Rise of the Planet of My Blog

My blog’s being rebooted. Head to jamesgrosch.wordpress.com for all the new updates.

Why a reboot?

1) I wanted a personal blog. I found that I was using my Twitter a ton, and I feel like in some interesting ways. I want a bigger extension of that.

2) This blog was not that. I wanted a fresh start.

3) I intend to still write about creativity, attitude, and being productive, but I’m going to start a new blog on that idea that doesn’t have my name as the URL.

4) Reboots are so in right now.

Onward,

J.

 

Starting

Script Frenzy Day 4

Goal: 100 Pages of Scripted Material

Pages Written: 0.

April is here, and that means it’s Script Frenzy month. For those of you who don’t know, Script Frenzy is a fun event that challenges writers from all over the world to write 100 pages in 30 days. It’s kind of like National Novel Writing Month, but for any scripted material. I’ve never participated in something like NaNoWriMo (their name for it) or ScripFrenz (my name for it), and I had a bunch of scripts in the docket that I was going to work on anyway. So Script Frezny seemed like an ideal challenge for me. Right now, I’m working on a screenplay, a teleplay, and a just a play play. I think for ScripFrenz I’m going to focus mainly on the screenplay, but hopefully I can get the teleplay done as well.

So far, things are going great, and I’m not saying that sarcastically. Now, you would think that the fact that my page count is only at zero right now that I would be pulling my hair out because of how behind I already am. But I’m a huge believer in knowing where you’re going before walking out your front door. I’ve always outlined and iterated extensively before committing words to a page. In fact, I’m actually a really fast writer once I actually start working on a draft. I’ve written full first drafts in a single day before. However, what preceded that were weeks or months of outlining, thinking, pacing, and almost overdosing on coffee.

Michael Arndt: Winner of the Prestigious Naked Goldy Man

Different writers have different feelings about this. In On Writing, Stephen King talks about how he feels knowing your ending and heavily plotting everything out can actually hurt your story. It loses its organic nature and can feel forced. On the other hand, Michael Arndt (screenwriter of Toy Story 3 and Little Miss Sunshine) argues for the complete opposite methodology. He feels like he always needs to know the ending before he can even start writing a script. Outlining and iterating is huge at Pixar, whose batting percentage for story would get them into the Hall of Fame first ballot.

Now, it might be easy to think, “Well, that’s just because screenplays rely much more on a set structure than novels typically do. So outline your screenplay and not your novel.” That would be not the best thing to think, and I would know, because that was my initial thesis when trying to reconcile these two contrasting ideas. For every Michael Arndt, there’s a screenwriter like Nancy Oliver, who wrote Lars and the Real Girl. In an interview with Creative Screenwriting Magazine, Oliver says she doesn’t really outline at all, ever.

Date night!

While I’m a huge believer in outlining, I can’t really argue with the results of Lars and the Real Girl, which was one of the most effective and emotionally provoking movies I’ve seen in the last five years. So, as for much of writing, it’s a personal choice. If I seem to be talking from a point of authority at any point, it’s only because I know that it works for me. Hopefully it can work for you too.

I’ve never liked setting a page count for myself, which is kind of why I’m participating in Script Frenzy this year. It’ll be good for me to adhere to a deadline like that. There is such a thing as outlining and thinking too damn much on a script. If you have notecards listing characters and scenes and themes and philosophical stakes, that’s a good start. But it’s not a script.

Notecards on my wall: Day 4

However, if at the end of your writing day, the only thing you’ve gotten done was that you figured out what your inciting incident is, don’t feel bad that you haven’t written any pages of the script. After all, you’re just getting started.

I’d write more about this right now, but I have work to do.

-J.

Tomorrow is Thursday. And Friday comes afterwards.

I’ve woken up for the past three days with Rebecca Black’s “Friday” stuck in my head.

Fun Fun Fun Fun...

I really did try to avoid it. Not out of some idealistic “I won’t support the degradation of music” stand. I just didn’t want to watch the video when I stumbled upon it online, when it had only about a million hits. During my initial viewing, I only lasted about 30 seconds. I bowed out by the time Rebecca was debating which seat she should take (THE FRONT SEAT IS ALREADY FULL!!! THE CHOICE IS PRETTY OBVIOUS, REBECCA). The music was so bad that it hurt my brain, and I didn’t feel like having cluster headaches for the next few hours. I clicked stop on the YouTube player and tried to find another internet-based distraction from my life.

