The Business of Content Creating
Gabriel Flores 0:00
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the shades of entrepreneurship. This is your host, Mr. Gabriel Flores. Today I am in here with Tim to Torah. Look, I'm tripping over my own words, because we're going to talk about all sorts of crazy stuff. Tim, how are we doing today, buddy?
Tim Tortora 0:16
Very well, thank you for having me. Appreciate it. Thank
Gabriel Flores 0:18
you for coming by. Thank you for being on the show. So first, let's give a little background who is Tim? Where are you calling from and like them a little background? Who are you?
Tim Tortora 0:27
Background. So at the present time, I'm a CFO, I manage about a dozen clients in Hollywood, we make a lot of TV movies prior to about 10 of them a year, some branded content, a little bit of episodic. And it's for me, my business is really centered around back end processing, software technology that goes along with that. And then marrying, financing with producers and specific kinds of financing why we factor paper, we take distribution paper from various distributors and exhibitors around the world when we go to a bank and say, We need a million or whatever the number is, nothing gets made for a million anymore. But for round numbers, we need a million dollars, we have about 700,000 in cash flow today, we need 300 The balance is going to come here and there. And this is how it's going to happen. So we go find that money. We close the gap. That's what we do. That's what I do. Specifically, my background, I came up through the ranks in every crappy job in Hollywood, you can imagine working in the trenches. I started as a tape op and a recording studio and just, you know, spent whatever. I guess that was it. 1985. So it's 37 years of doing whatever to I've been movie stupid since I was a kid. Yeah, and I've done whatever it takes. So you
Gabriel Flores 1:39
mentioned you've been in Hollywood for over 30 years. How did that start? How did your kind of get your transition in Hollywood?
Tim Tortora 1:45
It's all I've ever wanted to do. When I was a kid growing up. I remember I grew up in Southern California. I grew up in Fullerton, California, which is just in the border of LA and Orange County. And I remember going to the theater when when I say theater, meaning stage, place the Pantages Shubert Theater. When I was a kid, my parents had season tickets. And I remember driving by the studios looking at the gate, looking at the gate and thinking to myself what goes on in there. And I said to my dad, at one point, I was like 12. I said, Dad, I want to know what goes on in there. I want to work there. And he said, Okay, you can do that if you want. And that, you know, I stayed up for the Oscars every year until until I fall asleep and the you know, whatever the Best Actor category because I was a kid, you know, like nine or 10 o'clock at night. And, and I just, I got my start. I was a music major. When I was in college, I was a drummer, but not a very good one. And I realized pretty young that I wasn't going to be a good player if I didn't practice and I just didn't want to practice. I didn't want to spend that kind of time. I also didn't want to play on Friday and Saturday night. I wanted to have my weekends off. Yeah. So I found we all had to take a recording class as freshmen. And you learned how recording worked. I thought I was going to learn how a stereo worked. Turns out we learned 24 track recording like putting four dudes or women in a room microphones, press record and you're recording a record, right? And then that got me a job as an intern at a studio. And my career just kind of went from there. And I worked on interesting projects that got people's attention not because of me, but because of the people who I met. And I didn't realize this then I understand it now. But I worked on poisons first record that led me to working for a record label that worked on a bunch of independent indie rock material. That then led me to a job at McCann Erickson working on huge features Terminator two Total Recall, Bugsy the doors need stuff like that. Putting having those on my resume, led me to the next thing and the next thing and then what really blew my career up. I was 30. I was 30. Just about almost 31 I got a job as the head of physical production for Oprah Winfrey's Film Unit in LA making TV movies and feature films. Wow. And that's when my career took off. And it when you have the names on your resume, it really does help you I mean, I like to say that Hollywood is there's a phrase we call it star fuckers, pardon my French but Hollywood is a business of star fuckers. And if you don't have the big titles on your resume or on your credits, it's harder for you to make the inroads and because I started out working for a guy who was the drummer for a band called Berlin and I worked on a poisoned record. It all just kind of snowballed. And I said yes to everything that wasn't illegal or immoral and did whatever I had to read everything I could get my hands on did every terrible job. I was young, and I figured out what I was good at. I was good at finance and physical logistics at a really young age. I'm the guy with the most obvious like creative idea in the room. You don't want me on a movie making new and interesting content because I'm not that guy. And I realized that at a young age and I laid into it, you know where you go. One of the things
Gabriel Flores 4:59
you mentioned is just kind of started out your career is really networking, how important is networking in your career?
Tim Tortora 5:06
It is the reason a career exists in Hollywood there is you can be brilliant, you can be the greatest thing since sliced bread. But if you haven't networked in the business with the people who have access to distribution and financing, you will go nowhere. Whether you're a director or writer or an actor, you have to if you're a writer, you got to get dressed into real clothes that aren't, don't have stains on them, and it's not your sweats, and go hang out with people in the industry. If you're an actor, you have to get out there and meet people. You've got to go to auditions, you have to meet casting directors, not producers, producers will never get you a job, their job in their eyes is to get in your pants. So you need to meet casting directors, to some extent directors, producers are not going to get you a job. And that's what I blogged about these things all the time. Because I want people to understand what the industry is, and how do you succeed in it. It is a black box. It is hard. And it's not in as a million people who want to do it. But you it is networking, like you said, it is the lifeblood of your career and the day you stop managing it and the day you stop feeding it is the day your career begins to atrophy.
