Archive for the ‘director’ Category

How Are You The Solution to Someone’s Problem?

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

I just recently coached my one month intensive Jump Start™, and something came up throughout the weekend that feels worthy of a blog.  It’s the idea of being the solution to someone’s problem.

Problem-Solution-ResultSo, let me back up for a moment and give this idea some context. Because, often in this business, we are highly driven and focused. This is not a bad thing, but it can have a downside. That downside is that in our drive and focus, we only think about ourselves.

And what that looks like day-to-day is a “me, me, me” attitude. We are only looking for the solution to our own problem—the person we need to meet, the thing we think they can do for us when we meet them, and so on. This can lead us to becoming that very thing we most loathe, desperate.

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What is it time to let go of?

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

What is it time to let go of?

If you’ve been following me at all, you might know that I recently undertook a massive move with my family. My husband Gregory, who works in television most of the time, has described himself as a “FedEx package.” Meaning he gets shipped off to all sorts of locales for work. In the last two seasons months alone it’s been Mexico City, Savannah, GA, Atlanta, GA, Chicago, Toronto, Virginia, and Vancouver, BC. I might be forgetting one or two.

This is largely the result of runaway production. And since it’s unlikely to change in the near future, a few years ago we started strategizing a family move to a place where he’d be able to go to work in the morning and come home at night.

And so on August 1st Gregory, myself and our twin 5 year olds Niccola and Allegra all got into a u-haul pulling a car trailer and car alongside a mini-van packed to the top. We drove for three days and then crossed the border into Canada and pulled up at our new house in Vancouver.

Because Gregory was on the television show Fear The Walking Dead, the organization and packing largely fell to me. As you can imagine, it was a cathartic and confronting experience. We had lived in our townhouse for 11 years and in that time had gone from being a married couple to a family of four.

Over and over again I found myself asking the question, “What can you let go of?” And this question brings me to today’s blog.  (more…)

5 Ways to Have a Restful AND Productive Summer

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

Who doesn’t love summer? It’s lazy, relaxing, hot, sun-filled.

And, if you’re an ambition person with big goals, well… It’s lazy, hot and sun-filled!

If you’re like a lot of people, you can’t wait for summer, but mid-way through you wonder where the time has gone. You realize you haven’t gotten much done!

Well, like the proverbial unfulfilled new year’s resolution, it’s time to turn this paradigm on it’s head. There is a way to enjoy your play and get your work done too! (Book a guest juicy star in July, anyone?)

Read on for the top 5 ways to have a restful AND productive summer. (more…)

Get Re-Connected to Your Why

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Often, we spend so much time talking about strategy, that we neglect some of the fundamentals.  So, I’m going to spend a few minutes today talking about one of the most important things in your career, your motivation behind your goals, also known as your Why.

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Your Why can look a lot of different ways.  You can be passionate about something.  You can identify with something.  You can have a dream or a desire or a love.  But, if you’ve been working on a project or goal for a while, chances are your Why has gotten buried a bit under the day-to-day demands.  The problem with this is that when we aren’t connected to our Why, it gets harder and harder to do the things we need to do toward our goal.  We feel unmotivated and we’re not sure why.

So here are 5 steps to reconnecting with your Why.

  • Go back to the first time you wanted to do what you’re doing. It could be the first time you ever wanted to act or write or direct or paint or produce.  Visualize that moment in time.  Where were you?  What were you thinking, feeling, doing?  Who were you with?  Close your eyes and recreate as much of that moment as you can.
  • What did that moment call up in you? A desire to do what?  Put that into words as clearly as you can.
  • Was there a change you wanted to make? A contribution?  Something you wanted to give or to share?

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Are you falling for the myth of “easy?”

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

easy-streetSo, I have a bone to pick.  A pet peeve to vent about.  A wrong to set right.  It’s about it being “easy.”

So here’s what I see a lot.  People want it to be easier.  You’re tired of working hard.  You feel other people have it easier and so it should be easier for you.

I get it.  I really do.  This is a tough business.  It’s changing.  It’s contracting.  There’s runaway production.  The whole world wants to be in the movie business and it seems like they all come to LA.

And we look at our friends and some of them have it easier. They have a great agent who gets them good auditions.  They have a rich uncle and he gives them money for their film.  They have a mom who works at a studio and so they get a job.  The grass is always greener.

Being the mother of four year old twins has given me a new perspective on this idea of “easy.”  Here’s something that I’ve learned from my girls.

