It sounds like the stuff of science fiction. Kind of like “Planet of the Apes” only with robots. It’s hard enough getting a job these days and even harder getting a job as an actor. So when I heard that more and more jobs were going to be replaced by robots, well frankly, I got worried.

Not that I’m looking for a job as an actor right now, but plenty of my friends are. They work part-time jobs as waiters, valet parkers and bartenders hoping to get that big break as an actor that will propel them to the A list. Or at least pay their bills for a while. Yes, they’ve always had to deal with the fact that celebrities will get the job over them, or that a producer’s cousin or girlfriend or next-door neighbor will get the job over them, but robots? Now that’s really hard to compete with.

First of all robots are smarter than people. Well, maybe they aren’t quite yet, but if you’ve seen IBM’s Watson on Jeopardy you know they’re getting close. Robots certainly would never screw up their lines. And forget about their memory. I won’t even go there.

Robots wouldn’t need all that makeup and hair styling. And their wardrobe is pretty basic. You don’t have to worry about them being in a bad mood or hiding out in their trailers. If you don’t like their mood you just reprogram them.

Robots would never call in sick and they don’t need health care coverage. They don’t complain about working conditions and they can work double overtime without getting tired. In fact, who needs turnaround time? Robots can keep going around the clock and can probably finish a movie in half the time as a human.

A Japanese retail company, Aeon Co. recently brought in a four foot tall robot to babysit kids while their parents shopped. The PaPeRo robot can track kids using an ID chip, give pop quizzes, and even crack jokes with the kids. So, now I’m wondering, should Jim Carrey be worried?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Have you ever been to a comedy club where you were the only one laughing at the comedian? Or a film where you walked out and said “How did that get 5 stars?” Well, it seems that art is truly in the eye of the beholder. One man’s treasure is another man’s trash. But what if science could determine the key to being a successful artist?

Scientists are attempting to prove through transcranial stimulation that by sending electrical impulses to certain parts of the brain, a person can look at that same comedian or that same movie and find it pleasurable instead of repulsive.

Scientists have been prodding and poking the brain for years now trying to unlock the keys to our deepest feelings, desires, thoughts and emotions. Some of their recent experiments have even shown that by stimulating certain parts of the brain, subjects were able to solve math problems they could never do before, and helped musicians learn how to play a new instrument faster.

This leads me to wonder, “Would you be willing to have your head dissected if you knew you might come out of it being able to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix?”

Of course, transcranial stimulation is noninvasive, and many of these studies are more likely to help scientists come up with better treatments for depression than to turn a fledging artist into a rock star.

After all, when you think about it, being depressed really sucks the joy out of life in general. You lose the ability to find joy in most anything, much less a painting, a film or even a comedy act. So it stands to reason that if you are in a great mood you just might be more likely to find that abstract painting beautiful.

Unfortunately for now there isn’t a magic pill you can take to turn you into the next Keith Richards or Eric Clapton. But you can bet that scientists will keep trying.

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In the wake of last week’s sudden death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, it got me thinking, “Are artists more prone to addiction than people who aren’t as creative”? Is there some trait that artists have that makes them more susceptible? After all, Phillip Seymour Hoffman is just the latest in a long line of artists who have succumbed to some kind of drug. Anna Nicole Smith, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, River Phoenix, Corey Monteith, Judy Garland, John Belushi, Elvis Presley, Heath Ledger, and the list goes on and on.

But before we start putting the blame somewhere, think about the fact that about 40% of a predisposition to addiction is already genetically determined. This isn’t an excuse for addiction, just one reason it tends to happen.

Biochemistry tests on monkeys and rats shows us a lot about the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is connected to pleasure and reward. Addicts don’t feel as much pleasure, so they are always striving to get more. When you think about the fact that artists are really taking creative risks every day, maybe some of this makes sense. Risk takers tend to crave attention and will go to great lengths to get it. Many artists are the same way, craving the spotlight and driving themselves to extremes to get there.

Addiction is one way to avoid emotional pain and escape reality. Does it have anything to do with the fact that the career path for an artist is usually long and fraught with rejection every step of the way? Do artists tend to internalize the pain and seek to cover it up with drugs and alcohol?

Writer Pearl S. Buck said “The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.”

Maybe that’s just what it boils down to. What do you think? Are artists more prone to addiction and why?

 

 

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I was watching an interview with Bono and Elon Musk the other day on creativity. They each had a different take on it, and I wanted to ponder the subject further. Where do artists get their inspiration?

Bono said his inspiration comes from either despair or joy. When he is in the joy phase his cup runneth over and there is joy to spare. When the business life, health, and home life is all in balance and things are going great there is a certain burst of creativity. He gets pleasure out of sharing that joy with others in a song and he starts writing like crazy.

But he also gets inspiration from despair. When he’s in a hole and needs to create to get out of it and attempt to put things right with the world. He writes songs to pull himself out of the hole. Says Bono “The great songs kind of write you”. Or as Yates says “The dancer and the dance become the same thing”.

None of this comes as a surprise to psychologists, who say that creative types have a lot more ups and downs than non creatives. They tolerate ambiguity and leave themselves open to new adventures and experiences. Their highs may be higher, but the lows are also lower. Creative artists are much more likely to live life on the edge.

Co-founder of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, sees creativity from a different angle. Musk, an engineer and inventor, favors more of a forced creativity model. As an inventor myself, I use this every day to generate new innovation.

Musk calls his method “first principles”, or basically starting with the fundamentals that you know to be true instead of making slight improvements to someone else’s system. He draws from the laws of physics as creative inspiration, and likes to take things apart to see for himself from the ground up how they work.

