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A Sports Metaphor for the Indie Movie Biz

Sports is about teamwork balanced with personal achievement. So is movie making.

Indies have many commonalities with the worldwide pursuit of sports -- it's based on fanatical support and celebration of star players. But there's a thriving amateur side, as well. And sports are also "the same but different" -- much like genres. Then there are the "leagues" in which players earn their chops and move up to the next level of play.

So here's a baseball metaphor for the movie game -- or business -- when we get into the money-driven echelons of competition.

Pee Wee

"Building the dream together for youth" this is the early stage of storytelling. Telling jokes with buddies and parents. Learning the language. Telling lies and getting caught ... or not. Making people laugh or jump.

Little League

Elementary level where everyone gets to play, and its fun! Sandlot games. Neighborhood batting practice. Parents and older brothers take an interest. Coaching begins. Bragging rights begin.

Junior Varsity

Coaches are now paid. They are teachers and coaches have mixed reasons (and baggage) that lead them to coach these little guys. Players are starting to self-select. They must demonstrate some talent and real interest in the game to put up with all the practice and visibility. And let's face it, baseball just isn't as popular as football or basketfall in many communities. There's stress, too.

Senior Varsity

Now it's serious. Extra coaching. Tryouts. Stats and playoffs and championships. Travel. And scouts. Scouting for the big time of college and pro teams starts at the high school level. In some markets it gets so intense among supporters (money) that cheating enters the game. The stars begin to rise to the top.

College

You've hit the big time. Publicity. Fanatical fanclubs. You're scouted and courted and compared. The pressure builds. Careers are made and broken here before players even make a living with their skills and sweat.

Minor Leagues

Your proving grounds for the studio / uh, pro teams. You play for a job. It's now a career, with agents and coaches and suits. If you get called, you're a star. If you don't, you go back and coach junior varsity...or something.

Pro

You're called. It's your god-given talent that's shining. Of course, there's all the behind the scenes support like a studio system -- I mean, The League, team owners, city stadium support, sports media, and sports bars and baseball wannabes who still love to be around the excitment.

Retirement

Yep, there's that stage, too. Enjoying past glory. Passing on wisdom and extending long coattail that brings the next generation up the ranks. Turning experience on the frontlines into coaching or ownership or investment or commentary...something to fill the hours and make you employable.

Legacy

Your link in the chain of history. Your contribution. Your body of work. Was it cohesive and memorable...worthy of the Hall of Fame, or an embarrassment? Did you grow and contribute -- or settle? A lot of pondering takes place by a lot of people...

So how does this apply to the movie industry...and indie's in particular? Storytelling is as basic to our genetic makeup as the competitiveness and collaboration of sports. And teamwork. And systems. And personal talents and skill development.

We start with personal storytelling in the living room, and take it to the next level with some stage work or a home video camera. We progress to YouTube and MySpace and Revver. The scouts start looking over our achievements and pick up the promising stars and give them a wider platform. Some self-select and get out. Some dig in, gather their support team, set goals, and specialize for the big time.

The big time is the high-end independent film scene. And the big league is the studio system. You can imagine all the rest of the metaphorical steps.

One lesson to be learned from those who have played the game before us is that success is different, and real, in each community in which we play. We can enjoy that success and be glad we're part of it. And we can self-select to nurture our own heart, talents and skills.

And another lesson is that it takes coaching to rise to the next level. We need support systems that connect the big leagues with all the preceeding stages of development. And the big leagues also need the support of their communities and fans.

So...who can you support today?


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