Part four: The First Miracle

YOU MUST READ THIS.  IT IS LONG, BUT ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT POSTS I’VE EVER MADE.

O.K….let’s talk about the actual application of the SECRET FORMULA, the first time I noticed that there was something special about it.  VERY special.  Read carefully.

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Four years ago, T and I made our short film, DANGER WORD.  We had each participated in local Atlanta film festivals and contests, looked at what people were doing, and said: “hey, we could do that!”   We allied ourselves with T’s dear friend and director Luchina Fisher and Luchina’s producer Zainab Ali .  Together, we figured that to produce the movie we wanted, we’d need a total of thirty thousand dollars.  About 15-20 of that for pre-production and production, about 10-15 for post production and promotion.  Our own salaries were modest…the vast majority of that money went directly into crew, equipment, transportation, and so forth.

 

A core principle of film is do NOT use your own money.  People go broke like that very quickly. One of the reasons is very simple: if you can’t enroll other people in funding your project, what makes you think you can sell tickets later?  You may have an ego project no one wants to see, and funding it out of your own pocket is an avoidance of reality, and a path to disaster. So we decided to crowd fund, both because we were short on cash, and to test our sales chops. If there was an audience that wanted to see this film, we would find out pretty quick.

 

And…we were VERY gratified to see a powerful, positive response from social media. Between our email and Facebook and Twitter and blogging audiences, T (who spearheaded the effort) and I raised about sixteen thousand dollars on the “Indiegogo” platform!  Enough for pre-production and production, hiring our crew and three actors at decent rates (our actors were angels, yes, we paid them, but obviously couldn’t come close to paying their worth.  They believed in our project!)  By describing our project not   just as a “zombie” movie but as a tale of an old man (Frankie Faison) desperately trying to protect his emotionally traumatized grand-daughter (Saoirse Scott ) in a post-apocalyptic world, people saw the HEART of our peace, and responded with money, time, and energy.

 

So we went to Upstate New York, and over three intense days, filmed our movie.  That was an adventure in itself, I can promise you, and on re-considering it, there were mini-cycles of the same “SECRET FORMULA” process encoded within.  More on that another time.

 

But here is the upshoot: we finished, came back home, and cut together a trailer from our footage.  We figured we’d use that trailer to raise the rest of the money that we needed for post-production (editing, music, titles and credits, promotion and distribution, etc.). I designed a trailer I thought would work well, had  Saoirse  record “Amazing Grace” to play over it (taking a cue from the movie) and cut it together. It was great!  People loved it!

 

And…we got a little more money, and then…nothing. The well had dried up.  Tapped out.  Our circle of fans and friends had given generously, believing in us and the project, but it now seemed we’d reached the point of diminishing returns. The harder we pushed, the less we got.  

 

Dead end.  A pall of depression settled over us.  We were, it seemed, dead in the water. What were we going to do?

 

We scheduled a conference call to discuss our options, and believe me, we were glum.  I decided that I had to function as more than a writer/producer.  I wanted to function as the spiritual core of the project, take it upon myself to lift everyone’s spirits.  But…how?

 

Well…I’d just finished reading a book called THE SCIENCE OF GETTING RICH, had boiled out this “Secret Formula” thingie.  And decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

 

And committed to doing just that.

 

MORE TOMORROW…

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Just kidding. This time, I’m taking it all the way to a conclusion. This might be the first time I’ve put this down in writing, and I want to get it out there.

 

I think that call was on a Tuesday.  And I acknowledged everyone’s efforts, thanked them for their work, and then got down to business, keeping my tone positive.

 

And went right down the line.

 

GOAL: What were we committed to?  Finishing our movie. Getting it out there.  What was necessary to get it done?  We had to raise fifteen thousand dollars.   I bored down more deeply.   DID WE REALLY HAVE TO RAISE FIFTEEN THOUSAND?  Really?

 

First…how much money did we have in the bank, left from the previous effort? About eighteen hundred, I recall.  All right, that meant we had to raise what, about 13.2 thou, right?

 

O.K.  Next.   Let’s brainstorm about this.  We’d raised all our money from social media, and though we got a few contributions of a thousand dollars, the average was about 100.   We’d raised that on VAPOR, sheer trust, nothing but social capital for collateral.  

 

But now we had footage. GOOD footage.  Could we cut together a rough version, with the resources we had?  It would cost…

 

Or would it?  Terence Taylor, our wonderful editor, might be willing to do that rough cut on account, to be repaid after we raised the rest of the money.  But…how would we raise that money?  How would we be able to honestly promise Terence that his work would be repaid?

 

Well…there are completion funds available in the world.  Grants, loans, investments, film-school funds.    If we could put together a presentation package, we could identify 100 sources of film money, at the highest level we could reach.   Send them all packages.  In other words, we’d raised the first 15 from grass roots–the “bottom up.”   What would it take to create a package that would allow us to approach people from the “top down”?  

Well…

 

It would take a lot less than fifteen thousand, I can tell you that.   And the instant we realized that, the tension started breaking.  We kept thinking about it, brain-storming about it.  We could defer costs. Get volunteers.  Find people who would make trades, or work for credit.  The price kept coming down and down…until we realized we could create a “demo” rough version of DANGER WORD for just a few thousand dollars.

