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There is no question advice is a key to learning and succeeding. 

Whether it is advice on how to best overcome an immediate problem or a better way to operate a piece of gear, relationships, or career paths. Almost anything you can think of is better played with advice. But just like Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, advice comes in many flavors, and just like those assortments of flavors, you never know which one you’ll like until you taste it.

Trying to sample all available advice relating to your career from many sources may send you down a rabbit hole, never to see the light of day again or move you further from your goal than if you just stayed on your original course. Then again, the right advice can save you years of trial and error while catapulting you to the front of the line in the blink of an eye.

The key is discerning valuable advice from bad advice. The first line of defense is “CONSIDER THE SOURCE.” Do a little digging about their accomplishments. Ask around. Has the person who is advising you succeeded in using this advice? Is this person respected in their industry? Are they presenting the advice in a take-it-or-leave-it fashion, “If you don’t do it this way, you’ll never succeed!”

The next consideration is how the circumstances have changed since the person dispensing the advice applied it. If you’re talking to someone who came into the music recording industry pre-digital technology, their point of reference to completing an album project begins with a multimillion-dollar recording studio. If you’re talking to someone with the same interest today, their go-to might be a two-room office space with a laptop running ProTools or even someone’s bedroom with Garage Band or Logic.

Each person’s point of entry is going to be highly different.

Always CONSIDER THE SOURCE of advice.

Let’s say you have an idea for a film short. You’ve never attempted to make a film. But you can’t get this idea out of your head and think it will change the world. Excellent! You’ve just accomplished step one, believing you have something worth sharing.

Along the way, you meet someone at a house party who says they work in the film business. During the conversation, you tell them about your idea and ask how you should bring it to life. They explain that step one is developing a budget. If you can’t afford to fund the project yourself, you will need to find backers. For this, you will need a formal treatment, including spreadsheets for cost disbursements, who is attached to the project, actors, directors, DP, etc. Then, you will need to retain legal and accountants who are familiar with entertainment projects.

As they continue to rattle on, all you hear is the sound of the school teacher on the Charlie Brown Christmas special, just an indistinguishable sound mimicking someone speaking.

You wander away, head hung down, thinking your incredible idea is dead while uttering the words we’ve all said one time or another, “What was I thinking? I am not capable of accomplishing that!”

WRONG… The problem was you happened to cross paths with someone who approaches film projects at the highest level.

Before you begin asking for advice, you always need to CONSIDER THE SOURCE.

What do they do in film?

How long have they been doing it?

What type of projects do they work on?

Where do they work?

It’s not that their advice was wrong. It’s just that the advice was bad for what you were attempting. It would help if you had advice or guidance from someone who understands and has accomplished getting a project done on our level. Maybe involving others who are getting started in the biz and looking to develop their skills on a project, they think is cool and has potential.

There are hundreds of ways to approach bringing an idea to reality that doesn’t need all the items mentioned by the person at the house party.

Always CONSIDER THE SOURCE of the advice. It might not be bad advice it might just be inappropriate for you.

Then there is BAD ADVICE.

Since my career and abilities allow me to cross over industries and assume different positions in those industries, I’ve learned when hired for a particular position, it’s best not to reveal my other skills unless absolutely necessary. If I’m employed as a video producer. I rarely tell people I am highly technical and have twenty years of experience in music production, both studio and live events. I’ll save that reasoning for another blog.

Inevitably, there are moments when the BAD ADVICE starts flowing. This typically happens when someone tries to cover a mistake or lack of experience.

In video production, there is a fair amount of sound technology and technology in general. Since most “video producers” don’t have my background, technicians or audio folks on the crew often speak nonsense to producers when they cannot correct a problem. Since the producer doesn’t have enough insight into these issues, they are left to accept the nonsense.

This propagation of BULL is usually a result of a tech who initially did not process the knowledge or experience needed to correct the failure. They typically revert to what I call duck and cover smoke. They begin speaking techno gibberish designed to confuse and distract the producer from tech’s shortcomings. Unfortunately, this technique works enough times that it never has a negative feedback on the tech. As a matter of fact, many times, it works so well they are promoted.

Fortunately, I possess the knowledge to tell the difference from a gibberish approach from someone who knows what they are doing. Without my background, I would also be at the mercy of BAD ADVICE. Depending on the severity of the problem and how much of the project is at risk, I may or may not step up. If it’s a minor issue and I know I have a workaround, I will keep my mouth shut and keep the project moving.

But I will always circle back and have one one-on-one with that individual. Beginning with, “It’s better to acknowledge your limits than to put an entire project at risk.” Ultimately, faking it will always catch up to you with consequences more drastic than admitting you didn’t know.

The more significant problem with BAD ADVICE is it propagates quickly throughout an industry as a fact. Someone with minimal experience gets BAD ADVICE from someone with supposedly a lot of experience. The person with minimal experience accepts that BAD ADVICE as fact and then begins passing it along.

At some point, that newbie will come across a “real” person who will blast them, “What the heck are you doing??? Who told you that’s the right way?”

I’ve seen this situation many times. Someone who never questioned the value of who was offering the advice gets a harsh reprimand and, many times, fired.

The simple fix to know whether the advice you’re getting is good or bad is simple. Spend a little time evaluating who is giving you advice or guidance. Don’t just take someone’s word for it. Ask around, “Chris just told me that this is how this device or system works. Does that make sense?” The reply will usually go, “If Chris says that’s how it works, that’s how it works. Chris is never wrong. Chris has been at it for years.” OR “I’m not sure how it works, but before you just accept what Chris told you., I’d check with other people.” Remember, even the advice you’re getting about Chris…. is advice. (It never ends. HAHA)

We all need GOOD advice and guidance along the way. The simple way to evaluate the shared advice is to spend some time and CONSIDER THE SOURCE.

Fast track your entertainment production career