This last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Nat Mundel, founder of Voyage Media, an awesome media and branding company that I’ve done business with in the past to discuss my impending move to Tel Aviv and how we can work together to bring more attention to Stories Without Borders and all it entails (art activism, film-for-peace, women’s rights, etc.).
I just love Nat and – dare I say – his energy. He is whipsmart, very plugged in and very passionate about what he and Voyage Media do.
Nat also has some pretty interesting perspectives that could totally change how you see the writing/pitching universe and was AWESOME enough to share his 5-part free video training program so you, my readers, can get a sense of what’s offered through Voyage. Click here or on the pic, above to check that freebie out!
So me being me, I just had to know more and recorded an interview with Nat to share with you!
One of the things I found out is that this little-known company has been the industry’s secret weapon for over 9 years, developing and selling some of the biggest movies and TV shows in the business! While we spoke, I learned how Nat Mundel and the team at Voyage Media are pulling back the curtain to reveal what it takes for emerging writers to get something made in Hollywood. Being a priestess of possibilities and empowerment, I just had to learn more and pass it along to you.
Julie Gray: You know, I thought your name was Nate for the longest time. HELLO.
NM: I know! I get that a lot.
Julie: Well, at least I’m not alone! Can you tell us a little more about what you do and are there any projects we might know of that you’ve worked on?
NM: Sure. It’s pretty simple. We’re a boutique shop that helps writers, producers & directors develop, market and sell their entertainment projects. We also produce kick-ass sales materials (look-books, sizzle reels, treatments, etc) for features, TV shows and branded entertainment.
One of our most popular offerings is our “Insider Strategy Session” – in which writers get to connect 1-on-1 with a high-level industry executive who reads their material and offers strategic insights on how to best bring it forward into the marketplace. Emerging writers have found these sessions to be invaluable.
Some of our notable clients include Jerry Bruckheimer, Chris Levinson, Jason Blum, The Hughes Brothers, Lionsgate, Jim Sheridan, Anonymous Content, and many others. But we also help out emerging writers & producers as well.
The list of projects our team members have worked on is really long but some notables in features would be THE BLIND SIDE. THE MESSENGER, RABBIT-PROOF FENCE, BLADES OF GLORY, G.I.JOE, MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR, SCREAM 4, WILD HOGS, THE BOOK OF ELI and in TV some big one’s include TRUE BLOOD, THE WIRE, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, SIX FEET UNDER, WEEDS, MIAMI MEDICAL and MASTERS OF HORROR.
Julie: True Blood? I love Alan Ball. I just spoke with him other day. He knows I’m a freak fan of his, lol!
NM: I hope you didn’t scare him!
Julie: He did drive away kinda fast come to think of it….
Julie: Sorry, back to the topic at hand. Let me ask you this: we’ve heard you say that establishing a career as a professional writer requires more then just writing ability, it also requires strategy. What do you mean by that?
NM: We think of strategy on two primary levels: project strategy & career strategy. Of course great writing ability will always be the minimum barrier to entry, but it’s not enough – a writer has to be writing the “right” projects – which lie at the intersection of personal skills/passions and marketplace/audience demand. If a writer isn’t writing the right projects, they’re wasting their most valuable resource: time.
In terms of career strategy, we take a look at someone’s strengths, weaknesses and latent inclinations, and create a personal-brand strategy that helps build notoriety in the industry and, perhaps more importantly, provides guidance and tactics for sustaining a career that’s just getting going. We have a lot of clients who have had some initial success but weren’t able to keep things going, largely because of poor planning and lack of focus.
Julie: What specific skills (other then the ability to write a great script) are important for a writer trying to break into the industry?
NM: Wow, there’s so many levels to this question. I’ll cut right to the chase: I think the most important things a writer can do are (1) learn some sales & marketing skills and (2) develop themselves personally.
Both topics are covered in the Free Video Training (click here) but on the sales & marketing front, there’s a great story told by Author Robert Kiyosaki in his book, Rich Dad Poor Dad – he’s being interviewed by this young journalist in a hotel lobby and, at the end of the interview she asks him for some guidance on getting a book deal since she’s an aspiring novelist. He thinks for a minute and says, “I think the best thing you could do is take a sales course”.
Julie: No way! Well, no, that makes sense, honestly.
NM: Well, the journalist was horrified and actually offended. She clamored that she was an Ivy League educated writer and that she would never stoop so low as to get into sales. Robert was a little taken aback at first but gathered himself and since he was trying to be helpful, he asked her to read what it said on the top of his book. He said, “You see it says best SELLING author, not best WRITING author. I’m a lousy writer; you’re a great writer. If you could combine both, you’re sure to have success!” The young journalist was so offended that she gathered her things and stormed out of the hotel lobby. Needless to say, she’s still unpublished.
And that actually brings me to the personal development side – it’s really important for writers to remember that they’re just human beings; and even more important to remember that decision-makers are just human beings too. If writers who are trying to pitch their work can remember that, than the fear of rejection becomes easier to manage (and also the urgent need to jump at the first offer becomes a less powerful force).
The titles “writer” and agent”” and “exec” ultimately have no meaning; after all we’re all just human beings looking to make connections with people, have our needs met, and pursue our passions. Everything else is an illusion or abstraction. So developing one’s self esteem and self-image I think is a really high leverage activity.
Julie: What are some of the common mistakes you see newer writers making?
NM: Spending time on the “wrong” projects and forgetting who they are as people. These are killers.
Julie: Oh yeah. Couldn’t agree with you more on that. What are some of the common mistakes you see working writers making?
NM: A couple things come up when I think about this:
#1 is I see working writers fail to plan for the longevity of their career. A lot of people think that once they have an agent or manager, they’re done. It’s actually the opposite. If you’re lucky enough to get signed, now the real work begins. And now more than ever, it’s a mistake to expect agents/managers to do all the heavy-lifting for your career – they just don’t have the time (unless you’re Alan Loeb). You have to have a plan to keep writing (the right stuff) and stay curious and always developing. It’s easier said than done.
#2 is thinking that you can go it alone. For some reason in our industry, we think of writers as these solo acts that simply need to lock themselves away and keep writing. It’s a total myth. Every truly successful person I know has a team – a team of coaches, collaborators, mentors, etc. Can you imaging Michael Jordan going it alone? Or Lance Armstrong? Or Barack Obama? Why do we think that our industry is any different? It’s not. I really recommend that emerging writers start building their team (and no, your mom is NOT your team).
The coolest definition of who to put on your team comes from world-renowned psychologist, Marty Seligman. He says if members of your team have not either (1) done what you are trying to do, (2) successfully helped others do what you’re trying to do, or (3) are world-renowned experts in your field, then they’re not the right team team members .
Julie: How would you describe the current state of the industry as it relates to both working writers and those trying to launch their careers?
NM: I’m betting on significant democratization over the next few years and therefore I believe there will be an ongoing transfer of “power” from the studio/network level to the individual level. I think the writers who will succeed, whether working or emerging, are those that will take responsibility for their own careers and invest in their own projects.
Julie: OH MY GOD you are preaching to the choir! Right on!
NM: (laughs) Calm down, Julie.
Julie: Sorry. Ahem. What kinds of writers are you interested in working with?
NM: The previous answer is a pretty good indicator – those that aren’t afraid to invest in themselves, their projects and their careers – that’s the kind of writer we work well with. In addition to movie, tv and webseries writers, I’m also making a specific bet on very targeted, small movies that can be made for a price.
Julie: How can my readers contact you?
NM: Give me a ring. The office line is 310 392 4180 or they can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to hear from you.
Julie: Thank you so much, Nat! We’ll be talking much more about Stories Without Borders very soon. Excited about that. Now let’s include ways for my readers to learn more:
**To learn about Voyage Media’s development services you can visit http://www.theprofessionalsprogram.com/
**And for information about Voyage Media’s presentation and sizzle reel offerings, visit http://voyagemedia.com
**(Click here) to enjoy the Free Video Training
Julie: You already gave us that link.
NM: It’s not that I’m doubting your technical abilities or anything… I’m just sayin’.