The production industry is full of hard-working, super talented individuals who all have a hand in creating some of the most spectacular productions - from film and television, to live events and corporate video - and even more. And some of those individuals are incredibly driven, successful women. We have chosen five hard-working women in the production industry that lend their success secrets, tips and encouragement to other women who are striving to achieve greatness.
Heidi McLean - Crew Connection and PayReel's founder
Everyone can see opportunities, but successful people act on them. With a 2-year-old, a newborn, and a home under construction, Heidi McLean had every reason not to fill the need she saw in her world. But instead of making excuses, she went for it—starting a business that connected the film crews she knew from her freelance news work with the companies that needed them. Crew Connection started with just Heidi, incorporated a month later and hired its first employee within a year. Crew Connection and PayReel (its sister company) now employ over a dozen full-time people between them and consistently rank among the top Colorado Companies to Watch.
A few decades’ worth of experience provide some great tips for anyone looking to grow personally or professionally:
1) Be persistent
If it seems overwhelming at first and at many points after, that’s because it is. Take small steps. It doesn’t matter if you’re moving slowly, just as long as you’re moving forward.
2) Be Flexible
Sometimes progress is painfully slow, and sometimes growth happens so fast you have to scramble to keep up. Every stage of life and business brings its own challenges (which Heidi sees as opportunities). The sooner you accept that there will be endless challenges, the better. Just grow with it.
3) Be Willing to Evolve
The minute you settle for what is, you get behind and lose the joy of pursuing what could be. Crew Connection couldn’t get too comfortable operating with the phone lines and fax machines of its inception. With the launch of CrewCloud—which offers customizable online crewing—the business has evolved for the digital age. Being industry pioneers is hard, but a lot of fun.
4) Surround yourself with the right team
The luxury of being able to shut up is a direct result of being surrounded by advisors and team members who are smarter than you and whose strengths function well together.
5) Attitude is the ultimate trump card
For team dynamics, attitude trumps everything. If you have to choose between working with someone inexperienced with a positive outlook or one with all the training, but a sour demeanor, the choice is easy. You can develop skills, but a bad attitude is like poison—deadly and difficult to remove. Once it’s in the system, things go downhill fast.
PayReel’s clients, who are some of the biggest companies in the world, are constantly immersed in the chaos of producing multimedia content or executing live events. PayReel makes sure they have the right contractors at the right time in the right place, and that everyone gets paid properly. And, most importantly, they handle every last detail perfectly while making sure their clients think nothing of it, so they can get back to doing what they do best.
About Crew Connection:
Crew Connection connects you with video production crews across the country and around the globe. With more than 25 years of experience and thousands of shoots with film crew pros to our credit, you can trust our expert coordinators to match you with the right freelance video crew and equipment—every time.
Barb Balents, Director of Engineering - Maya, Autodesk
With a keen eye to the future, Autodesk Director of Engineering Barb Balents leads a team of technologists developing Autodesk Maya 3D animation software. A strong proponent of employee engagement, she holds regular hackathons, encouraging her team to delve beneath the surface to uncover and realize innovative software improvements – from automatic skeleton placement to advanced hair manipulation techniques.
Drawing upon an extensive background in computer graphics, an MIT Master’s degree in robotics and a 21-year history of working with distributed teams, Barb champions strong technical talent to work collaboratively. Her team admires her steadfast commitment to delivering Maya updates that make the software easier to use, allowing artists tackle the toughest animation challenges. In 2016, she’ll be guiding her team in addressing the needs of creatives looking to develop efficient workflows for AR and VR content creation.
Barb’s first foray into computer graphics was focused on Computer-Aided Design (CAD), working on a joint software project with MIT and Ford Motor Company for automotive body panel design. But when she moved to California, she became hooked on the visual effects industry. At Boss Studios, she debugged Wavefront’s Kinemation software during the making of the cult sci-fi film “Species” to enable the skinning technology used for the animation of “Sil,” an alien creature designed by H.R. Giger. In 1995, Wavefront merged with Alias during the SGI acquisition, and Barb became involved with early alpha versions of what would become Maya 3D modeling and animation software. The software received an Oscar for Technical Achievement in 2003, and has been used in virtually every film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects – with this year no exception. Barb joined Autodesk when Maya was acquired by the company in 2005.
