Why There’s No Such Thing As A Wasted Opportunity

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Many years ago, I trained to be a primary school teacher*. I was fresh out of high school, the world was big and uncertain and I chose to go to Teacher’s College. On the first day in our first class, our lecturer got us to introduce ourselves to one another. There were so many bright, bubbly people who were excited to be undertaking the journey. Some had waited their entire lives to become a teacher.

And…then there was me.

I couldn’t tell you why I wanted to be a teacher. I think partly it was parental pressure, partly trying to suppress my real desire to work in the film industry. So I persisted with this path for 3 years. I did well with the academic work, my teaching placements also went well. I was one teaching placement and a university paper away from graduating when I decided that this really wasn’t for me.

I felt like a complete and utter failure. My parents were supportive of my decision to leave, but I knew they were disappointed as well. In hindsight, it was the right thing to do- schools need teachers who are 100% passionate about what they do and can instill that into their teaching. The classmates I had whose eyes lit up on the first day and had wanted to teach from a very young age were exactly what the education system desperately needed (and subsequently they have gone on to have very successful teaching careers).

But what at first seemed like a complete loss was actually a gift. I may not have gained my teaching degree, but along the way I gained valuable skills which transferred over into everything I did subsequently. Even now, the skills I gained all those years ago are appropriate for the work I do in publicity. There’s not a lot of difference between the research, planning, implementation and review of a lesson plan and the research, planning, implementation and review of a publicity campaign. Teaching taught me how to be adaptable, to manage my time effectively and work with a wide range of people. Better yet, when I did a Bachelor of Arts a few years later I was able to cross-credit some of my teaching courses over into my BA and ended up completing my degree in 2.5 years instead of 3.

I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a wasted opportunity. Even in your bitterest disappointments, you’ll find a diamond in the ashes. You might have to wait a while to find that diamond (because let’s face it- disappointments are awful and you might ruminate for a while), but it’s there. If you’re in the indie film industry, you’ll know that sometimes productions fall through, you might not get the role, or locations that were initially viable at the start of production are taken off the table suddenly. None of this is a waste of time. A production that stalls or doesn’t go through to post is valuable experience. The role you didn’t get gave you the opportunity to audition and put yourself in front of an agent and director and put yourself on their radar for future projects. The location you had your heart set on that was made unavailable may open the way for a better location.

A few years ago I spoke to a filmmaker whose short was crowdfunding on Kickstarter. With Kickstarter, it’s a case of “all or nothing” for funding, and the campaign didn’t look like it was going to reach 100%. The filmmaker was incredibly positive about things. “OK, we’re not going to get the funding. That’s fine,” he said to me, “but having our crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter meant we were able to gain positive awareness around our campaign, so we’ve got a solid grounding for the next steps”.  He subsequently used the data from the campaign to look at what worked, what didn’t and what they could do in the future to ensure they had a successful campaign.

Currently, I am transitioning from working for myself to potentially joining a new PR team and that has meant sending out a lot of applications and getting in touch with agencies. I’m not worried about rejections, because connecting with agencies is another opportunity to network, and at the very least they are aware of me and what I have been doing as a freelancer. I chose to look at this undertaking as being a positive one, no matter what. Eventually, there will be the right position and it may come from somewhere completely unexpected. You can never underestimate the power of networking- there are times when someone will know of another person who is looking for exactly the skillset you possess and can put you in touch.

So if you receive a rejection e-mail, you don’t get a callback or things go kaput on a production- find the gift in it. There’s always some experience or skill you have gained during the process that can be of use later on, you just have to find it.

*= for those of you who are American, primary school is the equivalent of elementary school.

How To Find A Mentor (And Be A Fabulous Mentoree)

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When I first founded Film Sprites PR, I did everything on my own. I came from having my Bachelors’ degree and my PR certification to building a business from scratch (and almost accidentally!). But the time came when I could no longer learn through doing…I needed some mentoring- I was looking for my Yoda, my Obi-Wan, my Ancient One, my Tony Stark. Thankfully, I didn’t have to go to some far-flung galactic swamp to be taunted by a wrinkled green Muppet to receive the assistance I needed.

No matter what industry you are in, mentoring is a great idea. Having a mentor means you can receive insights and assistance from someone who is removed enough from your situation that they can give you impartial and practical steps to help you step fully into your greatness.

