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  • Where to learn about the business side of things

    Posted by Paulo Jan on November 20, 2017 at 12:03 am


    I’m quite familiar with all the sites and resources to learn about this industry, from this very site to FxPHD,, etc. But all of them are related to the technical and creative side: how to learn Final Cut/Premiere, how to light a greenscreen, how to use a 3D program, how to format and write a screenplay…

    What I’d like to know is: where can I learn about the business side? And by that I mean things like: how do film/TV rights get sold around the world, what’s the decision-making process when putting together a TV schedule, how to decide which shows to develop…

    To put in other words: most of the resources I know are about how to be a good camera operator, editor, motion graphics artist… Where are to courses to learn how to be a… say, TV or production company executive?

    I suspect that I’d have to join a MBA specialized in media, or something like that. Am I right? Are there any online courses (Coursera, EdX, etc.) that cover this subject?


    Shane Ross replied 6 years, 6 months ago 5 Members · 7 Replies
  • 7 Replies
  • Bob Zelin

    November 22, 2017 at 9:51 pm

    Hi Paulo –
    They say that there are no stupid questions. Well, you may have asked the first stupid question. You are obviously more than happy to PAY for a course (including an MBA course) on “how to make it in business”. You don’t want a course in “how to use FCP X” or “how to use an Arri Alexa” or “how to light a scene for a chroma key”. You want a course on “how do I get business”.

    You do NOT need an MBA, you do not need to GO TO SCHOOL. You need to go out there and GET REJECTED. That’s right – get your moral destroyed, and rejected.

    You ask –
    how do film/TV rights get sold around the world, what’s the decision-making process when putting together a TV schedule, how to decide which shows to develop…

    go over to your local auto repair shop. Ask the owner “do you do oil changes”. Of course, he will say yes. Now, you should ask him “if I bring you customers, will you give me 10% of the business” and of course, he will say YES.
    NOW – go knock on your next door neighbors door and say “hello, my name is Paulo, and I represent Paulos Wonderful Oil Change Service, would you be interested in getting the best oil change of your life”. And your neighbor will slam the door in your face. Now, go to the next apartment, or next home down the block. And ask the same question. Do this 100 times, and you will get a few people to allow you to do an oil change in their car.
    And the owner of the auto repair shop, in fact, will give you 10% of the business that you brought in !!!! WOW – now you are a business man. And no one charged you for an MBA degree !!!!!

    OK, you now know how to get people to get their oil changed. Now its time to sell a TV Show. Find a producer that has a completed TV show (perhaps you have one). Say to this producer (maybe you are the producer) – if I sell your show, will you give me 10% of the rights to your show ?”. Now, go to the first TV Network or Cable channel in your country (are you in the US ? ). Guess what – it will take you a LOT of phone calls to find out who to even speak to. And if by some miracle, you find out, they won’t meet with you. SO you persist – and you keep calling. And out of all the people you call, maybe ONE PERSON will agree to meet with you. And the odds are, they will hate the show, and say “sorry, it’s not very good”. So you find ANOTHER Producer, and you get his show, make the same deal (10%), and you do this all over again. And you FAIL again, and you do it AGAIN. And FINALLY FINALLY – someone agrees to buy your low budget show (it’s a show on how to do an oil change on your car !!!!) – and it’s at 3am in the morning. And it’s a big hit. And the cable channel says to you – “hey Paulo, that was a good show, can you do a show for us on how to build hot rod muscle cars – but we are only willing to pay XXX for each episode”.

    AND NOW YOU ARE A PRODUCER !!!!!!! Oh my God – you made it !!!!!

    All these morons (possibly even you) have no problem “paying” to learn how to “make it” You learn how to “make it” by going out there and getting REJECTED. When you keep at it, you eventually get a bite (like going fishing). Eventually, a fish is going to bite the bait on your fishing line, and you will eat dinner.

    This is the same thing with an auto repair place, a restaurant, a bar, or a TV Production company. You go out and make a bunch of crappy TV pilots, and no one wants them (even thought you thought it was good), and you keep pitching the show, and eventually, someone says “ok, we will buy that show”. And THAT is how you make it !

    Isn’t there an easier way ? YES – marry the daughter of an executive of a cable TV station, who will give you an assurance that any crap that you produce will be purchased, and distributed by the station (because he wants his daughter to have a nice life).

    Bob Zelin

    Bob Zelin
    Rescue 1, Inc.

  • Rich Rubasch

    November 22, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    My day is complete….a nice warm, sentimental and highly accurate post from our own Bob Zelin to kick off the Thanksgiving holiday.

    I know what I’m grateful for….the hard work it has taken to get this far in this crazy business and clients who place their trust in us to get it done….on time and on budget.

    And it isn’t easy, as Bob so eloquently illustrates!

    Thanks Bob. I’m thankful that you have the guts to say what most of us are thinking!

