This is a transcript for Your First Million Bonus Episode 2 with Brian Grazer.
It is also available in PDF format.
The transcript was created by Rev.com and may contain mistakes.
Arlan Hamilton: I’m Arlan Hamilton. I’m a venture capitalist and this is Your First Million. I started my fund, backstage capital, from the ground up while I was on food stamps. I have now invested in more than 100 companies led by women, people of color, and LGBT founders. After having raised more than $10 million, people often ask me how I did it. I created this podcast so I could tell you my story, and so that together we could go on a journey and speak with some of the most successful people in the world from all backgrounds and walks of life to learn how they got their first million. And who knows? Maybe I’ll reach my first million in personal capital while I’m recording this series. There’s only one way to find out. This episode is brought to you by Digital Ocean. Let’s go.
Arlan Hamilton: This is a bonus episode that I am stoked about. You all know Brian Grazer, right? He is Ron Howard’s business partner, creative partner. They run Imagine Entertainment, which has been around forever. He’s one of the most prolific and the most well known producers and writers in Hollywood. He has made television shows and movies that are iconic. I’ll give you just a few of them. He has more than 200 producer credits to his name, so we won’t get to all of them, but here’s a few. Splash, a little movie called Splash. Parenthood, the movie and the TV show, which by the way I wept at every single week when it was on. Friday Night Lights, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Da Vinci Code, Arrested Development, 24, the 24 franchise, and Empire. These are just a few of the TV shows and movies that he has produced in the last several years.
Arlan Hamilton: His movies alone have grossed more than $18 billion. He has a net worth of a reported 400 million, give or take a few. And he has a book out that came out in 2015 called A Curious Mind, the secret to a bigger life. Now I didn’t book Brian Grazer. I didn’t have him lined up as someone I was going to interview, but life happens while you’re making other plans. So, I was recently introduced to Brian. We were sitting down to have a quick conversation, and I had mentioned to him this podcast, Your First Million, and he was instantly curious about it. He instantly wanted to know more. That set the tone for the entire conversation because he is a curious mind. That’s why his book title is so appropriate.
Arlan Hamilton: So, he asked me about it. I told him about it, and immediately he started telling me about his first million, and I jokingly said, “Oh I wish I could record this because you’d be great for the podcast.” And he said, “Record it. Record it and play it.” So, I hit record on my cell phone, on my iPhone with no notice. Hit the button and let him tell the story of his first million dollars, and there’s some wonderful lessons to be learned in these 10 million. 10 million? In these 10 minutes. You see, millions on the mind right now. In these 10 minutes, a great lesson to be learned because what I want you to do, no matter who you are, what your background is, what you know about your life and what you understand about his wealth and his legacy, I want you to really take in the holistic view of what he says and pull from it this piece about authenticity and about knowing yourself and about being true to yourself, and how that can pay off. It has the potential to pay off. I’ll say it time and time again because I believe it’s very true.
Arlan Hamilton: So, listen to that. It’s a great story. If you’ve ever watched the movie Splash, you’ll get a kick out of it. If you’ve ever just, I don’t know. It’s just really fun. It’s just really fun. So, take a listen and let me know what you think.
Brian Grazer: So, on your podcast, The First Million, which I know people love, I mean are just so psyched by, I do have a story about my first million, which oddly enough axises around this mermaid movie that I made called Splash, as you said.
Arlan Hamilton: Just a little tiny movie back in the day that just became the most famous movie about mermaids.
Brian Grazer: Exactly. That one, Arlan. So, and this is what happened. I wrote Splash and I wrote it over and over again. It was kind of not a very good script ever because I’m not a great writer, but I’m a good creative person who knows how to nurture ideas and I’m good at writing scenes, but dialogue is a little tricky. But I kept working on the script and I was trying to pitch the script all the time, and the idea of a man falling in love with a mermaid, but it was really more than a man falling in love with a mermaid. It was built on this premise of me, can I ever fall in love and get a great girl in the city of Los Angeles? I kind of thought, when I asked that rhetorical question to myself, I thought, no. I don’t think I can. I think it’s just too hard to find that truthful, honest, direct woman that you can have that great connection with.
Brian Grazer: Then I exponentially asked more and more questions of myself, which eventually turned into this project. So, I had made some movies that preceded it. They weren’t giant hits. One was called Night Shift that starred Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler. Bottom line is this. So now I’m in the middle of actually making the movie Splash, the mermaid movie that I’ve worked on for five years where people are going, “No it’s the stupidest idea ever. That’s the dumbest idea.” And I go, “I just asked yes or no. I don’t have to be insulted.” But nonetheless, people felt the need to insult you at the same time. I’m sure you’ve had your punches too, right?
Arlan Hamilton: Yes, absolutely. People think you’re crazy until you’re not.
Brian Grazer: Yes. So, I really, really wanted to live by this house. There’s this house in Malibu Colony. It was number 98 in Malibu Colony and it was owned by Dyan Cannon, and Cary Grant lived in this house too with her part time, because they were together. Had a kid. And the house was selling for $1,100,000. I really, really, really wanted it, you know, for a lot of reasons and stuff like that. I needed a house and all that stuff too. And I had the money for the down payment, but I was terrified of being able to pay those payments every month because I thought, I just really don’t have that money. I just don’t have it.
Brian Grazer: So, I asked this guy who was sort of a mentor of mine, because I always seek for mentors. I had a mentor. He said, “Well okay, I understand you don’t have it. But do you imagine it’s inevitable, you could have it?” I go, “Well yeah, I guess if I thought about it.” He goes, “Well just think about it. Transport yourself. Do you think it’s inevitable that you’re going to be able to afford this house?” I said, “I guess I do. I guess I kind of believe in myself and I do believe it’s inevitable.” He goes, “Then buy the house.” So, I bought it, and in my case I was very, very fortunate that this movie came out and, as you said, it was really embraced by the public and it became Disney’s biggest hit in nine years. I actually owned half of the movie because it wasn’t really fully believed in, and that was the time you could do something like that.
