We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer Mangan and Michael Fisk and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennifer, Michael, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Knowledge is Power. Business of Creating is all about educating and empowering people through honest conversation and interactive panel discussions with seasoned Entertainment executives. We started Business of Creating after I co-founded the Women In Film Mini-Upfronts and realized people had a huge desire to succeed and were willing to put in the work, but lacked the practical guidance they needed in order to create top quality projects that would be taken seriously by studio executives. Michael and I then produced a panel that included practical advice on how to create a stellar ripomatic trailer for unproduced Entertainment projects. We had over 120 professionals attend and take copious notes! Soon thereafter, attendees approached us to make sure they were on our mailing list and to find out when the next panel would be. We had unintentionally discovered a niche that was being underserved. What was supposed to be a one-off event has since grown organically to include an email list of over 2,500 people, with panels covering multiple business topics, all designed to empower professionals from different facets of Entertainment to learn and network with each other.
Please tell us more about your business.
Business of Creating is an ongoing, live, interactive panel series and Q and A with seasoned Entertainment executives founded by writer/producer Jennifer Mangan and Entertainment marketing executive Michael Fisk. We are an all-volunteer organization.
Our Mission: To educate and to empower content creators across all platforms (film, tv, digital) by providing unique opportunities to gain useful information and apply practical action steps both in creating and in selling top-quality projects.
We foster an educational atmosphere of camaraderie wherein the attendees and panelists are encouraged to network with each other after the event. Panels are free and open to the public, but an rsvp is required.
Upcoming Panel: The Business of Creating and WGF are partnering with Bloom XO to bring you a dynamic interactive panel and Q&A with seasoned entertainment professionals to discuss the differences and similarities between short-form content (e.g. TikTok, Instagram Stories) and long-form content (e.g. Film and TV series). Topics will include: an overview of short form content creation and execution, capturing and growing your audience, bridging the gap between short and long form, and how/when to get sponsors on-board.
We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about.
Michael and I are very excited that we have been able to pivot from in-person panels to virtual events, growing our audience from local LA folks to a world-wide audience of over 2,000 people! Our panels are now recorded, which is fantastic for attendees to be able to rewatch. We are proud of and humbled by the sheer numbers of those who attend the panels, particularly those who choose to attend live from around the world (read: middle of the night for them) in order to participate in the chat with other attendees and be able to ask panelists specific questions regarding their individual projects. We plan to do a hybrid version of our panels by live-streaming them once we are able to meet in large groups.
What sets us apart—I’d like to answer this question with a few quotes from past panelists and attendees:
“The panels are incredibly well-organized, with carefully curated subjects and guests, and hosted in a very inclusive environment so the participants are active in the conversation and comfortable asking lots of interesting questions. It was a pleasure working with Jennifer and Michael.”
–Yvette Zhuang, SVP Int’l Production and Distribution, Miramax
“The Business of Creating offers a unique tantalizing glimpse into the very machinations that make the Entertainment Industry work! Michael and Jennifer’s current-executives and current-creators packed panels ride the rail between creative and business, ensuring that the audience is getting up-to-date information which only Industry-insiders know.”
–Randy Greenberg, Executive Producer “THE MEG” and “COWBOYS & ALIENS”
“I can’t recommend this panel series highly enough! They offer professional advice, knowledge, experience and case studies to independent filmmakers. Plus a great networking opportunity.”
–Dan Heale, EVP/Chief Strategy Officer, Way to Blue
“My team and I drove 4 long hours in traffic (from San Diego) to attend your event. It was more than worth our time. I can’t wait until the next one!”
–Harlem Atwood, Filmmaker
“Such diverse subject matter (within Entertainment), navigating those many disciplines has been illuminating. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to invite (colleagues) to something that has value and is accessible. Business of Creating is not just about the panels, it’s also a community.”
–Amie Arbuckle, Writer
“..the kind of stuff you don’t get anywhere else. It’s been a tremendous, supportive foundation of information and insight. This is the kind of stuff you don’t learn in film school.”
–Billy Moon, Still Photographer
How did you get to where you are today business-wise.