So, how do you find a mentor? Thankfully in the digital age it’s not difficult to find your own Yoda:

1. Business mentoring schemes: research business mentoring schemes in your community. Some business mentoring schemes are free of charge, some charge a small fee and then subsidize the rest of the fee that would be going to the mentor they select for you, based on your goals.

2. People in your industry (or the field you’re interested in entering): chances are, if you’ve been networking (either in person or via social media), you may have identified people who could be valuable mentors. Perhaps they’re working for a company you desire to work for, or they have qualities you want to embody. Whatever initially led you to pinpointing them as a potential mentor- go with it! Be aware, however, that some people are not keen on mentoring and that’s okay. They may be able to refer you to somebody else who could be of assistance, or resources that can help you.

Start networking with these contacts prior to getting in touch via email/LinkedIn message. One of the things I have found in the 5 years I’ve been working in film is that independent filmmakers in particular are quite amenable to having a chat about their work. It’s not always the case, but try it and see.

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3. Virtual mentors: thanks to the digital age we have mentors available everywhere! Chances are, many of us aren’t going to have the chance to kiki with Oprah, David Lynch or Richard Branson, but we have these thought leaders at our fingertips. Seek out books. Listen to podcasts. Glean everything you can from the people in your industry you most admire. When I first started out, I read Kelly Cutrone’s book If You Have To Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You. Recently I’ve been watching Lewis Howes’ The School of Greatness interviews on YouTube while I’m on the elliptical. There are podcasts, books, interviews, audiobooks…the stream of information is astounding and it’s available right now.

Aspiring filmmaker? Set aside some time, pick a filmmaker who inspires you and watch their films. Have a notebook to record anything that strikes you about their aesthetic. Then go and read books, reviews, critical examinations, etcetera. If you really want to go even deeper, seek out academic papers written about their work.

4. Your muses and inspirations are important too! You can learn so much from the people you admire and who spark inspiration in you. If it wasn’t for a massive spark of inspiration, Film Sprites PR may never have existed. What is it about these people you admire? How can you distill lessons from their journeys into lessons for yourself?

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If you’re looking to have a mentor in your life, you’re going to want to be a great mentoree. There’s many people who receive dozens of requests for mentoring every day…so how do you stand out and make them say ‘yes’?

1. Be of value: what value can you offer to your potential mentor? Perhaps you’re a whiz at coding, can assist with social media or have a knack with great graphic design. Let your mentor know the skills you could potentially offer them in exchange for their guidance and assistance.

2. Have a genuine interest in what they do: you would be surprised how many people will seek out advice and assistance from someone in a field they are interested in without actually being interested in the person themselves! Don’t just seek someone out because you think they’ll be a good fit and they do what you would like to do. Find someone whose ethos and personality genuinely inspires you.

3. Observe the basic courtesies: I shouldn’t have to write about this, but unfortunately there are times when people don’t observe basic courtesies when it comes to potential mentors. If they decline, send a follow-up message to thank them for their time. If you do have a mentor, show up to meetings promptly. If you’ve arranged a Skype meeting, for instance, and there is something wrong with the connection that could potentially see you signing on late- get in touch with your mentor via e-mail or Linked In message. If you have a set time period for your mentoring, follow up with a thank-you card and/or gift.

If you’re keen to start the mentoring process, here’s an idea for you this weekend: grab a pen and paper and write down definite steps you are going to take to start the path towards mentoring. Map it all out, down to who you will contact, who you’ve contacted and the date of any follow up messages. Writing it down is better than just keeping it in your head, and that way you can cross off each step as you do it.

No matter where you are on your life path and career journey, there’s a wealth of people and resources out there to help take you to the next step. Best of luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinematic Life Lessons: Rocky

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If you’re passionate about film, you’ll know the power it has to inspire. Film Sprites PR was founded thanks to a flash of cinematic inspiration in the wake of a tragedy, so we know how powerful it is too! We wouldn’t exist without filmmakers and their films.

In addition to bringing you PR and digital marketing hints and tips, we’re going to be sharing a semi-regular feature that examines classic films and the life lessons you can glean from them. Whether you’re a filmmaker, an entrepreneur or a film fan, we’re sure there’s something to inspire you.

We’ll say this in advance to save frustration: SPOILER ALERT! Yes, there will be spoilers. You have been warned. Today we’re examining the Oscar-winning underdog film Rocky.