There are all these things that we take for granted as we get older that, it turns out, were anything but easy.  There’s something called “sleep training” because infants are not born knowing how to sleep through the night.  You actually have to train your child to sleep properly.

You have to teach your child how to walk.  And they get frustrated.  Really frustrated as they fall down over and over and over again.

And let’s not get into potty training and how long that takes.  My girls took months and months to learn how to use the potty.  No joke.  Turns out it’s really hard to stop using a diaper and start using a toilet.

I’ve never heard an Olympic athlete say it was easy.  Never.  If you want to be the best in the world at something, it will take an extraordinary amount of hard work.

And it turns out that most things in life that are worthwhile take hard work.  Sometimes lots and lots of hard work.

I’m not saying you should be inefficient or stupid.  I do think that working smarter is very important, because you want to minimize wasted time, resources and effort.

But, I do see that if we just embraced the fact that many things we want in our lives and our careers really take a lot of hard work, we’d enjoy the process so much more.  Stop resisting the hard work and embrace it.  Chances are that your friend who has it “easier” is working her toosh off and would tell you so if you asked.

And it doesn’t matter in the end.  Run your own race.  Work hard toward your dreams.  And while you’re doing so replace some of that comparing and complaining with gratitude that you get to run your own race.  It will make the journey so much sweeter.

Lose the Battle, Win the War: What that Really Means When it Comes to Directing

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

 

ShawnTalksWithNicholleTomSome of you have heard me talk about an amazing experience I was blessed to be a part of early my career.  I was a field producer for a BBC documentary on success and failure in Hollywood.  As part of an interview team of four people I participated in over 70 interviews with some of the most successful people in Hollywood.  From Kathleen Kennedy to Doug Wick after he’d won the Oscar for Gladiator to Akiva Goldsman who’d just won an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind to Pierce Brosnan at his house.  It was like the best grad program in movie-making ever created.

We interviewed many, many producers and, as you’d guess, they all had lots to say about directors.  I heard more than one producer talk about directors who approach filmmaking like it’s an “act of war.”  As a young director who’d spent most of my career in the theatre at that point, I found this analogy really intriguing.  It’s not like the theatre was always touchy/feely, but I would never have called directing theatre an act of war. 

So, it was ironic to find myself using war metaphors when it came to directing Saturn Returns.  The emotional, physical and mentkeep-calm-and-win-the-waral challenges of directing a low budget feature in a small town 350 miles away from Los Angeles are immense.  The analogy of being a general in war in which there were many battles felt spot on.

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Pushing the Boulder Up the Hill: Getting That Dang Film Into Production

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Girls can do anything!If you didn’t already know this, I’m back from directing my first feature film.  We wrapped July 1st, a little less than a month ago.  I’ve recovered enough to start blogging about the experience.

I had a spontaneous Q and A today and there were lots of questions. But, this was the biggie that overshadowed them all…  How did you get that dang film into production?

This is a particularly poignant question because it took so long for me to get a film into production.  I worked on Saturn Returns for 5 years before we rolled camera.  I worked on a feature project before this one for 5 years.  I worked on another one before that for three years.  So, it’s taken a lot to get here.

As you can guess, there are several answers to this question, but let’s just start with commitment.  A year ago I came to a new place of commitment.  Let me tell you what it looked like:  I was going to shoot Saturn Returns in June 2014 or I was going to walk away from the project and from being a filmmaker.  No joke.  I didn’t come to this from a place of being mad or fed-up or desperate.  This decision was passionate but very calm.  I simply realized that the amount of work I’d done, the capacity I had to keep doing that amount of work, the patience of my husband and my supporters, all of this had a shelf-life and I was near the end of it.

So, I decided to pull out all of the stops.  Now, many of you know me and know that I’m a very committed, hard-working person.  So, this was a whole new level of energy, time and work.  I worked pretty much every night and weekend for an entire year.  This is in addition to my coaching business and to being the mother of three year old twins.  (No, I don’t have live-in help and I have very little family support besides my husband.)  It meant that every trip to Mammoth I had as many meetings as I could and sacrificed R and R.  It meant I worked every day of Christmas break.

I don’t tell you this to impress you.  I’m just telling you what it took.

But there’s more to it than just the hard work.  Because I’m not suggesting you live your life this way, far from it.

Simply put, I got willing to leave my dream behind if we didn’t go into production.  And I got clear that if I were to do that, I didn’t want to feel like I’d left anything on the sidelines.  I wanted to leave it all on the court.  No regrets for what I hadn’t done.

