Inside the Producer’s Corner with Suzanne Lyons
This is a series of articles that film producer and best-selling author Suzanne Lyons (listen to her interview here) will be writing over the next 6 months. I personally asked Suzanne to share her knowledge, experience, and motivation with you the IFH Tribe. Whether you are a director, producer, cinematographer, screenwriter or editor I think you’ll get a ton out of this series. Check back every week for a new post that will help you on your journey as an indie filmmaker.
10 Tips to Put You on the Leading Edge of Your Career Part 2
(In Your Career and Personal Life )
I love this time of year. It always feels magical… probably because it is. We are in the midst of the holiday season and I want to wish all of you a wonderful relaxing time with your family and friends. Don’t take it for granted. Savor the moments. Be present. Hug a lot. Love a lot. Acknowledge those around you every day.
It couldn’t be a more perfect time to stand in leadership. Often the holiday season brings with it a lot of memories and heightened emotions… some good, some not so good. For many, it can be stressful so please reread last week’s blog on Leadership Part 1 and enjoy the tips and tools I am offering you today. Once again, I’ve given you gold here so take it home with you and be with your family in a way you’ve never been before. Appreciate them in a way you’ve never done before.
1) DELIBERATE THINKING
In an evocative poem, Ray Bradbury says, “I didn’t know that every minute was special, precious, a gift, a miracle, an incredible thing, an impossible work, an amazing dream.” Isn’t that absolutely brilliant?! What it says to me is ‘wake up, be conscious and enjoy the moment.’ A leader is someone who realizes that beliefs are nothing more than habitual thoughts. We get to create our reality. We get to choose the thoughts that empower us, bring us joy moment by moment. We get to design our world… every special, precious, miraculous minute!
2) BE UNSTOPPABLE
When a leader hits the wall, he/she goes through to the other side. A challenge occurs as an opportunity, not a road block. In a Flash Forward Institute Coaches Training Session years ago I asked our coaches to describe a leader. One of the characteristics they listed was “Unstoppable.” “A leader,” they said, “ignites a driving spirit that propels others toward excellence and levels of greatness they thought they could never achieve.”
This past year I have made a point to read books, watch videos and take workshops that focus on growth and expansion for me personally and for my film company, Snowfall Films. And I’ve been rereading some of my favorite books as well. The one that stands out for me is Napoleon Hill’s, “Think and Grow Rich” (1937). He researched and interviewed five hundred of the most affluent people of his time. The edition I prefer was revised and expanded by Dr. Arthur R. Pell in 2004 and I would have to say it’s a must read!
He adds current stories of success to the book and in the chapter on ‘desire’ he talks about Arnold Schwarzenegger as a man who “converted his desire into action and achievement. He was a man with dreams and goals.” He truly was unstoppable. “At age 18, he won his first body-building contest and the first of five consecutive Mr. Universe titles. He wrote an autobiography which became a best seller which led to a company to produce body-building events.
His next goal was to become a movie star. Even before he had secured his first movie role, he set himself a goal to be as big in movies as he was in bodybuilding. After turning down minor roles, his persistence paid off when he was cast as the lead in Conan the Barbarian.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
3) DON’T WASTE TIME COMPLAINING
I led a seminar for Landmark Education in the late 80s where one of the ground rules was that for the entire ten weeks, in all areas of our life, you were only allowed to complain to the person who could do something about it. That one item alone freed up tons of hours a week for me!
It was an amazing aha moment that changed my life. I liked it so much I added it to the ground rules for all the Flash Forward and Indie Film Producing workshops I’ve done over the years. It’s an amazing exercise to do and a life changing habit to form. Try it. Even just for the next thirty days.
4) EMPOWER & INSPIRE
If you’re truly intent on being on the leading edge and standing in the distinction of Leadership, then take a serious look at this one. Leaders empower and inspire and they do it naturally and effortlessly with no agenda. Are you doing that? If not, start now… today. John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
5) LIVE YOUR PASSION
Gary Vaynerchuk (I call him the wine guy) is a self-made multi-millionaire, an American entrepreneur, four-time New York Times bestselling author, speaker and internet personality. Vaynerchuk grew his family’s wine business from $3 million to $60 million. He is best known as a digital marketing and social-media pioneer. In his book Crush It he says,
“Live your passion… I measure my success by how happy I am… and I’m 100% happy.”
Watch his videos. He is hilariously funny. You can tell by watching him (and reading his books) that he has followed his vision and lives and breathes his passion. In so doing he is having fun and he’s inspiring us to do the same! I believe another great example here is Bruce Lee. His passion and persistence is inspiring.
“Lee arrived in America from China with nothing but a dream and the capacity for hard work.”
He was getting only minor roles and at one point became disillusioned. But he never gave up.
“His reputation as an actor and proponent of the martial arts made him a household name. He took the study of the martial arts from being limited to Asian countries to becoming universally respected.” (2004 edition of Think and Grow Rich).
6) RESPECT EVERYONE
There is a great e-book called Nelson Mandela’s Leadership Lessons and one of the lessons noted is this: Respect!