Having balanced both a family and career in a largely male-dominated field, Barb would impart the following words of wisdom to women in the industry or those looking to break into the industry: do what you love, pay attention to new technology trends and aim to be a leader in your field. Challenge your team and collaborators to create something that your clients will love, because at the end of the day, it’s all about making them happy. And of course, if you have an opportunity to meet and mentor women in your area, make the most of it.
Kirsten Johnson - Award-winning Documentary Cinematographer & Filmmaker
PH: How did you get into this business?
KJ: After spending almost 2 years living in Dakar, Senegal post college because of my interest in the work of West African filmmakers like Ousmane Sembene and Djbril Diop Mambetty, I applied to the cinematography department of La FEMIS, the French National Film School and miraculously got in. I was the first American student to attend the school. My first work as a cinematographer happened while I was still at film school - Amy Ziering, who is a beloved collaborator to this day, hired me to film Jacques Derrida.
PH: What challenges/setbacks did you face in order to be the success you are today?
KJ: I have always loved this work and felt the incredible honor of being allowed into the lives and worlds of many different people. It has always been challenging to work as a freelancer - to never know when the next job or paycheck will arrive. I have lived hand to mouth, with financial back-up from my family in lean times for decades. I have long acknowledged how such back-up is part of why I have been able to make some of the adventurous and risky choices I have. Your support system/your identity/your hopes are all a part of what makes the work possible and simultaneously incredibly difficult in different measure for each person. I think it is important to be transparent about what enables our success and to also look lucidly at what holds us back (whether it's external or internal) - this a part of the challenge facing every person trying to find the way to make meaningful work.
PH: Can you name some of your accolades/awards you've received?
KJ: I am the most proud just to have met and filmed with people who have managed to stay gentle and open despite living some of the worst this world has to offer. There is evidence of these people in so many of the films I've worked on.
When it comes to honors, I am proud to have been a cinematographer and co-producer on the Oscar-winning Citizen Four, the Sundance Cinematography Award for The Oath I shared with Laura Poitras and having filmed Leymah Gbowee who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize after Gini Reticker and Abby Disney made Pray the Devil Back to Hell. Full Frame will soon be honoring my most recent film, Cameraperson and screening a collection of films I've shot, which means so much to me.
PH: What advice do you have for women aspiring to be in your position one day?
KJ: Own it! You can do this work. It may be that only other women will hire you, it may be that people underestimate your capacities, it may be that you are filled with doubt about what your future will look like (How will I learn to do what I have no idea how to do? How will I earn money? Do I want children? And if I do, how in the world can I balance this work and motherhood? How will I ever make something as remarkable as that thing I love and admire so much? etc.) All of those may be realities you face. The more we can understand the landscape, the more we can be nimble, bold, and generous.
PH: When did you have your first big break/success?
KJ: When Deadline (a film I co-directed with Katy Chevigny that we made with a small group of people and very little money) about wrongful convictions and the death penalty screened to an audience of 6 million people on NBC.
PH: How do you stay grounded, focused and remain successful today?
KJ: Enjoy the people you work with, keep looking for your own blindspots, love the world, struggle against what is cruel and unfair, be kind to yourself, be brave.
Rebecca Hodges - Producer/Director/Editor at Ideas
Below, Rebecca explains how she got into the industry, what accomplishments she's had, and her tips for success.