Gabriel Flores 6:17
So would you say that you mentioned success? Do you feel that part of that success is networking? In order for you to be successful? You kind of have to be a good networker.
Tim Tortora 6:25
You do and it doesn't have to be sleazy, and really sort of, oh, that's so gross. He's selling me something. It's as simple as just figuring out who the players are. That's kind of step one. Now step one is, what do you want to do? You want to work in reality, you want to work in features, you want to work in dramatic television, you want to work in half hour sitcoms, you want to work in the award shows or sports or whatever you want to do in entertainment, you have to pick a vertical. And then once you pick that vertical, you need to research it, who are the players in the business, who's actually making content, how's the industry structured, once you do that, you'll have a list of people, probably a couple 100 deep, who actually work on these projects. And then you have to decide what you want to do writer, director, actor, crew, or producer, you're not going to be a writer, director someday you might, but you're not going to start out doing that you're going to start out doing some one thing and do just that and tell everybody, that's what you're doing. And then you need to get connected to those people. If you want to be an actor, casting directors want to be a writer, go be a writers assistant, somewhere you want to be a director, go be an assistant to a director. And if you want to be a producer go work in development. And if you want to write or direct or produce go work in development, great places to get connected. And you have to get connected to producers who are actually making content, do they have something on the air in the past six months? And do they have multiples on the air? Or have they produced something 10 years ago, and they were a name and now they're gone? Are they making a feature? Have they had a feature in the in the theater in the past 18 months, if they haven't, they likely aren't going to in the future, maybe. But this is a business that finds people that are successful. And they lay into them over and over and they repeat. And they rinse and repeat until they stop making money. And then they move on to the next big thing. It's unfortunate, it's a sad state of affairs. But that's the reality of the business. So you have to find those people and stick to them like a barnacle, and stick to the people that work under them. Those are the people you're going to meet, you're not going to meet Joss Whedon, you're not going to be JJ Abrams, or you might, but they're not going to give you a job. Yeah, the people who work for them, they might and that's the people you network with, you have to pick that find the vertical, find the job, find the people with the money in the distribution, who have access to money, and then go stick to them like a barnacle and find out who and their staff that I mean, I say find out I mean, literally figure out their names. What's the name of the staff writer, on whatever project you love? Get to know that? Yeah, find those people cold call them? Yeah,
Gabriel Flores 8:47
yeah, there's nothing wrong with cold calling. I've talked about cold calling on the show before. In fact, recently, I talked about self publishing, and the importance of that, you know, because like you mentioned, just getting content out there, right? And getting things out there. In fact, you're kind of mentioning content content. Let's talk about managing a content business, because that's what you are and scale at scale. How do you kind of continue to do that? So can you talk about your business in particular?
Tim Tortora 9:13
Yeah, you you we are managing content at scale. And at speed. This business runs 150 miles an hour, when you get in it, you are either driving or sitting inside a car driving down the road, 150 miles an hour and every other car around you is either parked or driving slower than you that is just the nature of it. So if that's not something that you can process quickly, and that you like, this business probably isn't for you. But if it is something you like and love, then this is the place where you're gonna get it. It is an adrenaline buzz all the time. And you're at the front end of the culture war that's happening every day. It's a war happening today. It wasn't a war when I was a kid. It was just, it was just business, which is its own kind of battle and war, but nonetheless, you were at the front of culture. So Managing it at scale is a labor intensive and time intensive process. There is no two ways about it, I have been in the trenches of filmmaking of post production of making records of the finance side of it. At this point in my career, as a CFO, I do about 10 of them a year 10 To our TV movies for lifetime and Hallmark, lots of Christmas movies. And there's they're complicated financing arrangements that have to do with multiple currency. So it's it's esoteric, and it's, it's, it's pretty complicated. But once you do it, you have a pattern for it. And the same thing is true of everything in production. Whatever you do, you build a pattern in the system for replicating it. And you apply people to it. It takes people editors, when I say editor, I mean picture editors, cameraman care, people who work in all different departments. When you get a screenplay, the first thing you do is you read it once for enjoyment, because after that, you're going to know the whole thing. I mean, literally every piece of dialogue, you're going to understand. And then you break it down. Every single scene has a certain number of actors, it has a cost associated with it, they have to work on a certain number of days, you build a schedule, you break down a screenplay, that screenplay, that breakdown gets turned into a budget, that budget gets turned into an action plan that you then execute over a short period of time, anywhere from 12 weeks to 12 months, big features, you know, big tent poles may be 24 months, but not very common. And you're just breaking everything down into its constituent constituent parts, building schedules or systems. There's ideas and ways of tracking this kind of volume of data. It's a huge volume. And the systems have been around since the 50s, nothing's really changed. It's just turned into a technological edge a little bit, you know, we use software to do a lot of it. But it hasn't really changed