How Business Smarts Can Boost The Arts

The Productive Artist's Business Plan, now available on Amazon Kindle and paperback

The following is your very own special sneak peek at the Prologue from my book, The Productive Artist’s Business Plan, wherein I introduce what I mean by Productive Artists and how combining some key business best practices into our creative endeavors can skyrocket our artistic productivity and impact. Read on to see what I mean and get a glimpse into my book, now available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.

Read on to see what I mean and get a glimpse into my book, now available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.


As the very productive and prominent creative entrepreneur Seth Godin once wrote:

An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo.

Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

I couldn’t have said it better myself. And believe me, I’ve tried. But that is precisely why I wrote my book, The Productive Artist’s Business Plan, and who I wrote it for. There are so many practices and professions across so many fields and industries that can call themselves “artists.” So many different kinds of creators can contribute something equally meaningful and bold, especially in today’s modern age of innovation where design and technology are integrally intertwined. We don’t have to restrict our definition of art or an artist to some old archaic convention anymore.

Godin also said:

Art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people… Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal.

Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Now that’s something we fellow freelance artists can probably all agree with, and likewise aspire to achieve with our own art. But it’s also much easier said than done, isn’t it? As the saying goes, and Godin so insightfully wrote, such great artistry comes with great responsibility.

So it’s up to you as an artist to get your art out there in a way that engages and inspires people and provides real value.

But figuring out how to provide that value, and how to keep providing that value, can be confusing and exhausting. So how do we keep driving forward and navigating our way to that valuable destination?

I believe the answer lies in working together as a creative community, and together learning better ways we can evolve and become more productive artists. It also involves repurposing a few key best practices from others outside our creative community as well. We can all learn from each other, whatever our background and expertise. In this case, I mean taking a page or two from some of our modern economy’s most successful businesses and business people.

In my own freelance journey, I’ve discovered how much more we can accomplish as creative entrepreneurs if we can approach it with a more productive model and mindset. The world of business is a very complex and diverse one, and not all of it may be necessary to understand or be applicable to you and your art.

But there is a lot of wisdom we can extract from that [business] world about running a productive business in any creative field.

I’ve spent my life’s work walking the line between the Arts and Business sectors, navigating the balance between creativity and its inevitable chaos. To this day, I am continually amazed by how much the two industries can integrate and benefit from each other.

Now it’s pretty easy for us creative types to see how the business world could benefit from embracing some of our world’s artistry, amiright? But the same is true the other direction as well. We have so much potential at our fingertips if we can just learn to combine the creativity of one world with the business sense of the other.

I’ve been doing this for myself in my own ventures as a producer, writer, editor, and warrior. And now I want to help each and every one of you do the same. It’s been an incredible journey so far. One that has led me to a deeper understanding of how we can produce something that provides both artistic innovation AND productive value to the marketplace.

Now I want to share this precious knowledge with the rest of you, my creative community, and help redefine the value of the creative arts in the modern global economy. And that means helping each of you turn your ideas into productive and sustainable action, and excel in today’s rapidly growing workforce of creative freelancers.

It’s gonna be one hell of a ride. So hop on in, and let’s hit it!

Why We Need More Strong Female Film Roles

In today’s growing global political climate and all the recent reports surfacing around sexual harassment, particularly in the entertainment industry, it’s more important than ever that we see strong women in strong positions in our media, movies, and shows.

As Gal Gadot said recently in an episode of Variety‘s “Actors on Actors” series, “there cannot be women empowerment if women don’t have this visual in their subconsciousness, and if men don’t have it either. It’s important for boys and men to see that a woman can be super great.”

And it is happening, finally.

The ‘Wonder Woman’ blockbuster success has finally put female-driven tentpole films at the top of everyone’s radar and demonstrated their value and worth. And that, in turn, is helping women and girls the world over to see their own value and worth.

So I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more of these strong female-driven films in theaters and on our screens and in big ad campaigns, for all the world’s eyeballs to see.

We’re also seeing more women get into the game of creating these films and leading female roles, which is exactly what we need.’Wonder Woman’ director Patty Jenkins became the first woman to direct an American studio superhero movie, not to mention the fact that it was a female-led superhero movie! And now with that film’s undisputed success and the subsequent development of a sequel, Jenkins will also be the first female director to helm the first two installments of a major franchise.

