[This is a special guest post by Cyrus Hosain]
When the Great Recession hit, our approach to success changed. We were forced to become more innovative in the face of unprecedented challenges. Many of the practiced ways of making money were hedged by the need to be more creative. This fresh brand of imagination is now seen in all areas of business such as new technologies, online publishing, and green energy.
An area where this updated approach is on clear display is throughout the film industry.
I sat down for an exclusive interview with my good friend, writer and director Max Winkler (son of Happy Days legend Henry Winkler), to chat about his feature film directorial debut of Ceremony, starring Uma Thurman, Michael Angarano, and Lee Pace. The film, which Winkler also wrote the screenplay for, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September to critical acclaim, and was released in theatres this April. It is now in wide release on DVD. Winkler describes Ceremony as a passion project that he developed independently through his creative approach to filmmaking.
Winkler, 28, is a graduate of USC film school and has written and directed various short films during his young career, including The King of Central Park and the popular web series Clark and Michael, which starred Michael Cera and Clark Duke. He’s currently working on exciting projects with stars such as Jonah Hill and Johnny Knoxville.
jgD: In 140 characters or less (#TwitterReference), describe what kind of entrepreneur you consider yourself?
Winkler: I’m a team-playing entrepreneur. I think I have good instincts with regard to recognizing peoples’ talents and how they can fit into the mix. I appreciate how important it is to find synergies within a team so that a big project can be accomplished. And what’s great for my projects is even better for the industry in general. Did you ask for 140 words or characters? :)
jgD: What inspired you to get into writing screenplays and how did you decide to make the leap into directing feature films and producing whole projects?
Winkler: Directing and writing movies was always the only thing I ever wanted to do. I knew the best way to make a movie was to write a screenplay that was manageable for me as an individual and for the people who were funding it.
jgD: Has your age affected your ability to get projects completed?
Winkler: I don’t think so. But I did wear a suit on set because I was a bit nervous that people might not take me seriously as a young filmmaker. It turns out your demeanor is more important than how you dress.
jgD: What is your approach to filmmaking and what learnings can other young entrepreneurs draw from it.
Winkler: I never wait for a “eureka” moment to inspire me to pick up a pen. I have always treated it like something that needs to be worked on each and every day. I also think enjoying what you do is very important and that striking a work/life balance is essential.
jgD: Many entrepreneurs are influenced by their Fathers but you had a larger than life figure in your everyday routine growing up. How important has your Dad been to your entrepreneurial journey?
Winkler: My Father has been important in the sense that I have always maintained a father/son relationship, instead of thinking of him as a businessman or actor. We had regular family dinners every night and he took me to see movies every weekend. The way that he treats people and his family is what has had the biggest effect on me.
jgD: Is having business sense important in the film industry or can sheer talent carry the day?
Winkler: Without knowing the business aspects of this industry or at least surrounding yourself with the right people who do, you can be taken advantage of in many different ways.
jgD: What are you focusing on next in business?
Winkler: My vision is to start a full-fledged company that focuses on offering opportunities to the many talented young filmmakers and creators out there. It will be a place where they can make quality movies with the peace of mind that will allow their talents to shine.
jgD: What are the hurdles you’ve faced on your journey to creating Ceremony?
Winkler: There are hurdles before a film project is even started. You have to raise funds just like in any other venture that needs capital. You have to persuade people that their money is well invested with you and that a profit will be realized. Projecting a sense of confidence plays a big part in that. From the initial photo blog I created for Ceremony to the mix CD of the music, I didn’t waver in my vision for this project and I believe our backers appreciated that. Any bit of indecision would have been a quick way for them to think of me as a kid instead of wise investment. The ultimate hurdle is in turning out a great product and I made sure to have intensely critical people offer feedback before anything was finalized. At the end of the day if the product sucks you’re not selling anything.
jgD: What is your ultimate passion project?
Winkler: It is whatever project I am working on at the time. The movie I just got done writing was my last passion project and the one I’ve since moved onto is the new love of my work life.
jgD: To wrap-up, in 5 words or less what credo would you have fellow entrepreneurs in the entertainment industry emblazon across their chests as they fight the good fight?
Winkler: Shorter. Is. Usually. Better.
-AND THAT’S A WRAP-
Cyrus Hosain is a special contributor to jgDaily.com. His networking prowess and entrepreneurial spirit gives him a unique perspective into the fast-evolving business world. Cyrus enjoys connecting with his network of entrepreneurial up-and-comers and exposing their interesting stories. He also offers insights he hopes are useful to fellow young professionals.