I figured that my life would move on without having to ever think about that video again.

Dear Jesus, was I wrong.

I’m not here to bemoan the fact that I have the song stuck in my head. I’ve had plenty of terrible songs stuck in my head before, and I’m sure this won’t be the last. I’m here to examine what exactly is “Friday” by Rebecca Black, because I’m so damn bewildered by it. My best thesis is this:

“Friday” is the absolute culmination of the internet to this point.

Yep. Human kind’s greatest tool for communication, and here’s its distinguishing product. As of right now, Friday has over 66 million views. Collectively, that’s 250,800,000 minutes, or 476.85 years, that we’ve spent on this song. The song has been in the top 30 on iTunes. By any measure, it’s a hit, and I’m sure that it’s making a lot of money for Rebecca and Ark Music Factory. If not now, then in the very near future (Rebecca just signed a recording deal and I’m sure that Ark is loving the publicity). Now, as for the song.

It’s objectively bad. It’s just a fact. I haven’t come across a person who’s liked it. Sure, “Friday” is catchy, but in the way that strep throat is catchy. I don’t think I’m just being harsh on this song because I’m not its core demographic. When it comes to pop music, I try to keep an open mind. Sometimes I’ll like it, but most of the time I’ll realize it’s just not for me. I’ll never find myself clicking a Justin Bieber playlist on my iPhone while I write, but I definitely see that there’s an audience for that. It’s not objectively bad. I just don’t think this is good.

No one thinks “Friday” is good. If you just said to yourself “Well, I do,” no, you’re wrong. You don’t. Not even the people at Ark think it’s good. Ark’s founder Patrice Wilson, aka Stocky Usher who’s for some reason driving to a 13 year old’s party in the video, was recently interviewed about the song. His best defense was basically “It’s not that much worse than what you might hear on the radio!” Oh great. Everything’s shitty, so it’s not that bad if my thing is just a little bit shittier.

How did something that almost everyone thinks is terrible become so popular?

It’s the thing that internet memes are made of. Terrible graphics, absurd laughable lyrics, and bad pitchy autotuning. Ark basically created the perfect viral video. It’s even created a subset of parody videos. I’ve come across at least 4 or 5 parody videos that all have at least a million views, which can ranslate into pretty significant ad revenue compared to what the production costs are. Welcome to the Rebecca Black economy.

So, how is this the current culmination of the internet exactly? It represents the single biggest democratization of media so far in the internet age. Miley Cyrus, unfortunately without a hint of self-aware irony, said “It should be harder to be an artist. You shouldn’t just be able to put a song on YouTube and go on tour.” I disagree with Ms. Cyrus wholeheartedly.

I think that the beauty of the internet is that someone can go from an unknown talent to a national superstar. An artist can share their work across the globe, and, through hard work and a bit of luck, they might be able to get noticed. You don’t have to go through a studio system that manufactures you into a star. The internet has that power.

And we blew it on Rebecca Black.

Who’s to blame here?

Is it Ms. Black? No. She’s just a kid, and there have been millions of kids who have gone out and been not great singers. Just search YouTube for “High School performance of West Side Story.” You’ll find the evidence there: Rebecca Black is hardly the first of her kind.

Is it her parents for buying her the music video? No. You can’t blame a parent for doing something nice for their child.

What about Ark? No, because people have produced terrible things before trying to make money. Ark doesn’t seem particularly insidious. They’re just another production company who doesn’t particularly care about quality. The difference between them and some bigger studio is that their budget seems to range in the thousands rather than millions.

We’re to blame. And by we, I mean me. I’m to blame. I’ve sent links of Friday and its parody videos to a lot of my friends. I’ve made my Facebook status about it. I’ve even tweeted about the song. I couldn’t help it. It’s just kind of in my nature. I’m the kind of person that forwards the video of the awkward old man singing on Public Access TV, or posts William Hung to my Facebook wall. So, I apologize for this. I just thought it was a funny joke. I didn’t think it would be such a big deal.

Having a novelty celebrity is not new, but it is somewhat new to have something so massive. It used to be that if you had a dream to be a famous performer, you would work hard to try to be good enough to reach your goal. Now, thanks to people like me, “absolutely terrible” can mean “good enough.”

