Today I welcome back to the Stage 32 Blog longtime Stage 32 member, Ron Greenfield. Ron spent the early part of his career in New York City as a film graphic art director, designing and producing trailers for Star Trek, Escape from Alcatraz, Reds and Raiders of the Lost Ark before joining CBS/FOX as a creative executive. While at CBS/FOX, Ron conceived the first home video campaigns for Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, as well as many of Woody Allen's early films.
In Los Angeles, Ron joined Republic Pictures as Senior Director of Creative Services, originating the creative campaigns for the company's indie and Hallmark Hall of Fame home entertainment releases. He also worked on the campaigns for the popular series Beauty and The Beast, several television pilots, a few award-winning mini-series and some reality programming. From Republic he went to work for the legendary Aaron Spelling.
Today Ron brings some of what he learned along the way all these years to the Stage 32 community.
I thank Ron for his contribution.
The next time you watch a telecast of a major awards show, complete with celebrities, red carpets, adoring fans and the press, consider the small army of artists, technical experts and creative crafts people it takes to initiate, develop and produce the productions that are nominated or honored.
No matter what part of the entertainment industry we’re talking about - film, theatre, music, dance, writing, performing, etc. – it literally takes a village comprised of skilled professionals to make it happen. Think about the actors and actresses on a movie set, the back-up singers in a recording studio, the musicians in the orchestra pit or touring with a band, the technicians, crews, and drivers going from location to location to get ready for the next set-up or performance, that’s barely scratching the surface.
There are the production assistants, agents, publicists, producers, lawyers, designers, stage managers, backstage crews, the staff employed to make the costumes and build the sets, make-up artists, marketers, advertisers, distributors - the list is without end. These are the people who contribute to and play an important part in the creative process, yet we don’t see or hear about them, but without them the productions we look forward to and enjoy could never take place.
It takes a small army to make film, TV, theater or media
We don’t see the early morning calls, the snags and problems that have to be dealt with, the rehearsals or sessions running into overtime and the other obstacles that arise in order to create the magic. So, why do they do it? Is it for fame, fortune and glory? Perhaps, but it goes deeper than that. The entertainment industry, more than any other industry I can think of, provides a wealth of opportunities for so many people. It is within the scope and breadth of this industry that they are able to find their niche, give form to their talents, abilities and realize their ambitions.
Within the creative framework of whatever we do, whether as a director, writer, dancer, technician or musician, our eventual purpose or intention is to present our work to the world in order for some kind of acknowledgement and validation. It is something we innately feel and need to express, because it is so uniquely 'us', from taking a thought or idea in our imaginations, molding and creating it into a piece of work, which will eventually be presented to an audience. To do that requires talent, vision, fortitude and a great deal of persistence.
When I began my career in the late 70s, I had a single-minded determination and that was to design trailers for the movie industry and motion graphics for television. Almost out of the gate I designed the opening for the U.S. Tennis Open and then onto designing and producing trailers for such well-known films as Grease, Star Trek, Arthur, Reds, Ragtime, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Victor, Victoria. Little did I realize at the time, that because, of my inexperience and naiveté, my career, like any career in this industry, evolves and changes the more we are exposed to and the more we work with people from different backgrounds with different creative skills and disciplines. It is just part of the entertainment landscape.
Arthur - a trailer I helped design & produce
In that respect, I’ve had the opportunity and privilege of working with some outstanding, accomplished and distinguished people, from producers, musicians, film editors and authors to game developers, actors, writers and directors. Back then, I had no way of envisioning where it would take me, from being a motion graphics designer in New York to Vice President of Marketing and Creative Services, working for the legendary Aaron Spelling in Los Angeles. Certain things we can plan for, but the eventual trajectory of our careers and where it will take us is out of our control.
As I’ve experienced and come to understand, creative people by their very natures want to be all that they are capable of becoming – they have the desire to develop the creative possibilities within themselves. I just think it is part of the nature of our artistic spirits, to continually grow creatively and professionally.
It has afforded me the opportunity to work with a wide range of established professionals, including many who are well-known, but, that was not the main focus. For anyone reading this blog, especially those who are new to the industry and looking to build a career in it, it’s not about celebrity. It really isn’t. The key word here is creativity. That’s Creativity with a capital C and the passion a true professional infuses into their work.