This is huge, people!

Then there’s the indomitable Ava DuVernay, who has set many records as the first African-American female director to receive Golden Globe and Best Picture Oscar nominations for her Martin Luther King Jr. biopic ‘Selma’ in 2014, and most recently as the first woman of color to direct a major blockbuster movie with the $100 million dollar budget Disney tentpole (and also female-packed) ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’

Reese Witherspoon’s production company and admirable endeavor is also a Productive Artist dream. Under her banner Pacific Standard, she has been making it her mission to create more roles for women in film, both in front of and behind the camera, beginning with the highly grossing, award-nominated hits ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Wild,’ and most recently with their wildly successful HBO miniseries ‘Big Little Lies,’ which stars Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, and Zoe Kravitz.

But as Gadot describes her reaction to seeing her film for the first time, “It was the first time for me — as a woman, a girl, a female — that I saw an image of strong women that are beautiful and confident and can take care of themselves. I was shocked by it, and then I was more shocked by the fact that I never saw anything like that.”

You said it, Gal. And I couldn’t agree more!

These may all be major milestones and amazing progress for women and girls, but they shouldn’t necessarily be. Because they should already be the norm. We are getting there though, slowly but surely, and this train shows no signs of slowing down or stopping.

So let’s give these pioneering ladies some credit where credit is absolutely due. Because they are doing incredible things, and it is certainly better late than never.

Happy #GivingTuesday to these amazing Productive Artists, and to all others the world over who are doing their part to give more creative women a powerful voice on and off the screen.

What’s your part?

Source: Variety and Variety (more variety!)

A Wonder Woman To Direct Wonder Woman. No Wonder!

*UPDATE: After MacLaren’s departure from the Wonder Woman film due to “creative differences,” Warner Bros. could have chosen anyone to take over the helm. Anyone. And it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if they’d chosen a man. But they DIDN’T! To our very pleasant surprise, Warner Bros. took another big leap forward and chose the equally Productive Artist Patty Jenkins to take the reins. And boy are we glad she did!


Michelle Maclaren on Breaking Bad

Wonderful news! Acclaimed bad-ass television director Michelle MacLaren, who has helmed the likes of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead, has been chosen to direct the recently announced “Wonder Woman” film starring Gal Gadot.

A wonder woman directing a film about Wonder Woman. Now that’s fitting.

This will be MacLaren’s first time directing a major tentpole film – an honor that has been a long time coming. So it’s not at all a surprise that it’s come now. Perhaps even a bit overdue. She’s been on the radar of many for some time now, including Warner Bros. EVP of Production and Development Greg Silverman, who is apparently a big fan of MacLaren’s work and has been trying to find the right project for her for awhile.

Now they seem to have found it in the much-anticipated (at least by me) standalone Wonder Woman film. And about time they made one, amiright?

I’ll admit I had my doubts about the casting choice of Gal Gadot to play the Amazonian title character. But in the bold and capable hands of Productive Artist Michelle MacLaren, I feel much more confident that this film will do the character and the story justice, and be the shining beacon of female power and empowerment we all hope it will be.

Wonder Woman 2017_wonder

The film is scheduled to bow on June 23, 2017. So until then, keep your eyes on the horizon and get ready for the first glimpse of Gadot’s new Wonder Woman in the impending “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” film coming March 2016.

Ooo I just get so excited thinking about it! Don’t you?

Source: Variety & Variety ( I know, what a variety!)

The Power Of Women Times Six

It’s that time of year again – no not the leaves changing, or first snows, or the anticipation of obligatory family time that comes with the holidays – those things are upon us as well. But what I’m most exciting about at this moment is the celebration of the sixth annual Variety Power of Women issue, which celebrated five incredible women at today’s annual luncheon who have been using their clout to bring attention to worthy causes.

Let’s meet the honorees.

Variety Power of Women 2014

First we have Jennifer Lopez, who started the Lopez Family Foundation with her sister Lynda in 2008 after a health scare inspired them to want to help improve healthcare for other women and children.

Next, Reese Witherspoon is being honored for her work running production company Pacific Standard with Bruna Papandrea, and through it driving the production of films with strong, dynamic roles for women – like “Wild” and “Gone Girl.”

Jane Fonda has been a major advocate for preventing adolescent pregnancy, particularly in Georgia where there is the highest rate of it. So in 1994, she founded the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential and has been making waves ever since.

