Finding a Mentor


Lately, there have been discussions in various Entertainment Industry groups to which I belong about finding a mentor.

So here are my Top Tips:

– What do you want in a mentor?

Think about it. Do their specialties have to fit your occupation perfectly? I am a Line Producer/Producer. My mentors, Neema Barnette and Bill Duke, are primarily directors. That didn’t matter to me as much as they are above-the-line working professionals with years of experience in the Entertainment Industry.

Also, as a woman of color, making my way in Hollywood takes on added stress. Stereotypes abound and sometimes it gets under my skin, my dark skin. I needed to find those that understand my personal obstacles traversing Hollywood.

photo 1
Director Neema Barnette

– How good are you?

Be honest with yourself. What do you bring to that relationship? What do you bring to the table? I get it, you want a mentor, but do you deserve one? What are the qualities that you possess that would attract a noted mentor to you? Think about your strengths and weaknesses.

– Where can you meet Mentors?

I met both of my mentors at film festivals. Neema, I actually re-met at Sundance. My mother had catered a short film directed by her husband years ago. I started the conversation by reminding her of that and we went from there. I met Bill at the Pan African Film Festival. I was a Juror and we had a mutual friend. He actually quizzed me about running a production. I guess I passed because we started working together and still do. Go where you can meet artists who are making a living in your field.

Photo #2
Biil Duke and Cheryl Bedford at the Toronto International Film Festival for “Dark Girls”

– Be observant.

Stop. Now look around you. I have never sought a mentor. These were people I just clicked with for whatever reasons. Our personalities just meshed. Neema and Bill are both teachers and have taught at various film schools. So when they started talking, I just shut up and listened. Be open to those that may already be in your life who are always imparting wisdom. Sometimes they don’t even know it. It is just a natural part of many mentors to teach and inspire.

– Remember.

Finding a good match for a mentor can’t be forced. Like friendships, it happens naturally and organically. And after finding a good mentor, know what you want to talk about when you meet. Often, mentors have full schedules. So if you need time, let them know it and why. Occasionally, I have asked for a bitch session. Sometimes you just need to vent and maybe have a glass of wine or two. The wine is always on me. Professionals in the business know how frustrating filmmaking can be, just be honest.

– Lastly.

Don’t think you are ever too old to find a mentor. I met Bill later in my career and he has been as invaluable as Neema whom I met years earlier. It’s funny because Neema tells me that I don’t need her anymore. Not true, I’ll always need her. You are never too old to learn.

If you have not guessed it yet, this blog is dedicated to my Entertainment Mentors: Neema Barnette and Bill Duke. I hope I continue to make them proud and pay it forward.

Unit Next month… Seize the Day!