the process of making film, except Mandalorian changed this in the past couple of years. The plates that we see now, as far as screens in the background, that's changed substantially. I won't go into it because and get deep into the weeds on that. But the process of making movies hasn't really changed since Charlie Chaplin was making movies and the tools have changed. But you know, you put two people in a space, you put a camera looking left to right. And then you shoot that person, you Charlie Chaplin, and then you turn the lights around on the other side against Charlie Chaplin's back to the person he's talking to on the other side, that hasn't really changed. In almost 100 years, it's gotten more complicated, the coverage is deeper. But by and large, that is it is a you are drinking from a firehose, you know your average two hour movie for the longest time shot 150,000 feet of film, wow. Now they can shoot as much as a million he's like, and that's in film doesn't really get used much anymore. It's mostly digital. But your average film shot 150,000 feet of film, every single camera roll that gets pushed through a camera is 1000 feet, or 400, depending on what you're buying a 35 millimeter film. So someone's managing that 1000 feet roll, and it's about 10 to 12 minutes of footage, sometimes eight depending on what you're doing. So you, you have this thing where it's 1000 feet of film that might have 10 takes of six scenes, somebody had to go document all that and give it to editorial, who then transfers it into video, so they can cut it on an offline editing system. So that we can later go back to that film and cut it up and turn it into something. Right. So it's, it's it's drinking from a firehose, and it's managing all of that data that's coming at you on a regular basis. And there are systems out there. And it just takes a lot of people a long time.
Gabriel Flores 13:51
You know, you're talking about quite a bit of time, quite a bit of effort. But you know, I'm also thinking, what's the where's the where's the quick get? Where's the quick guide to making an income as a filmmaker? Is there a quick guide to making income as a filmmaker?
Tim Tortora 14:07
A Quick Guide? Yep, there isn't one movies, the and this has been true for the since the dawn of the content, going back to books and all the rest of it. You are competing for people's time to open up their wallet to pay you for your content? I hate that word content, but it is what it is. It's movies and television in my world. Yeah. So you you have to make something that's compelling enough to for people to pay you for it. Otherwise they're gonna go steal it, or they're going to watch a friend's or they're just going to see free stuff on Tik Tok. Right. When I started in the business, there were three networks. There were a few local affiliates on television in local markets and movies and that was it and books. And you know, as time goes on, distractions happen, and you have to convince people to open up their wallet to pay you. That is very difficult it's not easy. We do it in Hollywood, we by creating spectacle, and turning actors into royalty. That is essentially what we've done for 100 years. That system is starting to unwind. It's unraveling slowly, but it's unraveling. We have convinced everybody that everything we make is brilliant and or hysterical because we make these trailers. And it's, it's marketing's job to do that. Right? Right. We make these trailers that show you the movie in six minutes or three minutes, and you're like, Oh, that looks amazing. Let's go watch it. And you get out. You're like, I just watched the trailer, but I took 90 minutes of my life. There was nothing new here. Yeah, and I cost me 100 bucks to take my kids and buy popcorn. Right. So the point is, there is no quick start guide. But there is a common thread. And the common thread is you're making something people haven't seen before. And it can be a 15 year old hasn't seen or it can be a 55 year old. Those are different animals. You know, as far as what they've been exposed to have all kinds of content over their lifetime. A 15 year old sees a Marvel movie, they're like, Oh, my God, it's amazing. A 55 year old goes, Ah, again, really? Didn't I read this when I was a kid and Mr. Bowman's class when I was bored of math, you know, I pulled it out of my backpack. And I was thumbing through my comic book. So you know, it's, it's different. And you're marketing to different people at different lifestyles, different times in their life. So there isn't a quick guide, you got to be creative, you got to be different. If you're making a movie about your story, or your writing a story about you, what you understand what you know, you're going to bore everyone, no one gives a shit about you. They just don't. They care about themselves. So what they want to see are, they want to see content, this is my opinion. I think people go watch movies and read books, to play out their fears and anxiety so they can better understand how to deal with that in their own lives. Because they're watching it in somebody else's life. This is how this person deals with it. This is how this person communicates. we emulate. We model we meant we create those characters in those circumstances we see we turn them into mentors, about how we're going to deal with those circumstances in our lives. Like, what do you do if you got a great white shark coming out? Yeah, I don't know. I'm not going to turn around and swim like a, like a seal. Right? They're going to try to avoid that. You don't want to be wearing an all black wetsuit splashing on the water on a surfboard try to avoid that. Right. So anyway, I don't think there is any quick guide. But I think if you're good at if you figured out how to tap into an audience, you have captured lightning in a bottle that most people in Hollywood spent millions of dollars and 1000s of people's time to create to open up their wallet. And we do it at scale for a 12 Whatever billion dollar industry, right? Yeah,
Gabriel Flores 17:53
in fact, so you're kind of talking about, you know, this. You talked about the the the 30 minute or, you know, three minute advertising for the actual movie, right? The the nice little clip there, and then you go to the movies, you're like, I just saw this entire movie, but it's through this three minute clip. How do you continue to create content to get me as a consumer back to the theater?
