High-RISE steps to confidence

Walking in Central London this week I spotted a balcony near the top of a high-rise block of flats. Against a monotone backdrop was a row of hand painted flowerpots hanging one by one along the rail. There was a show of confidence in those bright spots of creativity giving a flourish to the day.

Flourish of Confidence

Flourish of Confidence

The theme was to continue. I was on my way to Northern Media’s RISE scheme, where six of us women filmmakers had gathered for a two day bonanza of creative and vivid input from a selected group of industry professionals including Film Producer Andrea Cornwall, Celine Haddad Senior Film Executive for Creative England and Film Distribution expert Julia Short.

We were here to pitch our projects and get a sense of how they would sit in the thoroughfare of global film production, release and distribution. It was a daunting prospect. But this was our chance to find our distinctive voices and learn to give punch to our pitch. After all, we’re going to expend a lot of passion on our projects, so they’d better be what cinema punters want in return for their hard earned cash.

We had to open ourselves up to understanding the nuts and bolts of what works, either critically or commercially. We had to define mood, tone, genre, target audience, references for comparable films, budget range and create a title that does what it says on the tin. Armed with that accumulated knowledge we were eventually able to nail that elusive 25-30 word pitch.

But there’s another ingredient we realised we needed to add to the mix. We need to talk with courage and conviction about our work; stand behind it, be passionate about it. We must be our projects’ indomitable champions. As women we fear appearing arrogant, but we must be bold if we are to compete in this industry.

600 films get released a year so if our projects are to have the remotest chance of being financed, produced, released, seen, and make their money back we must stand up and be counted. If it is confidence that makes the difference then so be it. We women will do whatever it takes to RISE up to hi-five success.

RISE: Northern Film & Media scheme supported by Creative Skillset’s Skills Fund and in partnership with Women in Film & Television and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

The Third Way- the art of negotiation

Every morning I’m woken by the squawking of ducks, swans and geese fighting over territories. It’s usually a right old barney and isn’t over until one side is chased away by the other. Fortunately as humans we have the choice to find another way.

birds squawk  in nature's non-negotiation- We listen to understand

birds squawk
in nature’s non-negotiation-
We listen to understand

No matter how much we create strong boundaries or build a positive mind-set there are always times when we come into conflict with someone we can’t walk away from. It forces us into a position where we must learn to negotiate. Global Peace Processes are necessarily defined by negotiation. But how do we learn the art of peaceful settlement in our personal and business lives?

By the nature of conflict both sides feel rattled with neither willing to back down. Each feels they are right and the other is wrong. But this rigid thinking allows for no movement or progress. It certainly doesn’t lay the groundwork for reconciliation. In fact the first step is not with the other side but within our selves. The first battle is with our own ego. We are most likely in a place of anger, resentment and feeling hard done by. We may feel emotionally hurt or misunderstood, unfairly criticized or judged. So how do we step aside from our ego, thoughts and feelings in order to place ourselves squarely before our ‘enemy’ in the spirit of bridging the divide and resolving the conflict? First we must know that as humans we have a gap in our minds that occurs between stimulus/assault and response. This space is filled with choice. We can choose to launch a counter-attack or we can choose to pause, reflect and move forward carefully with healing as our goal.

If we choose reflection then we can use that space to look at our values. Do they include peace, tranquility, love, understanding, connection, friendship? If we understand our core values then we can plan our next steps not only with integrity for who we are but with an open mind to the core values of others. We must also know our limits, our healthy boundaries that keep our values protected. If not allowing other people’s anger to intimidate you is one of your boundaries you will need to create a place of negotiation that keeps you safe from that intimidation. Now you are ready to open up the space for negotiation. Your role, as you stand before your ‘opposition’ is to extend the hand of trust. You must make it clear that you will listen deeply to their view, feelings, hurts and you will seek to understand their position. But equally you must express your wish for them to listen and seek to understand yours. When you listen, it is not just hearing their words, it is looking more deeply at the meaning behind. What are they really saying and how can you help them to feel better about the underlying issues?

This is not the time to take what they are saying personally, even if it sounds like they are attacking you again. Ignore the sound of accusation and search for the layers of needs that aren’t being met. Listen and repeat what they are saying so that they know you are hearing them correctly. Ask questions that take you to deeper level of understanding. People want to be heard and when they feel they are being listened to, they become less defensive, their guard starts to come down and they will begin to be ready to hear what you have to say. When it is your turn to share your view, ensure that you remove all accusations and concentrate purely on how ‘we’ can find a solution so that everyone’s needs may be met. It will be a two-way rotation of listening, understanding and acknowledging until the gap between you closes and the emotions subside.

It is in this space that both minds will open up to the creative process, and forward thinking and positive solutions will emerge. Practical steps will reveal themselves and together you can make a plan for embracing a new way that allows both of you to feel like winners. A successful negotiation is not one winning over the other, nor one appeasing the other or a compromise in which neither feels satisfied. It is a third way in which everyone feels understood, their values respected and their needs met.

10 Principles of Creative Negotiation

  1. Remove the ego from the equation
  2. Work from your core values
  3. Put healthy boundaries in place
  4. Find common areas of mutual interest
  5. Listen and seek to understand
  6. Respect given is likely to be to be reciprocated
  7. Be assertive not aggressive
  8. Engage fully with each other
  9. Discuss how ‘we’ might find a solution
  10. Keep your eye on the end result: finding what works for both parties

Dreaming Big

Every Coconut has a Silver Lining

Conversations with Creatives at the Top: Jonathan Newman

jonathan picedit copy

Last week I started the first in a series of interviews for my book Creative Ways to the Top. I talked to Jonathan Newman about Dreaming Big and for him big is Big.