I didn’t make this decision because I thought it would be powerful, but it turned out to be extraordinarily empowering.  Every time someone came up with an objection, a concern, an obstacle, I weighed it against my commitment to go into production in June and my willingness to totally walk away from the project forever.   Push another year?  Sorry, no can do.  Push to September?  Same answer.  Wait for an actor?  Nothing doing.

Besides demanding that I work nearly every night and weekend for a year, this commitment had me doing things that were so far outside my comfort zone it surprised even me.  It had me asking things of people—investors, team members, actors and more—that I had previously been afraid to ask for.  And it had me doing it fast, with zero of the usual hand-wringing.  It had me doing things at a new level of ballsy, and I am no shrinking violet.

Really facing the prospect of walking away from my dream of directing a feature film had me look at my fears in a much more profound way then I ever have before.  I had to ask myself what I was willing to do for my dream.  No, the answer isn’t “anything.”  There are things I won’t do.  I won’t lie or cheat or steal or behave without integrity.  I won’t leave my husband or children for it.

But, I got willing to fail publicly.  That was a very, very big one for me.  And, I think it’s harder to risk failing publicly then it is to behave without integrity, frankly.

The other big answer to the question of how I got this dang film into and out of production is that I had one die-hard who was with me no matter what.  He happens to be my husband, Gregory.  And without him making this film wouldn’t have been possible.

It’s important to talk about this because big projects like this one don’t get done alone.  They take a team, as you know.  But it’s more nuanced then that.  Before the “team” there’s the one true believer that you absolutely must have.  You need one true believer who will stick by you no matter what.  And let me tell you, there was a time a few weeks out from our start date when everyone else dropped like flies.  We suddenly weren’t cool any more, and everyone else who’d been on for years fell like dominoes.  Though Gregory had doubts and concerns, he never stopped believing in the project and in me.  You gotta have someone like him.  Period.

So, this is the big answer to the big question of how I pushed this boulder up the hill and finally, after more then a decade, got my first feature into the can.  There’s a lot more to talk about and I promise I will do so.  Keep your eyes peeled for a blog on casting, one I’m going to call Riding the Bucking Bronco, aka Production, Coming Back to Earth (aka Transitioning Back to Your Real Life,) and more.

Hit me with questions, comments and thoughts.  It’s good to share it with you.  And, again, thank you so much for your support.

 

 

 

It Takes a Village Pt 2: Lessons from an Olympic Gold Medalist

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

I am writing, as promised, to share about the Saturn Returns process.  As we gear up for our shoot in June I’ve been learning so much!

A few weeks ago I wrote about the concept of “It Takes a Village” to make a movie like this one.  Well, today I want to share one of the places that concept led me to and the wonderful lesson I learned.

In the spirit of “It Takes a Village” I’ve literally met hundreds of people who I’ve shared the film with. And by meet I mean actually sit down and have a meeting.  It would be tempting sometimes, as I talked about in the last blog, to get frustrated and feel like “if only I can do my art!”

But, once I embraced the concept that building the village is as much a part of the creative process as the director’s prep, some wonderful things really opened up for me.  Here’s one of them…

I was introduced to the amazing Kelly Clark.  If you’re a Mammoth-lover or Mammoth-local, you know that she is the most successful snowboarder, man or woman, of all time.  She won her first Olympic medal, the gold, in Salt Lake in 2002.  Now, 12 years later, she is still the one to beat.  She’s the only woman who can throw a 1080 (3 turns in the air) in competition.  She came in 4th in Torino, bronze medaled in Vancouver, and then competed in Sochi.  I’ve been fortunate enough to become friends with her and we had a terrific conversation a few weeks after she came back from Sochi.

If you didn’t watch the half-pipe competition, here’s what you have to know; the conditions in the pipe were terrible.  The weather was really warm and the organizers couldn’t keep the pipe frozen.  It kept melting and then refreezing when they put chemicals on it.  The result was a combination of slush, ice and lots of bumps.

I’m not a snowboarder, but as Kelly told me, when you ride down and then up the pipe, you have to “carry a lot of speed” to be able to do the tricks.  If you don’t go fast enough, you can’t throw tricks.  If the conditions are bumpy and irregular it slows you down.  Also, if you land on a bumpy wall, you are a lot more likely to fall then if you land on a smooth wall.

