5 Business Lessons From Blockbuster Movies

Profitable movies are practically an oxymoron. Truth Entertainment is redefining how business is done, and has some advice for the rest of us.

The 2013 MTV Movie Awards air this Sunday with Ted, Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Avengers on tap for Movie of the Year. (You can vote here.)

Of course you've heard of all these titles, but they are just a handful of the many movies produced and released the past couple of years—and most movie projects never see the light of day or go straight to video or the sale bin. Joe Newcomb and Tony Notargiacomo, the founders of Texas-based Truth Entertainment, have created a business plan to make profitable movies, an oxymoron in most Hollywood terms. Their first film, Dallas Buyers Club, starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, and Jared Leto, is set for release later this year and is already generating Oscar buzz in some circles.

Just a couple of years ago, Newcomb, a former Toronto Blue Jay turned chemical, oil and gas trader, was invited to Los Angeles to review a possible investment with others in the film business. What he found was disorganization and no focus on the business aspects of what was being done.

“I could see the chaos and I could see a clear solution to the chaos of losing money.” Newcomb added, “No one was looking at it (the film business) like any other business, like the construction business, like the oil and gas business. They were all too wrapped up in the glamour and perceived prestige.”

Newcomb returned home with a different script, partnered with successful real estate investor Notargiacomo, and created a plan to make a profitable film.

"Truth Entertainment came to Hollywood when Hollywood needed them the most," says Holly Wiersma, producer or Dallas Buyers Club. "Not since the days of Bob Evans has Hollywood seen a company that is not only savvy but there for all the right reasons."

So, how does Truth Entertainment set out to make hit movies, or at least profitable ventures? The same question can be asked about a restaurant, a software company, a product launch, and or any business venture. Here are the basic business tenets that apply to any business, laid out here by Newcomb and Notargiacomo:

1. Have a plan: Do an honest assessment of the plan and the ability of that plan to make money. Be conservative and control your business; don’t get caught up in the glamour. Include in your plan ways to cross promote with other industries and individuals.

2. Communicate clearly: Be very clear in what you want, what you expect and what your customers, clients, vendors, and investors are getting into and what you will deliver as well as the associated risks.

3. Create a network: Surround yourself with trustworthy people who share your vision and your level of integrity. In addition to being able to work together, they should also be willing to have a little skin in the game.

4. Pay attention: Take the blinders off, look around, and actively listen. You will train yourself to recognize opportunity. Don’t forget to pay attention to and learn from your mistakes as well.

5. Watch the money: Always have a clear picture of your costs, investments, and incoming money. Most importantly, invest your own money as well as an incentive to you and your investors.

Wrapping up our lunch, I asked each of these novice yet soon-to-be-successful film producers to sum up their business advice in one sentence. “Do something you love, be passionate," said Notargiacomo. "I love everything I do every day.“ But don't expect it to be simple, says Newcomb. "If it were easy, everyone would do it.”

[Clapperboard Image: Flickr user Kirill Proskurin]

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2 Comments

  • Tim

    Thank you. So clear and so simple, yet much easier to say than to execute. Like Newcomb says; "If it were easy, everyone would do it".