Executive Spotlight: Daniel Lewis
Chief Operating Officer and Producer
Why do you do what you do?
I really enjoy the variety of challenges that exist on a daily basis. Each and every day is different in this business. We are forced to always come up with new ideas in an effort to operate in this very competitive industry. The studios and mini-majors continue to dominate the industry taking in 95.9% share of the worldwide revenue in 2010, which leaves every independent filmmaker/company across the globe competing for their share of the remaining 4.1% of the market. The industry is also constantly evolving and it forces our company and our approach to the business to shift and change to accommodate market and customer demands. Just like any business, there are daily tasks that are very difficult and stressful, but in this industry, there are some fun challenges as well such as figuring out how to make Louisiana look like Washington, DC! When everything comes together and you see the finished product after 18-24 months of hard work, it is extremely rewarding.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
My greatest professional accomplishment has been expanding Active Entertainment's corporate operations into Baton Rouge. Since joining forces with Ken Badish and the company in Lafayette, LA in early 2008, it has been my goal to grow the company and create the need for expansion across the state. It was always important to me to bring this business back to Baton Rouge where I was born and raised to make a positive impact on the community, the local economy, and assist in nurturing and growing the Baton Rouge film industry.
What was your first job?
My first "real" job was as a Personal Banker at JPMorgan Chase. During college, I worked at Coca-Cola, TJ Ribs, and EBS Ricoh.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
The best advice I received is to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you're angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don't get defensive. You don't scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, "Maybe they are saying something to me that I'm not hearing." So "assume positive intent" has been a huge piece of advice for me.
If I could have any job other than my own, I would coach/play baseball for a living.
What is the greatest personal or professional obstacle you've overcome?
The greatest personal obstacle I ever overcame was missing out on nearly 2 years of my high school baseball career due to a shoulder injury. One of the most difficult experiences that you can ever go through is watching other people get to do what you have a love and passion for while you are forced to sit on the sidelines. However, the experience led to a positive impact on my professional career and personal life. If a company or an individual is enjoying the successes that you desire, don't just sit on the sidelines and watch. Create a plan to get there and take action.
If you started over, what would you do differently?
If I started over, I would start saving money earlier in life and would not have taken any student loans.
What is your prescription for life?
Get busy living, or get busy dying.
What book are you currently reading?
The last book I read was Good To Great by Jim Collins. I highly recommend it as there are many lessons about life and business that apply to everyone.
If you could have dinner with any three living people, who would they be?
Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Simon Cowell
Who would play you in a movie?
Never thought about that…Ben Foster is one of my favorite young actors, but probably James Franco because his characters are typically a good combination of serious/funny.
What do you do to unwind?
Play with my daughter, Avery. Regardless of how stressful or difficult my day has been, that little girl has a way to make me forget it all and enjoy the moment.
What is the most expensive purchase you've made for yourself?
My Canon 7D camera and lenses. I really enjoy photography in my spare time and this camera makes any amateur photographer look like they know what they are doing.
What is your favorite weekend activity?
Tailgating for an LSU game and spending time outdoors with friends and family.
What's your favorite spot in Baton Rouge?
I really enjoy going to Tsunami downtown and sitting outside on the patio overlooking the city.
How do you take your coffee/tea?
A little cream and sugar, although, I'm trying to start drinking it without adding anything.
What is your favorite movie? TV show? Band?
Shawshank Redemption. Big Bang Theory. George Strait.
What is your favorite gadget?
What is something that you can't live without?
Friends and family.
If you could change one thing about Baton Rouge, what would it be?
What is your greatest hope for Baton Rouge?
My greatest hope for Baton Rouge is that we can continue to create jobs and opportunities throughout the state so that our children will be able to stay in Louisiana to pursue their dreams, regardless of career choice.
What is your greatest fear for Baton Rouge?
My greatest fear for Baton Rouge is that it will resist change. I appreciate the tradition and way of life that has been established in Baton Rouge for many generations before me and I think it is important to keep all of those things intact. However, as different industries and new companies continue to plant roots in the ground and influence the shape and growth of Baton Rouge, it is important for the community, businesses, and other industries to embrace and support the change, new ideas, and new opportunities that will exist as a result of this growth.
