decides that he’s serious about breaking into the industry. So he goes out and buys himself a small video camera, a sound recorder, a new Macintosh computer to do his editing, a few lights, some microphones, that kind of thing.
So the good news is, he now has all the gear he needs to get started.
The bad news is, having spent all his savings to acquire the gear, suddenly he needs money in a hurry. New York is expensive, and he’s broke.
But because he had pretty much zero experience in the film business at that point, he soon realizes that it’ll be a while before anyone in the traditional New York film industry will hire him for the kind of money he’s looking for.
He can’t afford to wait that long. So how does he pay the rent?
He decides to go into porn.
But not just any kind of porn. He does PERSONALIZED porn.
Let’s say you and your Significant Other want to create, shall we say, a special memento [*cough*] of your love [*cough*], and want something a bit more upmarket [*cough*] than just the normal, amateur, single-angle, unedited video from a camera [*cough*] that’s standing on a tripod near to the bed.
That’s right. You’d give Andrew a call. And Andrew and his sound man would come over to your apartment and shoot you and your significant other [*cough*] going at it. With proper edits, lighting, sound and camera angles. You and your loved one in the full throes of passion [*cough], with Andrew and his sound man hovering around you in silence, getting the perfect shot.
After he had shot the video, he would then take out his computer and edit the job right then and there, on the kitchen table. So before he left your home, he’d have already given you the SINGLE and ONLY copy that existed of the video. He and his sound man would then exit with nothing i.e. with no backup copy on his computer, so there was no chance of the footage ending up on the internet. At least, not from Andrew’s side.
He charged a few hundred bucks for his services. The average shoot only took an hour or two. He’s often do two or three shoots a day. Damn good money for an ex-bartender. A lot more money than I ever made in New York.
Business was brisk from Day One, to say the least. When he first told me what he’d been up to, back around 2000, I liked the story so much I pitched the idea to a journalist friend of mine. Andrew ended up being featured in a pretty high-end magazine soon after, which raised his profile even more. Within no time the phone was ringing off the hook, with all sorts of interesting people, both inside and outside the film industry, wanting to do business with him.
Great story. There’s only one catch:
I was talking to Andrew on the phone yesterday, wishing my buddy a Happy New Year’s. I asked him if he minded me using his “Personalized Porn” story for a chapter in EVIL PLANS, as a possible case study for interesting and original business models.
“Sure, Hugh, go right ahead,” he says. “Just one thing. None of it is true.”
“I made the whole thing up.”
“What?” I say. “My favorite story about you ever, the one I’ve been telling folks with glee for the last ten years, was a total lie???”
“Man, you’re a good bullshitter,” I say.
“You knew that about me already,” he says.
“Look,” he says, “Back then I was just one of thousands of young wannabe film knuckleheads in New York, trying to get my foot in the door. I needed to have a story to tell people. One that was interesting. One that was different. One that got people’s attention. One that made me stand out from all the other knuckleheads. One that didn’t require me having a massive showreel. Hey, it worked. That story got me my first few editing jobs in the business. And since then I’ve been nothing but successful.”
He pauses for a second.
“A little present-tense success, forgives a lot of past-tense failure,” he says, chuckling with delight.