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Interview with Jason Blanchard
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Interview with Jason Blanchard

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Questions regarding the Entertainment industry with how to follow your passions, building a team, and moving to a big city.

Questions regarding the Entertainment industry with how to follow your passions, building a team, and moving to a big city.

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  • 1. Jason  S  Blanchard  is  a  freelance  producer,  independent  business  and  marketing  consultant,  and  motivational  speaker.  He  spent  the  last  8  years  teaching  Final  Projects  at  Full  Sail  University  before  moving  to  Los  Angeles  in  February.    Jessica  Northey  had  the  opportunity  to  interview  Blanchard  over  Spring  Break:    JN:  What  type  of  work  do  you  enjoy  most:  producing,  business  and  marketing  consulting,  or  motivational  speaking?      JB:  All  of  the  above  because  they  go  hand-­‐in-­‐hand.  Producing  is  marketing  and  business.  Consulting  is  what  a  producer  does  by  sitting  down  with  a  variety  of  people  to  make  recommendations.  The  motivational  speaking  comes  into  play  by  being  able  to  keep  your  team  motivated.  Producing  is  all  of  those  things  combined  into  one  person.      There  are  two  kinds  of  producers:  1)  the  deal  making  producers  and  2)  the  nuts  and  bolts  producers.  The  deal-­‐making  producer  is  also  known  as  the  Creative  Producer  and  knows  people  and  can  bring  them  together  for  a  single  project.  This  type  of  producer  knows  about  a  great  script  and  then  connects  that  script  with  the  crew  to  rally  the  cause  of  bringing  the  story  into  a  movie.  They  seek  out  investors,  they’re  the  champions  of  the  project,  and  they’ll  go  out  and  market  the  movie  on  television.      The  nuts  and  bolts  producer  will  figure  out  the  budget:  what  it  will  cost  to  make  the  script  into  a  movie.  They’ll  price  it  down  to  the  cost  of  the  nails  to  build  the  set  along  with  what,  who,  and  how  it  costs.      To  become  a  Creative  Producer,  you  start  out  as  an  Assistant  Producer.  You  learn  from  the  CP,  the  5-­‐7  year  track  starts  from  Associate  Producer,  Co-­‐Producer,  and  then  a  Producer.  For  the  nuts  and  bolts  producer,  you  start  out  as  an  office  PA,  Production  Secretary,  Assistant  Officer  Coordinator,  Production  Coordinator,  Line  Producer,  and  then  Producer.  That  is  about  a  15-­‐year  track.  An  Executive  Producer  is  anyone  with  money  and/or  influence.  They  know  people  who  will  create  a  movie  based  on  paying  them  well  or  if  they  
  • 2. owe  the  EP  any  favors.      JN:  What  are  the  core  responsibilities  of  your  position?      JB:  The  producer  is  the  Alpha  and  Omega  of  a  project.  They  are  there  to  see  the  project  from  the  beginning  to  the  end.  Some  projects  can  be  a  5  to  7  year  process.  Every  project  can  be  different  and  a  producer  can  start  working  from  a  story  in  a  book  before  the  script  is  created  or  not  become  involved  until  after  a  script  has  been  produced.      An  example  of  motivational  speaking  in  producing  was  how  I  had  been  on  a  14-­‐hour  shoot  on  a  set  with  extras.  They  realized  they  had  6  more  hours  to  go  before  the  end  of  their  shift  for  a  20-­‐hour  day.  The  only  way  for  me  to  finish  the  day  was  to  motivate  50  extras  to  stay  for  the  entire  shift.  I  got  out  a  ladder  and  stood  at  the  top  and  yelled  out  and  asked  everyone  to  gather  around.  I  also  gave  them  compliments  of  how  great  they  were  doing  and  thanked  them  for  being  there.  Then,  I  asked  them  to  stay  the  additional  hours.  The  only  way  to  motivate  a  group  of  extras  to  stay  longer  is  to  inspire  them.  Another  trick  is  to  never  give  a  large  group  of  people  an  option.  If  you  do  give  them  option,  the  group  will  not  be  able  to  quickly  come  to  a  common  agreement.  Instead,  direct  the  group  with  what  you  want  them  to  do,  and  they  will  follow  your  leadership.      JN:  What  entry-­‐level  positions  would  I  hold  before  I  would  be  qualified  to  hold  your  position?      JB:  My  advice  is  that  you  stay  as  long  as  you  think  you  need  to  be  there.  As  soon  as  you  feel  comfortable  with  the  work,  set  out  for  your  next  goal.  For  instance,  if  co-­‐workers  invite  you  out  after  work,  then  say  yes.    That  can  lead  into  conversations  about  other  places  to  visit  and  end  up  turning  into  an  opportunity  you  would  have  never  been  able  to  plan  out.      If  you’re  new  to  a  city  and  to  an  industry,  it’s  a  great  idea  to  start  out  as  an  intern.  It’s  smart  to  have  2-­‐3  months  of  savings  to  live  off  of  before  moving  to  a  new  city.  Some  new  graduates  have  been  able  to  work  part-­‐time  at  2  or  3  different  internships  at  the  same  time  
