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The 100:1 Ratio – Or How To Survive In The Business Of Creativity

I’ve been thinking a lot about volume lately, and just how much time, effort and repetition it takes to thrive in this business. 
 
It doesn’t matter if your goals are financially driven or creative in nature – Achieving any major goal will always take a massive amount of effort, the vast majority of which will not directly yield positive results.
 
You often hear of famous actors who went on 100 or more auditions before booking their first role. Or film producers who contacted 100 investors before landing any funding for their movies. These stories are not the exception, they are the rule.
 
I’ve witnessed this pattern so much in my own life, and in the experiences of others who I admire. Tremendous success requires tremendous volume.
 
In my own mind, I’ve been calling this the 100:1 ratio, and the principle is quite simple: For every ONE difficult task you attempt, you must accept up to 99 failures along the way.
 
For example, it may take you:
 
– 100 movie ideas to come up with the ONE that really works
– 100 pitches before landing ONE great producer on your movie
– 100 casting choices before you find the ONE actor whose right for the part
 
This 100:1 ratio applies to virtually everything.
 
I can even apply it to my own website – noamkroll.com. For every 100 visitors that I have, roughly ONE will become a long term subscriber. For every 100 articles I write, roughly ONE will go viral and drive a ton of traffic to my site.
 
This is by no means a perfect science. In some cases you may achieve results with less effort. Maybe it takes 50 cold calls to land your agent, not 100. But rarely will it ever take more than 100 attempts to achieve whatever it is you’re dreaming of. 
 
By working at scale and with high volume you can’t help but reach your objectives over time. Each “No” will inevitably lead to a “Yes”, so long as you stick around long enough. 
 
This is not only the case because you’re playing the numbers game (taking many swings at bat), but also because you’ve become a different person by attempt #100 than you were at #1.
 
The actor who auditions 100 times before booking a role is surely a better performer at the end of the process. Inevitably he or she had to do some real work in multiple areas to assess why things aren’t clicking, and improve technique and strategy as a result. 
 
As they continue to get better at their craft, they are also expanding their network and meeting people who may ultimately be greater collaborators for them. When that “Yes” moment eventually does come, it’s not out of luck but as a result of iteration and perfection. 
 
Most filmmakers who “failed” in this business have done so by choice. At a certain point, they decided to give up – That they had given enough effort to this endeavor, and that they needed to find a more “realistic” path for themselves.
 
But did they really give it a fair shot? Their measure of how much effort it takes is completely subjective and emotionally based, not rational. They quit not because they actually gave it their all, but because it felt brutal to lose over and over again.
 
Most people can only take so much rejection – whether from producers, actors, festival gatekeepers, financiers, distributors, or anyone else for that matter…

So how then, do we get around this issue of quitting when the going gets tough? Especially when we work in a business that is really built around rejection?
 
The answer is simply to embrace it, and trust in the 100:1 ratio. Know that rejection is not personal, and that everyone – even those working on the highest levels of Hollywood – experience it every day.
 
The most productive and successful people on the planet have experienced more rejection than most people can fathom. For them, rejections or failed attempts aren’t seen as an attack on their personal abilities or self worth. They’re just accepted and moved on from so they can eventually get to that “Yes” moment.

For any of us to succeed in this business (or thrive in any other for that matter), we need to share a similar mindset. We have to be willing to do the work on a 100:1 scale, and accept that 99% of the time we won’t achieve the exact outcome we’re looking for.
 
With our perspectives calibrated the right way, we’re far more likely to prevail when the going gets tough, and keep pushing on until we hit that magic number 100.

The article above was originally published on my micro-budget weekly newsletter, where I share exclusive content to inspire and educate filmmakers & creative pros. For more articles like this every Sunday, be sure to sign up for the newsletter here, or use the form below.

 

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About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!

4 Comments

  • Kevin House
    October 17, 2019 at 5:07 am

    This is a great post and overall blog. I had a weak moment this past week about my path as a creative and business owner in the Film industry. I turned 33 this year and decided to go all in. I can’t do anything else lol. Anyway this really helped and motivated me to keep going. THANKS

    Reply
    • Cameron
      November 4, 2019 at 11:40 pm

      Wow, I also am 33 pursuing this dream. We will prevail! I am loving this blog. It has helped so much, even with releasing my first short film in projector format (I used the DCP tutorial).

      This blog is definitely the place to be when starting out.

      Reply
      • Noam Kroll
        November 22, 2019 at 9:37 pm

        Appreciate it very much, Cameron. Keep moving forward and you definitely will prevail. One step at a time is all it takes.

        Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 22, 2019 at 9:27 pm

      So glad this resonated with you. 33 is still so young – don’t forget Ridley Scott didn’t direct his first feature until 40 🙂 Keep focused even when the going gets tough and you’ll wind up ahead of the crowd in the long run.

      Reply

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