B. Jeffrey Madoff is the author of the new book Creative Careers: Making a Living with Your Ideas. He is the founder and CEO of Madoff Productions, a film production company, and is also a director, photographer, and professor. He's based in New York City.
Q: You've taught a class on creative careers for many years--what led you to write this book?
A: I kept getting told, "You should write a book about your class." I liked the idea of it, but didn't know how to make that happen.
It was serendipitous; I happened to meet people who introduced me to other people who could help me put together a proposal, meet an agent and pitch to a publisher.
Once I understood what the necessary steps were, I went for it. I was fortunate to meet good people who were willing to educate me as to the process and believed in the value of the book. Then the possibility of writing and selling a book became a real project with tangible action for me to take.
The irony is, that is very much what the book is about. Whether I was designing clothes, making films or writing a play, the protocol was the same.
Writing and selling a book was demystified and became, like everything else, a process. In this case, a process with a good outcome. The book was sold, which is why you are reading this.
Q: You write, "In trying to sell this book, many publishers asked why a businessperson would buy a book about creativity, or they wondered why a creative person would want a book about business. They totally missed the point." What do you see as the connections between business and creativity?
A: The essence of creativity is making something happen that brings about a change. That could be a painting, a song, a new business. It could be a new way of doing something, building something, selling something, interpreting something.
There is a tendency to put up walls between different disciplines and not realize there are many more similarities than differences in terms of what it takes to make a living off what you do.
That means there are lots of lost opportunities for both businesses and creatives to collaborate and innovate. Da Vinci drew the first helicopter over 400 years before it was invented. What if he worked with someone who could have built it?
Artists were not and for the most part, still aren't looked at for practical knowledge. Art is art. Business is business.
In the real world, art is a business, unless it's a hobby. Apple never originated a product, but through art and design, coupled with great marketing, advertising and brand building, they built one of the largest businesses in the world.
We see the connection between art and business every day, but most people aren't paying attention.
Q: You include reflections from a variety of people interspersed throughout the book. How did you choose the people to include?
A: I find good people through other good people, such as my guests. I go to events. I also read a lot, see someone on TV or online that interests me and will reach out with an email.
I know they are doing something interesting because I check them out before asking them to do my class by looking them up and becoming familiar with what they do. I schedule a phone call or coffee to see how they come across and if they seem like a good fit for the class.
I'm totally agnostic other than the person has to have something of value to say and a passion for communicating their ideas. I don't care what field they are in, everything relates.
Chris Voss, the former FBI hostage negotiator, might seem like a stretch for a class full of creatives, until you realize his insight into how you negotiate with people will help foster a great creative collaboration.
A neuroscientist such as Moran Cerf will cast light on how people make decisions whether to buy or not and share insights into how to foster creative thinking.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: I hope the readers will think about things differently by being exposed to ideas maybe they haven't thought about before.
Connect the dots you didn't think connected before. Realize the importance of context. Recognize opportunities. Take a chance. Don't be afraid to fail. Quiet the inner critic. Find your voice. Invest in yourself and your self-worth.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I wrote and am producing a play about Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend Lloyd Price. His life unfolded at the crossroads of the birth of rock and roll, the youth and civil rights movement. It's a powerful story with great music and dance.
We go into rehearsal in April of ‘21 and will be in performance at People's Light Theater from mid-May to mid-June of ‘21. I am having a great time collaborating with award-winning talent and telling a story about an unsung hero.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Thank you for your questions. My book, Creative Careers: Making a Living with Your Ideas, is available in print and e-book.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb