Networking with Writer-Director Nzingha Stewart
Best Business Lesson
Good intentions don’t matter; it has to be on paper. Once there was an issue in a contract that my lawyer fought hard for. I just wanted to get the deal done and didn’t want to scare [the client] off. My lawyer eventually won and later it became a legal issue. I thanked God that he fought for that detail or I would have been in a lot of trouble. I came into this thinking that everyone is nice. And they might be, but you must be protected.
Worst Business Advice
I had a manager who wanted me to take meetings and direct movies that I was personally offended by. I’m not doing a hip-hop BBQ movie. He thought that coming from hip-hop, I would love and be perfect for those types of movies even though I didn’t do those types of rap videos.
I do have challenges standing my ground, but not along racial or gender lines – more along creative lines. It’s tough when I want to do something that the industry hasn’t seen yet.
Time is a big one because I notice that most of my friends who have 9-5 jobs, have Saturday and Sunday to themselves. There isn’t one day of the week where I don’t do anything. On Saturday, I’ll still get up in the morning and fiddle around with work. If I have a deadline, I can’t do anything but go to the office and write. Security is a sacrifice too because unlike some, I don’t know that I’m getting a check every Friday.
Judd Apatow. I’m amazed by him as a business man. He has produced some of the biggest comedies ever. But he also wrote “Knocked Up” and “40 Year Old Virgin.” He gets to make a lot of money doing what the country appreciates. He seems to have a style where he lets people do what they’re good at and he allows his friends to contribute. Often, people think they have to do everything, but the project isn’t as good as it can be because you’re not letting people do what they can do.
Use what’s in your hand. I know people who want to break into the business, but they think they can’t do it until they get the right manager or get the right this. I always ask myself, what do I have right now? I want to direct, but that’s a career where I have to get three hundred people to work with me. So I started writing with the idea that I could sell a script and create an opportunity to develop the project. I see a lot of waiting until things are perfect. If you’re not getting hired as an actor, you better be in class. In times when I haven’t been working, I’m not on vacation. I’m in workshops or working on getting better. Not being where you want to be isn’t an excuse for not doing anything.
If you’re a filmmaker and what you make is really good enough, sooner or later, it will happen. Put your work out there, in script form or as a low-budget film. You have to create work and you have to put it out there.