“Only when everyone in your organization feels respected will the organization’s full potential be achieved.”
Seems like common sense, but are we doing it… as producers, directors, execs, etc. On our film and TV sets, in our offices… are we really doing this?
This is one of those difficult distinctions that, let’s be honest, we hate. But, if you’re committed to this inquiry and want to be on the leading edge… sorry, there is no getting around it! When you really immerse yourself in this distinction, it’s actually fun… a challenge, but fun and oddly freeing.
If you want to stretch yourself and play big, really big, maintaining 100% integrity and 100% impeccability is imperative. Anything less is unacceptable. There’s an article on integrity by the Maliwada Human Development Training School that says, “Integrity is a destinal resolve – a resolve that chooses and sets your destiny and out of which your whole life is ordered.
Amid the flux of wavering to and fro that is so evident in others, the man of integrity experiences an inexplicable rootedness, as though he has sunk a taproot deep into the foundation of the earth itself.”
Make eye contact. Speak to the person as if they are the only person in the room. Empower people in your conversations. Complete every conversation with the other person being left empowered, not made wrong. This is not always so easy, especially in a heated conversation. Stand in leadership, take a moment, breathe, get centered and remember that your commitment is to leave the conversation with the other person being left empowered.
I’d also like to talk about another aspect of communication. I am working with partners at the moment who are very busy with their companies, families and life in general. When I work with partners on a film I like to stay in fairly constant communication to keep things moving along on the project. This was not happening in this particular instance.
So being human, the first thing I did was make them wrong. I caught myself pretty early on and realized that I had not made a request and in fact we didn’t even set up an actual structure of communication. Once I discussed this with my partners we set up a structure. I could have spent months in the make-wrong mode and felt right and justified. I chose to communicate. Did I want to be right or did I want a powerful communicative relationship with my partners. An easy choice when I stood in leadership!
9) STAND IN ABUNDANCE
In the entertainment industry and in our culture at large this is not the norm… not by a long shot. We are taught at an early age that there’s not enough. Not enough money, food, jobs, love, time, natural resources, appreciation… I could go on. In their book, Money and the Law of Attraction, Jerry and Ester Hicks explain that when we believe that there is not enough to go around we are actually holding ourselves apart from abundance.
So, let’s retrain our thinking here and stand in abundance. There is more than enough of everything for everyone. As leaders it’s a far more powerful place to stand. Any time I am creating a business plan for my films, and looking at what to offer my investors, I always stand in abundance and generosity. I never consider our industry as a place of scarcity.
In fact, I never consider our planet as a place of scarcity for that matter. There is more than enough of everything for everyone.
10) CONTRIBUTION and SERVICE
Leaders contribute and pass the torch. In his poem “A Splendid Touch,” George Bernard Shaw says,
“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can… Life is no ‘brief candle’ for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
I read a great book recently called “The Blue Zone” by Dan Buettner. He has traveled to all the areas of the world with the highest number of centenarians. There is one thing he noticed when speaking with all these folks, some of whom were well over one hundred years old. Every single one of them spends time everyday being of service to others and volunteering at their churches and community event. We can all take a lesson from these older folks.
BONUS: As I’ve said many times, have fun with all of this. It’s all a great fun game in a magnificent playground. So, play, smile, laugh… often, on purpose, for no particular reason.
BONUS: There is an amazing poem in “Think and Grow Rich” and it’s all about our attitude and perception… the way we see the world. As I have said before, our actions are correlated to the way the world occurs for us. What we tell ourselves means everything, yet I don’t think we realize just how important that is. I just did a talk at ScreenwritingU to a group of writers and we talked a bit about this concept. We all too often tell ourselves a story of how it can’t or won’t work and then we go around collecting evidence to support our story. What that does is get us off the hook. We really think our excuses and the stories we’ve made up to support those excuses are real and true. How crazy is that! As leaders we just don’t get to play that game. We need to stay conscious, stand in our commitment and THINK in a way that inspires us. Here is the poem:
If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a person’s will –
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man
But soon or late the one who wins
Is the one WHO THINKS HE CAN!
Suzanne Lyons is President/Producer of Snowfall Films, Inc. having produced/exec produced 12 feature films to date. She co-founded the Flash Forward Institute which focused on teaching the tools of business needed to market oneself in the entertainment industry. She’s the author of Indie Film Producing: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking published by Focal Press. She has also hosted over 125 informational videos on the film industry. When time permits she does private career and business coaching. Suzanne is originally Canadian and lives with her husband in Los Angeles, CA.
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- Ron Howard’s Film Directing MasterClass
- Filmmaking Hacks: Filmmaking Master Course
- Directing Actors Film Workshop
- USC Film School’s ONLY Online Course: Directing the Actor
- Film Lighting MasterClass
- Recording Sound for Indie Film
- The Art of Micro-Budget Filmmaking
- Cinematography MasterClass
- Film Festival Hacks: Submit Like a Pro
- Self-Distributing Your Film Online
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