-J.

Post Collegiate Studies 101

I think it goes without saying that if you want to be rich and famous in the entertainment industry (or “The Biz” as insiders call it), a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre is an obvious prerequisite. Once you get those hundreds of hours of script studies, acting classes, and musical rehearsals under your belt and your diploma in your hand, you’re already on your way to being the next Meryl Streep, Daniel Day-Lewis, or Twilight Vampire/Werewolf. It’s an equation that’s been proven again and again:

Theatre Degree + Time = Unimaginable Success.

I got my B.A. in Theatre in 2009 from one of the top theatre programs in the country at the University of Southern California. But I’m here to tell you that even though I learned a tremendous amount about incorporating animal movement into my character work and how to talk to other acting majors about Brechtian theatre, it turns out there’s more to making it in “The Biz” (the entertainment industry for those of you who haven’t caught up) than just those two elements alone.

True Fact: Robert Pattinson has an MFA in Brooding.

Before I get carried away, I will say that studying theatre is one of the most important and best decisions I’ve ever made. I learned a tremendous amount about who I was as an artist, and I also discovered that (cue King’s Speech reference) I have a voice. This is tremendously invaluable, and I’ve found the experience of working with other theatre majors after graduation (many from USC) has been a true delight. They’re typically professional and prepared, and, consequentially, they’re fun to work with. So I really want to distance myself from the idea that getting a degree in theatre doesn’t prepare you to be an actor or a writer.

But there is a tremendous amount that I’ve learned since I’ve graduated. Since I’ve decided to renew this blog with an actual purpose, I think it would be extremely neglectful to not share that insight. So, without further pontification, here are all the things that I didn’t learn in theatre school, but wish I had:

1) Do Something Everyday to Feed Your Creativity.

After you graduate, you’ll be confronted a lot more with the issue of time. You might have too little of it, trying to manage survival jobs to pay the bills, or you might find yourself now with way too much time on your hands and asking the question “Jesus, how can I possibly fill up all this time?” It’s a harsh transition going from having a very set structured schedule (Class in the morning/afternoon, rehearsal in the evening) to possibly having nothing for days at a time. It’s easy to fall into a mode where you feel like you’re not doing anything creative at all. This seems to be much harder for actors than writers. A writer can spend several hours alone in his or her apartment actually getting writing done. An actor who tries to do the same thing can be described as a crazy person. Get into classes, start an improv group, read plays or scripts, collaborate with friends on making a webisode or short film. Anything to keep that creative side of you active, alive, and happy.

2) Honestly Assess Where You Are.

It’s a very hard thing to do, but become self-aware. Take a look at yourself and your work. Writers, take inventory of your scripts, and try to honestly assess what level you’re at. Is there a script that could use

If your results are like this, you need a better mirror.

rewriting? Actors, define your type and know your strengths. This will be invaluable. Tons of actors rail against the idea of “type-casting,” as they see it as a prejudicial and lazy way of casting a show or film. However, it’s always a good idea to know your strengths and play to them. Be willing to admit weaknesses as well. If you’ve always felt comfortable in dark, dramatic roles, but now you’re only being called out for girl next door roles on sitcoms, get into some comedy classes. If your resume is a little light on the TV and Film side, seek out projects that will help fill that out. If you feel like you are a bit rusty, a bit green, or a bit unfocused, it is OK to admit those things. If you try to go at this blindly, you’ll blend into the majority of actors and writers who are doing the same thing. Which brings us to:

3) Set Clear and Defined Goals

This goes hand in hand with the last piece of advice. Most of us get into this field because we feel a strong calling. In other words, we are crazy people. But if you can’t define what your ultimate goal is outside of “to be rich and famous” or “to make it” or “to get slimed at the Kid’s Choice Awards,” you need to be a bit more specific. I’m not saying “Winning an Oscar” is an unrealistic or unachievable goal. Your mindset and attitude has to be that it is realistic and achievable. But I think starting out with only that goal can be counter-intuitive. Keep those big dreams, but also come up with smaller, more achievable goals that will help you get there. If you don’t have an agent, make that a goal. If you aren’t in a union, make that a goal. If you haven’t done a show or a play in awhile, make that your goal. Setting up important and achievable goals in the short term is vital to feeling a sense of progression, plus avoiding burnout.  If you have a good grasp on the second tip, this third one will naturally