Viola Davis has proven to be a force to reckon with for eradicating childhood hunger, partnering with both Safeway Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation to introduce the Hunger Is initiative this year.

And last but certainly not least, Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley is already an incredible role model, being one of the only women in her level of position in the entertainment industry. But what makes her even more awesome is her work with nonprofit organization Vital Voices and its global mentorship program.

Source: Variety

A Champion for Women Directors

The 67th Cannes Film Festival wrapped up at the end of last month with another round of slightly disappointing results from a gender equality perspective. This time, only two female-directed films competed against 16 male-directed films for the ultimate Palme d’Or prize, which did end up going to a man.

That said, the second prize Grand Prix award did go to a woman, 33-year-old Italian writer/director Alice Rohrwacher, for her second film Le Meraviglie (The Wonders.) That’s hopeful!

Jane Campion at Cannes

What’s more, the festival’s grand jury was actually led by a woman this year – the highly acclaimed Jane Campion, who is the only women in Cannes history to be awarded the Palme d’Or (though in full disclosure she shared it with another male director).

Because of this achievement, plus a previous nomination for a Best Direction Academy Award, Campion has become a natural champion (see what I did there?) for addressing the lack of opportunities for women directors. And though not sure it should be her, Campion heartily agrees with the need for an Abraham Lincoln-like representative to take on the issue.

And Campion is already in prime position to do just that, having made films like The Piano that have inspired other directors (male and female) to “write roles for women — beautiful women with soul and will and strength, not victims, not objects” (said one of this year’s male jury prize winners). She’s also not afraid to speak her mind on this subject, using the Cannes festival’s opening press conference to call out the “inherent sexism” in the business, saying:

“Time and time again we don’t get our share of representation. Excuse me gentlemen, but the guys seem to eat all the cake.”

Jane Campion

Well we’re behind you Campion, our champion Productive Artist! Keep leading the way, and here’s hoping more of the industry will follow.

Source: Forbes

Variety’s Power of Women: Inspiration Impact Honorees

Last September, I wrote a post about Variety’s Power of Women Honorees. And today, Variety is at it again, honoring six incredible ladies in the entertainment industry with the Inspiration Impact Honoree award for their admirable humanitarian efforts with their chosen causes.

Variety’s Inspiration Impact Honorees

Susan Sarandon is being honored for her work with Hope North, which works to educate and heal the youth of Uganda’s civil war. They are honoring Sarah Jessica Parker for her work with the New York City Ballet, and Claire Danes for her work with Afghan Hands. Broadway darling Idina Menzel co-created A Broader Way, an arts centered program for urban girls. International super model Iman volunteers with Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation, which provides support and relief for women and children in Somalia. And last but not least, A+E Networks president & CEO Nancy Dubuc works with veterans group Project Rubicon / The Mission Continues.

And there they are, the six amazing Tough Cookies who are blazing a clearer path in the male-dominated field of filmmaking and showing that you can be powerful and successful WHILE philanthropic and kind.

You go, Productive Artists!

Source: Variety

Cate Blanchett on Why Female-Centered Films Rule

Cate Blanchett's Oscar speech

When Cate Blanchett won the Best Actress Oscar for her title role in Blue Jasmine last night, she couldn’t help but mention how incredible this honor is, not just for herself, but for all women in this field.

And the audience roared in applause when she passionately pointed out this common mis-perception:

“Perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the center, are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them. And in fact, they earn money.”

You said it Cate!

Being a filmmaker myself, it’s also become my life’s work to create films and video storytelling that feature women and demonstrate their strength & depth. And that’s precisely why I created Tough Cookie too, as a brand and name that I plan to embody in all of my film work and beyond, and encourage other women (and men) to do as well.

Because films (and other mediums) that feature women at the center are NOT niche! They are broad-reaching, and widely appreciated, and most certainly business-viable.

Thank you Cate Blanchett for reminding us of that in your greatest moment of triumph. Now that’s one hell of a Productive Artist!

Helen Mirren on Women In Film

Helen Mirren at Women in Film

At the Women in Film reception on Friday evening, co-host Helen Mirren got up to speak and immediately proceeded command the attention of the room.

“Shut up,” she said boldly, “cause Mama’s in the house.”

