About Shawn Tolleson, entertainment career coach

Shawn Tolleson is the premiere entertainment career coach for industry professionals of all disciplines. She has touched literally thousands of lives, helping professionals like yourself take their careers to the next level, do the work they were meant to do, and earn a great living while doing that work.

She works with mid-career professionals who have achieved success and are committed to going higher and further, doing better work, winning awards, tripling and quadrupling your income, expanding their brands and leveraging their r successes.

She coaches multi-decade veterans who are not ready to hang up your spurs.  She helps to reinvigorate careers, capitalizing on longtime relationships, and forge new breakthroughs when many would have faced into retirement.

And she works with people who are passionate but floundering, unsure where to put the energy and time. She helps you gain clarity and focus, a specific plan of action, and the confidence necessary to execute your plan.

The Crooked Ladder that is the Entertainment Industry…

“I come to coaching because I am an entertainment industry professional like you.  I started as an actor and then became a director and writer.  After I got out of school—fortunately one of the top programs in the country—I found myself willing to do whatever it took to accomplish my goals.  Except, that what I needed to do was so unclear!

“I realized that if I wanted to be a lawyer or a doctor—both very challenging career paths—at least I would know how to proceed.  It’s hard to get into medical school, but at least it’s straightforward.  Once you get in and work extremely hard, you move on to the next step

“In contrast, I was hanging on a rung of the ladder, and sometimes I couldn’t even see the next rung, let alone get to it.  This was when I realized that the entertainment industry is a crooked ladder, and every success story has a different set of rungs, a different path.

“This led me to seek out coaching. I’d gone to a great school, gotten exceptional training in my craft as an actor and director, but I had zero business training.  Yet, here I was having to be the CEO of my directing career!!  With no CEO training!  No wonder I was flailing. That’s like going to a gym, having never exercised at all, and thinking I can become a world class body builder all by myself!

“But it’s crazy how many people think like that.  And, then get frustrated that they haven’t accomplished their goals!”

From Frustrated to Flourishing…

Once Shawn arrived in LA, her great training didn’t seem to mean much.  Temping on the FOX lot for $11/hour wasn’t paying the bills.  She had put herself through college and had huge student loans.

Seeking some kind of structure and mentoring, she found some classes not too different from what she now teaches.  It was a big a-ha moment when she realized she could chart a path even in the face of a confusing business.  She started approaching mentors who agreed to guide her and coaches who encouraged her to get out of her comfort zone and coached her in the art of making bold and appropriate requests.

After graduating from University of North Carolina School of the Arts with a B.F.A in Acting and Directing, she directed several plays including a Sam Shepard world-premiere play, wrote and directed five short films that played around the world in film festivals (one starring Martin Sheen), and wrote and directed 13 episodes for the first webshow created parallel to a network televisions show, FOX’s The Visitor, starring John Corbett.

She worked for eight years in production on commercials, music videos and high fashion stills shoots.  She rose quickly up the production ladder from PA to producer, working on over 100 projects including music videos for the Rolling Stones, Prince, and the Dandy Warhols, and commercials for Coke, BMW and Kellogg’s.  High fashion shoots include Calvin Klien, Jones New York, W Magazine, Vogue, and Italian Vogue, with Claudia Schiffer, Brooke Shields, Jennifer Aniston and Gwen Stefani, to name just a few.

Along the way, she was writing and pitching.  She sold a romantic comedy pitch to Warner Bros., and as an unknown writer, developing material for a single camera TV comedy, attached an established director, agency, production company, studio, showrunner, and pitched all the way up to network.

She was a runner up for the ABC/DGA Episodic Directing Fellowship (top 5 from over 500), is an alumnus of the Sundance Producer’s Lab, and was a finalist for the Film Independent Writer’s Lab and Director’s Lab and the AFI Directing Workshop for Women.  She wrote and directed her first feature film Saturn Returns, which had its world premiere in early 2017.  It has played 14 film festivals and won five awards, including the Special Jury Prize at Cinema on the Bayou, Best Feature at Beaufort International Film Festival, and Best Screenplay at the Mountain Film Festival.  It is currently being sold around the world.

