I’ve been collecting expressions I’ve heard or used during negotiations since the start of dealfatigue; most recently updating the page, Lingua Franca last month. So I was pleased to discover Variety’sslanguage dictionaryhere.
Variety’s site is a comprehensive companion to Lingua Franca but lacks a number of words and expressions I’ve collected. So use them together as a resource and keep those emails coming so I can keep Lingua Franca timely and useful.
Good repping is the art of persuading people to agree to your terms. Not all salesmen are lawyers but all good lawyers (and agents) are salesmen. You can sell hard or you can sell soft. Over time, many Reps develop a belligerent or schmoozy negotiating style because it works for them (or it doesn’t and they’re just built that way).
However, situational awareness is key to achieving consistently good outcomes in negotiations, regardless of leverage. The savvy Rep modulates her negotiation approach to conform to a given situation rather than the other way around. See my post on the importance of regularly watching Animal Planet here to learn how animals (including humans) instinctively do this.
What follows are a number of movies that portray agents and salesmen in roles a Rep typically confronts (or becomes) during negotiations. The movies are all critically acclaimed and enjoyable to watch. For our purposes though, the story lines are secondary to the archetypes of the characters.
1. Glengarry Glen Ross
Here’s Alec Baldwin’s motivation by dominance. “Always Be Closing”:
Contrasted with Al Pacino’s softer, I feel your pain and you feel my empathy approach:
2. What Makes Sammy Run?
Sammy must win even if he loses:
3. Broadway Danny Rose
Our instincts naturally pick up on Danny’s desperation vibe which only serves to work against him:
4. Swimming with Sharks
The Alpha in the room. Win by domination and dominate to win:
These archetypes shouldn’t be viewed as role models though I have to admit a fondness for Pacino’s portrayal. However, Reps (as well as principals) like those above abound in different permutations in the negotiation culture.
You need to be prepared to deal with them as the situation requires.
Most if not all negotiations are a combination choreographed dance, manipulation and fear of loss. The latter stems from our own inbred animal instincts which exert a strong influence over negotiations; even those where one side objectively has more leverage than the other.
From knowledge comes strength and while you can’t entirely eliminate fear from negotiations, the zen of knowing that it’s there minimizes its influence.
We spend an inordinate amount of time in service of our fear to our detriment. One of Seth Godin’s recent posts sizes it up nicely:
. . . . Chipmunks, wolves and other wild animals rarely get jealous. The number one emotion among wild animals isn’t vanity or happiness: it’s fear.
Fear is everywhere in the animal kingdom, because fear is a great way to stay alive. Fear is hard-wired into successful species… it doesn’t need to be taught. . . . An entire portion of our brain (the same brain the lizard has) is dedicated to fear. And it can’t wait to spring into action.
If your fear keeps you alive, embrace it. The rest of the time, the best strategy for success is figuring out how to ignore it, befriend it or use it as a compass to find what matters.
Seth’s use of fear as a compass really resonated with me. If you’re acting in the service of your anxiety then you’re probably not going to get the best result.
* Are you filling in awkward silences?
* Are you (pre?)-negotiating against yourself by offering an alternative fallback position before the other side has considered (and possibly accepted or rejected) your proposal?
* Are you being aggressive enough and asking for the Cinderella Deal or are you being too aggressive at the risk of killing the deal?
Here’s the litmus test:
If you’re ignoring your fears and taking a position that can be taken with reason, then chances are you’re being authentic and forthright. Your negotiations will, if not accepted, be perceived from the other side as strong if not tenacious and of earnest good will.
Over the past 18 months, I’ve watched countless film projects rise, flounder and fall with the promise of financing. The prevailing wisdom is that things have gotten so bad with oil, gas and real estate investment that film finance actually looks like a safe bet for equity investors. Oh, if it were only so. Film investment for equity players continues to be a very risky play.
Although debt financing continues to be a dim prospect, Comerica Bank, Union Bank and National Bank of California continue to back certain films from reliable players. From my perspective however, the end of debt financing of motion pictures came almost three months after the collapse of AIG and Lehman Brothers when the US rescued the bank in mid-finance of a movie I was working on. The bank ultimately financed the picture though I like to think that the collective efforts of the lawyers, the bank executives and the producers involved had a hand in getting the deal done.