She then turned her attention to another group and said,

“That includes all you guys over there near the bar.”

And boy did they. Everyone did, because Helen Mirren is one Tough Cookie, who knows how to command all the respect and strength she embodies. It’s unfortunate that only 41 women  have directed the last 1,100 top films. But if we can encourage more women to do like Helen Mirren and stand up and take charge, we can change that for the better.

“I don’t often wish I’m younger,” she went on to say, “But tonight, looking at this audience, I do wish I was about 40 years younger… I’m just so excited about what happens next.”

She talked about the progress many women have already started making these changes happen in the film industry, and how excited she is to see what further changes are coming.

“It’s coming, women and girls, it’s coming! Enjoy it. And have a drink.”

Yes it is! And I’m ready for it – ready to do my part making it happen. Are you?

Source: Carpetbagger

Film and TV are Failing Women

Jane Fonda founded the Women's Media Center

Can you believe that women are still underrepresented in the film and TV industries? Well, I suppose I can believe it – but I wish I didn’t have to.

But unfortunately, we have solid proof of this sad truth, thanks to a recent report from the Women’s Media Center, which was founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem. The report summarized research conducted at USC and San Diego State, among others, and declared that “the American media have exceedingly more distance to travel on the road to gender-blind parity.”

Here are some scary stats to wrap your head around:

  • Women represented only 28.8 percent of speaking characters in the top-grossing films in 2012
  • Only six percent of those top 100 films in 2012 hired a balanced cast of women and men
  • Women accounted for a mere 16 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors, in terms of the 250 top US films in 2013
  • And looking at a two-month snapshot in 2013, men wrote 82 percent of all film reviews

The Center’s President Julie Burton has some strong feelings about this.

“The media is failing women across the board,” she says.

And I couldn’t agree more. That’s precisely why I am a film producer myself – why I am taking charge and telling stories of strong women – why I am trying to blaze the trail for more women like me to step up into the spotlight (in front of or behind the camera) and help change these statistics.

So c’mon all you Tough Cookies out there! Let’s get to it! By the time the next report comes out, I want to see these numbers significantly improved.

You hear that, (film & TV) world? We’re coming for you!

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Prioritize Your Creativity

Hello my fellow creators and faithful readers,

I have a confession to make. I have not been prioritizing my creativity. We’ve talked about how there is a growing creativity gap in our society. And in my last post, I explained why we are in a new age of creativity that we need to take advantage of and embrace as creative entrepreneurs.

There’s just one problem – I haven’t been taking my own advice.

Unleashed Creativity by John JunsonThrough this blog and my book, I’ve spent two years talking the talk. But now it’s time that I start focusing more on walking the walk. This new age of creativity is as much mine as it is yours, and I’m not going to let it pass me by. So as we approach the New Year and resolution time, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on this past year and where I’ve been spending my creative energy. And the truth is, I haven’t really given it a chance to take center stage and really shine.

And I strongly recommend you do the same!

Now is the perfect time. We are entering the insanity of the holiday season, and that means our schedules are bombarded with family gatherings and festive events. But at the same time, this is also a time to take a break from work, to reflect and relax, and be surrounded by loved ones. And above all, it’s a time to give our left-sided brains a much-needed break from the daily grind of the year past. So now is also the perfect time to take a step back, refocus and prioritize your creative mind.

Let your creativity out!

For myself, this will involve taking a break from the weekly task of blogging, and explore whether this is the best outlet for my creativity and impact on the world. That does mean you won’t have much to read from me here for a little while. But then I’m sure you’ll have plenty else to keep you busy this holiday season – so hopefully you won’t miss me too much! 🙂

For you, I hope this involves taking time from your own nitty gritty work routine to explore where your creativity best thrives, and where you find the greatest reward. So take a break, take pause and really listen to your creative voice – take a walk, let yourself daydream, doing a brain-dump writing exercise, put on your favorite music and dance around your room – whatever it takes to tap into the purest form of your creativity and its truest desires. You may be surprised with what you find and how much that hasn’t been reflected in what you’ve been spending most of your time and energy on this past year.

So go on, get in the holiday spirit this chilly season and light up a warming fire inside your own creative heart. Prioritize your time on some serious soul searching, and I promise you will come away a stronger and more focused creative entrepreneur – ready to take on the New Year with extra creative gusto!

Happy Holidays!