Archive for the ‘film business’ Category

What is it time to let go of?

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

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

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

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…)

How Are You The Solution to Someone’s Problem?

Saturday, March 7th, 2015

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 would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

(How to actually use this freakin’ quote to accomplish your biggest goals)

Happy new year! I hope you’re reading this blog having gotten rest over the holidays, feeling rejuvenated and excited about what 2015 brings.

Every new year brings the possibility of great things. And, January is different from other times in the year, I’m sure you’ll agree. Every year I look to understand what my goals are for the new year and what I can do differently and better to bring them about.

QuoteFailv2Many of you know that 2014 was a year of great accomplishment for me. After nearly a decade of trying to get several different feature projects into production, I directed my first feature, Saturn Returns, which I also wrote. We are now nearing the end of post-production. I’m happy to report that even after all of these months in post-production and years in the making, I still love it and I’m really excited to share it with you all.

Another big accomplishment for me was how my coaching business grew last year even when I was in the midst of making a movie. It was an accomplishment to be able to continue helping people accomplish their own dreams even as I was accomplishing mine.

And so, in examining what was different about last year, what finally pushed my big goals across the finish line in a way that hadn’t happened before, I’ve uncovered some new things to share. Here goes…

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Get Re-Connected to Your Why

Monday, December 1st, 2014

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 waiting for Prince Charming?

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Let me start by saying that this blog is not just for women.  It’s for men, too.

You might have heard me talk about this business, show business, being a business of big dreamers.  You didn’t move to LA or NYC, for example, and you don’t sacrifice your nights and weekends because you have an itty-bitty dream.  Nope.  You’ve got a big dream.  You know the one I mean.  The one that has you rehearse your speech in the shower.  That one.

prince charming

And I know that you work hard toward your dream.  I know that you sacrifice.  But over and over again, I see both women and men falling for a myth that often comes along with big dreams.  It’s the myth of Prince Charming.  And both women and men fall for it.  A lot.

Here’s what it looks like…  If I just get my film into Sundance it will sell for lots of money and Hollywood will come knocking on my door.  If it can just get a better agent, then I’ll get better auditions and it’s only a matter of time before I’m starring in a TV show.  If I can just get the money for my feature, my career will unfold the way it’s meant to be.  If I could just win a contest, then I’ll sell my script for lots of money!  And on and on and on…

And, just like there’s no Prince or Princess Charming in real life, there’s no Prince or Princess Charming in your career.

What’s the big deal, you ask?  Isn’t it okay to have hope?

Here’s why I feel it’s so important to write this blog.  Because wishing and hoping and waiting for Prince Charming is really demoralizing.  Being liberated of the Prince Charming myth turns out to be really freeing.

To understand why, let’s go back to the fairy tale for a minute.

The way the fairy tale goes, the princess has to wait for the prince.  She has to be perfect, even though she has no idea who the prince is or what he will want of her.  She’s helpless in the story, waiting for this mysterious person to pick her.  She doesn’t get to pick him.  She has no choice in the matter.  She has no power.

In the fairy tale, the prince always comes.  But in real life, we know that the prince does not always come.  Sometimes he never comes.  Sometimes a false prince comes. Sometimes a bad prince comes.  And even when Prince Charming actually does show up, it sucks spending your days trying to be perfect for him.  What about you want? Doesn’t that matter?

Actually what you want does matter.  But you can’t have it both ways.  You can’t spend your days waiting for the prince and also spend your days creating your own destiny.

My advice:  Spend your days creating the life and career you want and if or when a rad guy or gal shows up (they don’t have to be royal), and they fit your description of a good partner in your career or your life, you’ll have so much more to offer.

Sounds good, right?  So why do we keep falling for the myth?  Because it’s so much easier to wait and hope than to take responsibility for making your dreams happen.

It’s way easier to complain about not having an agent (or having a bad agent) then it is to get out and cultivate relationships and get those auditions ourselves.  It’s way easier to just send a script to a contest and hope for a good result then it is to network with producers and get them to read your scripts.  And man is it easier to wish for money then it is to raise it.

But after all that wishing, what do you have?  No agent, no auditions and no starring TV role.  Even if you have a contest win, you probably haven’t sold your script for lots of money.  You definitely have no money to make your film.  And you’ve wasted a lot of time wishing and hoping, playing it safe and getting frustrated.

Do yourself a favor and purge the Prince Charming myth once and for all.  Take responsibility for your career goals and go get them now.  Sure you’ll get rejected.  Sure you’ll get frustrated.  Sure you’ll be uncomfortable and afraid.  But it will be yours.  Your mistakes, your fear, and your victories and triumphs.

Go ahead and kick Prince Charming to the curb.  Don’t waste another minute.

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.

 

 

 

What to do if you feel nervous before auditions, big meetings & performances

Friday, June 13th, 2014

By Paul Cuneo

paulcuneo

I’m going to assume that, if you’re reading this article, it’s because you deal with nerves before auditions, meetings or performances, especially in those last moments before you go into the room. I’m like you in that way. I go through the same thing. But I imagine that unlike you, it doesn’t bother me that I’m nervous. I don’t care.

