Wow I’ve been honest in this blog! I was just looking back at it, in order to pick up where I left off, hoping to seamlessly get you up to speed, and was struck by my own honesty.
But I’m happy I was that honest because the truth can set you free. Going after dreams can test you deeply, both internally and externally, with no guarantees that you will ever succeed, often taking way longer than you think you have endurance for, and if through this blog I’ve inspired even one person to just keep on facing whatever they need to face, by being an example of what can happen when you never give up, then I am happy.
So without further ado, I am thrilled to report that Mhairi and I have pitched a new show idea (starring Tallulah of course) to a network and they have requested a sizzle for it. Yay!!!! It’s different than anything we ever set out to do, but yet somehow exactly what it was always meant to be. We’ve got a great feeling about it. So much so that we feel like celebrating.
We just finished shooting and will be spending the next month or so editing and shopping it around, but in the meantime we thought we’d celebrate by spending some time with our fans and hopefully pulling in some new ones.
Starting next Tuesday (4/25/17) we will be re-releasing Seasons 1 & 2 of Feathers and Toast directly on FB, 1 episode per week at 10pm EST/7pm PST, with a lively talk back in the comments section between Mhairi and I (and occasionally “Tallulah.”)
It is our sincerest hope that you join us there every Tuesday night, for a little hang out to laugh about the show, trade stories, and in general just have a little bit of fun.
And this leads me to…
Industry Tip # 41
When a network is generous enough to give you inside information about the type of content they are looking for, humbly listen, and then use all the creativity at your disposal to figure out how to align your content with their needs. This is the necessary “business” part of “show.”
I leave you with some BTS pics, compliments of our favorite photographer, Katie Nolan.
Its not the ending I had planned. I had imagined I would cleverly be revealing to you some grand fireworks style ending where I announced our signing of a deal and where you would be able to find us on TV, but as I sit here now I realize that that type of announcement pales in comparison to what has actually happened.
No my fears began where the creation process would inevitably end, that moment when you’ve done all you can do and its time to start selling. I had developed an almost phobic level fear about selling, but I couldn’t see it because every time I finished a project I would just make up another excuse that I was happy to believe and then get busy with a new project.
I didn’t know it at the time but starting this blog was the beginning of the end for my 15 years plus phobia because I had given myself no way out. As I inched closer to having nothing left to do but sell I got squirmy, seriously squirmy, like a caged animal squirmy, but with nowhere to go, and lots of willfulness and camaraderie (thanks Mhairi, Stephanie, Anne and Shonda Rhimes who doesn’t even know she helped but boy did she) I pushed through.
I faced my fears head on and what I was left with was that feeling one has after breaking the spell of a bad relationship where you’re suddenly able to see things you could never see before, only the bad relationship was with me, and what I could now see was that I’ve had the ability to do everything I’ve ever wanted to do all along. It was me that told myself I couldn’t and like it or not there is just no way to sell people on the idea that you can, when deep down you believe you can’t.
So that’s where I sit now. I know in a way I’ve never known before that I can do whatever I set my mind to and that its only a matter of time before Mhairi and I succeed in our mission to produce & distribute what will become a beloved show about a girl who saves the world one sandwich at a time.
So without further, here is your last…
If you want something, declare it, and then be willing to do whatever it takes to make it true.
And I leave you with a song that just about sums it all up. Enjoy!
I am two weeks in with my 40 Day Networking Challenge and I don’t even know where to begin to tell you all that has changed. I don’t even feel like the same person.
I’ll admit for the first 2 days I was in an all out panic, feeling like a caged animal, not sure if I would ever break free, but thanks to my flat out refusal to veer from the path, I learned 2 very important things:
1) I am already surrounded by amazing friends who are happy to help, I just need to ask.
2) The odds of getting help dramatically increases, if I can be clear on what I am asking. (For e.g. I’m a writer/producer with a new single cam comedy and I’m looking for an experienced Director to attach. One simple sentence that anyone can repeat, understand and share with others.)
Now getting so clear that I can effortlessly blurt out that one simple sentence? That’s a whole other story, particularly for those of us transitioning “from Youtube to a Television deal.”
The thing is that in the Independent/Youtube type world its quite normal to be the Writer/Producer/Director/Camera op/Actress/Editor/Social Media Guru/Web Designer etc. Its just accepted that you often wear all the hats and its okay to have a bit of multiple personality disorder, to be a dabbler, but in TV it is not.
In order to be successful in TV and not get kicked off your own project, you sort of need to pick your best lane, the lane where your strongest talents are and drive in it, fast, because everyone else is and they are really good at their specialties.
This is where I found myself these past 2 weeks, staring straight into the reality that its time to choose. What are the talents that make me indispensable? Which are most important to me? Who am I going to be?
Do I want to be an editor? No. A social media guru or web designer? That’s easy, no. Do I want to be an actress? Oooh that’s where I stumbled.
In my school girl fantasy that answer has always been a solid yes. I love acting. It’s fun, challenging, personal, intimate, all things I love. Why wouldn’t I want to do it? But as I sat here contemplating what it would mean to both push for and then literally be the Holster character in our show, much to my own surprise the answer came back as a no.
It hit me that even if I could convince a network to cast me rather than some name talent, if I’m brutally honest with myself, being a professional actress and all it entails is not a job I want. All the image pressure, publicity, the dressing up, the photo shoots, and on and on, is really not my thing. I feel much more at home, in my jeans, yes and potentially even flip flops, running a set or a writers room. That is my area. That’s where I shine. Where I belong. I am destined to be a Showrunner.
Suddenly there was relief. I can’t explain how good it felt to lighten my load and finally just choose a lane. Suddenly I could really see who I am. My value. I have been writing for 20 years and producing for the last 10. I can do this. I am a contribution. Now all I have to do is get out there and meet people. I know exactly who I am and what to ask for.
Which leads me to…
Industry Tip #39
For effective networking, you need to be able to express who you are and what you need in one sentence. If you can’t, its time to get more clear.
You know that whole saying “If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes”? That’s right where we are now in our journey of “How We Went From Youtube to Television Deal.” It’s time to make a major change.
There is nothing like simply declaring that you will achieve something, to put you on a collision course with the very thing that has always stopped you, and, for me, that thing is networking. Boom. There’s my road block. Only this time its got flashing lights and a not so subtle sign across it that reads “Make no mistake, there is no avoiding me.” I might have been blind before, but now I see.
I can see that I have spent the past 20 years completely satisfied with my own excuses that “I am just not that good at the networking thing.” No need to try. Not my area. And instead, wildly overcompensating in the areas of creativity (writing/producing etc), all while attempting to convince myself, and anyone who would listen, that as long as I’m good enough at my craft that my lack of networking skills won’t matter.
The trouble with that is, its just not true. Networking really does matter. And avoiding it will only lead you to becoming that weird lady who could have been.
The even harder truth is that I have had several projects over the years that likely could have gone to television. Great projects, created with some amazingly talented people, but as always, when it came time to sell I had no people I could sell it to. I let them and myself down.
I hadn’t spent the time to build relationships with industry execs, and as it turns out, industry execs don’t spend a lot of time listening to the ideas of people they don’t already have relationships with. They have plenty of creators they do have relationships with and they are busy listening to them.
So what did I do about this? I went back in my shell and created more.
Starting today this pattern is over. Done. I owe it to my amazing co-creator Mhairi, to our show, to my family & friends who have been rooting for me, and most importantly to myself, to once and for all face this fear head on and win.
In light of that decision, and in light of the fact that this is way past due, I have decided to take radical action. I have cleared my schedule and will be committing to a 40 day challenge.
The plan: for the next 40 days I will meet as many industry executives as possible (and that includes everyone from executive assistants to studio heads) and spark relationships with them that I will then maintain for a lifetime. Like the oh-so-brilliant Shonda Rhimes, I am going to starting saying Yes! (Thank you Shonda – deeply and truly)
Does this scare the bejeezus out of me? Hell yes it does. But am I going to do it anyway? You better believe it. I welcome any and all support. If you have someone you think I should meet, please share. If you’re a fellow artist realizing you are just like me, get on board.
Which leads me to…
Industry Tip #38
Content creators must spend at least 33% of their time actively building a network, or they will have no one to share their work with when its done.
And without further ado. I leave you with this great interview from BTR Productions where I share what its like being a female comedy writer in Hollywood and why I am so excited about our show.
We did it. We went up the mountain with high hopes, and came down with a pitch. Yay! And I’m proud to say its concise and simple, relatable, and really shows how this story could go on for a long long time. All the things the experts will tell you it needs to be in order to set your show up for success.
But in keeping with my vein of honesty, I will confess that the part in the middle, the part where we actually had to do the work to get to this simple pitch, felt at times like a full scale war with the brain.
We were on our retreat for less than 72 hours but it felt more like 3 weeks. In looking at it after the fact, it is amazing how what seems so obvious and clear now, could be so incredibly elusive before, but as I mentioned in the past, fear is one seriously wiley beast, and it lives for confusing the process.
The thing is, creating a pitch forces you to answer some pretty serious questions: “In one sentence, what is your show really about?” “How is it relatable to the world at large?” and “Why is anyone going to care enough to watch for 7 seasons?” And oh, by the way, the answers to these questions better be seriously juicy and original, because the competition is, well, its best to not even look at the reality of that, because you likely have better odds of winning Power Ball than getting a show picked up, but no pressure.
I’m finding that the key is to simply be more stubborn than your fear (and reality). When you begin your descent into boiling your show down to its most essential component, everything you’ve ever loved about your show, every storyline or idea you have ever wanted to express, will pop into your head simultaneously, and like a bunch of attention starved little kids they will literally be screaming that they are the most important, and although you love them all, you can only pick one. Which one is truly the most important? Which one is large enough to not back you into a corner, but still specific enough to be uniquely your own?
This is the question that has the potential to make you insane, and its also the reason why not everyone can succeed at being a writer. This is what separates the men from the boys, and the women from the girls. Based on what I’ve read, virtually all writers suffer this same process, including the greats, it seems the only difference is that the great writers, the ones we know, never give up. They keep at it like we did, looking at the possibilities from every angle, and suffering the angst of knowing deep down that none of these angles are working, maybe this idea is a turkey, but you keep at it anyway, and then just when you think you can’t go at it anymore, it hits, and you know its right, and all is happy again.
The unexpected outcome of it all is that we didn’t just come down the mountain with a pitch, we came down with a much clearer understanding of our own story, one that makes it much easier to do everything from script rewrites, to creating cohesive marketing materials and on and on. Oh and fear, well, its amazing how much fear goes away when you replace it with a solid, well thought out pitch, that is there for you to read whenever you sink into self doubt.
Which leads me to…
Industry Tip #36
When it comes to answering the central question “what is your show about?” be willing to sit in the question and the subsequent discomfort for as long as it takes to get the answer you know in your gut is right.
Industry Tip #37
Answering the central question “what is your show about? is a must.
And this week I will leave you with a bit of fun, compliments of a Jerry Seinfeld interview with the New York Times that exposes the absolute ridiculousness of the writing process. Thanks Jerry and the NYT. Much more fun to come.
We’re back!! And getting ready to go on a writer’s retreat to get a jump start on this year (pics to follow). Our goal: to come back with a brilliant and engaging pitch for our show.
I’ve got to be 100% honest though, pitching has always scared the daylights out of me. In fact, in the past its been the thing that has stopped me in my tracks. I can create until the cows come home, but when it comes to the selling part I choke. The whole idea that you walk into a room of strangers and have essentially minutes to express effectively what it has taken years to create, just minutes to make them fall in love with your “baby”, and the fact that if you don’t succeed, you are now officially staring directly into the face of a dead end, this is the stuff of those crazy bad dreams we’ve all had. The ones where you find yourself in the middle of a room, in front of every single person you’ve ever known, naked, and every time you go to speak, only a squeak comes out. You know the ones.
Anyway, rest assured fear will not stop me this time. Its not that I’ve conquered it, its that this time I’m seeing it for what it actually is, fear, rather than all elaborate stories and excuses I created in my head to make it look like the obstacles were real. Nope. Its just good old fashioned fear and all there is to do with fear is stare it directly in the face and say “so!”
Already the act of facing it has had me see something I have never seen before: that I’ve been putting all the focus and pressure on whether those on the receiving end are going to like the project or not, like a teenager who just wants to get picked for the team and doesn’t care by who, when the real focus should be on the challenge of finding the right collaborators who are actually looking for something similar to what we have and can help take this project to the next level.
Going out with a pitch is kind of like deciding to start dating. You have to meet lots of people. You tell them your stories and they tell you theirs and you either click or you don’t. There is no right or wrong here. No good enough, or not good enough. Its just about being authentic, open, sharing what you and your project are, and sooner or later finding the right fit.
Like all my revelations, this occurs to me now as more of a “duh” than an “aha.” Why didn’t I see this before? But all I can say to that is that fear is a wiley, tricky little beast. It lies. Regardless, I see it now, and for me, it takes all the pressure off. I now feel supercharged to get out there and share what we have and see who our future partners will be.
Which leads me to…
Industry Tip #35
When pitching, remember that you aren’t there to sell your show, you are there to find your perfect team. Do your research and meet as many people as you can.
And without further ado, we are off for our retreat, but this week I will leave you with this great video produced by Film Courage (a great site btw) where Marc Zicree explains the art of pitching a movie idea using the rule of 3. His advice is obviously directed to us entertainment people, but I think it could apply to a lot of other industries as well. Enjoy.
As I sit here, closing up shop so to speak, clicking all my to do’s off the list one final time for the year, and preparing to spend some much coveted time with my family and friends, I can’t help but reflect on the year that’s passed.
For Mhairi and I, it’s been one of those years we will never forget, so difficult but so pivotal all at the same time. For us, 2015 was the year where we were seriously tested “is this really what we want?” and the answer came back a resounding “yes!”
Rather than giving up, we dove in deeper, and the results were festivals, awards, press, representation, loads of new friends, an expansion of the show into a 1/2 hour comedy, and most importantly for us, serious confirmation that the sky was the limit for this partnership.
Despite our cultural and (ahem) fashion differences, Mhairi and I share the same sense of humor, work ethic and undying desire to lift people up, to make a difference, essentially we are on the same page, and as result, our collaboration feels effortless and fun.
Looking ahead, 2016 will be all about expanding our collaboration, by first finding, and then working with, all the amazing future colleagues who will become beloved and instrumental contributors to making our 1/2 hour show the best it can possibly be, and we can’t wait to meet them.
As you know, Tallulah fancies herself a revolutionary of sorts, “Saving the World One Sandwich at a Time”, but what you might not know is that we do too. Like I mentioned in our recent interview with BTR Productions, in a world consumed with bad news, where, even in fiction, darker storylines are all the rage, we consider it a conscious act of rebellion to offer up something light.
In fact, it is our most sincere hope for this holiday season and for the new year ahead that through Feathers and Toast, and the soon-to-be show, Tallulah Darling, that we can inspire you to consciously bring more play and silliness into your life. To put on that hat you’ve always wanted to wear, make that recipe you’ve always wanted to try, reach out to people you’ve always wanted to meet, conspire to make others laugh and just, in general, resolve yourself to have more fun, for no other good reason than just because.
It’s like one of Mhairi’s favorite quotes “what will you do with your one wild and precious life?” Its completely and totally up to you. Which leads me to…
Industry Tip #34
Don’t give up before you get to the good stuff.
And without further ado, for your enjoyment, a holiday message from Mhairi and I as seen on WebVee Guide’s Holiday greetings. See you in the New Year.
As many of you know, I just came back from a Digital Detox where I went low tech for a week and 1/2, with no computer, phone and no social media engagement of any kind.
As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time on social media for both work and play, I thought this might be difficult, but to my surprise my week of Digital Detox wasn’t difficult at all, in fact, I took to it like a duck to water.
I relished in the permission I gave myself to be free, not looking at my phone, in being present to my loved ones around me, in taking the time to just be. I felt peaceful and happy and it lead me to think, maybe this is a non-issue? It seemed there were no big insights or revelations to report, no earth shattering changes, and then…I went back to social media. Boom. The lesson hit.
Within minutes of being back in the social media game I started to feel that familiar low level anxiety that has plagued me for several years now, but that I had assumed was coming from some yet undetermined source. But after a week of pulling away and then coming back to it, there could be no denying it; my time spent on social media was causing my anxiety. Houston! We have a problem.
The thing is, I have to be on social media. In fact, several of my blogs here are dedicated to it. As an independent content creator it is my one and only source for publicity and without publicity we don’t exist, we’re wasting our time. Social media is a must, or so I’ve told myself, but at what cost? I realized quickly I am going to have to dive deeper and find some middle ground in order to make this work.
Since I truly can’t throw the baby out with the bath water, my first task was to identify what specifically about social media was causing me anxiety.
This was not an easy thing to figure out because there are parts of it that bring me unbridled joy (mainly all the funny and heartfelt videos and quotes people share, and the ease with which I can keep track of all the many people I love) but as I consciously analyzed it further I realized that what might be the problem is the sheer amount of information that can be thrown at you in literally minutes, let alone hours spent on social media.
In one short trip down the timeline I could be exposed to a friend losing a parent, another friends hilarious new show just released, an anger inducing article about a new government policy, then a snopes article about how that article was untrue, then the cutest puppy you’ve ever seen in your life, an article about a breakthrough technology that will change the world as we’ve known it, a reminder about a new movie I want to see, and a veritable smorgasbord of extremism and political “debate” (of which I will use the term loosely because its mostly just yelling at each other) and that’s just in the first 30 seconds.
I’m realizing its not that I can’t handle any one piece of information, its that it’s an unnatural amount of information all at once!! I’ve never been much of a skim-the-surface kind of girl, those who know me well, know that I listen deep and love hard, which is why it should have been no surprise to me that this much information shared all at once can result in circuits blown, but it was a surprise, a surprise I am still barely processing.
So what to do about it? Well for starters I turned off all notifications so that when I am on, I’m on, but when I’m off, I’m off.
Next I’m planning to continue giving myself permission to limit the amount of time I am on social media, even though my monkey brain wants to tell me that will be a disaster. “What about all my fellow content creator friends? Surely they can’t live without me?” I’m just gonna tell the monkey brain to settle down, its the holidays. I’m sure my social media relationships can stand the test of time until I can figure this out a bit.
And third, when I am on social media I am going to be more disciplined, something I never realized I needed to be. I am going to actively choose to limit what I see (a) by practicing the art of skimming and non-attachment and (b) by curating my lists and timelines a bit more carefully. For e.g. among the things I will automatically not pay attention to will be the news (I will receive news only from vetted, factual, non-opinion based news sources assuming those exist) and I will also actively ignore people’s opinions of the news, unless the opinion comes from a moderate who is genuinely trying to learn and share.
Yes I promise to myself here and now that no matter how twitchy I get, I will do my absolute best not to fall into the trap of engaging with extremists of any flavor on social media, particularly those who don’t know they’re extremists, as I realize now that all it does is create the illusion that I am accomplishing something, when really I’m actually just giving them my energy and therefore power.
What I will still respond to and give my energy to is all you lovely people. The conversations with all of you is the highlight of my day, so keep them coming and I will keep the blogs coming.
Unless you tell me you want to hear more about this topic, I will be back to my usual tales of an independent producer starting next week. And that leads me to…
Industry Tip # 33
Social media is more powerful than you think. Its helpful to create some disciplines and healthy boundaries around it in order to stay balanced.
And without further ado I leave you with another Holiday Tip from Tallulah for all our friends who are spending time with their families right now.
I’m back from Digital Detox. Weee! And there are so many things I want to share with you in regards to insights about stepping away from the computer and about pitching (which is Mhairi and I’s latest adventure) but first I wanted to share our latest interview as it was just released today.
While we were in New York, we sat down with our good friends over at Behind The Rabbit Productions as part of their Artist Profile series, to speak about the inspiration behind Feathers and Toast and what we hope to accomplish with the show. I think they did a great job putting this together and hope you’ll take a look.
Artist Profile Series – Behind The Rabbit Productions
By the time you read this blog, I will already be days into my first annual Digital Detox.
What is that you say? Well it’s a truly low tech week with no texting, or posting, or tweeting, in fact no computer related activities at all, and instead good ole fashioned face to face conversations, hand writing in my journal, and reading of hard copy books, maybe an actual newspaper.
Why you say? Well it’s not out of any sort of protest or judgement against my high tech world. I have no beef with Twitter and Facebook. No need to tell everyone I am leaving because I can’t take it anymore, in fact, the opposite is true. I love my high tech world so much that I get twitchy at the mere idea of what life might be like if I can’t grab for my phone every five seconds to see what messages I might have, and that, my friends, is why I am doing it.
While I love my life and all the tech in it, I can’t help but think its good to change things up every now and again, sort of re-meet myself and my relationship with this world without the crutch of my cell phone. I have no idea what that is going to be like because me and my cell phone have been attached at the hip ever since it became smart. I may go right off the deep end, but since I’m going on vacation anyway I thought it was as good as any time to try.
So wish me luck. This is definitely a brand new adventure. I’ll be back on November 30th fired up and ready to tweet and retweet, share and support, and catch up on all the wonderful things my lovely Feathers and Toast fans have been up to. I hope you all have an amazing Thanksgiving spent with family & friends, and friends who have become family and that get present to all the wonderful things you are grateful for.
Which leads me to…
Industry Tip #32
Do one thing that scares you at least a couple times a year. There’s nothing like changing up the routine and keeping your own self on your toes, to get those creative juices flowing again.
And without further ado I leave you with some more Thanksgiving Day tips from Tallulah. And by the way, what are you grateful for?
(And P.S. You will see some tweets and obviously this Post but only because they were scheduled in advance. I’m not cheating I swear)