Depending on the day, sheer will to make things happen is either over-rated or under-rated. And so it goes with film financing.
I’ve reviewed countless Stand By Letters of Credit (SBLC’s), real estate investments restructured for film finance, Sole Trader deals out of the UK, nine figure film funds from – depending on the day – Vancouver, Taipei, Shanghai and New Jersey and sources of black box financing where, for reasons not entirely clear to me, the identities of the investors and the financing methods used are veiled in secrecy. Not one of these sources of financing has come through. For its part, black box financing may be illegal or even dangerous. In a post-Bernie Madoff world, you just can’t leave the risk of financial games to chance. Get transparency or don’t do the deal.
Some of these prospective investors may prove to be the real deal but at best, they are all long shots. Do your due diligence so you know who you’re dealing with, the sources of financing and whether the investor is prepared to provide you with references (i.e., prior projects they’ve financed) and proof that their funds actually exist through escrow or bank confirmation. Some financiers may be more forthcoming than others and at some point, given the limited resources of time, money, knowledge and passion, you may have to go with your gut in deciding whether to proceed.
I have to believe that a number of would-be film investors are earnest and either don’t know that they don’t have money to invest or get cold feet at the prospect of closing; while others may be lookey-loos who simply want to do lunch at The Ivy and play the producer game but really don’t have any money to invest.
But still they come with promises that entice producers and other creatives. Just make sure you don’t get stuck picking up the check.
Back in the 80′s, MTV was cutting edge. To many of us growing up back then, music videos were as much a part of the soundtrack to our lives as the music itself.
Inspired, my high school class produced its own music video; a lip syncing production of Devo’s We’re Through Being Cool which was seen by less than a thousand people at my school’s annual musical revue. [Note to Roslyn High alums, please send me a copy and I will post it here!]. Today, kids produce lip dubs in just a few hours and mass distribute them to millions worldwide through viral video websites like YouTube.
Here’s a lip dub of I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas. A couple of kids from the University of Quebec, Montreal (UQAM) shot this video with 172 students in one take and one rehearsal.
Here’s “the making of” video of the UQAM lip dub [Subsequently blocked by UMG. I can't figure why of the two, Universal Music Group chose to block the "making of" footage and not the lip dub itself.Updated: January 21, 2012]:
Here’s the original music video produced by The Black Eyed Peas.
I prefer the UQAM students’ take.
Of course, lip dubbing raises all sorts of legal issues concerning copyright, fair use and commercial exploitation of works owned by others. Apparently, the students didn’t clear the music though I suspect the cost of doing so would have been prohibitive.
So are mass distributed, viral lip dubs bad or good for the music business? The band? Do they cut into or promote market share? Do they dilute the promotional power of the band? [Ed. Note: Don't ask me about this last one. I hear this argument from label reps every time I negotiate with them.]
With over 3 million hits on YouTube and publicity from news outlets and blogs like this one, The Black Eyed Peas could never have garnered that kind of exposure on their own. YouTube’s Audio ID program can link lip dubs and other user generated content on its website to online buyers of the band’s music. That kind of Internet exploitation should be music to the industry’s ears.
[UPDATE: January 18, 2010:] As reported on The Trademark Blog, Capitol Records sued Vimeo in Federal Court on December 10, 2009 for copyright infringement from the site’s exploitation of lip dubs.
According to The Trademark Blog, Capitol needs to persuade the Court not to follow Io Group v. Veoh or UMG v. Veoh. These cases held that file sharing services like Vimeo are not liable for the creative (and arguably infringing) activities of their users.
As I wrote earlier, the music industry needs to have an honest and public discussion about whether such uses actually promote or dilute the value of their works. So far, I haven’t seen any proof one way or the other. In the end, it might not matter. People will continue to find creative and novel ways to exploit existing works despite the risks. It’s incumbent on the music industry to figure out a way to squeeze some profit for themselves out of that.