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The story of the filming of Rocky is an underdog story in and of itself (check out the trivia tidbits on IMDb and you’ll see what I mean). Given the success of the finished film, that’s enough to inspire anyone in their endeavours! Here’s a few lessons you can glean from Rocky, no matter what your ambitions may be:

We all start somewhere: Everyone remembers the iconic scene where Rocky Balboa sprints through Philly and up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum before raising his fists in triumph. But remember the first scene of him attempting to do the same thing? By the time he gets to the top step he’s winded and crouched over. At this point in his training, Rocky’s got the strength (he’s KOed a few guys in his career)…but he doesn’t have the stamina. And that’s exactly what he needs to take on Apollo Creed. Like Rocky himself says to Adrian the night before the fight: “It really don’t matter if this guy opens my head, either. ‘Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.”

So during that first morning of training, Rocky could’ve got to those steps, been hunched over, winded and exhausted and gone: “this is not worth it. I can’t be bothered.” But he didn’t. He kept training. Every single one of us, regardless of who we are and what we’re attempting to do, has to start somewhere. We don’t just pop out of holes in the ground, fully formed as a successful filmmaker/entrepreneur/sportsperson, etc. Here at Film Sprites PR what looked like an overnight success when we first opened in 2014 was just the half of it. Before that time there had been 2 years of training, networking and other things happening behind the scenes before anything could move forward.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re ‘at’ on your path- just start.

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People may underestimate you: people have a tendency to underestimate others, especially if you’re not hefting around a massive amount of awards and/or accolades. But you know your inherent worth, your talent and your value to others. Look at Rocky- he loses his locker at the gym to a younger guy, and even when he’s on the news, brutally pounding on beef carcasses in the frozen meat locker Apollo Creed can’t be bothered watching because he doesn’t consider him a threat. If he had considered him a threat and had watched, he might have been able to avoid the broken ribs he would sustain in the fight; not to mention the wound to his rep because he didn’t KO Rocky like he had with so many other opponents. Rocky was able to take the stones that people threw at him and build a fortress. He trained as if he wasn’t an underdog and he surprised the heck out of people.

It doesn’t matter what people think of you- it’s all about your own belief in your capabilities. If you’re on board with your belief, your talent and worth shines through and that’s when you get people to realise that you’re a champion. Like Mark Twain said: “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

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Value the people who were there for you from day one: remember when it was announced that Rocky would be taking on Apollo Creed, meaning massive exposure and a huge payday for him? All of a sudden, people came out of the woodwork to help him when they wouldn’t before. Adrian’s sleazy brother Paulie is immediately looking for ways to capitalize on Rocky’s “fame”. And then there’s Mickey, who unceremoniously threw Rocky’s things out on “skid row” after 6 years, but then comes to Rocky’s apartment, simpering and showing him faded photographs and newspaper cut-outs of his own glory days. Even though Rocky would take on Mickey as his trainer and cut Paulie some slack with sponsorship on his robe, it shows that there are people who will turn up when they sniff out an opportunity. In fact, they’re probably among the people who underestimated you!

That’s why regardless of your dreams, goals and ambitions you need a rock-solid support team from day one. Fill it with people who know your ability, see your future potential and love you for who you are (and not who you know or what you can get them). Have people in your life who remain separate from your career ambitions, like family. Let’s face it- family doesn’t always understand what you’re doing, but if they’re supportive of you as a whole they’re there whether you are up or down. Seek mentors in your field. Find like-minded friends. Stay true to who you are and don’t be taken in by the false flattery of people who only show support when they see you “winning”.

Have visual reminders of your goals: now, you don’t need to have a vision board of sorts (although you could if you like that process- it’s entirely up to you!), but having some visual reminders of your goals around you serves as a touchstone for when your energy and determination may be flagging. Rocky’s got his wall of reminders too: a poster of Rocky Marciano, a magazine cover with himself on it, etc. Here’s a true story: an acquaintance of mine is married to a successful author who has penned many books (and has now had his book adapted into a film). A long time ago to cheer her husband up, my acquaintance got a special keyring made up for her husband that had the name of his now successful book etched onto it with the words: “New York Times #1 Bestseller” underneath. And yes, he achieved that goal.

Now go forth and be the champion you are.