So, with all this knowledge, here’s what Kelly shared with me.  She fell five times before her last finals run.  She fell every single training run.  She fell in a qualifying run.  She fell in her first of two finals runs.

She also told me that she almost never falls.  By way of comparison, the week after the Olympics she competed in another event and didn’t fall the entire week.  She barely put her hand down once in 15 runs.  This gives you an idea how bad the situation at Sochi was.

And here’s what I heard her share.  She kept getting back up.  Even after her first finals run, she fell and she got back up.  On the world’s biggest stage, in primetime, with more then 3 billion people watching, she fell… and she got back up.  And then she won a bronze medal.

I saw her a few weeks ago and got to talk to her some more and hold her medal.   She said that this medal was the most special of all the medals that she’s ever won because of how hard it was to win it.

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I was incredibly inspired by Kelly’s story for a couple of reasons.  First, we hear all about how getting to the Olympics and competing on the world stage with the best of the best involves sacrifice and hard work.  But, when I heard the details of what Kelly went through I really heard something I’d never heard before.  The sacrifice and hard work involve not just runs in the pipe, workouts and travel away from your family.  The sacrifice I saw was the sacrifice of ego.  The sacrifice of the easy way out.  The sacrifice of feeling good.

She kept getting back up on the board and riding down the pipe, fully aware that she might totally bite the dust, look stupid and fail in front of 3 billion people.

And here’s what Kelly’s story has in common with making a film.  I can’t say that I’ve fallen 5 times at the Olympics, but I can say that I’ve been rejected by hundreds if not thousands of people in the five years I’ve been working on Saturn Returns.  I’ve gone to meeting after meeting and been told no.  I’ve been told yes and then no.  I’ve had people tell me yes for three years or even five years and then tell me no.  I’ve had people question my sanity, my creativity, my judgement, and more.  In short, I’ve bitten the dust, looked stupid and failed.

Turns out the keys to getting a movie made and winning an Olympic medal aren’t so different.  You can’t win if you don’t get back up and ride again. 

By embracing the it-takes-a-village concept, I got to hear Kelly’s story and get inspired to get back up and keep going another day.  And now I get to share it with you.

I hope it inspires you, too, to keep going even when you fall repeatedly.

Please consider supporting our indiegogo campaign and going on the journey with us as we make the film.  Lots of cool ways to participate!  Only 6 days left!

 

 

It Takes A Village

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

I am writing, as I promised, to share about the Saturn Returns process.  As we gear up for our shoot in June I’ve been learning so much!

One of the things I most want to share has to do with the idea of team.  Now, you probably know that I spend a lot of time talking about team building and leadership in my various classes and coaching.  Today I want to talk about something a little different.  To borrow from Hilary Clinton and the Nigerian Igbo culture, I want to talk about the idea that a project (or your career) “takes a village.”

You might have heard me talk about the idea that nothing of any scope or magnitude in life happens alone.  We can’t even procreate by ourselves, right?  Yet, this business can be extraordinarily isolating if we’re not careful.  We write alone.  We go to auditions alone.  We sit at our desks making calls or sending emails alone.  When we get to be a part of a group making something, it’s often short and fleeting, preceded and followed by a lot of work all by ourselves.

When it comes to Saturn Returns I’ve found myself using the phrase “it takes a village to make a film like this” over and over again.  And while that, in and of itself, has not been a big surprise, what that actually looks like and really means, practically speaking, has been surprising to me.  Here’s what I mean…

It takes a village, and you have to love the village.  A lot of actors I meet tell me “I just want to act.”  A lot of writers I meet tell me, “I just want to write.”  Ditto with directors, sound mixers, wardrobe stylists, you name it.

We feel we have a calling. There’s something that we love doing and we’re good at it.  If only all this other junk would just go away, we’d be so much happier and fulfilled.  We come to resent all this other stuff we have to do.  All the people we have to meet, the calls we have to make, the events we have to go to, the hustling we have to do.  Ugh.  When does it all end?

This is the village I’m talking about.  This is the village we have to love.  It would be so easy for me to resent how long it’s taken to raise the money for Saturn Returns, the number of meetings I’ve had that have gone nowhere, the number of people who’ve told me they’ll invest and then backed out, and on and on.  But one of the things that I’ve come to learn is that the village is every bit as much a part of making Saturn Returns as the actual filmmaking.  They go hand in hand.  There’s an idea that you can be a filmmaker without all of this other stuff, but, frankly, I think it’s a myth.  At least in this day and age.  And the sooner we kiss the myth of the pure filmmaker or pure artist, actor or writer good-bye, the better.  It’s like kissing the myth of Prince Charming good-bye.  Hard but so freeing once we do it.