4) Do Not Try to Always Be The Smartest (Or The Most Talented) Person In The Room

Something that I’ve been really proud of is the caliber of people I’ve surrounded myself with. I’m constantly amazed and inspired by a lot of my peers. They have strengths that I don’t have, and therefore there’s a lot that I can learn from these people. A huge mistake is to try to hold onto that “big fish in a small pond” feeling you might have had in high school or even college. Don’t try to surround yourself with a bunch of sycophants who all just look up to your talent. Pick people that will challenge you, that will give you an honest and valuable opinion. People that will inspire to bring the best out of you, because you wouldn’t want to bring anything but the best to the table for these people.

5) Fear and Self Doubt are Part of the Gig.

There’s not really any way around it. You’re going to feel outclassed at times. You’re going to feel like you’re in over your head. You’re going to feel like this is not a good idea, or why didn’t you do something sensible like go to the Dental School?

This is all normal.

 

Actually... you might want to heed this warning.

What we’re trying to do is not easy. In fact, it’s really fucking hard. But anything that’s worth it is, and, unfortunately for us it’s pretty natural. In fact, a tiny bit of self doubt can be helpful at times. It can be your inner-editor trying to tell you that this one scene needs rewriting, or that maybe you can go further while working on a particular role. However, the key is to not be ruled by fear or doubt. That will get you nowhere, unless you want to go back to Dental School. Imagine you’re on a road-trip, cruising to your destination. Fear and Self Doubt are like annoying billboards on the side of the road. They’re always going to be there, but if you pull over the car and decide to decipher “Why is that sign there?  What does it mean?,” it’ll be a long time before you get to Disney World.*

*Coincidentally most of my road-trips as a kid were to Disney World.

6) Do Not Wait For Permission

This is by far the most important piece of advice I can give to you, my lovely, intelligent, and attractive reader. (Side note to bloggers: I hear pandering does wonders to your hits). This could also be just simply described as “Do Not Wait.” Give yourself permission to pour your heart and soul into this. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you it’s OK to do so right now. If you’re waiting for someone to come to you to give you the role, someone to come to you to pick up your script, someone to come to you to give you your break, then you’re just not playing the odds. Sure, opportunities might seemingly fall into your lap, but it’s only because you’ve put yourself into position for that to happen. I think that there’s an attitude that’s pervasive in this town: “I’ll save my energy for when it really counts.” Today counts. Right now counts. If you’re waiting to really try when the big opportunity comes along, chances are that it won’t. And even if you someone manage your way into a room with Stephen Spielberg, if that’s your first instance of really going for it, you’ll probably not be prepared for it. Don’t be ruled by fear, don’t seek comfort. Do not wait for permission to be great. If you don’t have an agent, be your own advocate until you find one. Just go out there and create.

I’ll be back soon writing about the insanity that is my writing habit. I have an idea for a new play, and I might blog about the processes from inception (BUMMMMM) to completion while I’m working on it. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a clip from last night’s 30 Rock, which featured two of my idols in one hilarious walk-and-talk scene. (I’m having trouble embedding it, so just head to this link.)

Sometimes the universe is just good to you.

James

Mission Statement: Blog 2.0

What is the point of this blog?

I mean, other than to feed the hunger of the tens of readers that just can’t go on without irregular updates from me philosophizing about the goings on in my life. Why this blog?

This is something I’ve been mulling over the past couple of weeks, since I’ve wanted to revive this blog. And I discovered a few things:

1) It’s not an account of the minutiae of my life. That’s much more what Twitter’s for, and I don’t even feel comfortable using Twitter for that. I don’t want to join the masses of actors tweeting “Got an audition! Keep fingers crossed!” “Didn’t get that last role, but keep fingers crossed!” “Screw acting. Got an interview 4 asst. manager at Staples. Keep fingers crossed!” Something about oversharing always seemed counter-intuitive to me. Sometimes the more you make available, the less you end up being able to offer. As pointed out in “The Social Network,” the internet is written in ink. What we put online will probably be available for consumption decades from now. Do you really want your grandchildren and robot underlings (or possibly overlords) be able to read about you making out with a 40 year old and blacking out on St. Patrick’s Day?

