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Make Luck Happen!

You need a lot of luck to make it in the movie business, but how do you get lucky? Is success really just a matter of luck -- chance? Or can you lure luck your way? Gene Deitch gives us a few tips on tempting lady luck.

Bert & Harry Piel, NY Art Directors Club Gold Medal TV ad series, 1953.

Bert & Harry Piel, NY Art Directors Club Gold Medal TV ad series, 1953.

An excerpt from Gene Deitch's book, How To Succeed In Animation (Don't Let A Little Thing Like Failure Stop You!).

You need a lot of luck to make it in the movie business, but how do you get lucky? Is success really just a matter of luck -- chance? Or can you lure luck your way? Here are some tips.

Many have asked me how to get started in animation, and how to prosper in it creatively and financially. Dare I mention luck?*

Luck Defined

I believe I have had plenty of that, and I couldn't expect anyone to profit from my tales of lucky incidents that propelled me. But perhaps a definition of luck would be useful: Everyone, at one time or another, happens upon an opportunity. The vital difference occurs in if or how a person perceives the opportunity, and how he or she reacts to it, grabs it and runs with it.

Many things seem to come out of the blue, a pure chance of being in the right place just as a door opens. But without preparation for that chance event, you will not be the one who will be beckoned inside.

What is luck anyway? Luck can often be manipulated -- given a little nudge. After all, you just can't sit around half your life waiting for luck to bless you. You can be a complete no-talent idiot and still win $500,000,000 in a lottery. You don't need any advice from me to do that -- just incredible, and highly unlikely, pure, one-in-a-gazillion-chance, naked luck. Theoretically, any dummy can do that. But actually, having luck in breaking into the profession of your choice can be a lot harder if you don't make moves to make it happen.

Here's how to make luck happen:

1. Be good at what you do. Do what you must do to get good. Watch, learn, practice, produce. Be ready. It takes work. 2. Make yourself known. Find an outlet. Become a name. Get in print, or on the Net. Let your abilities, your accomplishments be out there. 3. Put out feelers. Don't hide. Write letters. Put up a Web page. Send email. Make contacts.

All of the above are really the same things. You want to get yourself in a position where you could be the person sought after. It worked for me when I was just past 20, when I was drawing jazz cartoons for no money in an obscure jazz record fan magazine. It gave me stuff in print with my name on it, and people at UPA happened to see it. You never know who will see something that is out there. Today, similar luck can be prompted on the Internet. What you want to set up is a situation where someone looking for talent will find you.

There are two possible approaches:

1. You can study trends; what's hot -- what's not -- ape a successful style -- try to guess what's needed and figure a way to fill that need...or... 2. Be unique. Be outstanding. Hope to impress by indicating you are thinking ahead of the trends. That's harder and riskier, but if you can pull it off, you will be positioned for Big Things. You're more likely to score if you are in some way unique. Find a special ability within yourself and develop it.

Which of those two approaches would be more natural and possible for you? In either case, be aware of the basic truth: a potential client or employer must be made to believe that you can help him or her. You are not likely to be hired for reasons of charity. "Here's how I can be of value to you..." That is what you have to get across, and it's far easier for that to get across if the potential client or employer comes to that opinion on his own. To paraphrase JFK: "Ask not what your employer can do for you, but show your employer what you can do for him!"

Go get'm, kid!

Want to hear more advice from Gene? Then check out How To Succeed In Animation (Don't Let A Little Thing Like Failure Stop You!). An AWN exclusive.

Gene Deitch is one of the last surviving members of the original Hollywood UPA studio of 1946, the instigator of the CBS-Terrytoon "renaissance" of 1956-1958, Animation Department Chief of the Detroit Jam Handy Organization, 1949-1951, Creative Chief of UPA-New York, 1951-1954, Director at John Hubley's Storyboard, Inc. New York, 1955, Creative Director of CBS-Terrytoons, 1956-1958, President of Gene Deitch Associates, Inc. New York, 1958-1960, Creative Director for Rembrandt Films, 1960-1968, star director for Weston Woods Studios, Inc., Weston, Connecticut, 1968-1993, and has worked for over 40 years with the Prague animation studio, "Bratri v Triku."

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