The slender bespeckled young Asian American man talking quietly in the corner at Santa Monica’s General Assembly meeting room didn’t appear impressive…until you started talking to him and then he became impressive.
Coming from Virginia five years earlier, Erman Baradi knew very little about the entertainment industry. He only knew he wanted to write and produce. He knew he had to be out here in Los Angeles if he wanted to succeed. He knew no one, but he also understood what it meant to be lost in a society where you turned and turned and had no idea of which direction to go. Understanding the importance of karma, of making your life a win-win situation – helping others and by the same time getting assistance yourself – Erman decided that he, himself, could be a resource to others. After all, it’s a relationship industry.
He realized that by connecting others, he could connect himself, as well. His belief is that by elevating another, they will elevate you. “A breakthrough talent might even get their start at one of my events. If they do make it before you, they will (hopefully) return the favor or at least pay it forward. Still, it’s not just about future favors but about seeing people you know win. I may not be a successful writer and filmmaker yet, but if I can connect two people who click and can create great content together all because they know I have the network to make that connection, then that will be success for me as well.” A good deed should be done for the joy of doing the good deed and not for what you think you will get out of it afterward.
Though he co-created a Hollywood event series called MixKnowledgy with a partner after a string of solo endeavors, he recently launched his own series called Hollywood Chills under his new personal brand Ermantourage. He says it is a more intimate Q&A series in comparison to the bigger events and the name is a play on words since wants events where people can chill and network. He’s been doing events for over five years with others and three years on his own.
What he’s doing seems to be getting around. Just the other day, a legendary voice actor called him to see if he could help her find new representation. On the same say, a new talent asked him for advice. “When my career takes off, I want to turn to these people I have met at the mixers, panels, contests, etc and say ‘I have a job for you. Are you up for it?’
Among those featured at the event this day – Holly Would Talk: Celebrating Women In Hollywood – was Cate Adams, a Vice President from Warner Brothers film productions. She was interviewed by Ivana Massetti, founder of Women Occupy Hollywood.
Cate grew up in Nashville, TN and loving theater and literature, she earned her degree at Princeton before spending a semester in Italy. The production bug nagged at her for several years before she moved to Los Angeles in 2008. It soon became apparent to her that the competition for creative jobs in the industry was fierce and that she had to prove she was going to be here for the long haul so she began to offer her services to people. She read as many scripts and as many genres as she could and made notes on how the stories could be improved. Her education in theatre and story structure proved invaluable.
It took persistence but finally she landed an internship with Lynda Obst. While she initially hadn’t thought about working for a studio, when she was offered a chance at a low level job at Warner Brothers, Cate realized that the more diverse her knowledge, the more helpful she would be to her future bosses and to her own career. It made sense to learn the studio side of the business.
Unlike an independent producer who only works when they have a project and sometimes get stuck on one project type, at the studio they are always in some form of production on a variety of scripts. This was great for Cate since her taste was so varied. An independent producer also has the ability to do films that are not always as commercial whereas the studio heavily considers what the returns might be on a project. (Though one can never really predict this.)
She likes science fiction and things that take you outside of your current cares, as well as noir, but also family stories, too. She loves family humor and character that are unique. “Make me feel something when I read that page.” Stories that give hope and promise are huge in today’s market.
She enjoys getting to know a variety of people and different writing styles. It helps her decide who she might ask to do a rewrite if one is needed for a project. She sees her job as being the one to make your story better and stronger. She might say this is what I see. It’s your job as the writer to come up with the solution. She suggests that you be specific with your opinions, be able to back them up and have alternative paths and choices.
When she reads, Cate looks at the plotting, the twists and the characters. Do they all fit together? Do they all make sense? Can we relate to who the characters are? (This is the most crucial because the audience will want to follow that character not only though this movie but perhaps though a sequel.) You can have a great idea but if the character’s response isn’t a universal one, if the audience doesn’t respond with their heart, the film won’t go anywhere.
As she reads, she is always asking herself “Am I moved? Is this story being told well? What is it about this story that draws me in? What director would I give this to who could make the vision come through the way I am feeling it?” Everything she reads she must ask – “Can this be a Warner movie?” You must do your homework and understand the brand of the company that you are bringing your project to.
Cate always looks for different voices and she loves it when a writer has passion for their project. When the passion shows through it can make the difference between a no and a greenlight. One of her current projects is about a teen dying of cancer. It’s a smaller movie and she hopes it will be shot next year.
Ivana pointed out how important it was to get out of one’s tower and to learn about other people and other cultures so that one can improve your own abilities.
For those starting out she suggests starting to work at an agency and believes that besides making great contacts, one can learn an enormous amount that will serve you in the future no matter where you work. She likes helping other women move forward and hopes to be working with larger studio titles shortly.