    Rich Rubasch
    Tilt Media Inc.
    Video Production, Post, Studio Sound Stage

  • Paulo Jan

    November 23, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Thanks, Bob. I got a laugh out of this. And some insight too.

    Anyway, I thought I should perhaps explain myself better. I get the drift of what you are saying, which is basically: “don’t be such an Organization Kid, and go and strike out on your own”, but I still think that, in such an established business, there are things that can be taught, instead of having to be relearned again and again by everyone who starts. For example: what’s the standard way royalties are divided in a music recording contract? Or, in your example: does the TV network get the rights of the show in perpetuity, or only for a set number of years? And what about the DVD rights? And if the show has a song by a friend of the protagonist, how do we compensate him? And if the show is a hit and the TV channel decides to put out a music CD for the soundtrack, do they have to negotiate later with the musician again?

    I can go out and make a bunch of phone calls, but when I finally meet with the TV executive, I’d like to know as much as possible about how they usually work, if only to avoid being suckered. History is full of artists that have been cheated by unscrupulous managers, after all.

    Also, there’s the… let’s call it “cultural issue”. Every industry has its own culture and its own jargon. Let’s say you are lighting a scene and you tell an assistant: “bring me two redheads”. If he just stares blankly at you, what does it tell you about him? I do know a few business people (in unrelated fields), and if there’s something that they always tell you is that appearances are fundamental: a wrong word in the wrong moment can be a disaster. If you go to a meeting with a TV executive, he starts talking about “residuals” or “360 contracts” and you go “uh??”… there goes your chances.

    Anyway, things are never easy and nobody is going to guarantee you success in a silver platter, but if you go into the battle with your homework done, at least you’ll stand a better chance.

  • Paulo Jan

    November 23, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    [Bob Zelin] “. You are obviously more than happy to PAY for a course (including an MBA course) on “how to make it in business”. You don’t want a course in “how to use FCP X” or “how to use an Arri Alexa” or “how to light a scene for a chroma key”. You want a course on “how do I get business”. “

    …and I just reread your post now and noticed this part, and I feel the need to further clarify: at no moment I asked in my original question “how do I get business”, or “how do I make it in business”. I know better than to ask that. What I asked, specifically, was about how does the business side of things work. In other words, as I mentioned in my previous post: deals, contracts, rights, what are the players, what their roles are. It’s the kind of practical information that, I think, many people could benefit from.

  • Andrew Kimery

    November 28, 2017 at 2:30 am

    Joke Productions in LA has a podcast and blog where they talk about their experience with unscripted production (growing from just the two of them pitching ideas to becoming a full fledged production company).

    If you just want to learn some lingo and get a basic lay of the land type info why not grab a few books off Amazon? I searched for “producing a TV show” and got a ton of results.

  • Paulo Jan

    December 1, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll have a listen to some of the episodes in that podcast.

    As for other resources, I have been looking around, and found a couple of courses that others might be interested in:

    Music business fundamentals:

    The business of film: (this one is british, so some of the discussion, from what I’ve seen so far, is heavily UK-centric, specifically talking about funding sources in the british industry).

  • Shane Ross

    December 1, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    Really, the only GOOD way to do this is to learn from experience. The people who are currently heading production companies or being producers are ones who started out as assistants, or associate producers. Learning the ropes as you go…and developing those OH SO NEEDED contacts. It’s not all about what you know, but WHO you know. Many networks will not deal with you AT ALL unless they know you, or you are a well established production company. New production companies are often formed by established producers with lots of contacts, or assistants or associate producers finally making the move but that have, you guessed it, contacts because they dealt with or talked to ALL these network people when they were assistants.

    AND…those network execs also have assistants who move up, and the assistants all talk to each other a lot, and know each other, so when an assistant gets bumped to a network exec roll (note, networks can have between 1 and 30+ networks execs….people in charge of a handful of shows…and then DEVELOPMENT execs…there are a lot of levels) so when an assitant makes a company, they then call the assistant they knew that’s now a network exec…and the game begins.

    Networks NEVER take calls from people they don’t know, or companies that are new. Never. Production companies don’t listen to pitches from people that don’t have representation (entertainment lawyers) to protect all involved, and by that I mean so no one can steal an idea, or be accused of stealing an idea. So even then, pitches are heard from established people, people with representation, or people that know each other. Relationships are A HUGE part of this.

    But yes, the experience of knowing all this is not in a book, is not in an online tutorial, and most often not taught in classes, even at entertainment colleges like USC. They might teach the basics of these things, and then when you get into the legal things, that’s a law school class. But then the nitty gritty of the details is all on the job training. Because terms are always in flux, and deals hinge on many things, and the network of distribution ( now ONLINE) is so new.

    So sorry, this isn’t something you can just grab a book on, fire up a blog or video tutorial and learn about. This is only learned when you dive into the production machine.

    Little Frog Post
    Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def

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