In retrospect, when I started my website, Aspects of Entertainment, a few years back, there were some key goals I set out to accomplish. The first was my way to "Pay it Forward", reaching out to individuals in school or just starting out, sharing my experiences and the lessons I learned along the way in this industry. Hopefully, reading my articles and blogs or watching my videos, there would be those who would avoid some of the mistakes and pitfalls I made in my creative and professional journey.
Another, was in my attempt to bring new insights to the subject of creativity. Creativity is a process. It is an on-going and constant practice for anyone with a creative nature to learn from, advance and excel in their chosen profession, whether they’re a sound engineer, game programmer, or a lighting designer and to realize it’s an individual process, something we must do individually as we go about building the foundations of our careers, because no two careers, despite the obvious similarities, can never be the same. We each evolve and develop creatively at our own pace and awareness. Within that framework there are no shortcuts. It will always be an individual, ongoing process of discovery and expansion.
With anything, as in our lives and careers, the unknown and unexpected always have a way of showing up and presenting new opportunities or directions for us to consider. That is exactly what happened to me. In the process of developing Aspects of Entertainment, I knew I had to develop my writing skills in order to express myself. I had to develop that facility for the blogs I published and the articles I wrote and to say it the way I wanted to say it – in my own voice, but the real surprise, as I began to seriously think about it, was the wide-range of professions associated with the entertainment industry. At first it rendered me speechless, but eventually it prompted me to write two books on the subject, Perspectives on Entertainment. I decided to write both books in an interview format, offering different viewpoints and perspectives from individuals at different points in their careers. Some are just on the threshold of their careers, trying to find their way, while others have established a solid foundation for themselves, built over a span of many years.
Every creative's journey is different
The overall purpose was to provide the reader with useful and practical insights into the daily nuts and bolts of working in this industry and the creative path each had chosen for themselves. It embodies an array of professions, from Devon Jefferson, a young songwriter in North Carolina, writing his own music and working to establish his own recording label, to Aslan Rolston, a dancer making the rounds in New York City, who describes her life and the four or five jobs she works at to make ends meet, the endless auditions and classes that are a part of her daily life in order to pursue her ambitions.
The careers I've mentioned in this blog are only a smidgeon of professions anyone can pursue under the umbrella of the entertainment industry. They are available to anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort and have the unwavering resolve to succeed, but be advised, it takes a person with a committed purpose and the determination to continually raise the bar of excellence, have a high degree of passion for the work they do and the steadfast persistence to work at their profession during the good, but more importantly, the difficult times.
There are a great many things I could say that I think would be useful, but perhaps the best advice I can offer anyone, no matter where they are in their profession, is BE PREPARED. Granted, this is a highly competitive industry and one that demands a great deal from us constantly. We don’t punch out at five o’clock, it has never been that way and likely never will.
There is a profusion of opportunities and if one is missed, eventually there will be another one, but, when they do come along, how ready will you be for them? How prepared are you to seize the opportunity and run with it? Writers write every day to motivate and drive themselves to be better writers. Dancers dance and train every day and singers sing and vocalize every day. Musicians practice their instruments daily whether they’re working or not. You can’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring. When you do that you’re not ready. You’re not prepared for the opportunity when it presents itself. That’s what I mean by being prepared.
Advice from TONY award winner, Jess Goldstein
Probably one of the most important things I’ve heard in a long time was in the interview I conducted with Jess Goldstein, who is a TONY award winning costume designer (Jersey Boys, Newsies, and the recent revival of On The Town) and the recipient of the 2015 Irene Sharaf Life Time Achievement Award.
Photo credit: Jess Goldstein
When I asked him why he thought he succeeded in his profession when so many others have not, he said...
"I think so much of it is just having the perseverance. There were a lot of people I went to school with that were very, very talented, but they just didn’t have the passion to keep going … Everybody has their own path and their own road to success. You can’t say, “Oh I want that person’s career” because it just doesn’t work that way. You have to find your own way. It’s a tough lesson to learn because, of course, we’re all envious of other people that are doing what we’re doing but seem to be doing it better. It’s something you have to come to terms with."
I think that says it all. No matter what you set out to do in this industry, you have to come to the realization that your career, like any career that is noteworthy, is of your own making. Careers of substance are built over time. They are not a sprint, but a marathon.
If you missed Ron's inaugural contribution to the Stage 32 Blog, click here to read The Home Entertainment Revolution: Then and Now.
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