Tim Tortora 18:18
Well, as an executive, you do that by finding people who are brilliant, right? You do it by finding the JJ Abrams of the world or the Damon Lindelof. And I can't remember his writing partner from last. But nonetheless, those two guys, you know, and there's other people like it, and they all have deals that one of the studios, right, and they get paid seven figures just to be making content for a studio that you know, is making billions of dollars, right? That's their job. So you find the people who are good at it. And you do that by, you know, giving them a chance, you know, Soderbergh's first movie, and he's made, you know, Ocean's 12, Ocean's 11, lots and lots of money, and a bunch of other projects in between. But before that, he made six lies and videotape that he's, he says, he wrote in 14 days, I have no reason to just to disbelieve him, that he wrote that in 14 days in a car ride across the country from New York to LA LA to New York, I forget which, you know, you find people like that and you give them a shot to make small projects. You know, you get a small thing. And then, you know, your career blows up overnight over the course of 10 years, right? That's always the joke in Hollywood. His career blew up overnight was doing it for 10 or 15 years, right? I saw sex lies and videotape. I saw skits opolis. And now he's a big, or she is a big actor, writer, director. So it's incremental. And I think the same thing applies at a smaller scale. If you're a content creator and an entrepreneur of your own, where you're making content for your little world, right? You have to build a business where your income on the top your expenses on the bottom, are your incomes greater than your expenses and you slowly Build that over time. And it's not a if you build it, they will come. To some extent, maybe you're just trying everything the movie business tries, probably three or 400. I remember how many it is anymore features a year used to be about 400. Regularly, it's probably down to about 125. Every weekend. And some of those work, you know, gangbusters, they blow up. They're huge. They're Maverick, right Maverick to others. They don't they crater, and they don't even make their money back. And then the same thing is true in streaming, you know, they make something and they see if it works. And if people start to watch it, it shows up on your screen, it gets recommended to you constantly. So start small, start with the little audience, if you figured out how to get money or make some, some margin, the other words meaning income is greater than expenses. That's the margin the difference between them. If you can pocket some margin, then just do more of that. And then keep trying new things. Don't rest on your laurels. That's how Hollywood careers and because they keep making the same thing over and over. Are we tired of Chris Nolan's time fracturing and blowing our mind with a way the future is happening in the present? And there's parallel times happening? Yeah, we're getting bored of that. Is it going to continue? Maybe? Or maybe he'll figure something else out? Where that just blows your mind? Yeah. So that's the thing you can't rest on your laurels. You know,
Gabriel Flores 21:28
you as being an executive, you know, in this in this Hollywood, kind of area, this market? What would you say are some of the most difficult things that you run into an executive that you're like, Man, I didn't know I'd have to think about that. And maybe it's just a Hollywood specific thing that maybe it's not really something that maybe other industries have to think about.
Tim Tortora 21:49
That's interesting. I don't think I've ever been asked that question. The thing that I don't think there was anything that really ever caught me by surprise, at least not in my job now, certainly human behavior always catches me by surprise, people's willingness and ability to do stupid shit. That is, that is countered to their own best interests is will never cease to
Gabriel Flores 22:11
amaze visions of the Jackass movie going through my head right now.
