WME’S GRAHAM TAYLOR ON ENTREPRENEURIAL FILM
Today’s morning read is WME Global head Graham Taylor’s keynote speech at the Los Angeles Film Festival, a smart and entertaining walk through not only his own career but the trajectory of independent film’s past and future. Since his speech references Hollywood blockbusters, perhaps it’s appropriate that it starts with Taylor’s own origin story, beginning in Portland, Oregon, where he grew up with an economist father and artist mother — two influences that will intertwine throughout his career. Another part of that origin story: Reservoir Dogs, the film that blew him away and made him want to be involved in this business.
While I’m sure most blog reports will focus on Taylor’s talk about the current state of independent film, his dubbing of it “entrepreneurial film,” and his proscription to work at creating work that audiences can actively engage with, I also was inspired by hearing of Taylor’s early days in L.A., where he pounded the pavement for a foothold in the industry. When he has problems financing a film, he shoots ten minutes and stages a “Van Dance” at Sundance where prospective supporters can watch the trailer in an RV and drink a complimentary gin and tonic. This idea of one-on-one engagement that Taylor used to get his first film made is now an imperative for everyone. He said of today’s world:
What I’m trying to say is, the consumer is speaking. Loudly. Art does matter to them, and their money talks. It’s about empowering the artists to reach for alternative platforms that will make people pay attention. It’s about engaging your consumer in a meaningful way. This stuff should matter to everyone in this room.
I entered the agency business seven years ago because of my desire to be part of a larger platform to access artists, financing, internet, telecoms, cable companies, and retailers. I thought it would bring me closer to the audience to construct financing and distribution with an eye toward the future. Going in I thought it was an indie vs. studio conversation. What I have learned is that it’s actually a consumer conversation. We all have to access consumers by whatever means necessary and get them to engage.
Taylor includes an inspiring list of recommendations that I wholly endorse. As did Ted Hope in his piece on the talk, I’ve clipped them below.
Graham Taylor’s Brief To-Do list To Improve Indie Film Ecosystem:
• We have to encourage young people.
• We can’t be an agist business where we cast off older filmmakers.
• It’s important to have a strong point of view.
• It’s easy to be the person who points out how nothing will ever work. It’s much harder to take a leap of faith and challenge yourself when things do blow up. We never got anywhere in life by playing it safe.
• You should take the time to tweet and blog. And for those of you who comment on Deadline, if you have something positive to say, something that offers real reflection and insight, even critical thought then we should throw you a float parade. But for all of those people who are just spreading hate, you should enjoy a large glass of go fuck yourself.
• It doesn’t hurt to have a sense of humor.
• Don’t stand for apathy and cynicism in either the creative or business communities as it is ultimately cancerous to the evolution of art.