  • 3. because  they  had  a  buffer  to  pay  the  essential  bills.      JN:  When  evaluating  a  team  member’s  performance,  what  factors  are  most  important  to  you?    JB:  There  are  two  important  characteristics  to  have  in  this  business.    First,  being  able  to  do  what  you’re  say  you’re  going  to  do  and  having  follow  through  is  essential.  The  second  characteristic  is  personality;  no  one  wants  to  work  with  a  jerk.  If  you’re  a  jerk,  I  don’t  care  how  good  you  are;  you’re  still  a  jerk.  No  one  wants  to  work  with  someone  with  a  negative  personality.          As  a  producer,  in  building  a  team,  I  look  for  their  strengths  and  weaknesses  and  then  match  people  up  that  will  match  each  other  to  create  a  stronger  team.  My  advice  is  to  work  on  improving  your  strengths  because  it  is  better  to  be  an  expert  at  one  thing  versus  being  mediocre  at  many  things.  A  person  with  a  particular  weakness  can  be  matched  with  a  different  person  who  has  strength  in  that  area.      JN:  What  do  you  consider  to  be  the  most  challenging  aspect  about  being  in  this  position  today?      JB:  The  most  challenging  part  about  being  a  producer  is  finding  the  motivation  to  continue  to  do  this  work  every  day.  There  is  so  much  rejection.    It’s  easier  if  you  know  that  you  will  fail  99  times  out  of  100.  You  have  to  go  into  it  expecting  the  failure,  and  when  failure  happens,  accept  it  and  keep  going.  I  wake  up  every  day  with  an  optimistic  attitude.  I  don’t  see  L.A.  having  10%  unemployment  rate.    Instead,  9  out  of  10  people  have  a  job,  and  this  is  pretty  good!  I  also  learn  from  the  mistakes  and  move  on  to  the  next  step.      JN:  What  qualities  are  important  when  evaluating  an  employee  for  hire?    JB:  There  are  two  parts  to  the  decision.    First,  I’d  focus  on  their  personality  to  see  if  they’re  a  good  fit  with  the  team.  The  other  side  is  to  look  at  their  quantitative  worth  to  the  project.  
  • 4. I  will  ask  myself  if  this  person  earns  more  than  what  they  are  paid,  specifically  four  times  more  than  their  paycheck.        The  more  details  you  can  include  on  your  resume  about  your  monetary  successes,  the  better  chance  you  have  at  being  hired.  For  example,  let’s  say  you  create  a  graphic  that  took  you  one  day  and  earned  $400  once.  If  the  graphic  is  really  good,  the  company  will  continue  to  use  the  graphic  for  many  years,  which  has  a  potential  to  generate  thousands  of  dollars  in  revenue.  The  longer  the  work  is  used,  the  larger  your  quantitative  worth  becomes.    Another  example  is  paying  a  gaffer  $950  for  one  day  of  work  can  seem  like  a  lot  of  money  to  pay  in  one  day.  However,  what  the  producer  is  creating  is  a  film  that  will  last  forever  and  continue  to  earn  revenue  for  the  company  for  many  years  beyond  the  one-­‐day  worth  of  income  paid  to  the  gaffer.  The  gaffer  can  include  this  information  to  show  how  their  skills  will  bring  to  a  company  that  choose  to  hire  them.        JN:  Tell  me  about  your  first  job.    JB:  My  first  job  was  being  in  the  military.  I  was  in  the  Army  and  worked  as  a  photojournalist.  This  experience  taught  me  many  skills  I  use  today  for  my  career.      My  first  job  in  the  entertainment  industry  was  working  as  an  Office  PA  on  The  Punisher  movie.  I  turned  in  my  resume  and  cover  letter  in  July.  I  created  a  passionate  cover  letter.  I  recommend  starting  the  first  paragraph  about  yourself  and  what  you  want  to  do.  Include  a  brief  background  of  your  work  experience  relating  to  the  industry.  The  second  paragraph  should  talk  about  why  you  want  to  work  for  that  particular  company.  Here,  you  can  include  how  much  of  a  fan  you  are  and  how  you  will  be  talking  about  this  experience  until  the  day  you  die.  The  third  paragraph  should  state  why  the  company  should  care  about  you.  Explain  how  you  will  give  a  100%  and  that  you  are  full  of  passion.  Also,  include  a  closing  paragraph  with  your  contact  information  and  how  you’d  be  happy  to  just  see  the  office.  In  the  film  industry,  it’s  more  about  passion  instead  of  a  professional  cover  letter  because  they  want  to  know  you  can  work  14-­‐hour  days.        