(Note to my grandchildren and robot underlings/overlords: That was purely hypothetical. She was probably more like 30 anyway).

2) It has to be more practical than philosophizing. The blog can’t just be only about indulging my self importance. It can only be mostly about that.

3) It needs to be updated regularly.

4) It has to tie into the whole theme of “An Artist’s Journey plus LOLCats.”

It’s a tricky subject to tackle. Basically a blog about being an artist, but at the same time it’s practical. Art and practicality don’t intuitively go hand in hand. There’s no list or recipe that I can put up to say “Hey, here’s what’s being an artist is about!” I wish it were that easy.

However, I’m going to at least attempt to do that. My goal will be to transform this blog into a valuable resource for anybody who is making the decision to be an artist. I’m going to include more reviews and short hit posts in between the big “being an artist” posts. My next post will probably be the most important post I’ve ever written: It will be a collection of the things I wish they taught me in school.

Until next time.

James

Positive.

I’d prefer to refer to it as “a hiatus from blogging.”

That’s the first step in my initiative of positivity. Sure, I could easily begin with excuses as to why it’s been almost a year since I’ve updated. But then I can spin that around and say it hasn’t even been a year break since I last updated, and I’m already back! Boom, positivity. The glass isn’t half empty, because nobody fills their glass to the brim anyway. It would be too easy to spill.

Another way of looking at things.

I made the choice to be positive 5 minutes ago. As you can see, the results are spectacular.

Now, why this sudden shift in perspective? I would seem like the least likely person to make this choice, having thousands of years of Jewish neuroses and Catholic guilt sewn into my DNA. Feeling bad about things is part of my nature. A fish doesn’t wake up and say “I choose to breathe oxygen,” a cow doesn’t wake up and say “I choose to fly in the air,” and a chicken doesn’t wake up and say “I choose to not become part of a delicious Chick-Fil-A nugget meal.” All of those things would be against nature, and you can’t argue with nature.

So, what drove me to this radical decision? The main reason is what drove me to update my blog again in the first place. I had a monumental event occur in my creative life that caused a shift in perspective. I was feeling rather negative about how things went, and it affected my mood, apetite, and well being. I kind of wanted to blog to rant about how shitty everything was, because it would be cathartic and entertaining and be the kind of thing that would get a reaction from people.

Then I woke up today and part of the world had fell apart.

I don’t want this post to turn into one of those “I thought my problems were bad until I discovered what real problems looked like” types of posts. For one, I find those to be a bit trite. Secondly, I think that those posts have an honesty half-life of a day or two for most people. People write about how moved they are by the tragedies of others and how they realize that their problems don’t matter in the big picture, but in a week or two they’re back to writing about how they’re jealous of their best friend or how they can’t believe how selfish their girlfriend is or whatever else. Only about 5-10% of people see the tragedy, put their problems in perspective, and then go actually do something about it. Those people are the amazing people you see building new homes and schools, providing medical care, and doing something more constructive than just talk.

That paragraph may not seem like the most positive sentiment. But being positive is not about shying away from or distorting the truth. It’s not naively promising to be something that you can’t be. It’s not saying everything’s great when it clearly isn’t. That can do more harm than good, as I’ve discovered.

 

I used "The Secret" to send positive energy to find a picture of Sonic The Hedgehog when I typed "The Secret" into Google Images. And it worked!

That’s probably why “being positive” actually has a negative connotation to it. I felt a little silly typing the words “I made the choice to be positive,” to be completely honest. With the prevalence of self-help books, “The Secret,” and TV gurus, being positive has become synonymous with lying to yourself. I think that does a great disservice to the place and importance of positivity. Because positivity is not just about thinking things will go well. It’s about taking control. It’s about betting on yourself and not waiting for others to bet on you (this advice also works in cheating in sports). It’s about looking for the opportunity when crappy things happen to you. It’s about strength and character, not turning your mind into your own personal “Fox News.”

Fair AND balanced? Sign me up!

The same thing applies to negativity. If you perceive the world to be against you, then the world will seem to be always working against you. If you place up obstacles for yourself, getting things done will always be harder. And if you only focus on what went wrong, you’ll never really be able to try again. Look for the truth above all other things. It’ll turn out that things aren’t that bad and the world isn’t all against you. Don’t be paranoid and turn your mind into your own personal “Fox News.” (Boom, it works on both angles).

