Nathan AshtonNathan Ashton

Tinfoil Hats

Its not just alien abductees who put on tinfoil hats. Directors, producers, pastors, and kids do it too. Even I am guilty of trying to shield my thoughts from scrutiny.

Hat #1: I am the best.

Really? The best? I recently spoke to a University media department who wanted to hold an “Oscar” ceremony for student projects. One actually said, “What do the Oscar winners have that our students don’t?” Apparently tinfoil hats allow professors think student projects are Oscar worthy. I didn’t know what to say.

There is always someone better.

Hat #2: My project will impact everyone.

A salesman in a tinfoil hat believes that everyone needs two widgets, even if they can’t afford one. Tinfoil will fool movie producers into thinking that everyone will like their film. The truth is that most people don’t need your product and won’t care about your film….

But this is a good thing!

It is impossible to please everyone. Realizing this can allow for a more detailed focus on the audience we ARE trying to reach. Seth Godin calls this group a “tribe” and demonstrates the benefits of finding people who sincerely CARE and then focusing our attention on them. This is how movies like The Princess Bride, Blade Runner, Fight Club, and Napoleon Dynamite go viral and create a cult following. I have seen many films that simultaneously try to reach one audience and appeal to the aesthetics of another. They end up boring some and offending the rest. My wife likes comedies. I like adventure films. Neither of us like psycho-horror movies.

Pick your audience. Surprise  Amaze. Delight.

Hat #3: I deserve special treatment.

Early on, kids receive extra attention, favor, or chocolate sprinkles because they are so cute. Often they grow up believing that they diserve this little extra simply because they continue to exist. Tinfoil hats permit preachers to expect a discount at lunch and filmmakers to expect special rates on unreasonable timelines.

But special treatment is earned.

There are three filmmakers, and one production company, for whom I will do anything within my power. All they have to do is ask. These exceptional people have proven to me that they care about their craft AND the people working alongside them. They communicate expectations clearly and accept feedback. They handle Murphy’s Law with grace. We have been to production hell and back again together. They leave no one behind.

The odd thing is that these people, who deserve extra sprinkles, are the least likely to ask for them.


These are just three hats I found in my own closet this last week. It is uncomfortable to remain teachable. When I allow my motives, thoughts, or plans to be probed and tested, I have the opportunity to grow and become a better person.

The teachable ones will inherit the Earth… and make great movies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *