Producing in Portland: the #1 Rule, plus a few more



Can I say how excited I am to be a new contributor to Ms. in the Biz? Well, I‘m thoroughly stoked. Jazzed enough that I want to color all of my walls Jazzberry Jam, the closest thing to the iconic Ms. in the Biz pink that Crayola offers.

Now that I’ve already divulged too much of my inner monologue to you this early in the game, let me quickly tell you a little about myself so that you don’t think I am just a crazy woman with a Crayola obsession. I am, but I prefer you settle on that in your own time and choose to look at it as endearing and not that I need professional help.

I’ve been a Producer and Actress in Portland, Oregon for a long time and just recently made my way to Los Angeles for a couple of projects. So far, so good, I have met wonderful people, made lasting connections and found some fabulous films that I’ll be working on over the next year both in Portland and L.A.. But, the more time I spend in L.A., the more I realize that some of the basic things that created success in Portland stand true no matter where you’re working, and really, no matter what your job in the industry is.

1.  The #1 Rule

Some also call this the Golden Rule. I am NOT religious. I do not go to any type of church – ever. However, the idea treating others how you want to be treated is more universal than any religion I’ve ever seen. And, in my opinion it is just good business practice. Word gets around fast in a small market, and the second you mistreat someone, don’t pay someone, or fail to meet the basic standards of a respectable film set – you can expect everyone in the industry to know in approximately 48 hours (I call this, creatively, the 48 hour rule). As soon as it happens on set, the game of phone begins (of course via text, because film crews are smart, socially adept people) and one text leads to many, all with your name or project as identified as the culprit. And that, my friends, is not fun – for anyone.

2. Put Down the Matches, Don’t Burn Bridges

Pretty Portland bridge photo by Philip Anderson

If you follow the #1 rule, you won’t need this rule, but hey, we all make mistakes. When you are in a smaller market like Portland, Seattle, New Orleans, etc, burning bridges can isolate you quicker than you can spell Jumanji (which I heard was really good btw). If you happen to make a mistake, or weirdness has crept into a collaboration, the best thing you can do is address it immediately and make it right. Of course, we all secretly enjoy watching the fiery speed at which some people wreck their professional relationships – you know those moments – when you plop down to watch the comments on social media pour in. That seems like a pretty indisputable thing to avoid, however, ignoring small problems can be just as damaging. When we let the little things build up, the bridge is just burning at a slower, smoldering pace until it is nothing but ash. And you can’t construct a new bridge out of ash.

3. Cockiness is Not Becoming

He's a dog walker now.

This is a true story*.  There was this guy, of the grip-ish type. He had recently finished film school and felt that gave him a lot of knowledge and experience. He talked his way into a job on a large car commercial as the key grip. When it quickly become obvious he was incapable of leading a crew, keeping the rigs safe and just generally lacked the skills needed for the production, he was fired on the first day. Not only was he humiliated and suffered the wrath of the 48 hour rule, but he also ruined future jobs for other people in the industry. Now, the Producers from out of town believed that that this guy was what all key grips in Portland were like. Next time, they brought their own. And, I think he is a dog walker now. Know your skill level, don’t lie about your abilities and work hard to get better at what you love.

*In the way that movies are a true story, all the names, places and every detail imaginable have been changed, except for the one grain of truth worth keeping around. 😋

4. Karma is a Bitch

If you treat people like shit – IT WILL EVENTUALLY COME BACK AROUND. When you’re in a small market, everyone knows everyone. If you fail at rules #1, 2, or 3, you will likely suffer multiple rounds of karma. The first will come quick like the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones. The second, slower like the death of Princess Shireen Baratheon (again, from Game of Thrones). And the third, even slower but larger, like fighting the army of White Walkers (can you tell I love that show?). The point is, even when you think your choices won’t affect you later, they will. That person you wronged isn’t going to go away, they will still be working with all of the same people you are working with. They will eventually meet everyone else you know and likely, talk about their experience working with you.

5. Be Who Your Mom Wants You To Be

It all comes down to this – just be a fucking good person. It’ll get you a lot farther than trying to be sneaky, snakey or just a dick to get what you want. I promise. Of course, we all make mistakes, but own up to them and try to make them right. When people trust you, they trust your work and they tell others how awesome you are. Isn’t that what we all want?