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Predict, Prepare, Prosper – The Opportunity in Obsolescence

Before I ever took the plunge and admitted to myself and the world that I’m an actor, I was a business person. I graduated from business school, and wore a suit and tie to work for almost ten years. In that time, the most valuable lesson I took away as this: ‘Make yourself obsolete before your competition does’. The lesson was that in business, constant innovation is necessary, so much so that we must out-innovate ourselves or we will become irrelevant as someone else does.

When we are willing to see the opportunity on the horizon that replaces how we or others are doing things today, our path becomes clear. Most often we are alone on it; if it’s truly a unique opportunity, nobody will be able to understand its value as we do. If we let go of the fearful desire for someone to affirm us, we are left with a decision to pursue and once we make that decision, it all starts to happen. This is absolute truth.

It took me a long while to become comfortable with that truth and to listen to what in my guts I knew was correct. It is always “scary”, but over time, I’ve gained the benefit of experience. I’ve stepped through “scary” many times now and I’ve reframed my relationship with it. Now it means that forward motion is eminent. It’s where life really happens. It’s always what leads to the next adventure and growth. I find myself in an exhilarating pattern of prediction and preparation, and more in sync with my life and the industry, innovating, letting go of the obsolete and creating opportunity.

I’m addicted. I’m always looking for what’s the opportunity of the next moment, and deciphering where to go next.

Predicting and Preparing.

This all really began to gain momentum for me about four years ago, right around the time of #SaveBCFilm. The passionate conversation of that moment was focussed on the influence of provincial tax credits on production levels. I started to look at what other factors existed, apart from tax credits, that influence production. As much as possible I look at the big picture to the small from many angles.

It became clear to me that we were at the beginning of a historical shift; we were going to see a big rise in production in the coming years because the players of the day were going to meet some serious competition. The down time of that moment was temporary (no surprise there – everything is, after all), and things were going to shift in a very major way. I began to plan for what we are experiencing today – what I decided to call the Content Demand Explosion. So called “New Media” was coming to battle for the audience, production and distribution was going to get less expensive at an accelerated pace. These factors predicted explosive growth in production, and we would see ongoing growth in content demand until the battle was done.

The length of the battle would hinge on how quickly ‘Old Media’ would adapt and/or how quickly ‘New Media’ would win.

As I look around the entertainment industry today, it strikes me (hard) that actors, writers, directors, casting directors, and all other content creators and providers are benefiting on a historic level as the result of an industry that failed to make itself obsolete and thus left the door open for others to innovate. That’s what’s happening now. The old models are obsolete, but still in operation even while the new models are rising, so we have an over demand for content.

In Series Study in particular, I’ve been pointing out the three main factors that have been creating this opportunity:

1. The rise of ‘New Media’

2. Low Canadian Dollar

3. World class infrastructure to support demand

The macro key is the first one – driving global demand for content. The other two are localized factors that make our neighbourhood a good place to be right now. Together, they create a ‘perfect storm’ for Canadian Film & TV People (Especially Vancouver and Toronto).

But… as ‘New Media’ rises, ‘Old Media’ will fall. Business models must shift, and it will take some time for them to catch up. Until they do, we will be beneficiaries of inflated demand for our services.

The fact that the demand of the moment is inflated should laser focus us in on the fact that this explosion is TEMPORARY – just like all explosions. Even while the Content Demand Explosion is happening all around us, the Content Demand Recession is also already underway. It’s just a little hard to see because there’s so much going on right now, but the signs are there.

Major networks are ‘trimming’ their big series – cutting the episode orders from 13 to 10 rather than cancelling. Perhaps a sign that they don’t know or are aren’t able to come up with a better answer? Isn’t that basically keeping something on the air because it’s better than ‘nothing’? And if that’s the case, doesn’t it follow that ‘nothing’ is the only other alternative? Yikes. That’s not the sign of a thriving business model!

In response to his estimation that “the blurring of boundaries between television, radio, and the Internet will lessen the demand for traditional broadcasts” Lord Tony Haul, Director-General of the BBC will be taking the BBC through a major overhaul. Speculation is that it may be dropping it’s channel-based television and radio divisions. A sign of a pre-existing player endeavouring to make itself obsolete…0r perhaps acknowledging that it already is.

To my mind, what we are experiencing is the outright redistribution of power to create and distribute, and entertain. It’s a tipping point, the democratization of that power – it is in the process of being redistributed down to the individual – or rather, the initiated individual. Once upon a time you needed massive dollars and infrastructure to wield this power. Today you need a smart phone.

As power to create and distribute is itself redistributed from the super power networks and studios to the individuals, those individuals who prepare for the new responsibility will empower their creative careers. Those who do not are going to fall by the wayside.

This is huge. It’s historic. Plain and simple: it’s opportunity. Whether that opportunity is gained or lost is up to each of us.

The opportunity of THIS moment is to take advantage of the over-demand of content to book more work in order to direct the resulting exposure back to your own platform. If you don’t have your own platform, it’s time to make the creation of your platform the most important thing in your career. Let the Content Demand Explosion be the fuel that lifted your platform up, not the trampoline that throws you in the air for a moment until gravity catches up.

What is your platform?

It’s your media-relationship to your audience. It’s your website, your web series, your Instagram following, your blog, Twitter, Periscope, Snap Chat, Vines, your independent shorts, your podcast. But all of those are just the platform.

What is the content for the platform?

Well… that’s up to you. Remember when you started on this journey as an artist and somewhere you found something deeply personal that you wanted to share with the world? A change you want to bring about? An idea you wanted to get to someone? Remember? That thing?

To me… this is the point of it all. Ask and answer FOR YOURSELF – ‘What do you want to say to whom?’. Then go say it.

You have that passion, and right now, if you prepare and take advantage of the change that’s upon us, you have the opportunity to own the ride. You no longer have to wait for someone with a ton of money to give you the chance. Under their terms to say their version of your passion.

Those who do are going to be the heavy hitters who are still standing, thriving, and prospering when conditions change. Those who do not will be lining up to ask for work from someone else.

Predict. Prepare. Prosper.

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