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6 Keys to The Matrix in Hollywood & Silicon Valley
By Cliff Michaels (Full Bio Here)
Agents and heroes and villains, OH MY! No matter how you tell the tale, it’s a jungle in The Hollywood Matrix … that goes for Silicon Valley too!
I grew up in L.A. with a passion for tv, films, music, and novels. I tutored English in high school when money was tight and spare time was a friend. To make a few bucks, I charged $20 to write essays for classmates and lyrics for musicians. Parents of friends who were Hollywood producers even paid me to edit screenplays. Today I charge a bit more, but back then it was all hush-hush.
In the mid-’80s, I attended USC and took my first cinema class. The professor caught me ghostwriting for other students. Rather than kick me out of the class, she assigned me to Robert McKee’s Story Structure, a 3-day bootcamp analyzing the Oscar-winning film Casablanca. The big takeaway? Successful writers tell stories with heroes, villains, and conflicts that enable audiences to feel, laugh, learn, share, scream, or escape. Tuck that nugget away for later since Silicon Valley entrepreneurs use similar marketing schemes.
My writing career took a detour when I dropped out of college to earn a living as a bargain hunter for real estate investors. The job barely covered rent but I borrowed $5,000 from a mentor, bought a condo, and flipped it for a profit a few years later. I then got my broker’s license, bought a few more homes, and helped friends invest too.
Like many real estate junkies in the ’80s, I bit off more than I could chew, and lost everything in the housing crash of 1989. The saving grace were valuable lessons in finance, networking, negotiating, creative thinking, and project management. These essentials were my real-world MBA (a Masters in Basic Abilities). Twenty years later, I wrote about these principles in a New York Times Bestseller The 4 Essentials: A Misfit’s Journey to Mindset, Strategies, Values, and Purpose (shameless plug).
In spite of setbacks, I developed strong relations with CPAs, lawyers, and talent managers who referred my best clients. In turn, I launched Cliff Michaels & Associates in 1992. My firm started as a real estate and mortgage brokerage, then expanded to consulting and venture capital during the Internet frenzy of the late ’90s.
Overall, my career turned into a courtship of ideas, finance, and the navigation of boardrooms between bankers, brokers, entertainers and entrepreneurs. The experience taught me 6 Keys to The Matrix in Hollywood & Silicon Valley.
Key 1: Be Creative & Stay Busy
Write and re-write. Pitch and practice. Collaborate with creatives. Show up first and go home last. There are more opportunities than ever to intern and learn, so don’t whine. Volunteer and put yourself out there. You’ll not only survive but thrive in The Hollywood Matrix, Silicon Valley, or any industry worldwide.
Key #2: Learn for Life & Find Your Muse
Choose mentors who inspire your passion, purpose, and creative soul. These days, you can enjoy social-media posts by the minute, or study the online masterclass of your favorite artist or entrepreneur. You’ll soon discover that writing a song, screenplay, or business plan requires as much spark as it does strategy.
Key #3: Build Grit & Never Quit
Ideas and talent aren’t enough. You’ll need grit! Hollywood examples include Sylvester Stallone, JK Rowling, and Matt Damon. All were initially rejected before the scripts for Rocky (1976), Harry Potter (1997) and Good Will Hunting (1998) became blockbusters. The secret? Stallone, Rowling, and Damon were as resilient as their fictional fighters (Rocky, Harry, and Will). The same can be said for all artists and entrepreneurs. Never stop punching until the right people believe in your mission.
Key #4: Think Digital & Multi-Media
By the mid-2000s, movie budgets were out of control and Hollywood’s business model was long overdue for an overhaul. With music and book publishing already in disruption mode, Apple, Spotify, and YouTube presented as much peril as opportunity for creative artists. Although amateurs had the simplest of bars to limbo (social media & self-publishing), more competition required everyone to re-think marketing and distribution: #Winners #Trending #Digital.
Key #5: Differentiate or Die
More than ever, artists, storytellers, and entrepreneurs must “differentiate, or die” when competing in a brave new world. Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix have successfully challenged the likes of HBO and Showtime for original content by embracing smarter, funnier, and more creative writers. Similarly, it’s not enough to toss around buzzwords in Silicon Valley like “crypto”, “blockchain”, or “disruptive innovation”. The ability to pivot and provide exceptional value is the next big thing — not the thing itself.
Key 6: Speak Truth, Have Fun & Give Back
In The 4 Essentials, I wrote about dozens of mentors who taught me the values of integrity, humility, and gratitude. To that end, three keys will always serve you well…
- Be true to yourself and your peers.
- Have fun and find laughter in the work.
- Give back and be extraordinarily grateful.
If you believe in these principles too, my team and I would love to help your mission.
Cliff Michaels, ceo & creative linchpin
Finance • Writing • Consulting • Brokerage