Born in Britain, he grew up in LA and from an early age he was interested in film. He didn’t want to be a spoke on someone else’s wheel, he wanted to be a Film Director. Lots of people have big dreams but they don’t chase them, or they get knocked back by the pitfalls and brick walls they come across. Jonathan has had his fair share of doors slamming in his face but he takes every failure on the chin, grieves the loss then picks himself up and takes action. He made three shorts Foster, Finkel and Father’s Day all of which won awards around the world. He made a mad phone call to British Telecom having seen they were just getting into media and asked for £10,000 to make a feature film. Luck was on his side, they were looking for content for something they were creating called Broadband. Good timing, luck yes but he took action. He picked up the phone and made that call. He says the film wasn’t great but everything he was doing attracted the attention of a film producer and he made two feature films (Budget £2million each) back to back. Jonathan believes it takes the chemistry of talent, luck and action working in synergy to make things happen.

But in the film industry he says you never get the moment when you feel you’ve made it, when you can sit back on your laurels. Some doors slam, some open, some people hate your work and some love it. “It’s not the rejections that kill you, it’s the hope, the dangling carrot- people saying ‘I love it’ then it fizzling out”. Ultimately though, he believes that nothing people say is real, opinions are just that, opinions. In any case he fought on towards his dream and made The Adventurer- the Curse of the Midas Touch at a budget of £25 million, and it sold worldwide. But in between was the waiting, the constant attempts to develop projects and more false starts. Being Jonathan he found a way to combat those soul-destroying times by starting a business on the side in 2011.

He went into coconuts, raised money, developed his products and slowly built his business. He made mistakes, lost contracts, learned from his failures and took more action. In four years he took www.chilondon.com to a multi-million pound company. He says he was a workaholic but somewhere along the way he realised that no amount of material possessions gives you a balanced life and he took stock. He learned everything he could from self-improvement books and instructors and he re-calibrated. He started to get healthy, eat properly, go to the gym 5 times a week, be there and present for his family at the weekends and take his kids to school on weekdays and put them to bed at night. And he continues to Dream Big. He joined up with www.drop4drop.com to bring water to villages in India and last year they built their first well. This year they have plans to build six wells. He says, if you’ve been able to make money at what you do then that’s your chance to give back.

And creatively he goes from strength to strength too. He has just signed a deal to produce a biopic feature film he wrote about Roald Dahl which he will be making with an American independent production company and fully financed by a British company. But he never takes anything for granted, he never leaves for tomorrow what he can do today and he uses his time efficiently and productively. He has learned to put his ego aside and be prepared to learn from those who can help him improve. He takes every failure as a stepping stone to success and he finds a silver lining in every coconut.

The full interview is available as part of Lou’s book “Creative Ways to the Top”. Follow the book as it’s being written:  www.createlabcoaching.com

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In the Red?

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We all procrastinate, but is your Procrastometer sliding into the red and stopping you moving forward? Break through the block and get into the black. 

No more procrastinating

No more procrastinating

Every year for years, I would stick our photos into an album.  As a family we would pour over the good times, re-celebrate the highlights and neatly forget the duff stuff. Who wants to remember that anyway?

But with digital we started taking tons more photos than we used to and random e-folders of holiday pics, birthdays, parties, selfies, mad stuff, beautiful stuff and Special Stuff now jostled for space on the hard-drive. Of course the intention was still there: at the end of the year, make an e-book. What’s not to like? Our own hard-backed glossy coffee table book of all the good stuff of family life. Once I’d organised those folders it would be a piece of cake, upload the pics and Bob’s your uncle.

But could I get round to it? A year went by, then two and all of a sudden it was coming up for five years! Now, I’m normally pretty good at knuckling down to something, but here I’d hit a massive wall. On my Procrastometer I’d gone so far into the red the needle was bending. I told myself, how wonderful it would be to look back on all those years, how important it was for my children to have it, how when I’m old and forgetful I’d be able to reminisce on how wonderful life was back then.

But could I get myself to do it. Nope. I absolutely could not get my butt into gear. Fortunately I was training Coaching Students with Carole Ann and her Pure Coaching Academy and we were focusing on Procrastination one week. The students were going to coach us for practice and they asked me if I had something I was procrastinating on. Didn’t I just! Such is the power of coaching that after 15 minutes they’d broken the doomed project down into manageable chunks and helped me create a vision for moving forward. Having someone hold up a mirror to my dilly-dallying did the trick.

That weekend I made a start. Little by little sorting through the folders, selecting pictures. Over the following weeks I moved them into the book creation software and gradually it began to take shape. 440 12 inch square pages crammed with all my favourite images. It took four months doing it in any bit of spare time, and this week the massive tome arrived in the post.

It’s glorious in it’s completion! Pages and pages of fabulous and colourful images. I compared it to my Vision Scrapbook I started 8 years ago, made from torn out magazines images and phrases of my dreams, goals, wishes and desires. Looking in my family album I see how many of those dreams became a reality- travel, film awards, happy family time, special moments with my grannie in her final year, the allotment we have created from scratch.

As a coach I know that procrastination does us no good but here was proof of all the good reasons to get on with stuff. It’s never too late to get started, just make that first step. It’ll be worth it for how good it makes you feel and we can all do with feeling good.

If you are procrastinating or stalling on making those dreams a reality, why not get a coach. www.createlabcoaching.com It makes the difference between doing and dreaming. Lou Hamilton is a filmmaker, artist and coach. She founded the Create Lab Studio as a Hub for Creativity that Matters.

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