Tim Tortora 22:14
Yeah, well, I mean, those guys made a lot of money, but we were on the road making that movie, it was like, You're gonna do what you're gonna put a car where and what? Wait, in my brain was like, I remember coming back, we'd come off the road. We were out for probably eight or 10 weeks. And my friend Craig, who's no longer with us, but Craig and I were walking across the parking lot. And Steve Oh, it was on the ground. Lying with his legs up. Knoxville is holding a beer bong. And the other end of that beer bong isn't Steve O's. But, and I turned to Craig and I said, is that? Is that Steve? Oh, getting a beer bong up his ass anyway. Yeah. Oh, okay. And when I sat down, we were coming back from lunch. When I sat down at my desk, I turned to Craig and I went, we got to find someplace else to work. Because we just walked across the parking lot thinking that that's normal. I guess that was probably one of the movies that surprised me the most, you know, those guys, every other movie I've ever worked on. And every other actor director I've ever been around or worked for, including Oprah. When they're on camera, they're doing their thing, whatever that is, they're doing it right. It's a part of their play. Yeah, those guys, it was 24/7 You're seeing who they are on camera on screen all the time. I don't know, they're like that anymore. They were all in their 20s at the time. I can't imagine they're in their 30s or 40s, the same way. But um, you know, and that a lot of that was fueled by drugs and alcohol, which is no secret or a surprise to anybody. But that's the thing, I guess it's surprising was surprising to me was how those guys were on all the time. Yeah, otherwise, you know, it's this is a money business. You know, it is a real business. It's a 10s of billion dollar business. It's small in comparison just about everything else, especially games and other kinds of tech. But you know, it is a business. And if you don't think of it as a business, and yourself as an entrepreneur, we get paid mostly, unless you're organized as your own corporation, but we get paid as individuals through payroll. But the reality is, we're all freelancers who work in film production. And you are, you're an entrepreneur, you are driving your own business. You're always networking you're always selling doesn't have to be sleazy. It can just be Hey, man, what are you working on? just catching up? You know, I actually calendar that catching up with friends of mine who are in key positions every three to six months, depending on what's going on some people I talked to all the time, and then I'll call up and say, Hey, man, what are you working on? They'll tell me then I'll say oh, by the way, I'm looking for work if you know someone is looking for a production accountant or a line producer or whatever I'm doing at the time, from my name Iran. I'm looking at so Oh, that's part of the thing. You are an entrepreneur, whether you're a grip electric, camera, producer, writer, director, actor, there is no agent who's going to find you work and make you rich and build your career ain't going to happen. The only people they will sign are people who are already successful, or people who have percolated up through the system, winning some kind of an award, whether it's a script competition, or something like that, I hear all the time, I gotta get an agent, gotta get a manager, you don't, you will be the person who drives your career, what an agent or manager does for you is they will get you into places that you're not already at, that you don't have access to. And they will make deals that are in your best interest and better than you'll be able to make on your own. Because they understand what everybody else is making, because they're doing it for all over town and every other company. And they know that you know, you go to Disney, you're not going to get paid. Well. You go to Paramount, there was a time when you would get paid well, you want to get paid. Well go to sony. When you get paid well go to go to Warner's those are the places that have traditionally paid well. Now it's Netflix, now it's HBO, those are the places that are paying people. Top Dollar Hulu. Yeah, you'll get paid half of what you'll get paid do the same thing at Netflix. But in order to go to netflix, you got to be a star so that they can go be a star fucker. That's sort of the grind. Right? Yeah. So anyway, that's the part that was kind of surprising to me is how, two things I guess I'll circle back to your question. One is, the thing that really surprised me was the shows you work on the credits you establish those are as important. And then as the people you work with, and the people you work with are just as important. And the other thing is, you have to find a system for networking. That is that manages your career, like an entrepreneur. You're no one's going to do it for you, you're going to do it for yourself. And there and you're you're not always going to have the freedom to have that most entrepreneurs have making decisions about what you want to do and not do. Sometimes you just gotta suck it up and do the terrible project. Because you need to make a job, you got to make a living. And honestly, that's what Jackass was for me. I needed to make a living. My friend was the line producer on the project. I called him up and said, Hey, man, I'm out of work. Do you know anything that's going on? He's like, You know what? I got this job. As a coordinator. You didn't do that. You did that. 10 years ago, you want to do it? I'm like, yeah, what are you working on? He says jackass. And I said, You mean that TV show on TV? And he goes, Yeah, I said, that's funny. I've seen a few episodes that kind of made me laugh. And I did it. And it turned out to be an amazing experience and a lot of fun. But I needed a job. You know, I had come off working for Oberer at the time making award winning, you know, feeling movie movies about you know, people who had emotions to that. Totally different. Yeah, you have you never know what's going to happen.
Gabriel Flores 27:59
You know, you mentioned your your your like a freelancer, right. And so you're out there and kind of networking, getting new positions. Have you ever had a moment of self doubt?
Tim Tortora 28:07
All the time? All the time? Yeah. I mean, yes, I have those moments of self doubt. And so does everybody. Anybody who tells you they don't are full of shit. Or they're fucking megalomaniac? And who that's not interesting to talk to that person. Right? I mean, there's plenty of that in this business. There's lots of people who are just, you know, rapacious, make money. That's all they care about. It's not about anything else. And they'll run over whoever they want. Right? Whoever is in their way, they'll just run right over. And there are plenty of names. We know them. They're big names. And they exist, right. But yeah, self doubt is, is it's a natural human emotion, honestly. And so is procrastination. It is what it's what makes us human human beings. Right. So, yeah, I've had my moments there have been projects I said yes to and I was like, Oh, shit, how am I going to do that? You know, wake up at three o'clock in the morning going? Down? What? Not enough money? Not enough time. That's the friction. That is what it is. Right? And it's hard. You but you know, you take a step every day, right? Hopefully, you'll take 10 steps, seven steps forward, and you'll get knocked back three or 14 Steps on a clip. But six months later, you look back, you're like Adam, seven steps forward, man, how did I do that? How did I get here? Yeah, it is. It is a mystery how people build careers in this in this industry. It is very strange. There is no straight line path. And who would have thought I'd be a CFO at this point in my career. I did it because I was done traveling. I spent 17 years in the road Chase and movies around the world. Amazing experience. But I was on my first wedding anniversary to my now ex wife. I was in Monterrey Mexico working on a baseball Little League baseball movie, and we wanted to have a family and I was like, You know what? I don't want this to be my life. I want to be around for my kid. I want to be around for my wife, I want to build a family. And it's time for me to make a change. So I started looking for jobs in finance, where I where my background came from. And in, in physical production, my background in school, I have a degree in advertising, nothing to do with anything I do now. But I started looking for stability and a regular job. That's how I wound up working as a CFO when that was 2009 13 years ago.