  • 5. On  the  day  of  the  interview,  I  discovered  that  the  guy  I  was  replacing  for  the  Office  PA  job  was  a  guy  who  asked  too  many  questions  about  why  he  had  to  do  the  things  he  was  asked  to  do.  The  production  team  that  worked  with  the  prior  Office  PA  felt  that  with  my  past  military  experience,  I  wouldn’t  ask  why  at  all  and  instead  simply  take  orders.  I  understand  the  answer  to  why  is  always  because  they  asked  me  to  do  it.      The  second  reason  I  was  hired  on  the  spot  was  because  I  ended  up  knowing  the  person  interviewing  me.  I  had  previously  volunteered  to  help  out  a  production  team  during  the  summer.  It  was  a  1-­‐day  PA  job  with  no  pay  in  Florida’s  107-­‐degree  heat.  I  ended  up  having  the  responsibility  of  keeping  everyone  hydrated.  There  was  an  elderly  woman  who  ended  up  passing  out  from  heat  exhaustion.  The  2nd  AD  asked  if  she  was  okay,  and  I  assured  her  that  the  woman  was  okay  and  that  I  would  take  care  of  her.  Because  of  my  military  experience,  I  already  knew  what  to  do  to  help  her  recover.  During  my  interview,  I  realized  that  the  lady  conducting  my  interview  was  the  same  person  as  the  2nd  AD  that  I  worked  for  that  day  in  Florida.  She  remembered  me  as  soon  as  I  reminded  her  of  that  day.  She  offered  me  the  job  without  any  further  discussion  because  I  saved  her  job  that  day,  and  she  told  me  how  she  hadn’t  had  the  chance  to  thank  me  properly.  I  asked  her  if  she  wanted  to  look  at  the  office  work  I  brought  in,  and  she  quickly  flipped  through  my  book  and  began  to  discuss  my  work  schedule.        JN:  What  projects  are  you  currently  working  on?      JB:  I  recently  moved  to  L.A.  from  Orlando  on  a  trial  basis  to  see  if  I  could  find  a  great  long-­‐term  gig  in  order  to  move  the  rest  of  my  family  over  with  me.  I’ve  been  helping  people  develop  their  projects,  and  it  turned  into  me  becoming  a  talent  manager.  I’m  working  with  a  writer  who  has  4-­‐5  scripts  written.  I  work  with  a  photographer  to  help  him  find  more  work.  I  have  a  website  called  www.RentReds.com  because  a  lot  of  Full  Sail  students  who  move  to  L.A.  have  Red  cameras.  When  someone  needs  to  rent  a  camera,  the  request  is  sent  out  to  everyone  in  the  network,  and  then  whoever  can  match  up  the  schedule  first  will  be  able  to  rent  the  camera  out.      
