What does it mean to be a multi-hyphenate? In a literal sense it means a person with a hyphenated profession because they do several roles (ex. Actor-writer, producer-director). But it also means having a lot of late nights and early mornings, sometimes having “coffee at 2a.m. in bed” and wondering what am I doing. It means being master of wearing many hats, filling different roles and owning it. It means “being a mom with one-two many jobs.” It means taking charge and having control of your career- your life. Last night I had the amazing opportunity to attend a Women in Film’s event where I got to hear the multi-hyphenated pros speak about it. As an actress currently working on producing, directing, and writing material myself it was more than encouraging to see the women before me and think YES this is possible, I CAN take charge of my own career and DO it all. For those of you trying to accomplish the same thing here are some notes from last night’s forum and a little about each speaker’s inspiring journey. Forgive me if the details aren’t 100% accurate (I blame the lack of caffeine) but I hope I am able to at least deliver on their overall message.
Shiri Appleby (Actress- Director)- She had several successes in her acting career until one day the phones stopped ringing and she found herself getting depressed. However she decided that just because she wasn’t getting the calls that that wasn’t going to stop her from working on her craft. She started going to the studios and shadowing directors (which ultimately being an extra hand on set landed her a paying job). From doing just that she gained the knowledge and confidence to direct herself and when an opening appeared she stepped in and ended up directing scenes in shows like HBO’s Girls. Now she has started her own production company Apple Tree Productions and is taking on all the roles. She encourages to put in your 10,000 hours of work and shadow if you can! Even though she wasn’t acting she learned through observing other actors audition/work while shadowing the director which became an advantage to her later on.
Wendy Calhoun (Writer-Executive Producer)- Wendy has gone from becoming an expert on writing for “white men with guns” to cowriting/producing diverse, African-American, strong female lead roles on top shows like Empire, Nashville, Revenge, etc. She encourages to really become an expert on something and spoke to how by doing so it will opened up doors for you as it did for her to write the material she was really passionate about. Learning about producing and editing side of things she says has actually bettered her writing because she is able to understand what the producer is looking for and needs from a script, shot list, etc. On writing, she says to “subvert expectations” and is strong about avoiding the “tried and true tropes” that are overdone in film/television.
Jennifer Kim (VP of Original Programming ,TBS)- Jennifer is in an a position of power where she gets to pick and choose the content in which her team gets to work on. She really pushed us as creators to really know your show, instead of coming to the table with one-dimensional characters and a story that kinda goes like this... She says to “find passion projects” or in other words projects you are passionate about. She can always tell when someone has really poured their heart and soul into something which oftentimes makes the story more precious. However being a multi-hyphenate you shouldn’t let the passion project engulf you so much that are not able to be flexible with your work and open to suggestions which is why working on more than one thing can actually be really helpful to staying open minded.
Amy Andelson & Emily Meyer (Writers-Novelists)- This power duo have been BFF’s since high school and together have written the screenplay adaptations for films such as The Great Gatsby and Step Up. In between writing screenplays they work on writing novels together. They say that by doing the two simultaneously helps bring a constant flow of inspiration as each work can inspire one another even though it may seem unrelated.
Moderated by Amy Laslett (Partner/Head of Production, Kids at Play) who did a fine job, there was one thing so clear about all these women in front of me. They were happy and excited about their work. You could see it in all their eyes when they would mention something about an upcoming project they were working on. “You’re not going to be perfect in every role” one woman said. I don’t know why but in that moment I felt a sense of relief hearing that. I personally feel that sometimes my anxiety comes from the fear of letting others down, my work down, myself down whilst trying to achieve all the things I want in my life. I actually think a lot of women put that kind of pressure of themselves trying to balance a career, social, and family life. So if you’re like me I hope it brings you some peace in knowing it’s OKAY you’re not going to be perfect. Now go and get it!