The Oscar-winning writer of The King's Speech David Seidler is an extraordinary human and a great friend I am fortunate to have in my life. When I asked him to open our NextGen Entrepreneurship and Global Crowdfunding Forum last week here in Los Angeles, he asked me if I was sure he was a right person.
I was confident.
The speech delivered by David Seidler on the morning of November 15 was insanely remarkable and set the perfect tone for the annual event just as I aimed it to be -- inspiring and honest.
From the bottom of my heart I thank you, David, and I am thrilled to share David Seidler's Speech with the world.
"I want to thank Dr. Victoria Silchenko for the privilege of addressing a room full of people who can balance their check books, a mysterious skill I've never mastered.
You are masters and mistresses of the Universe. I am not. But nonetheless we have something in common.
We're entrepreneurs. Risk takers.
I can assure you there's nothing as risky as embarking upon a career as a freelance Hollywood writer.
I embarked upon this adventure at the tender age of forty, when any writer with an ounce of common sense and self preservation is leaving town. Writers over forty don't get jobs. But I've worked for 35 years. So I think I qualify as a high wire artist, just like you.
We have something else in common: we have taken upon ourselves a Godlike function, we are creators.
I realize you don't actually create wealth, you move it around the countryside. But you do create. Just as I do.
We both create characters.
Now, creating characters is something I know something about. It's not that hard.
What age is your character? That's important to know. Infant, or geriatric? Our character, the character we're gathered together today to discuss, crowdfunding, is...I figure twenty something. Maybe thirty something too. Young. Arty. Experimental. That's important to know. Important to bear in mind when trying to communicate.
What gender? Non-human entities can nonetheless have gender. The Halliburton Group is definitely not feminine. The Nestles Corporation would not like to be thought of as masculine. And trust me, some these corporations are neuters.
When you create a crowdfunded entity do you want it to be seen as aggressively, excitingly, masculine or soft-and-fuzzy feminine?
My one and only experience with crowdfunding was highly personal and, I think, not atypical. My daughter directed a play that they wanted to take to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. $5,000 was needed for plane fares. They raised more than that through Kickstarter. Almost all of it came from friends and family. A nice way of giving, incognito if you wish, rather than humiliating your kid by handing them a check at the dinner table, in front of their friends.
So, that particular character, that crowdfunding personage, had a small close knit family character.
I also hear from my daughter that amongst the young hip artistic creative community there's an unwritten mutual agreement: if I donate $10 to your project, when I need money for my project you'll contribute $10 each to mine. I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine.
Crowdfunding, being young and virile, is spawning like crazy, mutating, producing a bevy of interesting new characters. There's the "I'm a famous director and won't you please fund my next movie even though I earn millions because I don't want to take orders from movie studios." Or, "I'm a famous actor who makes even more millions, but I don't want to risk any of it on my pet project based on my own short stories so I'm asking you to risk your money instead." Veeeeery interesting characters.
A somewhat more loveable character, at least to me, is the Veronica Mars crowdfunded character. That show was cancelled after two seasons. The loyal fans demanded a movie. No studio would fund it. So the fan did it themselves. What a brave, gutsy, defiant character she is!
Would crowdfunding have helped me during my many years in the wilderness? I'm not sure.
"The King's Speech" cost $15 million - or $12 million if you wished to cut back the writer's production bonus. From all venues it grossed over $500 million worldwide. That's quite profitable - although one of the major distributors is only now reluctantly admitting he might have made a few pennies.
Not one studio would make that movie.
A film about a dead English King who stutters! What are you smoking and where can I buy some?
I don't think crowdfunding would have made The King Speech happen. I had to depend on dumb luck, stubbornness and defiance. That's the role, the character, I wrote for myself over the years. It became and act of will. This movie will happen because it must happen, I will not let it not happen. Failure was not an option. I can be a real pain in the ass.
As an aside, people ask me if winning an Oscar has changed my life. Yes. Now the studios owe me more money, for longer.
The first time after acquiring the little gold man I went of for a meeting on a new project, which I assumed of course I was being offered, I discovered it was an audition. There were five other writers in contention. All of them Oscar winners.
Even now, even after The King Speech's success, I've had studio executives honestly admit they still wouldn't make The King Speech. They make tent pole movies, not artsy-fartsy films. Popcorn movies!
By the way, that's the Achilles heel of the movie business. It's all done for pop corn. Truly, that's the only reason they make movies. Pop corn sales are the theater owners' profit margin. No pop corn sales, they'd all close their doors and dim the lights.
Do you realize what a misplaced rumor could do to this proud industry? Ten years ago had you ever heard of gluten? I'm still not sure what it is. But I know everything now has to be gluten free.
What would happen if word spread that corn was the source of all human malaise. Everything must be corn-free. That would shut down Hollywood overnight.
Returning to reality, I sometimes wonder, as I'm sure you must, how all this will play out. Will people tire of crowdfunding, will greed and over-use kill the golden-egg laying goose? Isn't it counter to human nature to expect money for free? Should the profit motive be introduced? Donate over a certain amount and you start accumulating 'points', a share in any future profits. Or does that complicate matters and defeat the whole purpose?
These are questions I'm sure will be discussed as the day progresses.
So let's leave the subject of crowdfunding for a moment, for I've been assured there are 40 speakers to come who know much more about the subject than I do.
However let's stick with the creation of characters.
Recent physiological research has proven that we don't have thoughts without feelings, nor do we have emotions/feelings without thoughts. This simple little truism holds within it profound implications. Analyze the equation: thoughts produce feelings... emotions...emotions cannot exist without thoughts to trigger then. So...if you refuse to think certain thoughts... Eureka! You now have the key, the magic juju, of how to modify and adjust your feelings. Suddenly you're in control of your own script. The script of your life.
That's very empowering.
And you get to make some interesting choices. Is your movie going to be a comedy or a tragedy or a romance? Happy ending, sad ending? Positive or negative? Good or evil?
So I urge you, mistresses and masters of the universe, consider carefully as you sit here learning about this marvelous tool called crowdfunding - what kind of movie, and what kind of part, do you want to write for yourself."
Victoria Silchenko is the founder of Metropole Capital Group and creator of the annual Next Generation Entrepreneurship and Global Crowdfunding Forum in Los Angeles
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