Once a year, Full Sail University inducts six alums into its Hall of Fame, inviting previous inductees back to speak to students on everything from our personal journeys and professional accomplishments to the state of our industries. This year, for some reason, was an especially emotional one for all of us… though I’m unsure why.
At one point, I found myself sandwiched on a panel between Joey Morelli of EA Sports and Sebastian Krys, a guy who has more Grammys than I can count, offering the oddball advice to remember that your career shouldn’t be the only thing you have at the end of the day when the lights are off. I consider my “career above all” attitude a huge mistake made early in my career that I’m only now correcting.
Was that the kind of advice students want to hear? Maybe not. But I’m sure that very few of them were thinking 20 years down the road in terms of family and work/life balance.
Here are several bits of the best unexpected advice I’ve received about the entertainment business from colleagues (Full Sail Hall of Famers and others) over the years:
THERE IS NO DOWN TIME IN AN INTERNSHIP
(From a Grammy-winning producer)
It’s on you to develop your skill set and keep moving forward.
When this producer got the chance to intern at a major recording facility in Miami, he spent what other interns would consider “down time” accessing the studio and learning as much as he could on his own. At one point, he even invited performers to come in and record with him so he could get the experience of working with talent. Soon, he went from being the young guy that producers didn’t want on the board in their sessions to being in high demand with big producers and artists.
WHEN YOU MAKE IT, REPLACE YOURSELF
(From another Grammy-winning producer)
This one, I’ve only just heard. I was hanging out in a hotel lobby with two incredibly talented, award-winning producers/mixers when one started to talk about artists managing other artists. The problem, he said, is that some artists are afraid of the artists they break becoming bigger and better than they are.
That should be the goal, he continued. There should be no limit to what knowledge you share with those you bring up behind you.
THE FOUR RESTAURANTS RULE
(From a producer with nearly 60 years in the business)
In Los Angeles or whatever city you do your business in, choose two nice restaurants and two cozy dives. Eat at those places when you go out. Get to know the names of the people who work there.
Any time you get to suggest a spot for lunch or dinner with a client or talent, take them to one of the four restaurants. They’ll see you being treated with respect and it’ll impress the person you’re meeting with.
(From a producer of a wildly successful 90’s-00’s film franchise)
I once asked a producer what the best advice he could give to a mid-career guy like me was. He asked me how I told people to “f*ck off.”
I had to confess that I didn’t know how. He asked me to tell him, so I did.
“All wrong. Put your hand on your stomach. Now smile at me, and say it while you hold the “f” for about four seconds.”
(Try this at home before you read on. Fun, right?)
“What that does is say that you caught the guy in a lie or taking advantage of you or whatever. But you said it with warmth. It gives the guy a place to go. It tells him that this isn’t going to be a yelling match, and that the conversation is over… but that eventually, this might blow over or he can make it up to you later. It’s not final.”
THE THROWAWAY HANDSHAKE
(From a former partner at a major agency)
I was a very small fish in a very big room when I met this guy. Sometimes you have people hanging around you that monopolize your time, anchoring you in such a way that you miss out on the chance to circulate and say hello to everyone.
This guy (and he’s done it to me) smiles and extends his hand to say “nice talking to you,” connects with the other person’s palm, then continues to extend his arm or simply starts walking forward before breaking the handshake. It physically drives the person away from him as he bustles off to the next hello, placing a friendly but undeniable period at the end of a conversation that’s dragging on.
(From a director)
If you just read the “throwaway handshake,” here’s some advice about how not to get one.
When meeting someone for the first time at an event or a space packed with other people, introduce yourself as if you are in transit and just wanted to take a moment to say hello. This tells the person that you’re meeting that they won’t be seeing you for long, so they can enjoy the brief interaction to come.
Let them decide how long the conversation will be.
(From a television producer I met while still in college)
Do four favors for every one favor you ask.