Brian Grazer: So, then I definitely was able to afford the house.
Arlan Hamilton: Got your first million in that point.
Brian Grazer: I got my first million, back to your podcast.
Arlan Hamilton: And that’s how you got this house. What do you think … Talk a little bit about the fact that … It’s okay if I ask you … Talk a little bit about the fact that people weren’t believing in you, because I’ve heard a few of our interviewees have had more fortune after something took off because people wouldn’t invest in it early on. Do you think that made your career, or do you think when you look back on that?
Brian Grazer: I have a real point of view about that actually. I think, if I’m getting your question right. But first of all, I want to say this, Arlan. It’s great meeting you.
Arlan Hamilton: Thank you.
Brian Grazer: And the fact that you could just whip your phone out right like that and say, “Let’s do the podcast,” shows as another demonstration that validates your success, because you don’t want to let a minute go that’s not productive.
Arlan Hamilton: Thank you.
Brian Grazer: So, it’s really fun.
Arlan Hamilton: It’s an opportunity. What an opportunity.
Brian Grazer: So, back to the question about believing in you and not believing, and all that stuff, if I got it right. Well, what happened is once the movie was successful, which was almost immediate, I said to a few really close friends, “Why do you think this was successful?” I said, before they could answer, “I think because it’s actually really funny.” The John Candy guy is really funny, and Hanks was pretty funny. They said, “Well yeah those things are true,” but someone that really knew me since childhood, it actually makes me choke up a little bit, but said, “No that’s not why.” They said, “The reasons why is because it was about you.” I said, “What do you mean by that?”
Brian Grazer: They said, “Well, it was about your dreams and it was about your truth. You exposed your authentic self and you injected that or transported that into the heartbeat of this story.” And that the mermaid and all the funny stuff was the exterior of all that, but the interior which is the thing that people really loved, it’s the reason they saw it week after week after week, was because it was about something real. So, it was a really amazing feeling and a lesson because this mermaid movie was thought to be so stupid by so many people, and then it worked, it made me think to myself, you know what. I’m just going to go the direction of storytelling and I’m just going to always try to reach into my authentic self and see what speaks to me. And don’t do any prognostication, any data sourcing. What’s going to then be the new trend. What’s going on in the culture. Don’t try to outsmart the audience.
Brian Grazer: Just be inside your own self and find stories that capture whether, in the case of Splash it was about love. In the case of Parenthood it’s about family. In the case of 8 Mile, what I did with Eminem, yeah it was about hip hop and about battles, but it was really about self actualization. It was about a kid that grew to know his talent outside of all of those emotional injuries he had. It’s about, when he says at the end of the movie, where he says … Anyway.
Arlan Hamilton: Oh, that touches you.
Brian Grazer: It does.
Arlan Hamilton: Do you want to talk about why or no?
Brian Grazer: Well it does because it’s a very liberating. I’m an emotional person.
Arlan Hamilton: That’s all right.
Brian Grazer: It’s very liberating because it’s about this person that was really emotionally damaged and had ability and no one saw it. So, he was a square peg in a round hole and he got through it and was able to disband himself of those injuries and say, “Yeah I am white trash. Yeah my mom’s a slut. And you did fuck my girl.”
Arlan Hamilton: Oh, okay.
Brian Grazer: And you can cut that out. But that he does say that in the movie. He sort of admits all the things that shamed him. So, he liberated himself from those injuries and his shame, and that’s what made it great. So, that was that.
Arlan Hamilton: Well, what a lesson about staying true to yourself and that being successful beyond measure, I bet. I don’t know your life. I don’t know your bank account, but I would imagine that that truth and that honesty has served you well.
Brian Grazer: It has.
Arlan Hamilton: And that you can also look at yourself in the mirror every day and say, “What a life.”
Brian Grazer: Yeah, I do.
Arlan Hamilton: Yeah. Hey, so I’d love to talk to you and keep the conversation going. Find me on Twitter and Instagram at ArlanWasHere. That’s A-R-L-A-N was here. Stick around too because I will let you know when my new book is going to be in pre-order. Now that’s coming out in 2020, it’ll be out. It’s a real book. Oh my goodness. And you’ll be able to pre-order it most likely this year. So, stay tuned. I’ll let you know all about that on Twitter, on Instagram, and on this podcast.
Arlan Hamilton: Thank you again to Digital Ocean for sponsoring this episode. If you are interested in sponsoring an episode of Your First Million, get in touch with me. Right now it’s [supes 00:14:48] easy to do so. You just email me at ArlanHamilton@gmail. That’s A-R-L-A-N H-A-M-I-L-T-O-N at gmail.com. Put in the subject that you’re thinking about sponsoring and I’ll give you some more information. This is a really highly engaged audience. Really, really educated, either through traditional means or through grit and tenacity, or a little bit of both. Yeah, these are the people you want to be talking to. You’ve got aspiring founders. You’ve got in the trenches founders. You’ve got aspiring angel investors and active angel investors. You’ve also got venture capitalists. You’ve also got limited partners. Then you have people who are listening in to learn about what all of that means. So, it’s a really interesting group of people. Check it out.
Arlan Hamilton: Thank you again, Digital Ocean for sponsoring. Your First Million is produced and edited by Anna Eichenauer and senior producer Brian Landers. Additional audio mixing and mastering by Alfred Rook-Hamilton. Additional production by [Chaco Validez 00:15:57]. Executive producer, Arlan Hamilton.