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I was invited to speak in Amos Poe’s “Media & Mavericks’ NYU Film School Undergrad class last month. Salman Rushdie and Abel Ferrara spoke before me. Patti Smith was set to follow (so does that mean I’ve opened for Patti?). How could I say no to Amos? Particularly when it was in such illustrious company? His offer to speak got me thinking about what have been the underlying philosophies that have helped me enjoy a prolific life in a capital intensive mass market art form. I entered the film world with the belief that I would be denied access to my lack of connections, class, and rarefied tastes & desires. These “philosophies” that I found, be they mantras, or just helpful reminders, have driven me through the decades and continue to fuel my fire. I hope they help to inspire more good work of yours and want to hear what additions you have to this list.

To understand the underlying principals that guide me though, requires the proper context. Producing is a much different pursuit than pure artistic creation; producers bridge art and business. We facilitate many voices. Our work is as much about helping the work connect with others, as it is about getting it made, or made well. What we create, enables others to create — or just the opposite: our failures make it harder for the next to step ahead.

Producing remains a difficult pursuit to both get started in and to sustain — particularly producing independent films, or truly free films. The mantras I tell myself have done a great deal to both get me started and to maintain. The forces that are out there that are motivated to discourage you or corrupt you are quite powerful. The bad often gets more attention than the good; it certainly makes more noise. How do we fortify ourselves to sustain in face of the negativity?

In an industry populated (thankfully, not exclusively mind you!) by narcissistic, deceitful, misanthropic, malcontents, that rewards repetition and encourages defensive action, how do you maintain a commitment to diverse and ambitious work of all forms?

1. Know that what you have to say matters. Make sure you communicate it.
2. Remember that the world can be better and work to take it there.
3. Don’t ask or wait for permission.
4. Creativity is the essence of life — so create.
5. What people want most is to connect and to relate (and having fun and learning rate pretty high too).
6. Don’t wait for others to lead, succeed, or even try. Leap forward and over.
7. Subscribe to authenticity, and emotional & political truth.
8. Believe in the wisdom of others, and listen to them.
9. The outside has a clearer vision of what is really inside than those in the center; those on the periphery are the ones who really know what is going on.
10. Focus on the reality of the present. Power lives in the past and can’t see the moment you are living in.
11. Question Power’s authority. The Status Quo is always the most conservative.
12. There is no security to be had — there’s no reason to strive for what doesn’t exist.
13. Action is always a good alternative; stop waiting. Let impatience be a virtue.
14. Never be ashamed of your passion. Let your exuberance show.
15. Learn and take, but don’t climb. The ladder leads to the plantation.
16. Will to fail. Don’t deliver proofs but strive to be the eternal student/amateur. Don’t settle for your work to be a proof of what you know, but make it a proof of your desire to know more.
17. Embrace your limitations.
18. To hell with your limitations!
19. Don’t worry what others think (about you, your work, the way you look, act, speak, write, etc.)
20. It can never be about the money.
21. Lend a hand; it’s not just about your work.
22. Get it done and move on. Next!
23. There’s a much bigger world than just what you do. That’s what really matters.
24. Pet the sweaty; don’t sweat the petty.
25. Power comes to those that work.
26. Don’t ever expect to get it all done; there’s just too much to do – and that’s a good thing.
27. We are mayflies on the windshield of history.
28. Time is our most limited resource. Value it. And respect the time of others. Most of, don’t squander it. You are going to die soon.
29. Respect your & others’ labor; it is how we use time.
30. Respect the results of your labor; give them proper context.
31. Encourage choice (vs. impulse) even if that choice is not yours.
32. Process shapes more than intent does. How you do it needs more effort than what you want to do.
33. Enjoy, wonder, respect, revel, & rejoice.
34. You are obligated to and responsible for the world you live in.
35. Don’t let others’ bad ways effect your good behavior.

If I can have my every action reflect these beliefs, then everything is going to be okay.

