Creative Rogue Michaela Coel Cuts Through Show Biz BS, Turns Down $1 Million Deal With Netflix

Imagine you’ve worked your ass off creating something you’re proud of

It starts to pick up traction, it’s getting noticed!

Now you’re sitting in an office with show business executives

They tell you that your idea is worth $1 Million, they’ll cut you the check and you’re done

What would you do?

Michaela Coel, as it turns out, would not only turn down the $1 Million but fire her agency, CAA with several show business executives tell her she would regret it, they couldn’t have been more wrong…

michaela coel dancing GIF by Chewing Gum Gifs

Alex Jung, a journalist for Vulture wrote a wonderful piece on Coel’s journey recently and what stuck out the most wasn’t just how amazing she is as a creative, but that she is one of the best examples of how other creatives can begin to take a look at how their industries work, and improve them

From his piece:

When Coel shopped her show I May Destroy You, she asked questions relentlessly. She is eager, almost giddy, to say she doesn’t know something (even if she may have an inkling) because of the way it forces someone else to explain it to her.

She has discovered that the explanation is where people begin to falter and the fissures of conventional wisdom crack wider. It may be business as usual, but is it right? Is it good?

Netflix offered her $1 million upfront — But when she learned they wouldn’t allow her to retain any percentage of the copyright, she said no. No amount was worth that. She fired CAA, her agency in the U.S., too, when it tried to push her to take the deal after she learned it would be making an undisclosed amount on the back end.

Michaela Coel Alex Jung

You see, the old way of things is

Show Biz is an industry that has amassed an audience, that audience has traded money for the content they make

Michaela Coel
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Their leverage is money and audience

You as a creative can choose to work with them, or go directly to your audience

There’s no better time for creatives to cut out the middle man, you’ve got the Internet, social media, even companies assisting with how you reach your paying customers (as you’ll see, Seed And Spark has helped tip the scales in favor of creators)

Michaela Coel

Michaela’s eloquence rang true during a keynote speech in the U.K. where she says:

“Of late, channels, production companies, and online streaming services have found themselves scrabbling for misfits like kids in a playground scrabbling for sweets — desperate for a chew, not sure of the taste of these sweets, these dreams, just aware they might be very profitable,” she said, looking gorgeous and powerful in a blue sheath. “Is it important that voices used to interruption get the experience of writing something without interference at least once?”

Why is it important that you as a creative are in tune with what’s behind the scenes?

Another awesome example via Jung’s piece:

Coel recalls one clarifying moment when she spoke with a senior-level development executive at Netflix and asked if she could retain at least 5 percent of her rights.

There was just silence on the phone,” she says. “And she said, ‘It’s not how we do things here. Nobody does that, it’s not a big deal.’ I said, ‘If it’s not a big deal, then I’d really like to have 5 percent of my rights.’ ” Silence.

She bargained down to 2 percent, one percent, and finally 0.5 percent. The woman said she’d have to run it up the chain. Then she paused and said, “Michaela? I just want you to know I’m really proud of you. You’re doing the right thing.” And she hung up.

Michaela Coel

If you’re reading this thinking “ok what’s next?” Setting small goals for yourself will make for amazing strides

Michaela would go on to stick to her guns and that would result in alignment at BBC, where she would have everything she wanted: a seat at the table on the production side, full creative control, and the rights to the work

michaela coel finger guns GIF by Chewing Gum Gifs

If companies can leverage you like a commodity, why can’t you?

Katriel C Sarfati

For a more in depth looking at taking a different approach to how you navigate the business world and maintain your freedom, check out Dear Creative, Here’s To Cutting Out The Middle Man

Pro Tip: Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast

Here’s to escaping average

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