Most people, especially in the entertainment industry and high tech, like the idea of making slight improvements to someone else’s system instead of using the first principles method. It’s much easier to make a pitch by saying “It’s “Ghostbusters’ meets ‘Twilight”, or “Facebook meets Twitter”, rather than starting from scratch with a concept that no one has ever heard of.

As Musk says “Think until your brain hurts”. This is more of a forced creativity method that requires stripping things down to the basics and building it from the ground up. It’s also a way to make radical leaps in innovation, which Musk is known for.

As an artist, where do you get your inspiration?

 

 

 

 

 

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After being in the entertainment industry long enough you come across a lot of talented people. Being on the casting, distribution and development side, it always surprised me when I met an artist with incredible talent that no one had ever heard of, including me. You could be the next De Niro, or Madonna, or Spielberg, but if you don’t have a fan base, you may just be destined to be a legend in your own mind. And that would be a terrible waste of talent. Here are 3 ways to get more fans:

  • Get seen – The first thing is that you simply have to get out there and get out a LOT. If you’re a musician, play everywhere you can as often as you can. If you’re an actor, audition for plays, films, or staged readings. Produce your own projects. Volunteer for your friend’s projects. Don’t sit around waiting for them to come to you. Make them happen. If you’re a filmmaker, make films. Make more films and get them out everywhere you can. If you’re a writer, write. Yes, this sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people claim to be writers who rarely write. People who claim to be actors, yet sit around waiting for the phone to ring. Also, don’t hide behind your computer and don’t communicate solely through texting and email. Let people see that you’re human.
  • Give people incentive – There was an old shampoo commercial that said “…and they tell 2 friends, and they tell 2 friends…” The point is, if you want fans you have to find ways to multiple them, and that means they have to tell 2 friends and those friends tell 2 more, and so on. You could just count on waiting for enough fans who really like your stuff to eventually pass it on. Or you could do it the free market way and give people a little incentive. Am I saying you should bribe them? No, not at all. But if they are your fans anyway they would probably be happy to pass your art along. They would be even happier and more driven to do it if you gave them some incentive.  Check out Fandistro. Musicians reward their fans with a 20% commission when they introduce others to their music. This is the whole premise behind affiliate programs online, and that “buy 10 frozen yogurts, get 1 free” card offline. You would have gone there anyway, but getting a free yogurt is just extra incentive.
  • Stay in touch – One way to stay in touch with your fans is through social media. This is one reason why you should always be doing something to further your career. You need to constantly have something to talk about other than what you had for lunch. Do you have a newsletter? If you don’t, you should. Occasionally give out some cool freebies and secret VIP backstage passes to your very best fans. People love free stuff. And if they already love your work, they’ll also love your free CD, or book, or T-shirt, or fill in the blank with something cool and unique. Give them a two for one ticket to your next concert or play. That way they’ll bring a friend. Make sure you say it should be a friend who’s never seen your work before. BAM! Now you’ve added even more fans. And hopefully they’ll tell 2 friends, and they’ll tell 2 friends…

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Several months ago a made-for-TV movie about flying sharks made headlines when fans took to Twitter to spread the word. This turned a little-known B movie into a cult classic overnight. The premier was watched by 1.37 million viewers. The second airing brought in 1.89 million viewers (an increase of 38%) and the third airing brought in 2.1 million viewers, making it the most watched original movie encore in Syfy history. This led to Regal Cinemas to picking it up for 200 big screens nationwide.

As someone who has done my share of B movies (Elves and Twisted Justice), I can tell you that when you find you find your B movie fan audience they can be very, very loyal. While “Elves” barely made it on the radar in the U.S., it was a huge cult classic in Japan.

People are either going to love your cheesy low budget movie or hate it. And the ones that love it, spread the word. Now fans can spread the word through social media. And that is a great thing for indie producers.

As the world splits off into smaller and smaller niches, it’ll become more important to have a loyal social media following. The niches may be getting smaller, but their reach, through the Internet is able to target most of the world quickly and effectively.

As someone who also used to be a TV/film distributor, I see this as a great opportunity for indie producers with great material to finally find their audience. Okay, so it doesn’t even have to be great material. It just has to find it’s audience.

 

 

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For years independent artists have had to rely on gatekeepers to give them their shot at having their voices heard. But finally the old gatekeeper system is coming down. Book publishers no longer have the kind of power they used to have and record companies are giving way to independent artists who can bypass the old system and take their music straight to the customer. TV is breaking into many different niches, and film distribution is no longer just for the major studios.

So, distribution has become more accessible, but the one thing that’s missing is the money. That’s where Indie Sponsor comes in.

I created Indie Sponsor as a former TV/film distributor who was tired of seeing really talented artists who would never getting a shot because they didn’t have the contacts in the industry. But now things have changed. Artists no longer have to go through the regular channels to get their work out there. The old TV and film distribution model is giving way to whole Internet networks where an up and coming artist can launch their own TV show or film without begging for distribution from a gatekeeper.

Also, regular TV and film marketing has become too costly for the small business owner. A 30 second spot on a national morning TV show goes for $16,000. But a small business owner can sponsor a whole Internet TV show for much less. Indie Sponsor’s goal is to bring the indie artist together with the small and large business community to provide funding for their projects. Indie artists’ voices need to be heard and talented artists will finally get their chance.

There has never been a better, more exciting time to be an artist as we enter a new Renaissance. And Indie Sponsor wants to start the conversation. We can’t wait to see what you have to bring to the table.

 

 

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