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Bilbo Baggins

You forgot to mention the secret to your success and many other producers as well so I’ll add it to the list:

#36- Surround yourself with talented people that will make you look like a genius even though you barely do any of the real work involved in making a movie

Connie Bottinelli

Well Ted, that list reached out to me like a collaborating partner grounding us both in next steps.

I let out a loud laugh when I read #17 and then #18. On my office door is this sign: “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” It focuses my clear intention every day.

Jamie Paszko | Film Slate Magazine

“There’s no security to be had; there’s no reason to strive for what doesn’t exist”

I love this one. I think a lot of us fall into that trap where we feel like life is getting to some sort of spot where we’re complete or we’ve at least completed our mission. However, that’s not how life works. We get up. Sometimes we get knocked down. We get up again.

Christopher J. Boghosian


It blows me away that you consistently take time out of your ridiculously busy schedule to post articles such as this. Thank you.

I have to say, I completely agree with every point on your list and, after reading them, I literally feel sick to my stomach. It’s such a high calling, too bold a vision. To live and create in the way you suggest takes more than effort, it takes courage; it takes faith and hope.

I’m so happy a true community of authentic filmmakers is beginning to form, because there is no way any lone individual can live and create in the way you envision…


mike newman

great list ted!

#9 sticks out particularly to me b/c i’ve spent my whole time as a filmmaker on the outside of the establishment looking in. it amazes me how much the gatekeepers and tastemakers in NYC/LA are so out of touch with reality. ya’ll live in your little bubbles and have no idea what the audience wants. ya’ll think you’re so damn smart and the audience is so damn stupid…well…this is just plain wrong.

#20 amuses me. ted, when have you ever produced a film that wasn’t about the money?

Ed Casey

This is why I clicked on the button to subscribe.

Well done!

Kristen Vermilyea

Ted –

Terrific list. Am printing and hanging in my office. These are things that apply to much of life, not just film, though I will be using for both.

Am often inspired / provoked by your tweets and blog – great stuff and many thanks –

Hector Barron

Great list. It’s the kind of list that you almost have to roll around in for awhile hoping that it will stick and become a part of your life. Thanks

Ted Hope

Jason, I like you addition: ” Boldness is rewarded. Be bold.” but I would modify it to “Don’t be bashful; dare to be bold — but keep it in context.” Don’t you find there is a lot of a false boldness, or boldness for boldness sake? It needs to come from a place of truth and appropriate applicability. At least, in my humble opinion. We want the attention, but we need to make sure we deserve it too.

Jason @ filmmakingstuff

Your #3 is my mantra. As soon as I figured out that I didn’t need to ask permission, both my life and my career took off.

The other mantra I live by is this: “Boldness is rewarded. Be bold.”

Jason Brubaker

Brian Newman

I like these a lot. Number 10 reminds me of something an 80+ sage friend of mine told me two days ago:
Knowing the future is easy. We know nothing about the past because history is written by the winners. We can’t know the present because the powerful are shaping it. But we can know the future because it is an obvious tsunami headed our way that we can see and shape/react to, but the powerful can’t because they are too focused on the present.

Sheri Candler

Sounds a little like this

“Seth Godin’s Poke the Box is a breezy, short manifesto that extols the virtue of taking initiative and doing stuff, even though you might fail or annoy the people you work with.”

Mark Savage

Take 2

correction –“handed these life lessons before they begin learning from their own experiernces”

Mark Savage

You seem to have covered the entire spectrum here, Ted.

“Pet the sweaty; don’t sweat the petty” is incredibly good advice for filmmaking AND life itself.

“There’s no security to be had; there’s no reason to strive for what doesn’t exist” is the one that, for me, speaks to what often blocks us from taking the leap. Perhaps it’s human to expect outcomes that were never guaranteed in the first place. Once one gets realistic about it all, the realism creates a much more harmonious mental environment. If you know where you stand, you stand much taller.

And finally — “Lend a hand; it’s not just about your work”. Very fine words. With the ego removed, so are our greatest obstacles.

Every child of ten ought to be handed before they begin learning from their own experiences.

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