Not All Advice is Created Equal

Meme_S1E3_1After Mhairi and I had released the first season of Feathers and Toast, and were in our experimental year where we were playing around with social media and attempting to build an audience, we began receiving a lot of advice from many diverse sources about what we needed to do to enhance the show and get our numbers up, some we listened to and some we did not, because as I said before “Not all advice is created equal.”

Now I am not saying this in order to give myself and others an excuse to just throw away any advice you get that is not to your liking, in fact, I think you should listen very carefully to all advice, particularly the advice that’s hard to hear, there are gifts in there, I am saying this because advice is something you need to treat with caution.

The thing is, it is the rare person that can step out of their own life experiences, needs and wants, and listen to yours purely and deeply in order to give you unbiased advice tailored just for you and what’s best for achieving your specific vision.

More times than not the advice you are going to get will be based on the advice givers view of how things work, or the brand of success they themselves are seeking, their personal area of expertise, or the style of entertainment they like the best.

All of this information is very valuable and should not be overlooked, its just that when listening to it, it needs to be placed in the right context, particularly when you are a creator at the early stages of your vision.

The early stages are a precarious time for content creators. You haven’t even worked out all the answers yourself yet and already there are opinions about the direction you should go, opinions that are often presented to you with great confidence, as if they are fact, at a time when you are anything but confident, and if you are not careful they can alter your vision in a direction you never intended for it to go which leads me to…

Industry Tip #12

When receiving advice regarding your content (particularly in the early stages) it is important to remember 4 things:

1) Always be grateful to those who take the time to give you solicited advice. (those who give you unsolicited advice, you can do whatever you want with them :) )

2) Always consider the source (what their personal experiences and biases are) so that the information they give you can remain in proper context.

3) Give yourself permission to trust your own gut. Regardless of the stature of the advice giver, if the advice given doesn’t jibe with the direction you feel you are going, give yourself permission to respectfully follow your own intuition.

4) If in following your own path, you discover that one of your former advice givers was right along, its okay and encouraged to admit that, readjust your course and become all the more grateful.

As some of you know, this particular topic became fodder for a good portion of Season 2 of Feathers and Toast as we delved into the age old battle between Art and commerce. But even earlier on it came into play with the clip I am about to show you that comes from our Holiday Tidbit series.

We had been given advice from a senior exec in the Youtube world who had suggested we needed to incorporate topics that were trending into our show, like twerking. Naturally the Tallulah side of Mhairi was like “twerking? Does he really expect me to twerk darling?”

But after much thought, we decided, yes, let’s have Tallulah twerk, but in her own Tallulah way. The result was our most viewed video to date. I guess that guy did have a point, particularly when it comes to increasing your views.


For the Love of Goldie

Meme_Feb_2So I pulled up to a stop sign yesterday and looked left to see if the coast was clear and there she was, my hero, Goldie Hawn, just standing there, quietly, in her yoga clothes, simply waiting to cross the street.

I had to take a double take. Could this really be the woman who I have admired my whole life? The woman who is in no small way the influence that has me even writing this blog, just standing there, a few feet away from me? The posture and the blonde hair were unmistakable, then she turned her head a little, yep that’s her, my heart skipped a beat.

I wanted to jump right out of the car and give her a hug.

I wanted to tell her that from the first time I saw her when I was a kid I just somehow knew the wisdom, compassion and strength that lurked behind that giggle, that every time she spoke she consistently said things that made me feel better about my world, that she exemplified everything I aspired to be, my perfect role model.

I wanted to tell her that it was when I saw her interview with Barbara Walters some 20 years ago where she refused to complain about the lack of roles for older woman and instead simply said “where are the women writers? do we really expect men to write these complex older female roles?” that I agreed with her and it was in that moment I committed myself to being a screenwriter and wrote my first screenplay with the idea of her in the starring role.

I wanted to tell her all those things, my heart was swelling, but luckily sanity prevailed, and instead I just smiled lovingly at the lady who meant so much to me and unceremoniously turned right, moved to tears by the coincidence that I had just written about her last week in my blog.

Is this a sign that we will one day meet? Or was that my one shot and I didn’t take it? I don’t really know, but I am pretty sure the way to meet your favorite role model is not by accosting her on the street, so I will just have to wait to see what fate has in store. :)

Either way this moment put me in touch with the thought of just how valuable it is to have role models, which leads me to…

Industry Tip #11

When going after big dreams, study the lives and work of the people you admire most, as their life examples can offer a valuable treasure map guiding you in the direction you want to go.

Who is your hero and why? Would love to hear your stories.

In the meantime, I leave you with another one of my favorite Tallulah Talks Back. In this one she is being a role model calling out Will Infantine on his infantile suggestion that men deserve better pay than women because they take greater risks. Tallulah’s response? What could be riskier than pursuing a career as a talking mime, darling? Lol


The First Rule of Youtube is You Don’t Quit Youtube

unnamedI learned this lesson the hard way with my first web series, The Sex Trade. We created 6 episodes and then released them. Everything went well, in fact, phenomenally well (we ended up with over a 100,000 views in those first 6 weeks) but then that was all she wrote (literally, the she was me, and that’s all I wrote).

We didn’t have any more episodes and weren’t going to have any more episodes, only now I had strangers out there that were literally mad at me for not finishing what I had started so to speak, which was both hilarious and guilt inducing all at the same time.

I’m not sure what I had thought I was doing. At the time, I was mostly just trying to prove my writing ability. I figured it would be easier to get Execs to click on a link and watch than to read a script, and so I just produced the show and put it out there, but things did not go at all as I had expected. I never even factored in the possibility that there was a legitimate youtube audience that might get attached to it, and frankly it didn’t turn out to be any easier to get Execs to click than read (at least not for me) and so as time went by it became increasingly more obvious that I needed to come up with a different strategy.

What I eventually learned was that regardless of whether you intend to use Youtube as your primary business model (creating content specifically for youtube in exchange for ad dollars/sponsorship etc) or whether you use it as I do, as a development/marketing strategy for projects you’d like to eventually expand to TV, you really have to be in it for the long haul, ready to be consistently releasing new material over a long stretch of time in order to gain any sort of real momentum, traction and brand loyalty, and for me this meant creating content that was more practical in terms of time constraints and budget.

These lessons directly affected my opinions on how to move forward when it came to producing Feathers and Toast. Even though right from the beginning, Mhairi and I always knew there was a bigger story we wanted to tell, we intentionally narrowed it down to the aspect of the story we could reasonably afford to produce, meaning content that didn’t require fundraising, asking anyone for favors or endless amounts of our time but could still be done well, and the answer to that turned out to be Tallulah’s cooking show (which of course is only one piece of Tallulah’s larger life.)

Once we got into it, we realized even the cooking show took up an extensive amount of time, more than we could extend over long periods of time without throwing our lives out of whack and eventually dreading the process (which was unacceptable to us) so we made the decision not to jump into Season 2 right away. Instead we embarked on what I will call, our experimental year.

We started producing short, almost Vlog style videos, except they were entirely in character. Our schedule became getting together once a week and in about 4 hours we would come up with the idea, shoot it, edit it and post it (and pretty much laugh all the way through.) We never knew what we were going to do before we would do it, we went off on mad tangents, dipped into politics, threw in some wacky Monty Python-esque stuff. I was practicing directing, and Mhairi was practicing being a one take wonder. We were just being comedians, trying stuff, as if Youtube was our virtual comedy club, where we could see what people responded to and in the end really learn who Tallulah was.

I’d love to say we intentionally spent an entire year throwing Tallulah into all manner of current affairs and life experiences because we knew that it would be a really cool way to deeply develop her character while simultaneously building a really strong brand (which did happen and we are grateful) but the truth is we just did it out of an organic need to create more content. Hind sight being 20/20 however, I would definitely do it all over again.

The result was a series of videos we called “Tallulah Talks Back” and the “Top 10 Holiday Tidbits” which I will be sharing with you over the next couple months (in no particular order) which leads me to…

Industry Tip #10

If you are planning to use Youtube to build your brand, consistent quality content is key, emphasis on the consistent, so make sure your ideas are ones you can afford to produce (time/money) over the long term without getting yourself burnt out.

So without further ado I leave you with the first Tallulah Talks Back episode that popped into my mind to share where Tallulah teaches you “How to meditate and quiet the Mime.” Lol. We loved this one.


#ImWithTallulah in Hollywood

FullSizeRender2I interrupt this regularly scheduled blog post to ask for your help!

On this day in history not so many years ago Mhairi Morrison (aka Tallulah) was born (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MHAIRI) and as I was sitting here thinking about what on earth I could possibly buy for this lovely person that would properly convey the gratitude I feel for the wonderful impact she has had on my life I quickly realized that nothing material would do.

I started getting that gift giving anxiety one feels when its time to give a gift to someone who is so good at giving gifts.

Whether you have known Mhairi your whole life or whether you are just meeting her now through this blog, it only takes a second to discover that she is one generous lady, always with a kind thought and/or gesture for everyone she meets. She is one of those rare gems of a person who will go out of her way to make sure the people in her life (even those she’s just met) feel loved and supported.

So I thought for a minute about what would make her feel loved and supported? And then it hit me: of course, the one thing Mhairi would want most in the world is for her beloved character, Tallulah, to go viral.

(***See below for an update)

So I’m laying out my crazy plan and I hope all of you will join in on it with me. It’s the greatest gift she could ever get and it won’t cost you a thing except a little bit of your time.

In the vein of Flat Stanley or Where’s Waldo or those silly garden gnomes in Amelie I say we help Talulah travel the world. Here’s how:

Step 1 – Take a selfie with you and Tallulah like the one I did above (to get an image of her you can either just pause your computer screen on a fav image from one of our youtube videos or pose with one of your favorite memes on our website

Step 2 – Then cut and paste the verbiage from below (indicating where you are from) and post it along with your selfie on your favorite social media channel (or all of them):

For FB – #ImWithTallulah in (name your city here) Happy Birthday! We love you Feathers and Toast! http://wp.me/p3NKTc-to

For Twitter – #ImWithTallulah in (name your city here) Happy Birthday! We love you @feathersntoast http://wp.me/p3NKTc-to

For Instagram – #ImWithTallulah in (name your city here) Happy Birthday! We love you @tallulahfeathers http://wp.me/p3NKTc-to

And then share, share away with everyone you know. That’s all you have to do. With any luck we can literally blow up her feeds with pics of Tallulah traveling the world.

I intentionally waited until she went to bed tonight to post this in hopes that all her European friends and family could start this wave for us. I’ll be counting on you. She’ll be up in about 7 hours and I’m hoping she wakes up to a tidal wave of unexpected posts. With your help it will feel like Christmas morning.

And without further ado, I leave you with some rare footage you’ve likely never seen of Talulah out on the town, as well as…

Industry Tip #9

Make sure to always take the time to give back to those who have given so much to you.

As she would say “Yours in grateful Feathers”

Holster

***UPDATE
Just wanted to take the time to send out a heartfelt thank you to all who helped make Mhairi’s birthday so special yesterday. She was moved to tears by all your love. **And also as a special note, for those who couldn’t quite get that selfie thing worked out, or were a sandwich short of a technology picnic yesterday I demand that you absolve yourself of any concerns right now (she knows you love her) and for those of you who still want to send us in pics, we’ll take em, this birthday celebration is good all year, and it has been beyond fun to see all of your lovely faces. Thank you again. From the bottom of our hearts.

Collage


Never Underestimate The Benefit of a Juicy Delusion of Grandeur

Meme_S2E1_1When I was 22 years old I moved to NYC to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up and one day as I was wandering down those busy streets the answer came to me in a flash: I was going to make movies.

I saw the whole thing in my head. My first film was going to be a comedy about a daughter who outs her closet writer mother. Goldie Hawn would play the mother, Meg Ryan would play the crazy Aunt, Alfre Woodard would play the mom’s best friend, Jack Nicholson would play her mom’s unrequited lover and I would play the daughter.

Never mind that I had never written a script in my life, nor had any contacts in the entertainment business, nor any experience Producing, I had passion and creativity on my side and I was going to go ahead and write this script, and then co-produce it with whichever studio picked it up (so that I could still have some control creatively) and cast myself. I gave myself about a 2 year time frame.

Go ahead and laugh. Seriously, have a hearty laugh because this, my friends, is a delusion of epic proportions. A 22 year old unknown back in 1992, with literally zero experience in anything and not a single connection in the business thinks she is going to get Hollywood to produce her largely all female comedy and that they are going to happily let her co-produce it with them and cast it, giving herself one of the starring roles? It’s hilarious! But at the time, I really believed it and I am so glad I did.

