Saturday, February 21, 2009

The top tips for breaking into the entertainment industry!

Quinn here.

So with the launching of The Darkhan City Times Awesome Things Podcast (look for it in the next few days), this blog will be expanded to include much more than just Elders of the RuneStone updates. Yes, this marks a new era in the epic that is The Darkhan City Times.

This blog will become an extension of the Podcast, where we'll be discussing everything from RuneStone, to movie reviews, to thoughts and recommendations pertaining to comics, to tips on breaking into the entertainment industry (as we traverse this fascinating road ourselves). And much more! To this end, also be on the lookout for much more frequent updates instead of the weekly or even monthly (gulp!) updates you've seen thus far.

To start things off, today's blog will be my thoughts on how to break into the entertainment industry. Now please realize that this is all from my personal experience; we still have a long road ahead of us as we blaze the trail into fortune and fame. But looking back, we have come a long, LONG way since the first idea for Elders of the RuneStone popped into my head some 15 years ago. With that said, let's get started.

Many of us grow up thinking how cool it would be to have our secret idea made into a movie, a book, a video game, etc. Yet so many of us give up on those dreams as we get older and reality sets in. One of the oft-repeated phrases I learned from my professors during my time pursuing a Sequential Art degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design was: "You don't do comics for the money; you do it because you love it." Not exactly super-encouraging, but often true nonetheless. (The argument comes into play then that money is not necessarily equal to happiness; there are a lot of very wealthy people who are very miserable. I'd much rather do what I love and use it as a means to serve my fellow man than be rich, so long as I have sufficient means to provide comfortably for myself and my family.) But if Mike Mignola of Hellboy fame is any indication, it is possible to make your dream a reality and still do very well monetarily.

So what does it take to break into the entertainment world?

Here are some of the most important things to know and do as I have learned them:

1) Figure out what brings you joy.
What idea or talent do you have that makes you smile? What is it that you wish you were doing when you're at work? I have a bad habit of burning my dinner because I get so caught up in working on the newest page of Elders of the RuneStone or typing up the outline for our newest Podcast that I forget to check the stove. Burned chili is a small price to pay when living my passion tastes so sweet. Once you've gotten an idea of what your passion or dream is, then follow that dream no matter what. Life is full of people who chose to pursue a degree in something that wasn't their passion because it was "safe." You must be willing to put yourself out there and take some risks if you want your dream to come true. Can you do that? WILL you do that?

2) Put together a game plan -- even if it's a very loose one.
The obvious place you can start is to enroll in an educational program or internship or workshop that will move you toward your dream. While I decided to attend an art school with a major based around comic book storytelling, you may not have to take it that far. For me, it was the right thing to do. But start educating yourself. This can act as "baby steps" to further help you figure out what your dream really is. There were several guys in my major that gradually decided that animation or computer graphics were more their forte.

3) Be the kind of person the entertainment world is looking for.
Some sound advice from my SCAD professors:
"You are in competition with all the guys who have already become full-on professionals. You've got to bring to the table the qualities that will allow you to compete."

To that end, here's more advice from my professors (this applies directly to the comics industry):
"Three qualities are very important to breaking into comics.
"A) Be talented. (That one's a no-brainer.)
"B) Be dependable. Do what you say you're going to do and do it on time. Don't miss deadlines.
"C) Be personable. Be a fun, nice person who people enjoy being with and working around.
"You may be able to get away with having only two of these qualities, but only one is not enough. Being friendly and being punctual on your work can make you a better candidate for hire than a super-artist who misses deadlines and is a jerk. Having all three qualities will put you in a much better position to succeed."

© 2009 Darkhan Studios, LLC

4) Network and always be learning.
Put yourself in a position where you will meet people who are in the field you are interested in. (This was one of the greatest blessings of attending an art school; not only did I learn important skills and gain experience, but I also became friends with many who are now professionals in their field--and now we can give each other support as needed.) Be sincere; don't just use people for their connections, but be a true friend. Then it will be natural for all parties to hook each other up. You can also get much-needed feedback that will help you hone your skills. It doesn't take long to learn that the professionals are just normal people too; many will be more than happy to give advice here and there, and to hear what you have to say. And who knows--in time you could be the one giving out advice to others!

Learn from others; learn from your life experiences; see setbacks, challenges and failures as learning experiences. And learn from your successes too--be humble and open to keep growing even after a pinnacle has been reached.

5) See your dream as an investment--and save up a good amount of money as capital to pursue your passion.
The hard reality is that it takes a lot of money to get your dream to succeed. In our case, it costs money to travel to conventions and advertise our project. It takes money to copyright and trademark our idea. It takes money to pay our creative team. A LOT of money. But this money is an investment. It will take hard work and time to see a monetary return. So work out a savings plan that will work according to your situation.

In my case, I have had a full-time job ever since graduation. Besides the blessing of having insurance, it has allowed me to live within my means while saving capital that goes into Elders of the RuneStone. I see this full-time job as a means to an end; I'm not a failure for not doing comics full-time yet, but rather I'm working toward that goal. So make a plan on how you will spend your extra time and money to pursue your passion.

©2006 Mirage Studios, Inc.

6) Muster the courage and faith to put yourself out there.
You must be willing to take a step out of the light and into the darkness of uncertainty. You may not know if your dream will ever take off, but it certainly won't happen if you remain safe where you are. Keep a positive and optimistic outlook--don't give in to frustration or discouragement. You are working toward a wonderful, worthy goal, and that makes the setbacks noble.

7) Persevere and work hard.
Again, see setbacks as opportunities and learn from them. Always be pushing forward. Avoid wasting time, but always be working toward your goal. You will find that this hard work becomes fun because it is moving you toward that which brings you joy.

© 2008 The Diversity Foundation

8) And most importantly (for me at least) -- enlist God in your cause.
I realize this may exclude certain people who don't believe as I do, but for me this last tip has been the key to everything else. I know that God cares about what we care about; our passions matter to Him. If I am doing everything I know to do; if I am trying my hardest and if my cause is just and worthy, then I can pray and ask Him for His help and inspiration with full conviction. I can't tell you how many times I happened to be in the right place at the right time; where an idea came to me that made my script so much better; where little miracles fell into place. It led to my first ever story getting published (Tales of the TMNT #31), which in turn led me to meet Archie and Simpsons artist Bill Galvan and get asked to write scripts for his series Scrapyard Detectives, etc. And now RuneStone is getting published by a great publisher, Ape Entertainment!

There is more we could add to this list: putting together a great portfolio, being effective at comic conventions, etc. We'll cover those topics and more as time goes on. But I hope the tips given above will be of use to you out there with a dream.

Until next time, take care...and keep the dream alive!