Gabriel Flores 30:23
You know, what you mentioned, like, you know, taking steps forward, and seven steps forward, and maybe taking three steps back, but then are 10 steps forward, three steps back, but now you're seven steps ahead, right? Yeah. And, you know, taking a look back at, you know, being a kid, seeing the gates determining what's going on behind these gates would love to figure out what what continues to motivate you every day that kind of gets you up to deal with the grind. What motivates you.
Tim Tortora 30:46
The it's doing this for a living, is cryptography. It's never the same. It's always different. The personalities are different. Sometimes you're working with someone, people who are great, sometimes you're working with an asshole. It just depends. And it's interesting and fascinating all the time. And it's not the same. I'm not the brain who can do insurance, like cookie cutter Cookie, cookie cutter, I'm not that guy. It's different. You know, agreements come across my desk different, I got to figure out different ways of putting money together to make a project come together, it can be a million different problems you're trying to put out. When you're in physical production. Physical production is hard work, long hours, extremely demanding. And there will be a sacrifice in your life. And that sacrifice will be friends and family. If you don't want that to be primary in your life don't come work and film production. This work life balance nonsense, is just that it's nonsense. Something will give either you're not going to work in film production, going 150 miles an hour, for you know, 1516 hours a day, as long as you can do that it's young person's business. It's not something I mean, I was 4443 when I transitioned away from film production, and I was exhausted, I came off the movie and mountain in Mexico. And I was like, my wife at the time and said, I've known you for 10 years, I've never seen you sleep for 14 hours for five or six days straight. And I'm like the guy who gets seven hours of sleep a night, right? And she's like, this is and that was the first time I realized, this is a business that requires stamina and youth. And the older you get, the harder it is to keep up with those folks. Yeah, so that was also a contributing factor to my chain, my desire to change. So, you know, you get out of bed, because it's a fascinating business. And it's fun. And it's something that is it's like putting a puzzle together every day all the time. Yeah, at scale.
Gabriel Flores 32:43
Yeah. at scale. And so now you're dealing in a large scale. And you're obviously you know, the CFO, you're dealing with a lot of individual employees and things of that nature. But what are some things have used the CFO has been the executive company, or being an executive at this company? What are some of those things that keep you up at night?
Tim Tortora 33:01
You know, at this point, it's so machine wrote that, I'm not sure that anything keeps me up at night. What will wake me up in the middle of the night is when I can't figure out a problem. And it's grinding on me for a day or half a day, and I go to bed and I haven't figured it out. It could be a math problem. It could be a financing problem, it could be a personality problem. I'll wake up in the middle of the night, and I'll have the answer. Sometimes it's a crap answer, but I'll have an answer. I'm not saying they're all good ideas. But sometimes, I'll wake up in the middle of the night. And it could be anything, it could be just a simple math, like a worksheet, I'm trying to figure out a budget, and I can't figure out why it can't balance. And I'll spend a couple hours on it. And then I'll just walk away, go, I can't figure this out. And I'll wake up in the middle of night and go, Oh, I gotta look over there. And then I might find it or I might not who knows. But you know, there's not a lot of things that keep me up at night when I was new and in in certain jobs. Mostly what kept me up at night was expectation. Can I deliver the thing I said, I can deliver on time on budget, because that was my thing. It was like my job was to deliver whatever for Oprah was delivered quality on budget, don't lose my money. Those are the words that came out of her mouth. I make plenty of money in Chicago. I don't need to make money on this part of the business. I want to change the way we're making television. I think what's on television is terrible. It's it's all you know, headlines ripped from the newspapers. And that's all really ugly shit, right? She wanted to make TV movies, about books from books. And you know, she always said, I don't need to make money. I make plenty here in Chicago doing the show, but just don't lose my money. And you know, the expectation of delivering, you know, at 15 Not even an 11 but literally delivering at 15 with not enough money or time and living up to that expectation. That was always the thing that kept me up at night was expectation and delivering high quality for whatever I was given that was like, that's how I'm built. I want to deliver more than is expected of me. Everywhere I go, you know, and not everybody's like that. But that's that's what always kept me up at night.
Gabriel Flores 35:15
You've done historically, you've done almost every single role, it seems like within the film industry, but other than maybe acting, right? It seems like maybe maybe a lot of them. What What would you say is your your favorite role out of them and why?
