On my flight from London to Istanbul, Turkey, I was fortunate enough to strike up a conversation with my neighbor. It’s a small world when the man sitting next to you on a plane from London to Istanbul is a Turkish man living in London who studied film at UCLA and is currently a film writer and producer who use to party with Pepperdine people in Malibu, California! Small world.
It’s pretty easy to talk to a stranger. We talked about our lives, our families, and our hopes and dreams for the future. We found ourselves exchanging the nitty-gritty of our jobs. As we both talked about our careers, we realized we both deal with lots of conflict and opposing interests. Just as I attempt to use dispute resolution mechanism to resolve conflicts outside court, my friend employs negotiations and mediation skills to combat the conflicts that inevitably arise while working in the film industry.
I will keep my new friend anonymous (let’s call him John)—the film industry is a dirty world where reputation is EVERYTHING. John spoke of the two worlds in the film industry and the struggle within each. The American film industry is a world of big people and big egos. The film industry solicits investors from all over the world—ranging from arms dealers to construction company owners to politicians. These big personalities with their big money come with a wide array of interests and different needs. Some individuals are simply looking for ways to invest money. Other investors are looking to make money but are not on a strict timeline (so they often arrange deals to take their profit share from the back end). Other people invest for bizarre reasons with the money contingent on certain conditions or requirements.
This directions-based-investment creates some interesting scenarios and unique dilemmas. Given the economy, people in the film industry already have enough worries about money and securing the necessary actors. Besides worrying about money and actors, producers/directors also have to deal with investments contingent on specific arrangements. Some investments are contingent on specific actors playing certain roles while other contingencies include “time with the lead actress.” However illegal some of the conditions may be, the contingent investments do force the producers/directors in the film industry to walk on tiptoes. The producers/directors have their hands tied to multiple interests in these multi-billion dollar deals. Thus, they are uniquely positioned such that they must constantly negotiate and barter with the parties involved to actually get the film off the ground. When put in these situations, John said the only way to navigate these murky waters was to keep open the channels of communication and constantly try to be creative when negotiating.
As John spoke, I realized how uniquely positioned he was. As a Turkish citizen who has studied in the US, he has the ability to move between worlds. His desire to maintain homes in southern California and in Istanbul make it clear that he has two worlds that he constantly moves between. He works on films in the US and Turkey, as well as in other parts of the world. He said his experiences in the film industry outside of the United States is “less crazy” but still requires the constant use of negotiations to navigate through the various interests involved in filming and producing a movie.
Although I have lived in Southern California for a year, I do not know much about the film industry. I liked seeing the film industry through my new Turkish friend’s eyes. John also gave me the rundown on what to expect in Turkey and he helped me pronounce some Turkish language basics. Talking to strangers on airplanes has been hit or miss for me. I am glad I did not miss this opportunity. In fact, later that week my sister and I met up with John and some of his friends who also work in the industry. We enjoyed an evening drink of Raki (a traditional clear anise-flavored Turkish drink) amongst the rowdy nightlife on Istikal Street near Taksim Square (which was attacked by a suicide bomber a week later). Istanbul is a big thriving city with so many different people and cultures. John introduced me to a tiny subsection of that population and helped me see the world through his eyes! What a great opportunity — such a small small world.