What does Active Entertainment offer that makes it the best company for the job?
Stability and steady growth in this industry are hard to find when analyzing independent film companies across the globe. Active Entertainment has both and is built on a solid foundation based on conservative principles and practices.
What does Baton Rouge offer Active Entertainment?
Baton Rouge offers Active Entertainment a variety of crew, vendor, talent, location, and other resources such as the state of the art facilities at Celtic Media Center where Active's corporate headquarters is based. Baton Rouge's location in between New Orleans and Lafayette was also attractive and influenced the expansion from Lafayette into Baton Rouge. With company operations still in Lafayette and also now in New Orleans, Active has now been able to create a corridor along I-10 to assist in the continued growth of the company through access to multiple vendor, talent, location, and crew resources across the state.
Why has Louisiana become such a mecca for filmmakers in recent years?
The commitment from the leaders of the state of Louisiana to create this new industry by offering tax-incentives has continued to bring in companies and filmmakers from around the world into Louisiana. Once people get here, they don't want to leave. They experience the people, the beauty, the food, and many great southern traditions. Many of the talented homegrown Louisiana natives, such as myself, are getting opportunities that they never would have had otherwise. The talent pool continues to grow as does the population of experienced talent that are moving into our state to follow job opportunities. The state is building something amazing and I'm excited to be a part of it. We are creating an industry that will not only bring people to our state, but also give our children opportunities to follow their dreams in this industry without having to leave the state.
What does the state offer in terms of shooting locations, actors, creators, crew and other talent?
The state offers a variety of different location looks from plantation homes to grassy fields, swamps, big city, small town, etc. If you drive in any direction for a few miles you will enter an area that offers a completely different "look". This is very attractive to filmmakers and to our company that has to cheat many different cities around the world in our films. The actors, production, and post-production crew across the state are second to none…many of which moved into Louisiana because of the industry growing here and also many of which are born and raised Louisiana natives. Louisiana has so much to offer and talented, creative individuals is definitely at the top of the list.
Do you often see people coming in to Celtic hoping for stardom? If so, how do you handle that?
This is a very difficult business. Many people that I talk to that want to be actors, filmmakers, crew members, etc. have the perception that the "want" to be in the business is enough to get started. However, I try to remind people that this is a business of hearing the word "No" about 99 times before you hear the word "yes". If someone is getting in the business just to become famous or to meet famous people, they will not last very long in this business. It takes commitment. It takes passion. Most of all, it takes work ethic. Luckily, Louisiana offers more opportunities to the less experienced than other larger markets such as California or New York. So, for people who want to pursue their dream of being in the film business, Louisiana is absolutely the place to be.
I imagine you've met some influential actors and filmmakers in your career. Who particularly sticks out in your mind and why (for example, quirks, demands, witticisms, charisma or lack thereof)?
I've had a chance to meet some great actors over the last few years. The few that really stand out to me are the actors/actresses/filmmakers that have been in the business for a long time and have made a career out of being in this industry. I've learned a lot through conversations with them, watching them work, watching them interact with others. This is a very mentally, physically, and emotionally tasking business to work in and it is very easy to lose the human element along the way. I've worked with a few real pros lately who really are top notch actors and individuals such as Stacy Keach, Danny Trejo, MC Gainey, Robert Picardo, Terry Kiser, and many others. They have all had careers that have spanned over 30 years and it is quite obvious how they have made it as long as they have in the business.
What's an aspect of your job and/or industry that many people would be surprised to know?
I think people would be surprised to know that only about 10-15% of my job is related to the creative aspects of the business such as casting, scripts, etc. I think the perception of the film industry is that producers go to work, read scripts, hire and socialize with actors, go to set and oversee the movie from start to finish. Although those aspects of the business are my responsibility, in the independent film industry it is actually quite different. I spend the majority of my day running a business just like I would in any other industry. I'm dealing with numbers, spreadsheets, cashflow, sales, development, customer/network relations, marketing, overhead, taxes, employee management, key hiring decisions, asset management, banking, company growth, community relations, raising capital, etc. It isn't as glamourous as Hollywood likes to make it seem.
What is your absolute dream gig?
I currently have my dream gig and I consider myself very lucky to have found it and to have this opportunity at such a young age.
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