Her advice to those in the business is to “Keep Writing. When you finish one thing, start another. Keep pushing. Keep creating. Listen to people who give you notes.” (It’s important to understand their perspective since they might have a different story in mind than the one you are trying to write.) One also needs to understand the role of the person giving you the notes as you will receive comments from the studio executive, from the director, the actor, as well as your agent. Study craft and structure and understand what works and why it works. You, the writer, must then synthesize and decide how to incorporate their notes into one that will make sense for the story and will please everyone. Not an easy task.
She urges writers to understand their own passions and what drives them? How are they selling themselves?
“There are roadblocks everywhere. Keep your head down and find your champion. Be consistent and stay true to who you are. Understand your passions and what you are willing to fight for. People like the ‘real thing.”
For aspiring directors, she suggests making and promoting shorts at festivals and platforms as You Tube.
Managers and agents watch places like the Black List and major contests and sometimes pick up people from these sources.
Ivana, who is Italian, but who has also lived and worked in Spain and France, acknowledges that the business is tough everywhere. But since in Europe many films are state sponsored women there have more access to film funding. Sweden implemented 50/50 funding . “Women pay taxes and should also get equal financing. We are 52% of the population and as tax payers we participate in the country’s growth. We carry more than our share of the burden. Besides that we are mothers as well as workers but seem to have very few privileges. This is true is virtually every field, but in the film industry the treatment of women is even worse. Women are almost completely absent from the cultural arena of America.
So, in 2016, when Ivana discovered that the American women still didn’t have the equal rights guaranteed by the Constitution, and that the ERA NEVER PASSED – something which very few are truly aware of – Ivana decided to do something about it. After nearly 40 years of no progress this March Nevada became the 36th state to ratify it. Two more states are still required for it to become law. “We will never get equal pay without ERA. If we are all in it together, we can change things and not be the objects we are now seen as.” Ivana felt that the lack of Equal Rights is one reason that women’s voices are as non-existent as they are both in entertainment and other areas.
Feeling stymied, she started a movement/organization Women Occupy Hollywood to serve as an umbrella for all women in the creative fields of entertainment. America’s cultural voice is still predominately male and that is unacceptable. With her group she hopes to raise awareness of gender inequality and the connection the lack of ERA. “But I also want to build an alternative to Hollywood – a truly renovated independent American cinema through female voices and female talent. Making movies is an art. We want to be in that big arena of the studio films but we want to make our movies, our stories. For this reason I am building two platforms for women directors and writers. I want to give women opportunities to emerge. And I transformed Women Occupy Hollywood into a media company so that it can be a space to develop, produce, distribute very high quality content of both TV and film made by women. It will be a studio for women.” currently, she has four projects in development.
Her goal is to produce women’s films as an independent and make them blossom and eventually have a studio of her own. “She likes different movies. Stories that have an importance to us. Thrillers are great as are historicals, but they do not have to be high budget. I work as an accelerator and show investors how to participate and move forward. Sign up on the website for the various programs she has going.
The next panel was Suzuki Ingerskev, a production designer who worked on True Blood, Here and Now, as well as many other projects, and Susan Bolles, an art director who works with American Crime and has done a lot for MTV.
Susan says that most people have no idea what an art director does. “We do not fluff pillows. We receive the script early on and work with the production director, coordinate with people and research what is needed for the scene. She, herself, has a degree in architecture and was told how hard it was to work in that field. When someone suggested she considered being an art director, she found she liked it.
The work days can be hard and as long as fourteen hours and the more you know about production the better. Understand what others do including the electrical grips, the production assistants, riggers, lighting, sound, and all the multitude of jobs that make up a film. An amazing attitude, willingness to learn and work hard is crucial to succeed in this job.
One talent that can push you forward in this job is understanding how something will look like on film.
Dahlia Turnbull interviewed Ally Iseman, a Women In Film Board Member who spearheads the “Flip The Script” digital project. This web-series parodies some of the problems that women experience when trying to get ahead and 75% of their crew is female.
One of the projects was a new man coming on as a director to an all-woman creative team and being put and put down merely because he is male. The purpose was to show how ridiculous some of the male reactions are. Will they understand? Maybe…maybe not. But she believes if you can make someone laugh, they can learn things. By turning things inside out, you can do this. “It’s not easy to entertain and educate at the same time.”
“It’s important to keep your name in front of people and that’s not always easy to do. In this digital age it’s easier to make your own work and align with people who share your values. Don’t work because you think it will make you money. Be in reality. Do what you need to do because you are passionate about it.”
The sole male speaker in the lineup came to speak per his only availability on my event calendar as Frank Abney resides in the Bay Area where Pixar is located. His animation credits include Frozen, Coco, Big Herp 6, The Boss Baby, Kung Fu Panda 3, the upcoming Incredibles 2, and more.
Check out more of Hollywood Chills and network. Erman is also the co-founder of The Film Empire, which produces Hollywood mentorship contests. Check out their current “Fempire” female film and screenwriting contests.