Tim Tortora 35:29
Honestly, the one I'm doing now, if I didn't, I love being a CFO, I, I'm, I'm insulated from the nonsense and the politics and the noise at a level at this level that it doesn't affect me, I still encounter it. But it's at a much higher level, it's dealing with network executives who, you know, who are much higher than me, or even my clients. And so it's doing the job now. But when I was in the trenches, my favorite job that I've ever done outside of this one, was working as a production accountant. It sounds like a really uninteresting and stale and boring job. But it's not accounting at all, it just has that title. What it is, is you're estimating the cost of delivering a movie, as it's as as the wheel is rolling on a truck down the highway, 100 miles an hour, right? You're looking at snapshots in time, every morning, every afternoon, end of the week, end of the month, whatever it is, end of production, end of post and a prep, you're looking at the cost as as as a static, here's what actually happened, comparing it to a budget, and then estimating what's the future delivery cost, and the timeline and the schedule of what we're currently doing. That to me was my favorite job. And I developed a reputation as the guy who could do that within $1,000 on a multimillion dollar project and did a couple of times, but I'm exaggerating. 1000 I actually did deliver one movie to delivered a Benji movie, which was a, you know, five or $6 million dollar picture for a million dollars. I'm sorry, $1,000, I think under budget numbers under over, but I was literally within $1,000 When my original estimate was. And that's what it turned out to be. So within 5% or less of what we estimated the cost that was that was my place. That's that's what I did. And, you know, that was that was always the most fun. i That was the job I had the most fun doing.
Gabriel Flores 37:32
Nice. Now, in addition to all these positions you've done in the film industry, you've recently came out with a book, How to make it in Hollywood. So let's one sock about a little about the book, what kind of inspired you to write it and how did you publish it? Did you self publish it? Or did you go through a publishing company
Tim Tortora 37:49
I self published I didn't even bother with a publishing company, I have no interest in dealing with that nonsense. Patent had groveling. And I say the same thing to filmmakers. It's no different. You know, just do it yourself. We live in a time when you can write a book, make a TV show, make a movie, whatever you want. And you can exhibit it and market it to people directly without it without an intermediary. So that hasn't happened ever in the history of content or the human race. Right? So I did write a book, the book is about how to make it in Hollywood. And what it does is it breaks down in a methodical process. How do you get back get connected to Hollywood? I get emails, I'm out on social everywhere, right? You can find me just about everywhere through my blog, or wherever, social and everything. And I pretty much answer most everything. I constantly get the email, will you read my script? No, I'm not going to read your script. And neither will anybody who actually reads for a living who reads scripts for a living. They want to see a one or two page beat sheet. That's it. And then they maybe want to see a treatment. But they want to know what your idea is about? Is it it? Does it? Is it a story? Does it have a through line? I'm a finance guy. If you want help from me, you did tell me what you do. And you needs to be in my vertical right. So I had a girl who was graduating from Northridge, which is a state college here in Southern California. She was graduating with a finance degree and was interested in working in film production in finance. And I she asked me how do I do it and I was like, I can help this girl. I can't read your script, I can't come to your Showcase. I'm not gonna help you. It's not what I do. So understanding what people do is important in terms of making that connection, like you said, cold calling, but you have to be relevant. You have to know who you're talking to. And I don't mean like, oh my god, you don't need to be obsequious and talk about how amazing they are. You just need to understand their place in the world. And if you can do that in with an executive or a mid level person, you can make a connection through an informational interview. And just ask them the simple question, how'd you get to where you are, I'm interested in doing that. And then you shut up and listen for 20 minutes. And when you're finished, you just say, Oh, that's amazing. You play back a couple of data points they talked about. So they understand that you are actually listening. You know, whatever they are their favorite thing, their favorite title, their favorite job. And then you at the end, you say, Do you know anybody else who I could talk to who's in a similar position? I'm just out talking. And by the way, here's my resume, I'm looking for a job as a, an insert the assistant job of your choice that you're trying to reach. And my book talks about all of those things. How do you research the titles, the projects, the verticals? The people working on them? You build a list? How do you connect with them on DM and email and cold call? And then once you do that, how do you how do you connect with them? How do you how do you build that relationship? Sometimes you will, sometimes you won't. But nonetheless, it sort of walks you through that process, and gives you a tangible step by step like, here's how the business works. Here's how you're going to be able to get into it as an assistant. And I think you're better off working as an assistant and someone's desk than being a waitress, or a bartender, that is a waste of time. You're literally spending two hours a week, in the grind with people making decisions. Maybe if you're auditioning, and you're out there, as opposed to spending 80 or 100 hours a week, in the grind working on someone's desk learning the landscape of who's making content, who isn't? Who's useless, who isn't. There's plenty of useless people in this town. And they don't really you know, they don't hide it. They don't they hide it really well. They don't they don't make it obvious to who is useless and who is it
Gabriel Flores 41:32
makes sense. Makes sense. Now, what what are some advice you would give some of these listeners at home, either from an actor perspective, or from an entrepreneur perspective? What advice would you give them?
