A version of this piece was originally published by empowermagazine.com.
Nate Parker, Writer, Director, Producer and Star of the slave rebellion drama, Birth of a Nation, just made history. The film sold for a record-breaking $17.5 million the morning after an all-night bidding war following its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. That's the largest sum ever paid for ANY film at ANY film festival.
But Nate's road to success wasn't easy. His is a victory seven years in the making; one with no guarantees, quite a few risks, and only passion, drive, and determination to see it through.
Do you have a big dream that you want to turn into a big victory?
Apply these lessons to your aspiration to position yourself for game-changing success:
1. Be Willing to Do What Others Won't
Nate was so enthralled with the story of Nat Turner's Rebellion that he knew he had to turn it into a film. But he most certainly was also aware that Hollywood might not be too keen on the idea of a slave rebellion movie. It's no secret that most historical film depictions of Blacks typically emphasize more subservient or tragic victim roles--think 12 Years a Slave, The Butler, or The Help. But in spite of this reality, he moved forward, went against the grain, and leaned into what he felt compelled to do.
2. Remember, Few Rewards Come Without Risk
Over the course of developing the film, Nate turned down two roles that came his way. A huge risk for any up and coming actor. Instead, he focused like a laser on his passion. Gave his project his full attention over an extended period of time, and ultimately, was able to create what is most certainly, nothing short of a masterpiece.
3. Understand the Importance of Reclaiming Your Power
The original "Birth of a Nation" was historic for a much different reason. The explicitly racist film, inspired a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, and to this day, is said to be used as a recruitment tool for the organization. By making the decision to now associate this name with a push for liberation rather than racist oppression, in one swift move, he disempowered a painful memory and created a new one based on self-determination and pride. Sometimes it's necessary to directly call out and put to rest hurts from the past in order to move forward with your head held high.
4. Know That You Must Push Through the No's to Get to the Yes
Perhaps unsurprisingly every major studio in Hollywood passed on the chance to produce this film. Each and every one. But Nate didn't let that stop him. He believed in his vision. And he believed so deeply that he was willing to find a way to finally get his movie done, no doubt believing that a yes would eventually come.
5. Be Willing to Put Your Own Skin in the Game
Nate wasn't afraid to put his money where his heart was. He invested $100,000 of his own money to turn his dream into reality. If you really believe in what you want to achieve, you also have to be willing to invest in your own success.
6. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Knowing that to make the cinematic masterpiece that his script deserved, he needed to raise a larger budget, so he put in the work to do just that. He crisscrossed the country on a mission to talk to anyone who might be interested in funding this project. In the end, he was able to organize a dozen investor groups which together, put forward the $10 million budget he needed for the film. Nate knew he couldn't make his vision real alone, and so he was willing to do what needed to be done to inspire others to literally buy into his dream.
7. See it Through
Seven years is a long time. And it's an especially long commitment to make to something not guaranteed to produce results. But he stayed committed to his passion. He wasn't distracted by other, less meaningful opportunities along the way. And he was willing to do what was necessary to see his vision through to completion.
8. Know Your Worth
After his wildly successful screening at Sundance, Nate knew this was the right film, at the right time in our history. He knew the film had garnered much attention, and ultimately would be sold. So what did he do? He made the bold decision to start the bidding for the movie at $12 million dollars. Mind you, before this film, the most anyone had ever paid for a movie at Sundance was just over $10 million. Yet, he was bold enough to start off by asking for more. Did some interested parties back out? Yes. But others remained. A bidding war ensued and by sunrise, a deal had been struck.
9. Stand Firm on Your Commitment to What Matters
The decision to accept the offer from Fox Searchlight was not solely driven by money. In fact, Nate turned down a $20 million offer from Netflix in favor of one that came in $2.5 million less. What was the deciding factor? For him, it was about making sure the movie made it to the masses. By accepting the lower bid, he was able to ensure a full theatrical release and negotiate in the ability to have the film shown at high schools and colleges across the country. For him, it was never just about the money. It was about making sure a story that needed to be told was both told well and distributed broadly.
10. Know That This is What Happens When You Believe in You
Probably the biggest lesson to take from this amazing series of events is that none of it would have occurred if Nate didn't first believe in himself. He was willing to go against the grain of all that Hollywood is, even shunning other opportunities in the process, to see his vision through to the end. Before anyone else could see his vision or invested one dime in what he wanted to create, he believed in the legitimacy of his dream. Imagine what awaits you the moment you stop doubting, start believing, commit, and act. With each of those components in place, there's no limit to all you can accomplish.
Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever is the Founder of the Exceptional Leadership Institute for Women and Author of the book, How Exceptional Black Women Lead (March, 2016). Sign up for weekly tips on achieving exceptional success in career and life by logging on to: www.avisjonesdeweever.com