She directed her second feature film, Undergrad Nightmare, with Green Grammer and Moira Kelly.  It premiered on Lifetime in May 2017.  And she recently sold an original scripted one hour drama to CBC.  She is currently writing the pilot script and series bible.

In September 2017 she was named winner of the Meryl Streep/Oprah Winfrey Writing Fellowship for Women for her feature screenplay Yazoo Cryin’.

She founded G.R.I.T. (Girls Reeling It Together) a network of female directors that produced multiple screenings and events in its seven year stint, and was written up in the Los Angeles Times, Indiewire, Aint-It-Cool-News, and the Christian Science Monitor.

All of these accomplishments were the result of career coaching, mentoring, and workshops like the ones Shawn now leads.  Over time she apprenticed herself to her coaches and started working with her friends and colleagues informally and by invitation.

In 2005, Shawn realized that she’d grown to the point of having paying clients, and Strategy Coaching™ was born.  Since then, she has spoken at hundreds of events for such organizations as Women In Film, SAG-AFTRA, the Editor’s Guild, Scriptwriter’s Network, Alameda Writer’s Group, National University, Stella Adler Conservatory, LAFCPUG, LA Post Production Group, the Hair and Make-up Artists Network, Showbiz Store and Café, and more.  She has worked with thousands of entertainment career industry professionals and artists in one night events, ongoing classes, intensives, online products and classes, and as private one-on-one clients.

Is Career Coaching right for me?

“Gone are the days of Lana Turner at Schwab’s.  Okay, those have been gone for a long time.  More to the point, I just heard a television showrunner talk at an event I was also speaking at, and he said it perfectly.  He explained that he’d written a play in 1988 that two television writers came to see.  Those TV writers then offered him a job writing on their show. When he was asked how to get that same job now, he said, ‘I have no idea.  It’s totally different now.’”

“There are new film schools opening up every year.  Film schools and drama schools churn out graduates who want to work in the business in every capacity.  To rise to the top, you will need to not just be great at your art or your craft, you will need to be great at your business.”

“What are the costs of not being great at your business?  A lot of time spent at your day job instead of doing what you are called to do.  Years spent earning less than you should.  Scrapping to pay your rent.  Time spent doing day-jobs you are overqualified for while others book jobs you’d love to do and know you should be doing.  Time spent seeing auditions come and go, that you can’t get into the room for.  Or it’s time spent at a plateau of booking certain kinds of jobs but not the jobs you really want.  Because of all of this there are relationship costs, family costs, health costs, happiness costs.  Frustration.  Heck, even depression.”

“I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to go that way.  You an excel quickly, wake up every morning with a plan, know that your efforts are leading you down the path toward your goals, approach every situation with confidence, make the most of every opportunity, be both bold and appropriate—not bold and pissing people off, or appropriate and getting ignored.”

Career Coaching:  What We Do & How We Do It

Simply put, great coaching makes you the best you are able to be, doing exactly what you should be doing to accomplish the career of your dreams.

“In my experience, there are three reasons why people don’t accomplish their goals, and therefore have their dream career:

  1. You don’t really know what it is.  (You have an idea, but it’s far from specific.)
  2. You don’t know what to do to accomplish their goals.
  3. You know what to do, but you don’t do it.
  4. You know what to do and you do it, but you don’t do it powerfully and effectively.

“I work with my clients to deal with all three of these pitfalls.”

Together we:

  • Articulate a bold, breakthrough goal
  • Design a solid plan to accomplish it
  • Identify your brand and a concise, powerful way to share it
  • Coach you in Pitching Yourself Powerfully™ so that you feel great sharing yourself in every situation
  • Train you in transforming fear into action in the very moment when you are stopped by fear, rejection or confusion
  • Give you the skills to build powerful, committed teams to support you
  • Coach you in approaching and enrolling accomplished mentors to guide you

Clear vision + strong plan + passionate team + powerful execution + overcoming obstacles = UNSTOPPABLE

For more information on how you can work with Shawn and Strategy Coaching™ click here.