So, my lesson is love your village the way you love your art.  You can’t have one without the other.  It can be hard to love your village, I know.  But, truth be told, some days it can be hard to love your art, right?  Your village and your art demand a lot out of you.  But it’s in the service of something important, something extraordinary, something you’ve dedicated your life to doing.

Gotta love the Village.

 

Why You Haven’t Accomplished Your Goal, Yet: Reason #1

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

A lot of clients find my coaching when they are really frustrated.  They are passionate, talented, committed and working hard.  And they don’t know why they haven’t reached their goals yet.

Boy do I understand.  More than you know.

So, I’m writing this blog to shed some light on the problem of being stopped, stuck, or not moving very fast.  Understanding the problem is critical to finding a solution.

There are four reasons why you haven’t accomplished your goals.  Today I’m going to deal with the first one:

You don’t really know what your goal is. 

Okay, okay.  You know you want to act.  Or write.  Or produce.  Or work in television.  Or do make-up.

I still maintain that you don’t really know what your goal is.  Not really.  Not specifically.

Knowing you “want to be a working actor,” for example, is not really knowing your goal.  That’s incredibly broad. Work in what?  TV?  Commercials?  Theatre?  On a cruise ship?

You can start to see how broad and non-specific your goal of “being a working actor” is.

Same with “be a make-up artist.”  If I hire you to do kids face painting at my twins’ birthday party, that would be doing make-up, right?  But, is that your goal?

So now that we understand this part of the problem, here’s how we tackle it.  The first step is to set some kind of timeframe for your goal.  One year is a place to start.

“By December 31, 2014, I will have…”

Notice that I put a specific date in the goal, and also that I wrote “will have.”  Not “will try to” or “hope to.”  Use declarative speaking and you’re a lot more likely to accomplish your goal.

Next let’s look at what would be a breakthrough for you.  A breakthrough is a goal that is not predictable and not impossible.

By predictable I mean a version of something you’ve already done.  If you’re working at the make-up counter of MAC and doing a friend’s webseries for free every six months, in a year from now it’s predictable that you’ll be, well, working at the counter of MAC and doing webseries for free. Nothing wrong with any of this, it just might not be your goal.

Let me clarify what I mean by impossible.  First, none of your goals is impossible in and of itself.  What makes your goal impossible is the timeframe you’re giving it.  If you’re working at MAC and your goal is to win an Oscar next year, you can see how that would be out of the realm of possibility given that you need to get a job on a feature that then gets made and released in time to have an Oscar campaign and then win.  Highly unlikely if you’re not even working in features yet.  You get the picture.

A breakthrough is the sweet spot in between impossible and predictable.  When you accomplish your breakthrough goal, it will cause a state change with your career or project.  This means that your career or project will be in a new, different and elevated place.  You’ll be at a new level.

Here’s what else there is to know about breakthroughs…  You don’t know how to accomplish it.  If you did, you’d have done it already.  This is one of the things that make it a breakthrough.

Also, what could be predictable for you, could be a breakthrough for someone else or even impossible for someone else.  Your breakthrough is unique to you, your credits, your resources, your relationships, what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, and more.

So, let’s take a look at a few more breakthrough goals…

By December 31, 2014 I will have worked on at least one project a month as a make-up artist and be earning at least $250/day. 

By December 31, 2014 I will have pitched and sold my first television pilot and turned in a great draft of the script. 

By December 31, 2014 I will have directed at least 3 television commercials with budgets of at least $50k each. 

Now the important thing to know is that each of these are specifically articulated with regards to where the person is currently in their career, what they’ve already accomplished, and where they want to go.  For the make-up artist, this would be someone who is only doing a job every few months earning $100/day or less.

For the writer, this would be someone who has written television scripts, ideally on staff, and has pitched a little bit already.

For the director, this would be someone who has directed one low budget spot already, who already has a reel, but now needs to start getting jobs as a commercial director with regularity.

Tune in next month for The Second Reason Why You Haven’t Accomplished Your Goal. 

To get tools and solutions to help you clarify and accomplish your goals, visit www.entertainmentcareerstrategy.com and click on “Coaching and Mentoring.”  Check out THRIVE and Jump Start™ to get started.

Love and Success!