I saw a short documentary about a man they call Forest Man, who lives in a remote part of India, where he has been planting trees since the 1970s on the island of Majuli. The island loses land to erosion from annual river flooding and has been a barren wasteland. Yet through this man’s individual efforts, the island now has a forest larger than New York’s Central park!
It occurs to me that building and maintaining a career is analogous to what this man is doing. If you want to grow a plant or a tree you need to plant a seed, and you need to cultivate it. If you want to grow a forest, you need to plant lots of seeds over time and keep doing it. The same is true in the entertainment industry. In order to build a career you must plant seeds and cultivate them, and keep doing it.
Every time you go to an industry event you have an opportunity to plant seeds. Every person you meet is an opportunity to do so. Have a conversation, get to know new people a little, exchange cards – there you planted a seed. Now cultivate it! Follow up, establish a rapport – you have a seedling. Keep cultivating the relationship, stay in touch, get together for drinks, and find out what they like to do, where they like to hang out – your plant is growing.
I’ll offer a personal example. A few years ago I heard about a company called The Asylum. Their business model is to make a lot of low budget movies quickly, pre-sell them and turn a profit. For the most part they don’t make hits, I hadn’t even heard of any of their films, but they were very successful and very busy (since I first heard of them they released Sharknado and its sequels, which have done incredibly well).
I tried to find a way in. I saw that one of the development executives at the company was going to be at a Film Independent event and would be available to talk to participants at the event. I registered for the event, attended and was able to speak to him. We had a good initial conversation and I immediately followed up. After several emails and conversations we met up at his office. He introduced me to some of the principles at the company and we went to lunch. He also introduced me to the person who handles the music for them.
I continued to follow-up with him, and the music person I had just met. That lead to more lunches, more emails and more conversations, all the while they kept telling me they have a go-to composer that does most of their films. So I got an introduction to this composer and met him and began developing a relationship with him, too.
When my string quartet had it’s world premiere performance, I invited them all to attend. It took over 2 years, but thanks to that seed that I had planted and cultivated I finally got my chance to score #FollowFriday. I continue to cultivate my relationship with those folks and hope to work with them on future projects.
That was an example of a seed that became a beautiful tree and bore fruit, but not all seeds germinate. Some become seedlings but don’t survive to maturity. Some grow for a while but end up dying due to disease, natural disaster, or whatever other reason. The same is true when building relationships. You have to work at them and not all of them work out. Some fizzle out, some just don’t click, I’ve built relationships with people that have left the business, and other relationships prosper and lead to great things.
Think of your career as a forest. If you want to have a forest, you need to plant a lot of seeds. And you need to cultivate them, and keep planting more. And like a forest, where nature will take its course and seeds will fall from trees creating new trees on their own, the same is true for your career. Relationships can lead to new relationships, people will introduced you or recommend you to other people.
The more seeds you plant, the more trees will grow and bear fruit. And as you grow your forest it will attract other wildlife, just as Forest Man’s tree is now home to elephants and many other animals that weren’t there before. If you grow a forest, people will want to come and spend time in it. If you build great relationships, and build a career, others will start reaching out to you.
So plant many seeds, cultivate them all as best you can, and you’ll bear more fruit. The more you do this, the more opportunities will come your way. Sometimes things don’t work out – some fruit will sour or never fully ripen. Sometimes relationships fall apart, or the chemistry just isn’t there. Sometimes people don’t respond when you follow-up on that initial meeting – not all seeds will sprout.
But if you make sure to plant lots of seeds, and different varieties of seed, you will eventually create that forest. So make sure you meet producers, directors, editors, music supervisors, composers, orchestrators, agents, music executives, the list goes on and on. The more varied your network, the better off you’ll be. And don’t be discouraged when not all your seeds sprout or bear fruit. Sometimes no matter what you do, things just don’t work out. Just keep planting.
To watch Jadav Payeng’s (aka Forest Man) inspiring story click here or watch below.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.