So, yes, I did wake up this morning with that terrible negative feeling. And after seeing the pictures of destruction in Japan, I did have a feeling of guilt, that my problems were probably not that bad. I also realized that it’s Lent. I’ve been bad about giving up something for Lent in recent years. I usually realize that it’s Lent too late, and then I try to retcon myself into giving something up that I haven’t done in the past few weeks as if it was my intention all along: “I gave up going on extravagant ski trips for Lent this year!” But this year for Lent, I’m giving up negativity. I’m going to be as positive as I can be for the better part of the next 40 days. I figure it’ll do more good than just giving up candy bars or soda or Facebook (the equivalent of giving up internet oxygen). As I learned from Inception, positive emotion always trumps negative emotion. I also learned to never trust my dreams.

Thus ends my hiatus from blogging. It feels nice to be back. I’ll update with things that aren’t quite as heavy or philosophical. I’m still trying to feel out the purpose of this blog, but I feel like that will be something I discover as I go along.

Until next time,

-J

The best things in life are free… so please put it all on my harddrive.

Hello friends. And just with that Jim Nantzian greeting, I’m back. I’m here to announce that I will not be taking my talents to South Beach. No, this James is staying right where he is. A lot has been happening in my life (including two finished new scripts and several improv shows), but I’ve been thinking about a pressing matter. I’m going to step onto the soapbox for a bit, and if you don’t care about what I have to say, well… what the hell are you doing on my blog anyway?

Here we go: I have a big issue with stealing.

This is not too hard of a stance to take. It’s like saying “Yelling is loud,” or “I don’t condone stabbing people.” I’m not really going out on a limb with this one. I think very few people can posit an argument that is pro-stealing that’s beyond “But you get all your shit for free!” Meanwhile, the ethics scholar in this imaginary debate retorts, “But it is morally wrong and against the conceit of a constructive society.” The thief’s rebuttal: “…but… you get all of your shit for free!” The scholar: “When you steal, there are victims. If you harm one person, it in turn harms those around them, causing a ripple effect across society.” By the time the scholar has finished his point, the thief has made it out of the auditorium with the scholar’s wallet in hand.

While this sounds both ridiculous and a great way to spice up debate club, people all across this country basically have the same mindset of the thief when it comes to online piracy. The internet has made it so easy to steal movies, music, games, software, books, and  almost anything else that it doesn’t even seem like stealing. Actually, most people wouldn’t even consider what they are doing “stealing.” They’re just downloading content. By the terabyte. For free. I mean, that’s what the internet is for, right?

Cookie Crisp: Teaching our youth that stealing is fun.

You might be wondering a few things. A) Why do you feel the need to talk about this now?  B) What relevance does this have to the blog of a young artist? and C) When will my torrent of The Last Airbender finish?! Gah, it’s taking forever!

Here are the simple answers: A) Musical theatre composer Jason Robert Brown recently wrote on his blog about this issue. He had an exchange with a teenager who was sharing some of his sheet music online. Check out the post for the thrilling conclusion. I read this blog, and it got me thinking a lot about this issue. A note for posterity: I took a class from JRB while at USC, and I’m a big fan of his work. While I’m not taking the anti-downloading stance solely because of him, I do like the guy. B)I wanted to give the perspective of someone starting out, vs. an established name. A great deal of my blog is about my journey to start making a living doing what I love. While you might never realize it talking to some instructors at theatre school, it turns out that making a living includes making money. You know, money for needs like shelter and food and iPads, which then in turn allow you to create your work. While I do have ideals about the work that I do, I’m not going to lie and act like I’m not going to try to make money from it. Which brings me to my next point. (Oh, and C: You deserve what you have coming to you).

A friend of mine who I like a great deal recently told me “There’s no reason why I should ever have to pay for a piece of software.” He downloads tons of pirated software and ripped tv shows and movies. What’s his reason that he shouldn’t have to pay? Is it because he thinks he’s uniquely entitled to this content? Or is it because he really has little respect for the people who put in their hours working on this content? What is his justification? “Because I can get it for free so easily.”

