After struggling in Hollywood 6 years and finally hitting the wall in 2009, I decided it was time to face a fact: No one was going to make any of my screenplays or documentaries but me.
And to remedy that I’d need to create a business that supported me while giving me time to pursue my dream. I decided to call it BuzzBroz as an homage to Warner Brothers.
But I decided this a little late in the game, as a major recession was rippling through the world in 2009. I scrambled to secure a BuzzBroz startup home run assignment for Levy Restaurants. Biz whiz Larry Levy, the chairman of the Levy Group, was good pal from my hey day as Chicago’s number 1 commercial real estate broker back in late 80s and early 90s.
This was 2009, and social media which I began using from inception, was just beginning to explode. I laugh thinking of one prominent prospect deciding not to hire BuzzBroz because they thought Facebook and Twitter were flukes and would not last.
Right. I actually had the audacity called this prospect a “social media” moron to their face. We’re still friends but they will remain anonymous as their gut feeling looks more stupid each day.
Larry on the hand, a flat out genius — currently ranked by Forbes as one the 400 wealthiest Americans, for whom I had designed the first of his restaurant D. B Kaplan’s way back when I was an interior architect — liked my BuzzBroz proposal to create customer YouTube testimonials for each of his nearly 100 restaurants, well enough to pass me onto his director of advertising.
But I could smell something was wrong when my presentation to the ad director, who Larry sent me to with his endorsement, met with only a lukewarm response. This left me scratching my head. After all, I’d priced this so reasonably.
Now, a $200,000 price tag may sound like a big nut, but for one solo TV commercial spot it can cost 10 times that. I was offering 3,000 very basic, no SFX, no title creds, no score testimonial videos for peanuts. Bummer. I felt I had a slam dunk set-up, like the many of created in my career with over billion dollars in deals.
Worried by my gut feelings, I called Larry hoping for more top down help. Then Larry did something extraordinary. He shared he was divesting himself of control of the company he founded and so he could do nothing more to help me land the biz than he already had done.
A few weeks passed and, after an expected graceful letdown, I was told by the ad exec, young enough to be one of my kids, that they’d chosen another social media firm and direction.
That final word coincided with my final eviction notice. These nasty things happen too fast today. I kept chasing new work thinking I might still beat the clock. I could still have raised some investor money but after 6 years of failing to make a screenplay sale it didn’t feel right to take any investor money for the blackhole know as Hollywood. And my credibility was at all time low with no profit to show for 6 years of hard dedicated work.
My mistake in my Hollywood venture was only raising half million to only seed three films had come back to haunt me. I should have raised $3 million to indie produce one film then sell it to a studio.
To compensate for my overconfident ego trip that Hollywood would be a piece of cake for me, I remade my 2000 PBS show on shoestring budget as a YouTube series, with a 50% cut in my own equity stake to make room for a new backer. But with such a low budget I was forced to shoot, edit and score the work myself. Skills that would later prove invaluable, but which ate up the ticking clock in 2009 as I finished a new web series called LINCOLN IS BACK, hoping for a viral hit.
Well, as you can guess, I did not beat the eviction clock. Six years of struggling on Hollywood had left me with myself as my only asset at the depths of the worst economy since the Great Depression. However, I was so exhausted and depressed I was not feeling like much of an asset.
Eviction day finally came in early October 2009 as the stock market was still hemorrhaging red ink from 2008’s crash stupid caused by over leveraged debt. But none of this mattered. I was finishing getting my furniture into storage and finding a new home for my adorable Chihuahua Sophie, the Agoura Hills Sheriff stood by patiently, but firmly, as I carted the last of my stuff out I’d not sold at bargain yard sale prices. A few days earlier my VW Beetle was towed off by the repo man chuckled, “Sorry, man. Sucks to be you.”
The sadistic repo man was right. It did suck to be me right then. Unexpectedly, I felt so much shame about the eviction. Beaten by fate and a fruitless Hollywood career I felt homeless. This even though had a humble new room lined up to barter social media for a Hollywood stuntman.
But, as a guy who has come back from a negative net worth of $8 million after a 1991 real estate career and divorce that left me penniless. I was far from beaten. All I had to do was climb out of my pity pot.
Not easy when you are used to living a lux life as famed real estate mogul. I had trouble with the new biz scrapping cash together to buy a bike to get to meetings in LA. But strangely I was happy. I’d faced the worst America has to offer a businessman. Eviction and car repo in the same week and laughed at how silly it all was. I had so little money for food that lost a ton of weight. Using buses and bike to get around Hollywood built muscle. And in the midst of it all I found enlightenment discovering meditation in LA’s New Age community.
Despite meager sales — one Hollywood author and director stiffing me for $300 — I never lost heart. I knew the social media business was solid even with my Levy strikeout. And I do acknowledge not getting the Levy Restaurants account may not have corporate politics. Yep, the ad exec may have just felt I was too risky without a social media track record for the newly minted BuzzBroz.com.
BuzzBroz, founded on my 57th birthday, before there was a BuzzFeed, was brand spanking new and that was cool. And I was happy to take it slow for a change. My successes like building Harpo Studios in 1991 have always been so meteoric.
It would take another 3 years of barter and living on a shoestring for the home run to come. That was the happy day in 2012, on route to film a in Antarctica, when I met Patrick Flanagan in Sedona as my first backer for my Antarctica film project THE COOLEST MEDITATION EVER: ANTARCTICA 12.12.12, currently touring the US and overseas in 2018.
Pat’s PhiSciences has amazing products but they are largely unknown outside of the New Age community. To remedy that, via BuzzBroz, I created 50 videos. This even though at a time I was renting an air mattress in a buddy’s apartment’s dinning room. We called it the THE FLANAGAN EXPERIMENTS. Happily, with proper promotion, that Pat wisely invested in, these fine videos based on the PhiSciences product line, went on to garner 24 million views. Home run for BuzzBroz and PhiSciences.
But the grand slam came in 2014 with capitalizing all this success with a hit Indiegogo that raised $1.6 for the reinvention of Pat’s famed Neurophone and made feature doc called THE NEUROPHONE EXPERIENCE you can watch here. And the NEO Neurophone was born.
Sadly, production of NEO was halted in 2015 when Patrick took a nasty fall and had complications. The good news Pat is well now and we are hoping NEO will resume soon. I gotten all the quotes and I hoping the Flanagans will give the NEO the greenlight soon.
The moral of the story. If you strike out and are sent to locker room of life even in the depths of bad times, coming soon again I sense, keep on swingin’!