Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gone Native

The best guides across the western wilderness have "gone native". This is a term, often of derision, used to describe a man who has lived too long among the native tribes he works with. The tell-tale signs are there. He has a native wife. His hair and clothing reflects the style of those who trade with him. He'll sit on the ground before he will a chair. He points with his chin. He punctuates his dialogue with sign language gestures. He speaks in phrases known only to the initiated. These "native" guides were often distrusted by the Eastern men who hired them because they feared their loyalty was suspect. Yet, the most prosperous voyages used these men.

New investors seeking to penetrate the American animation market will do well to put their faith in a guide the natives trust. You'll need a crew to make your fortune and a good guide, trusted in the business, knows the best people for the job. Artists are funny people. They see things differently than other folks. They aren't very good at schedules, budgets, international currency exchanges or even test marketing. And they are very distrustful of people who do know those things,...unless they can draw. They can seem obstinate, lazy or untrustworthy to someone who only thinks with their left brain. A guide who knows his crew, their strengths and weaknesses, can position them where he knows only their best will shine. I have learned my craft from the best in the business. Legendary men who were flawed but gifted. I have come to know that often the most visionary of men are not always the most reliable. But when surrounded by a talented support crew the product produced exceeds expectations every time.

Fur traders leaving Montreal in the East to make their fortunes in the West, beyond the far coast of Lake Superior, manned an eight to twelve man canoe. In the front went the visionary, the Avant, to warn of dangers ahead and to plot the best route. In the rear was the Gouvenail, the practical man, whose skill at steerage guided the boat to safety. Ranging along each side of the canoe were the Milieux, or middle men. They were the common rowers and packers who did the hardest work but bore the least responsibility. Sprinkled about the milieaux were "singers" who knew many songs and sang out to aid the rowers to pull in cadence along the journey. These "singers" were paid extra because their songs made the work easier and the trip faster. In the center of the canoe sat the Bourgeois. He is the leader of the crew. If any man of the canoe suffers an injury that makes it impossible to do his job, the bourgeois takes that job over. He has done all the jobs in the canoe including cataloguing the goods and keeping the ledger.

Dear Investor, when you leave behind what you know to travel into unknown but rich territory, choose the right man to sit next to in the canoe. Choose a bourgeois that knows the route, knows his crew, knows how to keep the books and, just as important, knows how to sing! Then, when the wind is blowing, the rain is falling and practical efforts fail, the songs will pull the canoe through the waves to the prosperous shores ahead.

No comments: