Culture 25 June 2018
As a woman who has spent years working in nearly every position behind the camera, from filmmaker to director to business woman, I’ve learned what Hollywood will try to make of you. Maintaining your values and sense of self while working towards a vision can seem excruciatingly unattainable, especially within a heavily male-dominated industry. Some Hollywood statistics for you: only 1 percent of top-grossing films employed 10 or more women in a behind-the-scenes role. Surveying the 250 top-grossing films, the study found that overall, women comprised only 18 percent of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers.
At times it can seem like we are speeding towards an exciting new frontier in filmmaking. However, this new road does not pave itself and takes dedication. Whether I'm in or out of Hollywood, I have been able to distill my journey as a filmmaker into essential lessons, from how to perceive yourself in a male-dominated industry, to finding and formulating depth in your own ideas as a cutting edge creative. Below are a few tips I am honored to share with aspiring female filmmakers; I hope they help to ground you in your motivation as a thought leader in this era of change.
1. Disband stigma.
“When I make a movie that I direct behind the camera ... I am pretty much in control. But when I decided to make a movie sitting in the audience with you, and I direct a film in the seat right next to you, that means I'm making the picture for you. And your reaction is everything."
- Steven Spielberg, male filmmaker.
Imagine if Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg were considered ‘male filmmakers’. First, let’s disband stigma for a moment: You are a filmmaker. Gender doesn’t define what we do yet we live in a society where, for some reason, it does. Don't let the constructs of a patriarchal society define how you act. Remind yourself: You are a director. Don't let anyone else threaten or intimidate you. When you are in a room, treat people as equals. Set the bar for everyone around you. You are a filmmaker. Enough said.
2. Drop the ego, maintain confidence.
Think of the concepts who, what, when, where and why. Usually, people lead with ‘who’ they are. Let’s face it - we are in a business where a hundred other people will have the same credentials as you.
Moreover, there are people probably better suited than you to get investments. There are hundreds of aspiring directors with scripts prepared, already talking to investors. That being said, what sells a creative process is not what you do or how you will do it. What sells is the 'why'. What do I mean by this? To quote one of my heroes, Simon Sinek, “People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.” Draw confidence and distinction for your creative product from what you believe in. Know why it drives the work that you do. Your 'why' sets you apart from every other filmmaker marching into Hollywood with the latest big idea.
3. Lead your pitch from this WHY.
As a business woman and as any kind of person with the power to change thought, you must always understand and hold close the value of your 'why'. Why are you choosing to tell this story, why are you choosing to tell it now? Whose mind will it change, why will it affect its audience? Why do you do the work that you do? With a clear motivation, you are best suited to sell your story because you understand the merits that set it apart. When I pitch my ideas to corporates, to individuals, to educators and visionaries, time and time again, the feedback is positive and specific. Why? Because I infuse every pitch with my own 'why': I want to not only change the world with my content, but also the business I participate in as a whole. With this transparent passion for the work that I do, I am able to step into each meeting with confidence and predictability-- these people know who I am, what I stand for, and why I am best suited to deliver the work at hand .
4. Be patient.
I am a firm believer in the idea that if something doesn’t happen correctly, it means it wasn’t meant to be. When making my short film Love Is All You Need, I had a notion that simply by changing one element of the world we live in, a global perspective could be shifted to see prejudice where we believed there was none. This vision led to the ultimate construction of the most viral short film of all time. Despite the unbound success of the short film, I pitched the feature film concept to hundreds of investors for two years. It was incredibly difficult to find people for the project who saw the same vision that I did.
However, the lull in the process with this film allowed me the opportunity to turn my attention back towards my company, Genius Produced, where I was able to apply the same principles I do to my creative process. With two years of focused time and attention, the company has quadrupled in both size and scale and will now provide me the opportunity I have been seeking to produce and market the film I had set aside. So, from my heart to yours, be patient. Opportunity doesn't strike when you want it to, but exactly when it needs to.
5. Never sacrifice your values.
As a female CEO in the entertainment industry, I have never compromised my integrity. The result? I have created a thriving counterculture to the stereotypical “Hollywood” you have been reading about lately. But what I have achieved is not commonplace, and I have watched other women fall victim to false definitions of “partnership.” Like anyone in a high-stakes industry, you will undoubtedly come across people who will want to exploit you, as I have time and time again. Remain connected to your WHY. Stay grounded in the values of your work and trail blaze for the future. With patience and trust, you will find solace in others whose values you also respect, who you feel empowered partnering with. Working collaboratively with the people whose values we admire is the first great step we can take in creating a new Hollywood network designed to flush away the stereotypes of an era of objectivity.
6. Remember that the final call is always yours.
Your vision, your voice and your process is the one that brings your work into being. When making Love Is All You Need, I was told again and again that the movie would never sell. There would be no market for a movie like this. It had been done before. I created despite this feedback, and I have changed the world with my vision. My short film has been translated into dozens of languages. I get emails every day from people who have seen Love Is All You Need and had to contact me because it inspired them to write a play, or call their children, or to see others differently for the first time in their lives. People have stopped me in public and thanked me for telling a story I believed needed to be told. If I had listened to anyone else, I would still be sitting next to directors instead of playing that role myself. The final call defines you, because it is yours and yours alone to make.
It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.
Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.
Read with a Purpose
Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.
Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.
When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.
Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.
You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.
Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.
Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.
If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.
Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.