 

Note how the GOAL had sharpened, so that we saw what actually needed to be accomplished, and once we faced the dragon squarely, it shrank?

 

That impacted our FAITH. Because once we saw that we only needed to raise about three thousand dollars cash, I said: “is there any one of us who doesn’t believe we can do that?  We’d raised FIFTEEN thousand dollars with NOTHING!   Surely we can raise THREE with the leverage of our footage! And now we were laughing.   We KNEW we could do it. Hell, we could put that on our credit cards!

 

Which led to ACTION.  We created an action plan. Tananarive, Luchina, Zainab and I would draw plans, make calls, create lists, reach out to high-level allies and potential investors.   Organizations who had the ability, or the contacts, to “write a check” for the entire amount.  Grass roots up, then top-down, right?

 

The mood was now jubilant. Party time!  We knew we could do it!   And note that we didn’t need “luck”, we needed work.   We KNEW that if we knocked on enough doors, someone would say “yes.”   It was just a numbers game.  How many doors?  A dozen? A hundred?  A thousand?  Whatever it was, we were gonna do it.    IT ISN’T LUCK.  IT IS PLAYING THE NUMBERS.

 

Get it?  Remember that picture of the  vultures sitting on the branch?  THAT has to be your attitude.  

Patience

 

 

Knock on enough doors, constantly modeling the techniques of the world’s great door-knockers?  

Somebody’s gonna let you in.

And the last step was GRATITUDE.  “Look how far we’ve come!”  I said.   “We can accomplish anything!”   We were now a fountain of optimism, creativity, energy.   Bubbling over.  In one hour we had totally turned the tide.  We ended the phone call with a general love-fest for each other.

 

And…can you guess what happened after we hung up?

 

Sure you can. Because on some level you understand the actual rules of the Universe.  

And those are: when you don’t have a sweetheart, you can’t get one.  Until you’ve got one, and then suddenly everybody is interested.

 

When you don’t have a job, you can’t get a job. Until you’ve got one, and then the phone won’t stop ringing.

 

When you don’t have credit, you can’t get credit.  Until you heal your credit and DON’T NEED IT, at which point people fall all over themselves to offer you cards and freebies.

 

It is absolutely perverse. Remember “Broadcast News” where Albert Brooks says “wouldn’t it be great if `needy” were a turn on?

 

Yeah.  Well, it ain’t.   Not to anyone healthy. To predators, sure.  But health attracts health.    When you are desperate, it is as if you are invisible.  But when you are confident, when you have clarity, faith, gratitude, and have that “patience my ass!” attitude, it is as if you gain psychic mass, begin to “bend” the space around you like a planet bends space-time, creating a gravity well.  Objects are not really “attracted” per se, but they enter your field and cannot escape.  You become a “luck magnet.”  

 

And if you get no luck?  To hell with it: play the numbers.  Every vacuum cleaner salesman knows that if they knock on enough doors, they will sell a unit.  They don’t take refusals personally.  They play the damned numbers.

Ask enough girls for a kiss, sure, you’ll get your face slapped, but you’re also gonna get smooched.

Play the numbers.

And I bet you can guess what happened once we had GOALS, FAITH, GRATITUDE and had committed to focused, determined, no-b.s. ACTION without a drop of self-pity.

 

Yeah, that’s right.  To make a long story short, within HOURS Indiegogo told us that we had a FIVE THOUSAND DOLLAR donation. I kid you not.  And within a few days, the wonderful lady who had given us that had motivated her mother to donate ANOTHER five thousand dollars.  Unreal.  Flabbergasting.  And neither of them had had the slightest idea of our phone conversation.

 

And if it hadn’t happened?  We’d have handled it anyway. THAT is what made it happen.

 

I’ve applied this “formula” about five more times, specifically, since then, and every time it has worked, snatched victory from apparent defeat.   Not always this spectacularly.  Sometimes we had to knock on more doors…but it work, produced “luck” BECAUSE WE DIDN’T NEED LUCK.

 

It works. It is the closest thing to “Magic” I’ve ever seen.  Please, try it.  Prove me wrong, if you can.

 

Well defined written GOALS with plans for their accomplishment.

FAITH that you CAN and SHOULD have this goal, that the efforts to accomplish it will produce more pleasure than pain.

DAILY ACTIONS that will take you to that goal if you can only stay on track. An “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” attitude.  A “Whatever It Takes” attitude.   A “Patience My Ass, I’m Gonna Kill Something” attitude.  A “Screw `luck’–I’m playing the Numbers” attitude.

And GRATITUDE.   Be happy.  Joyful. Celebrate your life, your existence, your family and friends. The mentors and allies who have helped you along the path.  In that way, no matter what happens…you’ve already won. And winning becomes a habit.

 

That’s the Secret Formula.   Tomorrow I’ll talk about how to integrate it into a Daily Ritual, but you already have everything you need.  Everything.   The only question is: are you willing to step out of your excuses? Are you ready to put 100% of yourself into making your life surpass your dreams?   Can you handle temporary defeat for ultimate victory?   ARE YOU READY TO BE HAPPY?

 

If so…there’s the Path, my friend. There’s the path.

 

Namaste,

Steve

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