Success Stories from Career Coaching with Shawn Tolleson

“When I first encountered Shawn, about 3 years ago, my career was truly in the doldrums.  Even though I’ve been in the business for over 60 years and vote for the Oscars, none of it mattered.  I was deep into doing what I always did and NOT EVEN getting what I’d always gotten.


Although I was already familiar with many of the principles and strategies Shawn introduced me to, I was extremely inefficient in utilizing them.  That changed right away with Shawn.  My booking ratio and contact efficiency more than doubled in the next few months.  Using her tools, in the past three years I’ve gone from booking one out of ten auditions, to this year booking 11 out of 15!

And what was especially great was that I finally had a plan.  I’ve more specific about goals, strategies, etc. and I see it working.  It doesn’t mean I have the magic formula for stardom but I have a strategy that gives me peace of mind about knowing what to do.  It is no longer vague ideas and aspirations.  On the contrary, earlier this year I booked my first pilot in a long time.  I used all the Jump Start™ tools to make great relationships while I was on the set.  A one week job turned into a three week job.  Then I used the great ‘drip campaign’ tools she teaches in THRIVE to nurture those relationships.  Just a week ago they brought me back on the show even though they’d killed my character in the pilot!  Now it’s a guest star, opening credits, with a great chance at continuing to recur!

We all want to go to the next level in our careers whatever our discipline.  Shawn introduced me to what I didn’t know I didn’t know and now I’m on a mission.  Age or experience doesn’t matter.  A specific plan, specific strategies, the means to chart results and passion are what is required.  Shawn made that perfectly clear.  My motto rings for me:  ‘It’s always now and it’s never too late.’  Jump Start™ is a gift you must give yourself.  Even at this late date, my career is Jump Started and yours can be, too.”  –Patrick Gorman, Actor, Academy-member, 100’s of credits from Three Days of the Condor, to Gettysburg, to Parks and Recreation

“The Advance Team™ is an excellent resource for clarifying, pursuing and manifesting your goals. Shawn Tolleson blends inspiration and out-of-the-box thinking to help her team reach their goals. My Advance Team™ paid off 100%.”  –Laurence Walsh, Writer, NCIS, CSI: Miami, NCIS, Dresden Files, Against the Wall

“If I had to describe the Jump Start™ experience in one word, it would be transformative.”

“I graduated from one of the country’s most selective film schools in 2008 with an MFA in directing, and while the experience was fulfilling creatively, professionally l felt adrift.

“After several years – yes, years – of feeling lost, I finally signed up for Jump Start™. While I was skeptical as to whether Jump Start™ would work for me, the fact was that I simply wasn’t where I wanted to be in my career, and I couldn’t deny that.  I thought Jump Start™ might be just the thing to change that, and what an understatement that turned out to be.

tara von baron

“The insights and techniques that Shawn introduced during very first weekend of Jump Start™ were supremely powerful. I came away with insights into myself, my behaviors and my goals, and left armed with an arsenal of tools and skills to turn things around. And the tools introduced by Shawn were not only powerful but persistent: I continue to use them every day, and they have changed not only my approach professionally but how I see myself in this business.

“I am a different person today because of Jump Start™.  I am aware of what I’m doing and where I’m going, and actively working every day to achieve it. And I would not be in this place without the instruction and guidance provided by Shawn.  Jump Start™ entitled me to stake out a place in this industry and actually feel in control of my career, and that feeling is priceless.”

“My only regret is that I didn’t enroll sooner.”  — Tara von Baron, Director

“When I get stuck in my career I take one of Shawn’s workshops to get back on track.  I recently completed Jump Start™, and I am more excited and motivated about my career than in the 5 years I’ve been in L.A.  With Shawn’s guidance, I was able to narrow down my goals, get focused, and now I finally have direction with my career. Shawn helped me create a map of what I am going to achieve and HOW I will accomplish it.  Everything you learn in these workshops you can take with you for the REST OF YOUR CAREER!”  –Preston Jones, Actor True Blood, Spring Break ’83, The Mentalist, CSI: NY

“Shawn, I use my Hit Lists every week, and revisit my Jump Start™ & Breakthrough goals on a regular basis, such valuable tools for which I’m so super grateful!  I just voiced all the male characters for a new 3D undersea adventure game for the iPad called Super Fugu directed & animated by the Academy Award winning animator of Avatar, Andy Jones. I also workshopped a world-premiere play by Paula Vogel (Pulitzer Prize winning author of How I Learned to Drive) called Don Juan Comes Back from Iraq (working title) at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.”  Aubrey Deeker, Actor NCIS, True Blood, The Wire

“Since doing both Jump Start™ & Advance Team™, I’ve been working on a project with former astronaut Buzz Aldrin and producer Rupert Hitzig!  I’m also adapting the sci-fi novel Encounter with Tiber by Buzz and co-author John Barnes into a dramatic TV series.”   Scot Byrd, Writer 

“Thank you for pushing me to find my mentors, network with people I know, and expand my reach into the industry. Since completing the Advance Team my script Free Range has an award-winning director attached and is in the hands of A-list actors who are reading for the lead role.” Johnny B. Dunn, Writer

“I found Anatomy of a Television Show invaluable to defining my goals for my television career and uncovering strategies to realize them.  Shawn’s knowledge of the business is extensive and comprehensive, and her enthusiasm made class fun and exciting.  I’d rate this class essential for anyone pursuing a career in writing or directing the one-hour drama.”  Julianne Homokay, Writer

“Shawn, you were invaluable in your advice and in helping me focus on making connections, as well as giving me the process to accomplish goals!  My first picture book The Magic Poof will be published shortly by Xlibris Publishing.  It is the first book of a series for which I have a standing pitch from Nickelodeon and SD Entertainment to pitch it as an animated series.” Stephen Hodges, Writer

“Though I’ve been here 11 years I have been reluctant to pursue my passion for writing. As a former newspaper reporter I know I can do it, but struggled with how to start. When the opportunity arose to jump start my best new life I decided to finally give it a shot. What a tremendous opportunity I was given! The information learned in those few short weeks helped lay the foundation for the new me; a happier, more inspired and creative writer! In addition to the 2 scripts I wrote previously, I began a new journey of writing a new original TV pilot. I learned to focus, set goals and hold myself accountable to do something every day to achieve my goal of being an exceptional TV writer.

“My biggest A-ha moment was learning to overcome my fear of being too old, (age 41) and not good enough. My voice is just as passionate as the next writer. With age comes life experience and wisdom I may not have had 10 years ago. I learned to tell that devious little voice that says you can’t do it, “thank you for sharing,” and keep moving forward. Now I’ve enrolled in a writers boot camp and am writing, networking and determined to accomplish my dreams.”  Latanya Letcher, Writer

“Shawn’s coaching contains a potent mixture of industry smarts and intuitiveness that has made a huge difference in my career. If you commit yourself and take on what she gives you, there’s no limit to what you can do.”  –Deborah Puette, Actress, Joseph Jefferson Award-winner, 2007 LA Weekly Award-winner for Tryst

“I’d been working in network TV for 20-plus years… Met a lot of great people, was on the front lines, wrote spec scripts, occasionally sold a script, got to pitch – including at Desperate Housewives where I was assistant to the show runner.  But I frequently felt the energy of struggle,  of less than, of “why bother?” when things didn’t work out.  Compounding all that was the fact that I had MY scripts and projects that I wanted to be made.   Notice the verb:  “to be made.”  After I met Shawn and went through the Advance Team™ and Jump Start™ classes the verb changed.   To ‘make.

“From passive to active.

“From struggle to setting goals and listing action items.

“From being caught inside my own head stewing to being accountable every single day with an accountability partner in class.


“Shawn coached me about how to pitch myself and my projects in a powerful way.  I learned how to write a really good letter that acknowledged the person I was contacting, explained who I was, how important my project was, and what specifically I wanted from them.  I got my TV spec pilot script in front of a number of producers, directors and show runners.  I even talked to Carol Mendelsohn, who’s run the CSI shows for many years.

“To move my independent film script towards production, using Shawn’s strategies, I’ve gotten advice from Hollywood producer Leslie Belzberg, who’s produced 27 major titles, including Oscar-winning Crazy Heart,  and is the co-president of Outfest, L.A.’s gay film festival.  I’ve gotten Ellen Seidler, director of And Then Came Lola which appeared at 100 film festivals, to be a mentor.  And not only did I meet my JumpStart Month Goal of getting my script out to three more directors, I actually attached a director.  All of this I owe to the tools and techniques I learned in Shawn’s classes.   Shazam!”  –Nancy Beverly, Writer, Shelby’s Vacation

“I am a Costume Designer/Wardrobe Stylist and have taken Jump Start™ as well as the Advanced Team™. I highly recommend Shawn as a coach, teacher, inspiration, and visionary mentor!  She guided me to become clear and focus on a direction to take my career; I went from styling one average one union commercial a month to 2-3, as well as creating relationships with some of the biggest directors in town with whom I work regularly with! Shawn has a passion for her craft, and is very intuitive and creative in helping you accomplish your goals. Her formula applies to anyone and everyone, yet is specific and tailored for each individual to gain optimal results. I credit Shawn with helping me take my career to the next level and beyond!  –Inanna Bantu, Costume Designer/Wardrobe Stylist for Directors Tarsem, Peter Berg and more on Chevy, L’Oreal and dozens of commercials

“I had to share!  Man, can I just say the POWER OF INTENTION!  (Shawn is SO right about that!)

“I am SO EXCITED to announce that as of last Friday, I achieved my One Month Jump Start Goal for May 1st!  (And before the deadline! Gotta love it!)  As of last Friday, I have secured and signed with my new AWESOME GO-GETTER Theatrical Agent!!!  Had such an amazing meeting with him and discussed all my specific goals (prepped for the meeting with my specific list of Q&A per Shawn’s suggestion), his goals, how we can work together as a team and just EVERYTHING I had listed in my ‘Goal!’  Not only that, but he ALREADY, on Friday, submitted me for a ‘Juicy’ Lead role in a Feature Film with CD Deb Aquila! (Who’s one of my Target Peeps!)  All I can say…is WOW..the month of MAY is going to be an AMAZING BREAKTHROUGH month for sure! I can feel it already!

“Hope this inspires you all to know, that once you ‘make that decision!’, set your mind to something, amazing things happen!  Wishing all of you the same wonderful blessings!!! Remember YOU HAVE THE POWER WITHIN YOU and YOU DESERVE THE BEST!!!!”  –Yvonne Sayers, Actress, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Birth

“Shawn Tolleson took my career to the next level AND created mind-blowing breakthroughs in my personal development! I am blessed to have a true industry-family that supports my goals and pushes me to new heights I never knew I could reach.”  — Loni Spratt, Actress, Pilot Hell on Earth

“What to do when you’re stuck? I did the Advance Team™ with Shawn Tolleson. The great support of the small group was incredible to keep me on the path to the goals I had set for the intense 3 month period. Shawn was able to get me over more than one hump that had stopped me. I talked to numerous agents who I hadn’t approached before, got back into the business habits that I had been neglecting and learned the very important lesson of saying ‘NO!’ I finally realized that all the little insignificant projects that were keeping me ‘busy’, were actually just keeping me from the more significant, notable work I desired. By the end of the Advance Team™ I was working on a Hallmark movie, writing the dramatic underscore I had envisioned. The Team opened me up to many ways that I was thinking small and stopping myself rather than doing what I really wanted – and needed. I highly recommend Shawn Tolleson’s Advance Team™ – and take it to the next level!”  –Steve Marsdon, Emmy-winning Composer



“My Advanced Team™ experience continues to resonate for me on a daily basis; not only did I learn to dream bigger, but I gained the tools to wrangle the daily minutiae necessary to realize those dreams. Shawn Tolleson’s savvy and experience in the entertainment trenches combined with her sensitive guidance helped me to merge the artist and businessman in me.”  –Anselm Clinard, Writer/Director/Producer/Actor Al Pacino’s Salamaybe


“Shawn Tolleson is a powerhouse. In an industry that is constantly moving forward, Shawn is in step with how to take actors from zero to sixty or from sixty to six hundred on the freeway of acting.”  –Kimberly Jentzen, Acting Teacher, three times voted Favorite Acting Coach/Teacher by Back Stage Readers

“The Advance Team™ experience created exactly what I’d hoped– a new way of being. The meetings and individual interactions bring prodding, brainstorming, role-playing, accountability and overwhelming support. Shawn Tolleson builds a zone of love and growth and change with her incredible coaching and unfailing instinct for recognizing and illuminating our inner blocks. There is no negativity here, only belief in each person’s unique strengths. Surprisingly, the structure itself brings a way to develop and cultivate powerful new habits and modes of working.

“I’ve done more in the last three months than I’ve done in years. I’ve grown more in the last three months than in years of therapy. I’ve broken the chains that had always stopped me and moved forward in my career in ways I never expected. Through the Advance Team™ I’ve uncovered a much more powerful Self. No goal is too big, only too small.”  — Susan Emshwiller, Writer Pollack, Writer/Director In the Land of Milk and Money 

“About five years ago I was coaching movement on the set of a major motion picture for one of the studios. I was supposed to be on that film for potentially three months, and, due to a few major mistakes I made on set, was told not to come back after only three days. I was devastated and left the industry for three years.

“A year and a half ago, I started attending Strategy for Actors & Filmmakers™.  Shortly after Shawn delivered her ‘Pitching Yourself Powerfully,’ workshop, I saw the director of that film in the grocery store. Using what I learned from the ‘Pitching Yourself Powerfully’ workshop at SFAF, I felt totally empowered to walk right up to him, reintroduce myself, apologize for the mistakes I made on his set, acknowledge his incredible work…and walk away. I was not the guy anymore who didn’t know what he was doing, and that director sensed it. During our brief conversation he asked me what I was doing now, chatted about creature performer work, accepted my apology and thanked me very much for coming over. That episode on his set all those years ago had completely knocked me off my game, but after presenting myself so powerfully in the grocery store, I felt like I had a fresh start.

”Using the tools that Shawn teaches in her Strategy for Actors and Filmmakers™ workshop, I went on to pitch myself three times to MTV and booked every time. You see, those appearances on MTV weren’t based on auditions but conversations and presentations I had to make to the segment producers. I use the ‘Pitching Yourself Powerfully’ tools ALL THE TIME.


“Also, since completing The Advance Team™ recently, I now have commercial representation! The commercial workshop was so helpful in getting me ready for my meetings and conversations with both agents. It was amazing having multiple offers, and I felt like I knew just how to handle those offers because of everything I’ve learned in SFAF. As I’ve shared about, I had been in a position of some power before, and I blew it. This experience made me realize that it’s not enough to be in that position–you have to know what to do in that position; you have to know how to conduct yourself. I really feel that, because of SFAF, I knew just how to communicate and work powerfully with these two agents, and it turned out better than I could have imagined. Thank you so much!”  –Paul Cuneo, Actor Of Silence, From G’s to Gents, Strawberry Shortcake, The Young and the Restless, Franklin & Bash, Breathless

“I started working with Shawn 4 ½ years ago.  In that first year, I was feeling a lot of pressure and fear around my career and not sure what to do to move forward or how to do anything differently.  I had 17 auditions in the entire year and only 1 booking.  It felt like getting auditions was out of my control.


“I started working with Shawn and implemented a lot of the tools like the map of relationships, reaching out to relationships I had, and creating new ones. Between that and all the support in Shawn’s class, the following year I had 55 auditions and 12 bookings!

“I was crystal clear around my goal and sharing it in a way I hadn’t before. I was able to make requests confidently and got more high level auditions which eventually led to a wonderful, large, co-star on United States of Tara season 1 finale!”  –Michelle Cuneo, Actress Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our FatherUnited States of Tara

“Shawn’s Jump Start™ experience changed me.  The whole process was not only invigorating and hopeful but more importantly results driven.  No longer am I simply waiting for work.  Instead, I am making it happen and am firmly in the driver’s seat.

“Having advanced improvisation and live TV experience, along with conservatory level actor training, I am fine tuned with my craft.  However, unlike other careers, there isn’t a straight path to getting work in the arts.  This was really frustrating for me.  What Shawn taught me was how to navigate and create the relationships needed to get ahead, to manage dozens of business tools that open doors, and develop within me a new way of operating that focuses on accomplishments and realistic goal setting.  Also, the time management and goal planning skills she taught were truly transformative.  Her program isn’t just a bunch of tips.  Rather, it is solid business advice for professional actors.

“I highly recommend you commit to building your career with Jump Start™.  Dreaming is good, but eventually you want the dream to turn into tangible results.  After Jump Start™, I now know how to make my dreams happen.”  –Terra Wellington, Actress, Criminal Minds

“Several months after doing Shawn’s seminar Anatomy of a Television Show class in February of 2010, I was admitted to the CBS Writers mentoring program. Her seminar really prepared me for that program – giving me unique insights into the industry that I still find useful today.  In fact, ten weeks ago, I was hired as a staff writer on USA’s Covert Affairs.  I was recently assigned an episode and am having a BLAST on the show.” –Steve Harper, Writer, Covert Affairs

“Shawn, where are you hiding that magic wand?  I just got an audition for Revenge 8 days after starting Jump Start™!”  Ally Iseman, Actress

“I can say without reservation that a breakthrough I had in Shawn’s Jump Start™ Seminar COMPLETELY changed my thinking, approach and strategy on getting my next film made.”  Chris Rubeo, Writer/Director Blacklist Script Point A

“I recently completed the Jump Start™ program with Shawn.  Not only did I meet my producing goal (before the course ended) but I made new friends and met future colleagues. 

Jump Start™ provided the framework that allowed me to focus on what my goals are and how to achieve them.  I can and will reuse these tools as I continue to set new goals.  I know I haven’t mastered all of the tools, Shawn packs in a huge amount of information in a short time, but I know that I am on my way to achieving all of my goals and that is a wonderful feeling.”  Ryan Angel, Producer/Actress

“Shawn, I wanted to congratulate you on the pitching class you taught at GAPF Saturday.  I put into action the techniques you showed for effective pitching, Acknowledgement, etc. And I had a 100 percent success rate.  Every single company at the end of the pitch asked for my one sheet without me having to ask them.  Only one out of fourteen said that it was out of their reach and only wanted small action films, but didn’t stop me because they were so connected to the story.  Also, a huge company wants to read my script and synopsis.  Thank you Shawn.  Bless you and much success.”  Emanuel Gironi, Writer

“Shawn, I want to convey to you that your Jump Start™ program is absolutely LIFE CHANGING.  It is Show Business after all and no, I have never really known how to go about the Business part of Show Business.  I have done a little bit of what you teach from time to time, but you have taught and emphasized that this business thing is a concrete and clear way in which to methodically go about creating lists and methodologies to get organized and stay organized.  I think a very grand side effect of Jump Start™ is to take the MYSTERY out of Hollywood itself.  Yes, a few went to Schwabs Drugstore but that is all fairy wand waving.  To just get down to the nitty gritty of laying the stepping stones and keep going and have fun.


I also want to tell you how much I appreciate who you are, your contagion of good humor, your spontaneous laughter, your incisiveness and understanding and your problem solving and great creativity and your ability to have that rub off while you teach.  You have a gift of embracing and acknowledging all who you encounter.  You are a gift.  Thank you so very much.”  Flo Lawrence, Actress The Lords of Salem, Over the Top