In 2013 I booked four national commercials, I believe in large part because of the new attitude toward nerves I developed about three years ago. It started in an audition waiting room. I remember I was nervous and performing exercises I had read about that were supposed to eliminate, or at least mitigate, nerves. I was holding my breath, and then, when that didn’t work, I was focusing on my breathing. I was pressing my feet hard into the floor, sometimes pinching myself for extended periods of time. I was tensing my whole body, then releasing. I wasn’t imagining everyone in the room naked, as I had tried that before and it never worked for me. (My gosh, the number of things I had tried: thinking about nature, counting backwards by threes from 100, talking myself up, talking myself down. You name it, I had tried it.)

But that day, in that audition waiting room, something opened up in my consciousness, and I realized three things that radically and irrevocably changed my auditions for the better. I realized

1. that I was paying way too much attention to my nerves.

2. that I was judging myself for feeling nervous and anxious, and it was actually this judgment that was exponentially intensifying my anxiety.

3. that nerves could exist in me, along with everything else I was feeling in that moment, and not prevent me from doing what I came to do that day.

With those realizations, I made an immediate change to how I prepared for auditions while in the waiting room. That change took the form of four steps I’ll walk you through right now. I hope they help to free you as much as they helped to free me.

Step One: Make a gentle commitment not to judge yourself for how you feel.

You’ve been judged for how you feel for much of your life. “Why are you so sad? It’s a beautiful day outside.” “How can you be hungry? You ate 15 minutes ago.” “Why are you so upset? I was just joking.”

You may have adopted this tendency to judge yourself for how you feel, but you can disown it. Whatever your role is in the industry, TV, film, theater, internet and radio are all about connecting to an audience emotionally. Emotion is the lifeblood of your work, and judgment of yourself for how you feel is the clot in that lifeblood. Judgment makes you second-guess yourself where you would be spontaneous. It makes you fearful where you would be present. It turns you inward where you would shine outward.

Worst of all, it compounds your anxiety by multiples. Judgment is an attack against yourself by a very worthy opponent: you. Stop judging yourself for feeling nervous and you will head off the heaping on of anxiety that comes from being under attack. You will feel a new sense of freedom, and you will realize it was never your nerves that caused you so much stress but your judgment of your self for feeling nervous. You’ll stop feeling bad about feeling nervous; you’ll stop feeling bad about feeling anything, and you’ll create a space for feeling good.

Step Two: Acknowledge how you feel. Say to yourself, “I’m nervous.” Just as a fact. Without judgment. Just to give your feelings a place. Nothing around it. Just to give yourself permission to be exactly who and what you are in that moment. It feels so good. SO GOOD.

Step Three: DO NOTHING TO GET RID OF YOUR NERVES.

When I was a kid, I found a little bug in the corner of our living room. To study it, I went and got our family’s large magnifying glass. I put the glass over the bug, and it moved. Scared the living daylights out of me because I saw this giant bug move in front of me.

Your judgment and all the attention you pay to your nerves while in the waiting room are like that magnifying glass. Your nerves are just these little emotions you’re feeling, but you pay all this attention to them in the form of judgment and analysis and in all the ways you try to get rid of them. The more you judge, analyze and try to get rid of your nerves the larger they appear. Take your attention off of them and they remain the little, harmless bugs in the giant living room of your consciousness.

Step Four: Feel, then fill, the beautiful space.

After you perform steps one through three, you’ll feel an expansion and a clearing in your consciousness. Just thinking about it makes me feel good. You’ll be tempted to analyze that space: “Are my nerves gone? Did the steps get rid of my anxiety? Was I successful? Did I do it right?”

Let it go. Release it. You’re back to judgment, analysis and a desire to get rid of your nerves. Just feel the space, enjoy it. Experience the flood of beneficial thoughts and feelings that rush in, now that you’ve emptied yourself of judgment. And then keep filling that space with things you love to do, like working on your sides or going over your pitch or admiring the shag carpet under your feet. You’ll feel yourself snap from focusing inward to focusing outward, and you’ll be present to your space, your partner, your world, regardless of whether or not you’re nervous.

I gotta be honest—I actually hope you are nervous! I hope you get the opportunity to practice these four steps and to experience the rush of good feelings that come with implementing them. In short, I hope you get the opportunity to go from being your own worst enemy to being your own best friend; I hope you get the opportunity to move from judgment to love.

Paul Cuneo is an actor and acting coach specializing in revealing and eliminating blind spots in actors’ performance technique. He taught movement at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting for seven years and has been a grateful client of Shawn Tolleson’s for over six years. His national commercials include Taco Bell, Starburst, Infiniti, USAA, Pace Salsa, Real California Milk and Ford. Television and film include Franklin & Bash, Disney’s Imagination Movers and Breathless, opposite Ray Liotta. To learn more about Paul’s coaching, please visit paulcuneo.com and click on Blind Spot.

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!