A Micro-Initiative Approach to Making Things Happen in Hollywood and Beyond

General | Jul 25, 2017 | Carlos Castillo

There was a popular book back in the day called “Getting to Yes.” Well, I’ll borrow from that title to propose a technique I’ll call “Getting to Getting Things Done,” which applies to tackling a complex problem by breaking it down to its component parts and focusing on a very specific solution.

This idea started out as my “Ad Hoc Theory.” Ad hoc is a Latin term meaning something done for a specific purpose. It evolved out of an experience I had a few years ago trying to dismantle a corrupted Business Improvement District (BID) in my city. I won’t get into the boring details of what happened, only that I teamed up with a fellow merchant in this quest.

What was interesting about our team was that he was politically right of center and I was to the left. But we didn’t let our disagreements get in the way of our goal to get rid of the BID. We formulated a very specific plan to achieve our intended outcome and went to work.

That positive experience made me realize that I could apply this very simple approach to problems I see in the filmmaking world. For example, lack of diversity in the industry and the challenges of marketing independent films are two issues in my sights. (To a certain extent, these problems go hand in hand, but distribution is a stumbling block for most filmmakers.)

Here’s an example: Instead of tackling the multi-faceted issue of lack of diversity in Hollywood (a huge undertaking), focus on something that can realistically be accomplished, something very specific. Say a fellow filmmaker has her new film in film festivals but doesn’t have a ton of money for promotion. Help her get the word out, but that’s still too vague a strategy in my ad hoc model. More specificity: each participant convinces 10 people to buy a ticket and see the movie at the festival in their neck of the woods. Even MORE specific: Maybe organize a trip where everybody meets prior to the film or to discuss after.

Then ask those 10 people to use their social media or word-of-mouth to tell their friends about the movie. This can lead to a critical mass that will propel the film forward, maybe into yet another festival. Of course, this can be done for other films. Rinse and repeat.

The Ad Hoc Approach creates common ground among the participants and a strategy that they can realistically execute. When the goal is reached, the “micro-initiative” ends. Then the participants can identify another possible goal and the “army” is raised again.

Too often in past efforts to attack challenges in the film industry, we coalesce into unwieldy groups with an overarching initiative (“more diversity in Hollywood”). Then we create an organization with overhead and appoint “chiefs” to do our bidding.

Too often these organizations become top-heavy and accomplishment-light. Apathy sets in among the membership. The chiefs become entrenched and put too much emphasis on keeping the organization afloat to guarantee their paychecks. We all know of little fiefdoms that have survived for years and get relatively little done. Mission not accomplished.

Whether it’s in the film world or the world at large, we have big problems to address. Unfortunately, when egos, status, politics, etc., are added to the mix, nothing gets done. One guy decides he doesn’t want to work with another because of differences in a philosophy or approach. I’m as guilty of this as anyone.

However, if the goal is clearly defined and we’re all on the same page for that one specific thing, we can possibly surmount our differences. By adding up all these “little” wins, maybe measurable change on a macro level will begin to occur.

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