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Spotlight Interview: Lisa Hennessy – Emmy Nominated Executive Producer

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Lisa Hennessy

Lisa Hennessy

Hello Lisa. I must first say, I admire your career, and adore you as a person. It is an honor for me to interview you. Thank you very much for taking your time to answer some of my questions.

Tell me a little bit about how you got involved in reality television.

The truth is that it takes a lot of hard work to have a dream career and achieve your goals; it doesn’t happen overnight and you have to be willing to make some mistakes along the way. My first job out of college was working for Waste Management in Chicago.  Part of the training was driving shotgun in a garbage truck to literally learn the ins and outs of the industry. Needless to say, it was immediately apparent this was the wrong match and I headed west to California where more exciting opportunities were waiting.

I quickly learned of a project that included sports, TV, adventure and travel – four things I was very passionate about.  For six months, I persistently called the company until I got an interview.  That interview was with Mark Burnett (before he became THE Mark Burnett, Emmy-winning producer who was named one of TIME Magazine’s most influential people in the world).  In the beginning, I worked for very little money on an adventure race TV project he created called Eco-Challenge.  That turned out to be the best decision I ever made. From there I went on to produce thousands of hours of TV all around the world.

You worked on Survivor, correct? What was that experience like? Survivor really paved the way for a new kind of entertainment platform. Did you know you were on the forefront of creating the future of Television?

I helped launch Survivor. In 2000 we had no idea the impact it would have. We were just young and having a blast producing TV around the world.

What has been your biggest challenge to date as a producer in the reality entertainment world?

There are so many challenges – figuring out solutions is one of the key skills a producer needs. Sometimes it’s trying to figure how to feed 100s of people in the middle of Morocco or sometimes it’s dealing with talent. Every show has its own unique challenges.

I have heard you were the first show runner for reality television? If this is true, first off congratulations, what an exciting career achievement to be the first in something. Was that something you thought about going into that position?

I was ONE of the first. I started with Burnett in 1995. By 2000 I was running the adventure series Eco-Challenge. I was 30.

You just launched a new project called “DreamJobbing”, how did this project come to life, and what made you decide to create it? What has been your dream job?

My experience was in running multiple hit shows that pushed ordinary people beyond their limits. My co-founder Burton Roberts, an adventure traveler, traded his MBA for an office spanning the oceans to the base camp of Everest. My other co-founder Alex Boylan literally reinvented global travel as a career destination. We all knew that the life we had lived could never be found on a website, job board, or social network….so we created one. We combined all of our skills we’d acquired through years of entrepreneurial ventures, technology, and TV production, and created a true multi-platform concept that connects people all over the world with the opportunity to land their DreamJob.

DreamJobbing is an opportunity platform inspiring people from around the world to change their story. Videos resumes really are the 2015 version of a cover letter.

I’ve always had a dream job but now I get a chance to pay it forward and help create those opportunities for others around the world.

Many of the readers of Ms. In The Biz are females, what advice would you give to women in the industry trying to break into a very competitive male driven industry?

Firstly, I don’t think it’s a male driven industry. Talent is talent. If you work hard and are good at your job, you will do well.

For me it’s been an amazing ride, with many successes and a few failures along the way.  Many former mentees who were aspiring producers at the time are now executive producing their own TV shows.  I often go back to the same key pieces of advice when connecting with my mentees:

  • Follow your passion. If you love what you do; it won’t feel like “work.”  If you take a job for the money alone, you are doing the wrong job.
  • Be persistent in getting the job you want.  As mentioned before, persistency got me in the door.  Once in, I’ve never left.
  • Realize this isn’t a dress rehearsal.  We have one life. Make it count.  Don’t put your dreams on hold.  Take charge today and no one knows what tomorrow will bring.
  • Learn from your mistakes.  It’s falling down that makes you stronger and ready for the next time.
  • Be happy and smile.  People like to be around happy people.
  • Write things down.  Make lists.  I never hire anyone who doesn’t make to-do lists.  No one is smart enough to remember everything.   Make sure you check things off daily, personally and professionally.
  • Most importantly: TRAVEL.  Explore the world and get outside of your comfort zone. You might be really surprised what you find unexpectedly.

Alexandra Boylan

 

 

 

 

 

– Alexandra Boylan

Alexandra Boylan

About Alexandra Boylan

Alexandra Boylan (Producer, Writer, Actor, Co-Founder Mustard Seed Entertainment and Mirror Tree Productions) Alexandra is an award-winning filmmaker. MirrorTree Productions, has produced numerous feature films, including "Home Sweet Home" and "At Your Own Risk". Her company Mustard Seed Entertainment's film "Catching Faith" had a two year run on Netflix and was on the shelves of Wal-Mart. Her most recent film "Wish For Christmas" sold to Pure Flix Entertainment and Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Alexandra’s script "Switched" was awarded the winner of the Kiaros Pro MovieGuide award for best screenplay. She is the author of "Create Your Own Career in Hollywood: Advice from a struggling actress who became a successful producer" available in Kindle and print on Amazon, and is an active member of Woman in Film Los Angeles where she served on the WIF PSA Board. Alexandra co-collaborated on the book "Thriving in Hollywood!" for msinthebiz.com