  • 6. I’m  currently  working  a  temporary  job  at  DC  Comics,  and  I  do  not  know  what  will  come  next.  Having  a  “go  with  the  flow”  attitude  allows  me  to  stand  out  during  interviews.    JN:  What  is  the  most  challenging  aspect  of  your  job?    What  is  the  most  rewarding  aspect?      JB:  The  most  challenging  aspect  is  coming  up  with  something  career-­‐related  activities  to  do  every  day.  The  most  rewarding  part  of  what  I  do  is  seeing  someone  else  succeed  because  of  work  I  put  into  helping  him  or  her.        JN:  If  you  could  change  anything  about  the  film  business,  what  would  it  be  and  why?      JB:  Sometimes  living  in  a  big  city  can  be  lonely.  There  are  many  people  who  are  motivated  by  making  connections  versus  building  friendships.  At  the  end  of  the  day,  people  have  friends;  they  don’t  have  hundreds  of  connections.  It’s  about  the  relationships  you  build  and  the  life  you  live  while  building  projects.  I  have  met  with  over  100  Full  Sail  grads  out  in  L.A.,  and  the  major  consensus  is  they’re  lonely.      I’m  creating  monthly  get-­‐togethers  just  to  hang  out  and  make  new  friends  or  spend  quality  time  with  old  ones  without  any  business  talk.  Most  people  are  introduced  by  what  they  do  for  their  career  instead  of  what  kind  of  person  they  are.  I  like  to  say  I’m  in  between  work  just  to  trip  up  people  because  it’s  not  a  usual  response  and  instead  going  with  the  flow  and  enjoying  life.      JN:  What  advice  do  you  have  for  Full  Sail  students  who  are  a  few  months  away  from  graduation?      JB:  If  you  don’t  know  every  single  student  on  campus,  then  you’ve  messed  up.  The  best  advice  is  to  get  to  know  each  other.  If  you  cannot  properly  network  within  the  Full  Sail  campus,  then  how  are  you  going  to  survive  in  the  larger  cities  such  as  L.A.  and  New  York?  Even  if  the  networking  is  competitive,  it  is  still  important  to  meet  new  people.  The  larger  
  • 7. cities  have  a  lot  of  competition,  long  work  hours,  and  negative  aspects  such  as  crime.  A  recent  graduate  can  feel  like  the  city  is  trying  to  kill  them  and  eat  them  alive.  Instead  of  becoming  another  causality  of  failure  in  the  business,  you  have  a  better  chance  of  success  by  knowing  the  battle  is  a  fight  for  your  life.  This  quest  is  not  for  the  faint  of  heart.              It’s  also  a  great  idea  to  give  yourself  a  deadline  after  moving  to  a  large  city  of  how  long  you’ll  live  there  to  try  it  out.  If  it  doesn’t  work,  you  know  you  have  a  back  up  plan.  I  recommend  giving  yourself  one  year,  and  if  you  haven’t  made  it  into  the  entertainment  industry  by  then,  it’s  time  to  pack  up  and  go  home.  Doesn’t  sound  like  an  option  to  you?  Then  fight  for  what  you’re  passionate  about.  If  you  become  the  person  who  procrastinates,  then  you  can  be  in  L.A.  for  ten  years  before  you  get  a  break.  Once  you  get  the  drive  to  complete  your  dreams,  then  nothing  will  stop  you.      If  you  do  find  yourself  in  a  rut  for  a  long  time,  reflect  on  what  is  standing  in  your  way.  You  do  not  need  to  work  for  people  who  string  you  along  for  years  but  never  give  you  a  promotion.      JN:  How  do  you  build  an  effective  team?      JB:  Build  a  team  of  a  core  group  of  4  people  with  specific  roles  who  all  have  a  common  goal  or  vision.  I  suggest  using  the  model  of  having  a  team  made  up  different  purposes  and  responsibilities.  I  refer  to  them  in  this  way:  the  looks,  the  brains,  the  muscle,  and  the  wild  card.  The  figurehead  is  the  showman,  known  as  the  looks.  The  brains  is  the  person  who  holds  everyone  together  and  gets  things  accomplished  as  a  project  manager.  The  wild  card  will  create  some  chaos,  and  without  chaos,  no  creativity  or  spontaneity  can  happen.  The  muscle  is  also  needed  to  do  things  like  loading  and  unloading  equipment.      However,  when  all  4  of  these  personalities  come  together,  great  things  can  happen.  It  works  best  when  everyone  has  the  same  goal  and  shares  the  same  level  of  satisfaction  when  achieving  projects.  When  the  project  grows  larger  than  the  4  people  can  handle,  it  is  
  • 8. fine  to  bring  in  new  people  on  a  per-­‐project  basis.  However,  when  the  project  is  over,  the  core  group  should  continue  to  stick  together  on  all  future  projects  as  partners.        

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