Rebecca is a Producer/Director/Editor who works on a variety of projects including corporate videos, PSAs, commercials and independent films. She is part of the production team at IDEAS located in downtown Orlando. Not only does she work with a diverse group of clients but she serves as the go-to person for the IDEAS Studio when it comes to documenting the many different projects within the building. Aside from her production duties she is also in charge of training Post-Production Interns, managing the tape vault, authoring DVDs, running the machine room, and transcribing/closed captioning HD programs for network delivery. Rebecca has co-written one feature film, is currently working on her second screenplay and is producing, directing, and editing a feature documentary.
Patty Mooney - Crystal Pyramid Productions
Written by Mark Schulze
Patty is an expert at SEO, social media marketing, and networking online and in person. She maintains our blogs “Diary of a San Diego Video Crew” and “World Traveler Reviews” as well as our presence on Pinterest, Twitter and Google+. Clients find us on search engines, where we rank on the first page in our selected keyword search terms.
Patty is our marketing maven who has secured many awards for us over the last three decades, including several Tellys, CINDYs, Pegasus Awards, Top 100 Producer Awards, Aurora Awards, and international recognition for our production and editing skills.
Patty has also garnered awards as a TWIN (Tribute to Women in Industry) recipient, the inaugural Heilbron Award in 2011, and was honored as one of San Diego Magazine’s 2011 “Women Who Move the City.” We are the proud recipients of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce's "Small Business Award for Most Innovative Company" for 2013.
Patty Mooney is a woman who exemplifies determination, perseverance and innovation through her career. In the early 1980's when we became partners at the company I’d started in 1981, Crystal Pyramid Productions, I taught her what I knew about video production and editing. She has far surpassed my abilities in the editing realm, having earned many honors for her work, much of which focuses on philanthropy. For instance, Patty spent almost every free night and weekend in 2008 editing a 43-minute multiple-award-winning documentary, "The Invisible Ones: Homeless Combat Veterans," which shed a bright light on the topic of homeless veterans, and which we produced pro bono, to help many non-profit groups that help the homeless, primarily the Veterans Village of San Diego.
Patty has also produced and edited pieces for free or at substantial discounts for groups including Girls Think Tank, Y-Me National Breast Cancer Association, MLK Parade Committee and San Diego Earth Day.
She has executive-produced a number of social documentaries in the past few years (on her own “dime”) including “My Choice” about the March for Women’s Lives of 2004, “Small Acts of Kindness” (a day in the life of San Diego homeless) and “Peace Out San Diego,” a music video on peace marches and vigils of San Diego. All proceeds from sales of these videos go to peace and women’s nonprofit organizations.
Throughout 2012, Patty was pivotal in a community movement called “Save Mission Trails” to prevent a fossil-fuel-burning power plant that would have added 200 tons of particulates to our air, not to mention a structure with ten 100-foot towers alongside Mission Trails Regional Park. This power plant would have been visible from nearly every scenic vista point within the park, and from the banks of Lake Kumeyaay. Patty and I attended and spoke out at City Planning Commission meetings, San Diego City Council meetings and finally a pivotal CPUC meeting during which the commissioners said “No” to the Cogentrix power plant. Patty, who is more comfortable behind a video camera than in front of one, even appeared on a couple of newscasts to explain how a power plant on top of a beloved San Diego recreational area was not at all a good idea.
Patty is a poet and writer who can type 120 wpm. Because of her fleet fingers, she's gotten us lots of press in publications ranging from the LA Times to Post Magazine. If you go to our website or blog, you will see many of these press stories. She has also given us a huge presence on YouTube and Vimeo with over 200 videos that we have shot and produced.
These are all linked to our websites and help bring much traffic in which translates to being number one in SEO in our selected keyword search terms. Patty’s work has inspired others into embracing the lifestyle of an entrepreneur without fear and trepidation. Patty’s optimistic nature and pleasing personality enhance every encounter. Just by being herself, she inspires others. She is a producer for Inside Edition, Extra and Entertainment Tonight. She also acts as producer, sound technician, teleprompter operator and/or editor for corporate clients.
Patty has always believed that one person can indeed make a difference, and practices this philosophy every day.