Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Maybe I am having a bad run, but lately I end up in less and less conversations where people want to really converse. Not in the biblical sense, but the old-fashioned sharing of ideas, arguing perspectives and eventually agreeing to disagree (but that we are both better off having had the discussion).

What people most want to themselves.

Self promotion is a genetic trait. Developed in the womb and deployed when the user is fully formed. You can spot these people by the unnecessary self-adulating detail they add to a simple story.

For example, as well as making films, I am also the chairman of the Alumni Board at the Sydney Film School (SFS). Emile Sherman, the Oscar-Winning producer of the King's Speech is on the Governance Board of SFS, by the way. So, in my role as chairman, I organised a free panel discussion on film distribution basics, including distribution experts from Flickerfest, Hopscotch, AFTRS and SFS. The event was really well attended and a big success and I met the Chairman of SBS, by the way. In the midst of really productive and informative discussion, one particular person on the panel repeatedly talked about all of their wonderful achievements and how it meant they were on their way to stardom. It was the closest thing I have ever seen to showbusiness induced asbergers syndrome. Despite that, the event was a big success and I made loads of great contacts and received lots of praise from important people, demonstrating how great I am and what a big success I am going to be, by the way.

Insufferable, isn't it?

The worst part is that the above kind of interaction with people normally leaves you feeling kind of.....used. A good shower and a stiff drink are usually needed afterwards, meaning they have probably caused more damage than good with their foray into self-promotion.

Everyone else strategises to make self-promotion work.

With the advent of technology, Facebook, Twitter and the rest, self promotion is easier to distribute than ever. In fact, there is so much self-promotion now, that the only way to be visible in a crowded marketplace is....more self-promotion. That's what the experts say, anyway.

I'm not convinced.

I think you do need to have a way for people to find you, if they're looking. A conduit to communicate with you.

If all I will find when I discover this conduit, however, is a person who seems to be trying VERY hard to convince me how great your achievements are and how much better you are than most people.....I'm not interested.

It's the difference between "self-promotion" and "self-adulation".

In this day and age, what people, from you is that you must have something to say. If you jump into the bullpen with all the other filmmakers and artists vying for attention, then you had better be organic, you had better be unique and, most importantly, you had better be writing the updates yourself. 50 Cent and Britney Spears found that out years ago.

If you approach self-promotion as a way to "sell" people on the image of yourself that you have crafted, it can go very badly.......

Jeff Skilling was an intelligent, but reportedly arrogant, young man from Pennsylvania, U.S.A. When applying for Harvard Business School, he was asked the question "Are you smart?" by the admissions board.

He replied: "I'm fucking smart".

When Enron collapsed in 2001, Jeff Skilling became the face of the biggest corporate fraud in history. When interviewed in prison in 2010, serving his 24 year prison sentence, Skilling suggested one of his main failings was not "going on the PR (Public Relations) offensive" when all the trouble started.

I will leave it to you to read, but there are six pages of angry comments that suggest all the PR in the world wouldn't help.

On the other hand, when Amy Winehouse died, the overwhelming response was that we had tragically lost an artist who had a unique talent and a unique voice that made her visible in the crowd of wannabees. Amy had something to say. She let her work do the promotion. She connected with the humanity in her audience.

Then she was gone.

We live in a golden age if you actually want to connect with people; with your audience. The catch, and there always is one, is that you have to be in it for the long haul. You have to be committed to a lifestyle of connecting with people whatever way you can, not just to promote your latest film, perfume, song, sex toy (google "Kevin Smith Fleshlight"), etc etc etc

"The reason that self-promotion works and self-adulation doesn't is because self-promotion is the art of spreading ideas, concepts and a greater vision. Self-adulation is just the promotion of accomplishments, deeds that have already been done."
- Nathan Hangen (

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