This disturbs me. It actually makes me a bit reviled. That snake-eating-its-own-tail logic is not unique to my friend, and it’s created a frightening landscape for creators. The internet has made “free” a big problem for almost any content driven industry. If I can get it for free, why should I pay for it? Basically, if you take off the spin of any pro-download or pro-fileshare argument, it boils down to that. Some people do try to take it a step further, saying “Well, you should just be happy that I’m consuming your stuff, and I’ll tell my friends about it.”

As I’ve stated, I’m trying to make money by creating content. Right now, I’ve been doing a lot of work for free, and working very hard at it. It’s part of the lumps you take while breaking into the industry. I’ve acted in short films, been in plays, and wrote a sketch that has 1.8 million views on youtube. All for free. Which I’m fine with, because the experience is worth it at this point in my career.

Let’s take this example: My improv group has been doing several shows for free, while the theatre makes money off of it. Is that fair? Well… yes. Because it’s our choice. We’re happy to get the stagetime/experience now, knowing that it’s an investment for down the road. Now, say after all this experience, we hit it big and tour around the country. Things are so great that we have a regular rate for a show now. And we tell the theatres, this is our rate, and it is widely known that this is the rate. Then we go to Minnesota, and the Chuckle Club (great name, btw) decides not to pay us after our awesome show. They tell us “Oh, well, you should just be happy that you got stagetime. Oh, and I’ll tell my cousin down at the Laugh Lounge about y’all. Surely he’ll pay you.” Is that fair? No, it’s theft.

It’s not a perfect metaphor because it’s much harder to not pay someone the money you promised them with them there than it is to just download a song. But I think it illustrates the point I’m trying to make: Piracy is not a problem just for the people who are currently having their content stolen. It’s a problem for anyone who is trying to make a living by creating content. When you start out, you pay in your dues and persevere , and if you’re good enough and lucky, you can eventually make a living. Piracy is making that barrier of entry harder. You steal an artist’s work, you make it harder for them to make a living, and you make it harder for them to create. In a radio interview with BBC, a teenage girl justified illegal downloads of JRB’s stuff basically by saying “Oh, I’ve never heard of him, so it must be ok, because I’ll spread his name around.” Everyone thinks they’re an ad agency. (Also, if a Tony award winning composer doesn’t get respect, what’s the hope for the littles out there just getting started?) However, what little Donna Draper doesn’t realize is what she’s saying is “Get famous, and someone else will pay you.”

Someone else will pay you. I don’t have to. Why? Because I can get it for free. That’s not a reason. If you illegally download content, you really are acting like you don’t have any respect for the people who created the content and you do feel uniquely entitled to it. We are a nation that values consumption well over creation. It is our right to be entertained at all moments at all times for as close to free as possible. We don’t think about that all of this stuff is ultimately created by people. People who maybe lost sleep for a few weeks trying to finish that script, or who wasn’t able to see their wife while they worked out the bugs in the code to their application. Maybe this early 90s PSA will help illustrate my point.

I don’t want to say this is only a problem with the pirater. We as an industry need to get smarter about this. Way smarter. The answer is not to make it harder for the people who actually want to pay for the stuff. Convenience will usually win the day for the consumer. I believe most people want to do the right thing and pay, but sometimes companies actually punish that consumer by being so distrusting of them. Right now, you can buy a movie off of iTunes, put it onto your iPad, and try to use video-out onto a TV to watch it, but it won’t work. This doesn’t have anything to do with Apple or the device. This is because it’s against the licensing agreement set up by the movie industry. However, an illegally downloaded movie works just fine. Note to the industry: you’re doing it wrong! If you reward people for stealing from you, they will keep doing it. Also, going out and suing 12 year olds might sound like fun, but it’s really a dead end if you’re trying to recoupe lost revenue. Unless your goal is to score another sweet Miley Cyrus backpack and trapper keeper. Then sue away!

We, the current and future content creators, need to become more proactive. We need to realize that the landscape has changed, and continues to change. We need to be smart about how we distribute our content.

And we, the current and future content consumers, need to stop and think: what harm could I be doing? Especially those of us trying to break into the industry. It blows me away that many of my friends, who are trying to work in the entertainment industry, steal so much stuff from that same industry. I understand that times are tough, and you really want to watch Sex and the City 2 right now. But maybe wait. Just wait, and go to a library. Read a book. Or if you don’t want to leave, check out one of the thousands public domain books available legally online, by greats like Dickens or Shakespeare.

Those idiots knew nothing about copyright law.