"Screaming Like Sam"

“People are Beautiful. Revolution is Inevitable.”

~ Russell Brand

Sam Kineson was an extreme kinda guy. As a comedian working in New York in the 80’s, he needed to stand out. And he did. His trademark rant was usually something about being trapped in a humdrum life. What did it all mean? How the hell did he get here?  Why wouldn’t somebody do the humane thing and just put a goddam bullet in his head right now, as he sat on his front lawn in suburbia, pulling up crab grass. There HAD to be MORE than this. There really did.


And his delivery matched his intent perfectly. He SCREAMED this rant at the audience in a high-pitched, banshee screech of a voice. 


You were under no illusion as to how he felt about his world.


I can hear Sam’s legendary screeching monologue like a hurricane in my head right now as I sit in a grey meeting room, opposite a pasty faced man in a badly fitting, inexpensive suit, poring over columns of numbers.


“Are we OK to sign these numbers off for the end of year returns?” he asks. “Yes. These look fine to me,” I lie. Truth is, I wouldn’t know a solid set of accounts if they punched me in the face. Don’t get me wrong — I care about these numbers — I just don’t really, honestly understand them, in the way he thinks I might, and I am too embarrassed and bewildered to admit it.


The meeting drones on, and we shuffle through more and more columns of numbers, representing in a bizarrely abstract way the intense year I have had as an independent filmmaker. The joys of working with actors, creating wonderful on-screen moments, and seeing it all come together like magic in the edit . . . all of this seems a million miles away from this uninspiring pile of dullness and detail.


How did I end up here? Luckily, I completely trust this guy, because there’s no way on God’s green earth that I am ever going to be the guy that puts in the hours to completely understand the difference between net and gross profit. Or Taxable Benefits in Kind. Or Sales Tax Thresholds and their relationship to Trading Overseas.



Rewind 10 years.


I am on an Island in the South Atlantic. Ascension, seven degrees south of the equator. We have carried our equipment for over a mile, to a beach where a huge container ship is slowly opening its bow doors in order to unload heavy construction machinery and vehicles. It’s exciting stuff. The “Thunderbirds” theme drums along in my head, and I am absolutely wired to this moment.


We quickly set up the Arriflex 16mm Camera. I take the smaller Bolex and go hand-held. Since showing a keen interest, my boss has let me become the “B Camera” guy. A gets the money shots, B gets the reverses and crowd reactions. Close ups of the few children on the island, too (there’s no indigenous population here, these have sailed over to the nearby island of St. Helena to do necessary menial tasks). There’s not even a serviceable airfield, since the Argentinians bombed it during the Falklands conflict. The only way to get to this volcanic, alien place is by hitching a ride with the armed forces.


For a 21-year old who was still studying professional photography, this gig was a dream come true. And as the bulldozers rumble off the ship, ploughing into the water and finally up out onto the sand, some of them getting dangerously low in the water and soft beach beneath, I shoot the heroic drama of it all, telling the story of the most exciting day of my life, so far.


That evening, as we drank and talked over the day’s events, the sense of creative teamwork and achievement was equally intoxicating.


There were many moments like this in my early career as a film cameraman, as I progressed via assistant director (and finally as a director). I had (have?) the best job in the world. Telling great stories using cool toys and working with amazingly talented and committed crews and talent.


So how come my life ten years later is filled with tax forms, meetings, form-filling, rental agreements, bank applications and other stuff I thought only “ordinary” people did? And why does every con-call or meeting with a client feel like a battle? A defensive set of apologies for something I may or may not have done?


Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all gone away. There are still great moments in every day. I still have the toys (although they have evolved into amazingly cool future tech) and the crews and talent just keep getting better and better. It’s just that more and more of my week is spent as a business manager, and not as the filmmaker that desperately wants to engage with the world.


I know this isn’t a rare story, and in some ways it would be naive of me to expect someone else to take all of this pain away from me so I can keep colouring in for a living. But the balance has twisted in favour of the grey just too much, and I am beginning to realise that this is NOT what I signed up for.


Put simply — there were just too many times when I was channeling Sam Kineson, and screaming “WHY?” at the moon.


I think that there is a crucial piece of advice that most generic business coaching is missing, which is that most creative professionals have a special challenge in recognizing their own value in the marketplace.


In this book I want to show how you can get to a place where the work you do adds such specific, rare value — so that you will be able to charge more, outsource the tasks you hate, and free up more time to develop your art and your skills.  Put simply, you will be THE guy they call for high value work, and you’ll be in a position to choose whether to accept it, or not. 


By developing your talents, making a concrete connection with the clients needs, and weeding out the projects that sap your time, resources and sheer life-force, you will re-engineer the way your client relationships work for you.