Jennifer: This is a great story! Business of Creating grew from a completely different project, and now we are 3 years strong and over 20 panels in, with both in-person and virtual attendees all over the world! Michael and I originally met when I took a required marketing course at UCLA Extension, and he was one of the guest speakers. I didn’t yet know the reason, but I knew I needed to meet him and him me. We exchanged information. A year later, I emailed him to be a judge for the Women In Film Mini-Upfronts (a red-carpet event showcasing trailers and ripomatics for projects in various stages of development that were seeking distribution, which I had co-founded and was producing). We found a time to chat (so he could get further details)—little did he know that, while we were chatting and I was trying to sound professional with the then-EVP of International Marketing for Lionsgate, I was stuck on the side of the road with a dead battery, traffic whizzing by and the AAA guy asking me to “sign here”! Comedy like that practically writes itself, but it just goes to show—if you have a solid project and a desire to empower others, like-minded people will come on-board to help.
In the 2 years we worked together on the Mini-Upfronts, Michael and I noticed some of the entries were fabulous, but a lot of folks did not know how to properly create trailers or subsequent marketing materials. As such, we produced what we thought would be a one-off panel discussion and practical how-to on creating such materials. The response was overwhelming! Over 120 people attended our “intimate” event held at Oprah Winfrey’s OWN offices, proving that this kind of practical information was needed and eagerly awaited by those willing to put in the work and succeed. We then received a slew of emails, asking when the next panel was going to be and to be put on our mailing list asap. So…we created a mailing list, pulled out our proverbial rolodex for potential panelists, and Business of Creating was born.
Michael: I was so honored when Jennifer called me out of the blue and remembered that I was a guest lecturer in her UCLA class taught by Ken Markman. It’s the same amazing class I attended as a student early on in my career (I won’t reveal how many years ago!). I learned so much from Ken, and I still keep in touch with some of the students I sat next to. After I graduated from his class, years later he asked me to come back, but this time as a guest speaker.
When Jennifer asked me to watch a bunch of trailers, I was like “Sure”. I do that already for a living! LOL! But it was Jennifer’s enthusiasm for helping our creative industry become stronger and better by encouraging more diverse stories to be told and seen that captivated me most. I remember staying up late at night after work to watch and rank the trailers and ripomatics. I took it very seriously because I know how much time and effort creators put into their projects. Also, it also takes a lot of courage to put a piece of creative out in the world to be critiqued. They deserve the attention.
Afterwards we realized how some trailers needed work in how they were structured and “sold” the projects. So that is how our first panel titled “CREATING TRAILERS: That Sell Your Project” was founded. Then it organically grew from there to where we even create panels that attendees recommend and request.
Was it easy?
As with most things, Business of Creating took time to build up both our contacts and our databases, in order to continuously provide top-quality panels with superior, experienced entertainment executives willing to volunteer their time and experience in order to empower others. This is all volunteer—none of our panelists get paid, and events are free with the option to donate at your discretion. We rely on sponsors and grants in order to keep events free and open to the public. So, hey, if any readers out there want to sponsor or otherwise help out, definitely let us know via the Contact page on our website!
If not, how did you overcome the challenges?
As we’ve grown, we’ve realized that each event we produce will have its own individual challenges, different than before. It’s been a learning-curve for sure! Finding and cultivating relationships is key—whether it’s for securing panelists, a location, creating our website, working with sponsors…such a variety of aspects to any business. Relationships and a certain amount of bull-headed stubbornness/refusal to quit are key.
What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way.
1. That there are a lot of really wonderful people out there who are happy to help and eager to empower others. You need to let them know that the opportunity exists, however. Sometimes that means reaching out to a friend or friend of a friend, but sometimes that also means cold-contacting someone you really want to have involved. You never know, they might say, “Yes!”
This is why, at each of our panels, we encourage attendees to introduce themselves to each other and make those critical connections. Because the person “sitting” next to you may be the one helping you finance, produce or manage your next project.
2. Always ask and be politely direct in what you need. If they say, “Yes,” fantastic! If they say, “No,” you’re in the same position as before you asked, and now you know their answer. No harm, no foul. You also never know—they may say, “No, I can’t, but my colleague can.”
3. Rejection is rarely, if ever, personal. Let it sting for five minutes, then move forward.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People can’t help you if they don’t know you need it.
5. You may not directly realize it, but you are making a huge difference for people you may not even know. Michael and I have received such positive feedback from both panelists and attendees. It has been truly heart-warming and humbling to both hear and read.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Writers Guild Foundation for generously providing both an in-person and a virtual home for our on-going panels.
UCLA Extension and Ken Markman for introducing us to each other
Book: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (about the founding of Nike)