See here’s the thing, that delusion was my rocket fuel. It was my carrot keeping me running around the track. I would never have spent the nearly countless hours I have spent over the last 20 years disciplining myself to hone my writing skills and complete scripts if it hadn’t been for the hope that delusion would become real. I would never have gone after and landed all the jobs I did if I hadn’t thought I needed those experiences in order to service that delusion and I am certain I never would have been able to shield myself from all the well meaning dream doubters along the way if it hadn’t been for the warm embrace of that delusion. I would have given up long ago.

My lovely little delusion served me quite well. As the years went by and pure dreaming slowly got replaced by actual skills and real connections that initial delusion slowly changed, morphed, in fact I became completely aware that it was a delusion, I just didn’t care. It had lead me down a path I wanted to be on. I created more of them.

Eventually the delusions no longer served me, in fact they started to get in the way. They became the thing in the way of realizing that my dreams are no longer “dreams” but simply my here and now and that if I didn’t start seeing it in that context, and speaking of it in that context, and being in the very real moments that were happening to me right here in the now, then I was going to unintentionally push them away. This leads me to…

Industry Tip #8

Allow yourself to dream big audacious dreams, but don’t let it stand in the way of you realizing and fully participating in the successes you already have.

And without further ado I will share the final Episode of our very first season of Feathers and Toast. The one where our lovely Tallulah first develops her own delusions of grandeur. She saves a life and now thinks this cooking show might just be her mission in life, that she’s meant to “Save The World One Sandwich at a Time” (Apparently Mhairi, who created that storyline, appreciates the power of a juicy delusion as well)

What delusions have served you well?


The Infamous Pad Thai Episode: A Creative Turning Point

Meme_S1E5_5I know I’ve been yammering on about the business side of things for a while now, but when I re-watched what will be our video for the day today (which just happens to be the one Mhairi and I lovingly refer to as “The Infamous Pad Thai episode”) I realized its time to get back to talking about the creative.

The Pad Thai episode was yet another creative turning point for us for multiple reasons.

First, there was the obvious turning point in storyline. I think if anyone still had any doubts about whether this was an actual web cooking show or not, this episode killed that and showed that we were up to much more as this episode gave a more overt glimpse into the deeper narrative we were eventually going to tell.

Second, this episode showed me what an incredible actress I was working with and that the sky was going to be the limit in what we could do with this show. It sounds silly now, but prior to seeing this footage I had never actually seen Mhairi in action. I am a Second City trained yes-and-er, so when she told me what she wanted to do with this show I just said yes, and then assumed she had the acting chops to pull it off, but up till then I hadn’t seen any proof. I just trusted that she was in fact “Classically trained”.

We had discussed prior to shooting that we wanted Tallulah to have an emotional arc for the season and what that arc would be, but when we sat down to look at the footage I realized she had pulled it off in a much bigger way than I was expecting. She had yes anded me. :)

Allow me to explain…

For me there are 2 types of comedy: there’s the kind where the character knows they are funny, where they often keep it light, sometimes even ham for the camera and we, the audience, laugh with them and then there’s the kind where the character is actually quite serious, deeply invested in their circumstances and we, the audience get to laugh at them.

I genuinely love both (as for me comedy is like Chocolate, some kinds are better than others, but I pretty much like them all) but if I’m honest, as a lifelong fan of Writer/Directors like James L. Brooks, The Coen Brothers and Cameron Crowe, Nancy Meyers, the second kind of comedy is my all time favorite, which is why I was over the moon to discover, based on Mhairi’s layered and nuanced Improv performance, that this was the kind of comedy we were going to get to make.

The third turning point came in the form of another much needed confidence boost for me.

Editing this episode was difficult, and not because I didn’t have good material to work with, but because she had given me so much. I was staring down the face of 3 awesome takes I was attached to, each with different emotional aspects that I adored, each offering different story elements I thought were important. I found that I was wanting to use the very best parts of all of them, but since this was Improv rather than scripted material, it was not at all obvious how all these elements would line up seamlessly and to be honest I didn’t know if I could pull it off.

I found myself needing to draw from all my years of both writing and editing to perform the mental gymnastics needed to marry these takes together in a manner that looked like I had done nothing at all. And after a long series of “hang on a second, I know this is crazy but let’s try this” and “maybe if I put this chunk here, and that chunk there” I was overjoyed to discover that it had worked. That I had been able to pull it off. I surprised myself! Which lead to the quiet confidence of “I can do this” that you can only get to when you are first challenged and then rise to the challenge. And now…

Industry Tip #7
When shooting Improv performances always use at least 2 cameras. (Or at the very least shoot some close ups that can act as cut aways)

I would not have even had the option to grab the best of each take and make it look like it was seamless if I hadn’t had two different camera angles to draw from. Even with the 2 camera choices we still needed to employ the use of title cards on occasion to give it that seamless effect.

Without further ado, here is the Infamous Pad Thai Episode. The episode that saved Marge’s life. The episode where Tallulah gives us an example of the difference between being the eagle or the chicken. The episode where Tallulah was not actually making a Pad Thai. Hahaha. In fact, I think all of you should ask her about that story.


The Third Vlog

Thank you for watching and commenting on last weeks vlog. Amazing how many people share my serious fear of rats. When stopped in traffic the other day I glanced out of the window just in time to watch a rat streak out from under a bush and run, unseen into some grass. I gripped my steering wheel a little tighter and realized that I had by no means hit total zen with the rat phobia thing to be honest. But perhaps I am a little closer to calm. At least my Prius wasn’t subjected to my screaming in abject terror…so progress has been made. Anyway, here is this weeks vlog. Hope you enjoy and let me know how you manage to keep a lid on sweating the small stuff.

Please click HERE to watch video


How To Be Your Own Marketing Department Pt 2

Meme_S2E4_1Network. Network. Network.

Once you’ve got your show up on Youtube, and your online presence clean, clear and beautiful, it is time to get out there and meet people because no matter how digitally dependent this world gets there is still no replacement for the connection that is made when you meet people in person.

In the early days, the places we would go to meet web industry people were Digital Hollywood (a 4 day conference, twice annually, which we highly recommend), and IAWTV events (an organization we are both currently members of). It was at these events that I discovered something wonderful about my partner Mhairi that I had not known, and that is that she can work a room with the best of them.

Although everyone who knows me refuses to believe it, I am actually quite shy, particularly in a room full of people I don’t know, and it has been my Achilles heal for years. I create lots of lots of content, but stumble when its time to sell it, out of a severe lack of confidence in my ability to express who I am and what I’ve got going on in any sort of compelling or concise way. When faced with this proposition, particularly in a room full of industry strangers, I usually just clam up and am reduced to a smile, a big one. I become perpetual smile girl, which is why it was like a miracle to discover that my compadre suffered from no such thing.

For me, watching Mhairi mingle at these events, was like watching Michael Jordan play basketball. I was in awe. How does she do that? She actually looks like she’s having fun (because she was). How is that even possible? She was meeting people right and left and all I had to do was stand there and laugh. And once the ice was broken, I had no trouble chiming in. This was a match made in heaven. Which brings me to…

Industry Tip #6
If you are not good at networking events, then bring somebody with you who is, but go! You have to go.

Entertainment is a team sport. There is no such thing as making it on your own. You need to know lots and lots of people (and I’m not just talking about the people at the top) you need a solid network of friends that extend into all aspects, all levels. Over time you will find that they will help you, and you will help them, but nobody can help anybody if you don’t know each other.

Find the organizations, workshops and/or events that relate to the field you want to be in and then do the work to get to know the people involved. Having a friend who is good at networking with you is a huge help, but if you must go it alone, then I will leave you with a tip I learned from the master herself; wear at least one little accessory (a hat, playful scarf, amazing necklace, cool pair of shoes) something that can be a talking point. People will use it as an icebreaker, “I love your hat,” and you can do the same finding something about them, anything you can genuinely comment on.

As I learned from Mhairi time and time again, this is not disingenuous, its just a conversation starter and you can’t get around needing a conversation starter, therefore a compliment is the perfect way to go.

That’s all for today but as always I leave you with Episode 4 of Season 1 of Feathers and Toast where Tallulah goes to great lengths to teach you the complicated inner workings of how to make a PB&J sandwich and Miso soup from a bag while pandering to yet another demographic. How anyone ever saw this and thought we were serious about this being a cooking show still makes me laugh to this day. In fact, I’m laughing right now. Enjoy!

Also, just curious…what do you think we are hinting at with these Behind The Scenes bits? If you had to guess who do you think the Fed Ex guy is to Tallulah?