By: Jess Canty
When I mentioned to someone the summer between High School and College that I was to be a Theater Major at UCLA, their reaction was "I hope you like to read."
I laughed it off at the time, but shit were they right. Studying theater is really about ingesting 3000 years of writing... so yeah, lots of reading. What I have realized this prepared me for is what I want to talk about today...
I feel like we mention often the importance of reading the trades, but I want to take a minute to really dive deep into why these are important for your career.
According to Wikipedia: A trade magazine, also called a trade journal, or trade paper (colloquially or disparagingly a trade rag), is a magazine or newspaper whose target audience is people who work in a particular trade or industry. The collective term for this area of publishing is the trade press. Trade publications keep industry members abreast of new developments. In this role, it functions similarly to how academic journals or scientific journals serve their audiences.
Now that you are a professional - it is time to get serious about reading the "academic journals" of this profession: Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.
Yes Deadline is fine for up-to-the-minute info and a lot of gossip, but as far as in-depth analysis of this trade we are all in, you have to go with the classics.
And I want to recommend that you shell out the $$ to have the print version delivered to your house. There is something about holding it in your hands that is important in the retention process. So start making your coffee at home, and put that money you give Starbucks to better use.
The websites for both of the magazines are geared toward competing with the Deadlines and Buzzfeeds of the world, and I frankly find them dizzying. There is something satisfying about a finite number of printed pages that you can "complete" the reading of and then give to a friend or recycle. Also, there is something about it sitting on your coffee table staring at you that will make you take the time to actually do the homework of reading it. Especially when next week's edition arrives.
But WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY I'm getting there.
The answer to this question is: I can't tell you specifically when you will need some information that is in the trades only that you WILL absolutely need some information that is in the trades multiple times throughout your career.
Here are a few examples from my own recent past:
A couple of years ago, I had my first meeting at Universal with a reputable production company on the lot about one of the projects that Cinterra is developing. I of course read up on the company before I go in, but when I get there, and am invited into the VP of Production's office, there is a "for your consideration" pamphlet for a show sitting on his desk.
These kinds of meetings always start with small talk and he sees me noticing the pamphlet and says "have you seen the show." Not only had I seen it, but just the day prior there had been a lengthy article about the show in THR. I can't remember the exact topic, but I asked if he had seen the article. He hadn't yet, and so I was afforded the opportunity to educate HIM on something about the business of this particular show, because he wasn't caught up on reading the trades. I guarantee that this moment, as much as the rest of the meeting, factored in this company's decision to keep working with me on our project.
More recently I had lunch with some agents I had not yet had the pleasure of meeting courtesy of an intro from Sarah Baker Grillo. And sure enough, we got into a lengthy discussion about what was happening between the writers and the ATA. Now, both Sarah and I are firmly on the writer's side of this fight, but of course that is a bit awkward when chatting with a group of agents.
Granted they don't participate in packaging - but they were definitely defensive of the agency's positions in this fight. Finally I said "what really concerns me more than either side in this fight is that WME is trying to go public." Now this we could all agree was problematic for the industry - and it steered the conversation into more neutral territory. And why do I know that WME is planning to go public - and the ramifications about that? The Trades.
Then I was at drinks with a completely different group of agents because apparently that is all I do now LOL - and we got into a lengthy discussion about Marvel.
Now - I will admit that with the exception of Deadpool, I (gasp) haven't seen a Marvel movie in the theaters since the first Ironman. A lot of this convo was lost on me, but I could jump in and talk about how Robert Downey Jr. has made more money than anyone else from the franchise because he is the only one with a deal that includes points on first dollar gross.
And what agent doesn't like waxing poetic about the beauty of that deal? Did I know when reading that article a couple of weeks ago which mentioned Robert's deal that it would help me be able to join in a conversation that I otherwise would not have had much to contribute? Nope.
Again, you will not know when the trades will help you, I can only guarantee that they will.
And if you still don't believe me - then just ask Samuel L. Jackson.
Did you know that Samuel L. Jackson joined Snakes on a Plane because he spotted the title in Variety? I remember him mentioning it during the press tour for the movie, but just to be sure my aging brain is still working I double-checked.
And here it is, right from Wikipedia:
Originally, the film, under the working title "Snakes on a Plane", was going to be directed by Hong Kong action director Ronny Yu. Jackson, who had previously worked with Yu on The 51st State, learned about the announced project in the Hollywood trade newspapers and, after talking to Yu, agreed to sign on without reading the script based on the director, storyline, and the title. Initially New Line did not believe that Jackson had actually signed on to the project and had to call his agent to clarify. Jackson would later defend his choice of starring in the movie by stating "it was the kind of movie I would have gone to see when I was a kid" further clarifying "I feel sorry for all those people that are going through that whole trip of ‘Why would Samuel Jackson do something like this?’ and ‘It’s lowbrow.’ It’s a movie. People go to movies on Saturday to get away from the war in Iraq and taxes and election news and pedophiles online and just go and have some fun and I like doing movies that are fun.”
Get thee a subscription people! You may just be like Sam one day, reading the trades and discovering some bit of information that will help your next career step - big or small.