Adi Shankar is the producer of several films, including The Grey, Broken City, and the upcoming Lone Survivor.
The truth is, I’m humbled that I’m at a place in my life where someone would ask me to write something like this. I’m by no means an authority and I’m barely an adult, but here are some of the things I wish someone had told me when I was starting out adult life in Hollywood.
Understand and Believe that Art is Important
Art gives our lives context. It helps us understand the culture that makes us who we are. And, if you are lucky, one day you may be able to shape the culture that influenced you. If you claim to be an artist, but you’re motivated by money… You’re a douche.
The Internet is F**king Awesome
Most people reading this probably don’t remember the world before the Internet – I’m 28 and I know I barely do. It can be a powerful tool if you’re using it for something other than composing cat memes. It’s an emerging storytelling platform and young filmmakers have an unprecedented opportunity to not only create cool shit, but to shape the narrative and language of the Internet, in the same way that Alfred Hitchcock did for the psychological thriller, or Steven Spielberg and George Lucas did for the blockbuster. Previous generations could only dream of the entrepreneurial opportunity we have, both in terms of building a business and “getting your name out there”.
Upset that the studio bastardized your favorite character? Make a fan film. Have a crazy idea that no network or studio will make? Do a Kickstarter campaign to finance a web series. Made an awesome short film? Throw it on YouTube and it may go viral. The best part: you can do this as a student, you can do it as a parent, you can do it from some jails – the Internet is utterly democratic. For the first time in history, we aren’t beholden to hackneyed middlemen looking for a cut – or worse, creative control.
If You Want to be a Storyteller You Need to Have a Point of View
And that point of view had better be unique. Surrounding yourself with people just like you is a sure fire way of becoming a prototypical, dull, cog of a human being, who belongs in a 9-to-5 cubicle, drinks diet soda, and whose deepest emotion on a daily basis is determined by the outcome of an entirely inconsequential sports game. Diversity of experience is the only way to hone in on what your own unique point of view – also known as your “voice” – actually is, and expanding your social circle is a great place to start.
The Future Lies in Collectives, So Assemble Yours Now!
Hollywood is undergoing a massive decentralization right now, caused by the ongoing collapse of the studio system and the rampant greed of the 90’s. That’s a good thing! It means that collectives of people who can consistently and autonomously deliver a product will have an advantage. By collectives, I mean teams of creative people who constantly work together. Top filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Chris Nolan, and even niche acts like the Jackass guys, already operate like this. So waste no time! Surround yourself with smart people and develop your collective now, even if you’re still learning. These are your band of brothers. They will help you sift through all the crap Hollywood throws at you, and more importantly give you the kind of creative autonomy that today’s non-celebrity filmmakers can only dream of.