My husband and I were living in Boulder, Colorado where we met. It was 2003 and the tech market had fallen apart a couple of years earlier so I had left my job in high-tech marketing and gone back to school for anything and everything arts related, including theatre, at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Looking back, I think prior to this moment I was suffering from a severe lack of confidence. Thanks to the convergence of many things completely out of my control I found my voice and convinced my husband to leave all of our friends, our first home together and everything we had known for the past 7 years to go on an adventure out to Venice Beach, California.
It was amazing and fresh and exhilarating. And I pretty much fell flat on my face as a 30-year-old trying to navigate the industry. I did all the wrong things, including getting pregnant only a few months after landing my first agent! Of course, we were happy to be pregnant, and nervous and excited! But if you are trying to have an acting career being pregnant is NOT an advantage.
I usually come at things with a positive attitude, so I thought maybe it would be good luck or put me in a small category of pregnant women and I’d finally get a great role. But I found it was not desirable to hire a woman was actually pregnant. We were an insurance hazard for one. Secondly, they want a perfectly skinny person except for an incredibly obvious baby bump, the kind you only really have at around 8 months. Pregnant women have a very short window for working unless you’re already an established actress on a show. So, I had to do something. I just couldn’t be out of work for a year.
If you’re following along in this series you know I like to think of you, reader, as an unstoppable female Bond-style agent and I’m here to stock your arsenal with secret weapons. Here’s your second one: a team of motivated and like-minded individuals that have your back.
For me it was Group 101 Films. It met all my requirements:
- Reasonable time commitment – They met once a month
- Passionate – Their motto was “Get off your A$$”
- Open to “older” members – No age restrictions
- Convenient -They set up the sub-groups based on your location, so the meetings were never more than a 5-15-minute drive
- Supportive – They made it easy to collaborate, get feedback and improve.
So, there I was, pregnant for the first time and enrolled in a 6-month program that would wrap up around my due date. We met monthly with our team to watch each other’s projects and hear constructive criticism. The biggest impact this collection of people had on me was their ability to show up at the end of each month with a finished short (5 min or less) to share. Everyone had their own struggles to overcome, work, family issues, money, car trouble, fear, the need to pee every 10 minutes, but they showed up!
At the end of that amazing and often difficult journey I had completed 6 short films. Me, a 30-year-old first time filmmaker from the Midwest had finished 6 shorts and I was growing a human inside me! Having that support group and that deadline really pushed me to finish on time. I did so many things way out of my comfort zone and I really grew as a person.
When I joined Group 101 films the kick-off meeting included everyone from every area. It would be the only time we would all be together in the same room until mini-film fest at the Egyptian Theatre. I think there were around 130 people and at that meeting. I remember one of the organizers speaking about the importance of “Getting It Done, No Excuses.” She drove home the idea that every person could have a million reasons to not finish, but in this group that was not an option. She stressed the resilience, positive attitude and a bit of stubborn determination it takes to complete anything worth doing.
The message really stuck with me and it’s how I decide where I’m spending my time. I check in with myself to see how committed I am and once I’m sure that I’m ALL IN, I only bring in other professionals who have set high standards for themselves and won’t let anything side-track them either.
It was hard keeping that pace for 6 months. I was physically exhausted from working my day job, the baby was literally using any extra energy. I was mentally wiped out from balancing home life and my husband’s expectations. I was broke and each film project cost money. Plus, we had none of the furniture and accessories that are required of parenthood. Overcoming these challenges made me love it even more.
I hope that if you are pregnant, adjusting to life with your first child, or years into parenting, you get inspired by this story. So, surround yourself with a team of positive persistent people who expect amazing results. Life is full of obstacles but with the right people on your team overcoming the barriers can lead to some pretty amazing results.
Unfortunately, Group 101 Films isn’t in existence anymore but there are even more organizations now that are easy to find with websites like Stage 32 and Meetup.org, and all the social media sites aimed at women in the industry.
Start with this list of fabulous groups to start building your industry family.
- F.E.M. Females In Entertainment and Media
- Film Fatales filmfatales.org
- Film Powered filmpowered.com
- Lady Filmmakers ladyfilmmakers.org
- New York Women in Film and TV nywift.org
- Stunt Women stuntwomen.com
- Women In Comedy womenincomedy.org
- Women In Film womeninfilm.org
- *Camp Reel Stories campreelstories.com
- For 18 and younger