Tim Tortora 41:43
Well, from an entrepreneurial perspective, you have to remember in this business, you are an entrepreneur, you are running your own career, you're going to make decisions about what to do and what not to do. No one's going to do it for you. And surround yourself with really good people as best as you can find as best as is available to you. And it also, that also goes back to the second point that I make to people all the time, which is worry less about your title and how much money you're making. Worry about the projects you get on and worry about the people you're working with. Projects you get on need to be big names splashy, early on in your career, you want to work in independent, go work for the studios, understand the landscape, figure out who the Indies are, and then go work in independent, you're not going to go from independent to studio, it's never going to happen. You may one day become one of those people. But honestly, you don't really want to be, you know, you're basically doing someone else's job at a studio, as far as delivering content for them, as opposed to doing something that feeds your soul, and you're really interested in. And the other thing is, I've worked on a lot of crap in my career. Not everything was great, as some have been. And this summer jobs I was really, really interested in doing. And some word when I say jobs, meaning projects, you're gonna work on a lot of crap, you got to make a living, there's nothing wrong with that not everything needs to be huge. Not everything needs to be a big name. But you do need to surround yourself with people who are working on those big projects, and worry about what projects you can put on your credits, and worry about the people.
Around You paying business, your average, you know pa working on a set, they make 1000 to $1,500 A week after overtime and all the rest of it. You know, you give up your life. You're an indentured servant to somebody for some period of time. And it's it's a I hear it all the time. It's soul crushing, is it really, really pushing paper for an insurance company that's not soul crushing, you have the most amazing job that 1000 people around the corner want your job and would kill you for it. And by the way, they'll step over your body in the process of killing you to get that job. Yeah, they won't even move it out of the way politely bury it in the shallow grave in the desert. They're just gonna walk right over you.
Gabriel Flores 44:00
And I can tell you from you know, my life is insurance. It is soul crushing, I will tell you, but it's a living. She makes money. She makes a good living out of it. She hates it, but it's a living, right.
Tim Tortora 44:11
Yeah, there's, there's interesting people, I'm sure. But you know, it's it's not that interesting. And working in movies is if you want to do that. It's It's hard work. And there's a lot of competition and quit bitching about it. Yeah,
Gabriel Flores 44:25
yeah. It's a lot of hard work. Now, before we go, Tim, tell the folks at home how they can you mentioned you're on the social where they can find you. What's your website? How can they find your book?
Tim Tortora 44:34
Well, the best place to get the book that's the fastest just the book and talk we'll talk about it. You can order it there. It's all digital download. It's career dot Tim tortora.com. And my last name is spelled TR TRA and then if you want to connect with me if you can go to my page, Tim tortora.com. You can connect with all the social it's up in the right just click whatever will take you to it. And then I have a form at the bottom where you can ask a question you want to know Something about the industry. Just ask a straight up question. Don't ask me to read your material, you know, to watch your thing. I'm not going to do it, I don't have time makes it and I'm not going to be able to help you. But if you have a question about and by the way, I'm not going to raise your money for your film, if anybody's sitting here thinking, Oh, this is the guy who can go raise money from a movie and they're gonna No, I'm not. I am, I can do that. But I'm not going to. I'm gonna raise money for the clients who pay me, that's I don't do anything on the outcome. That's the other thing I want to add to really quick advice to people in the industry. In Hollywood. We make money, we never spend money. We spend other people's money meaning studio network streamer, but we don't pay to get auditions. We don't pay to find money. We don't pay to get our materials shown to executives around town. Do not pay for any of it. If you're a writer, maybe a reader, hire a reader hire someone who can go through material that's less than 100 bucks, maybe 100. Right? If you are a writer and you're getting into a workshop, or you're getting into competitions, that costs money, same thing with directors and I recommend every writer do all of that get into the festivals. Same with directors, get into festivals, get your stuff in get it seen it it's going to cost you some money. 3040 bucks, you know sometimes hire to do that. But we we get paid. We don't pay money to do anything. And then if we ever pay any money, Max, it's 150 200 bucks each time. So don't spend a couple $1,000 To get your name and your face into a book so that you can be a star Not gonna happen. No people are people are sleaze bags, and they're Grifters they're just stealing from you just want the money man. Yeah. So anyway, it's Yeah, and if you want to ask me a question in the on the forum in the bottom right of my on my page, they come to me or they come to my assistant and I pretty much answer all of them unless you asked me to raise money for your movie and read your script.
Gabriel Flores 46:55
Okay folks, so you hear it here Don't be send it in scripts are asking to raise money. This information again, you will have all the information on the shades of E newsletter so please visit the shades of e.com to subscribe to newsletter you can also follow me at the shades of E on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tik Tok and Facebook. Other than that, have a great night.