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  • Driving Diversity in Hollywood - A Leadership Talk with Lindsay Wagner

    From Oscar-winning actors, directors, and writers, to chart-topping musicians, world-class athletes, and brands, United Talent Agency (UTA) represents some of the biggest players in the entertainment industry. In addition to representing clients like Issa Rae, Ali Wong, Bad Bunny, Kevin Hart, and Greta Gerwig, UTA has also expanded into content production and strategic advising, reflecting their drive to stay at the forefront of the industry's evolution. With that eye to the future, UTA brought on Lindsay Wagner in January 2022 as its first-ever Chief Diversity Officer to craft a comprehensive strategy for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) that permeates every aspect of UTA's operations. Wagner’s day-to-day responsibilities range from supporting agents in their client relationships to shaping inclusive talent-sourcing processes. But beyond policy-making, Wagner’s position centers around understanding how each person within the company can uniquely contribute to the DE&I mission and engage leaders across the industry for meaningful partnerships. It’s a dynamic role, and in a conversation with Peggy Kim, FUTURE NOW Founder and CEO, Wagner told attendees that “no two days have ever felt the same.” But despite the ever-changing day-to-day reality of Wagner’s job, at the heart of her role lies a single question: “How are we using our influence, our scale, our power to make sure that we are continuing to do good alongside all communities here in entertainment?” Underlying her passion for DEI is her commitment to social justice. Earlier in her PR / Communications career, Wagner was reluctant to own the title of “activist” and feared retribution from her colleagues, but the deaths of Eric Garner in 2014 and Walter Scott in 2016 turned the tide for her. “I think it was Christmas Eve when the news had gone out about the murder of Walter Scott,” Wagner recalled. “I had tears streaming down my face, and I said, ‘That’s it. That’s enough.’” Now, Wagner proudly introduces herself as “an activist and organizer.” In 2016, Wagner was working at a public relations agency in New York. In her free time, she joined protests and volunteered with the Justice League NYC, “an intergenerational and community-led movement that believes in and embodies the principles of Kingian nonviolence.” Dr. Martin Luther King’s teachings on love and change are the inspiration for her grassroots activism.  She shared, “Whatever you can do to champion others to your cause has to start with empathy, love, and some common ground.” It was at Justice League NYC that Wagner identified her strengths and began leveraging the skills she gained through her years in PR. “I realized this is what I’m really good at. I’m great with media…with storytelling, with words, writing, and executive visibility.” Then, when she became involved with March2Justice, a march from NYC to DC calling for criminal justice reform, Wagner realized that she didn’t just want to volunteer. She wanted this to be her new career path. “That changed my life. It changed my perspective forever,” she revealed. “I came back from that thinking, ‘I can’t just continue doing luxury lifestyle PR. I can’t not help in some way to make the world a better place.’” Wagner decided to pivot her career to the DEI field, combining her passion for justice with her media savvy. Entertainment seemed like the perfect place for Wagner’s newfound purpose, as few things in our culture have the power to shape minds as stories do. “What ultimately led me to entertainment,” Wagner explained, “was when I was thinking about my mission and purpose, the impact and influence that entertainment has on generations, the way people see themselves, and refer to themselves, and the storytelling that gets passed on through that. You are now at the heart of cultural influence.” But, as Wagner knows, diversity goes beyond onscreen representation. She envisions UTA’s impact as reaching into the heart of people and culture. She is dedicated to advancing DEI across the industry, ensuring that her work is not just an internal initiative but a broader commitment to positive change. An initiative that Wagner holds close to her heart is the Find Your People Program, an educational program for aspiring filmmakers made possible through UTA’s partnership with Issa Rae’s management and production company, ColorCreative. “[This program] really helps champion people from underrepresented communities into the industry,” Wagner gushed. The training program provides resources, mentorship, and guidance in the seven main disciplines of filmmaking, and culminates with a short film pitching competition for possible funding. The 2023 cohort included 28 aspiring writers, directors, producers, editors, cinematographers, costume designers, and production designers. When asked what her favorite part of the job is, Wagner responded without hesitation. “For me, it’s really about working with a variety of people. I love people.” And, she is passionate about understanding their stories and strives to be the voice for the voiceless. “Doing this work, you have to be… the person in the room that says what others are thinking but haven’t quite said,” she explained. In this way, Wagner identifies herself as a "good troublemaker," echoing the late John Lewis, and emphasizes the importance of courage and empowerment in her work. “Feeling empowered to be courageous and helping other people find that courage is a huge part of my job and something that I really look forward to every day.” Wagner got her first career break through a conversation with a customer while working part-time as a bartender. Her outgoing nature and ability to connect with people led to an offer for an internship. With every opportunity, she continued to build relationships, eventually landing a job at a PR agency in New York City where she worked for 9 years. An effective communicator knows their audience, but for Wagner, it’s also about empathy. That’s what helped her get that internship, and it also informs how she leads her team today. Wagner learned early on the importance of authentic connections and the impact of showing up in critical relationship-building moments. Being a good colleague, asking questions, and delivering on promises are foundational elements in the relationship-focused entertainment industry, and are beneficial in any role. “When someone walks into my office, I can feel everything that they’re carrying with them,” she said of her leadership style. “Being a person who is very empathic and takes it all in, I tend to carry that with me. I’m able to really sit and listen to people, to understand and not necessarily respond, and really try to walk alongside them.” For those entering the workforce, Wagner recommends getting out there and talking to people. “This industry is hugely based on relationships. If you just sit in your office… without getting a chance to understand the people around you, then you’re not really building those relationships.” Wagner compared relationship building to money in a bank. “Think about the deposits you're making [into relationships] in parallel with the withdrawals. But make sure that the deposits you’re making are significant enough so when you are withdrawing, you have a lot to choose from in that bank.” Wagner added that a lesson she wished she had learned earlier was the strength and confidence that comes from being your authentic self. Despite the challenges of showing up entirely as oneself, she advocates for leaning into elements of your identity that drive you forward. Authenticity is not only crucial for maintaining mental wellness in the workplace but can be the force that guides your career in directions you find meaningful. “Truly understanding the business and becoming the best version of yourself to contribute to the success of the company is really vital to how you are able to continue to be your true authentic self,” she added. Just as Wagner brought her empathy-led approach and social justice passion to UTA, bringing your unique perspective to the table will help you become the best at what you do. As Wagner said, “We all have something unique to give.”

  • From Investment Banking to SpongeBob — A Leadership Talk Katherine Liu

    For Katherine Liu, Chief Operating Officer of the International Markets Division of Paramount Global, a major turning point in her career came at age 22. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Accounting from Georgetown University, she got a job at an investment bank. She was assigned to work on a deal, and she was on it round the clock, working overtime and sleeping in the office every night. She even canceled vacation plans. The pressure was intense and her nerves were frayed. “We [were] killing ourselves for this deal,” she recounted in a recent Leadership Talk with FUTURE NOW Founder and CEO, Peggy Kim. But, after all that, the deal fell through. It was crushing, but it was also the wake-up call Liu needed to change her life. She had pursued the banking job because “it was the nice, safe thing to do,” and she joked, due to a “lack of imagination.” But the failed deal forced her to dig deep and ponder, “What if the deal went through? I mean, was that going to change my life? Really? What’s the end goal of this whole thing? Am I changing the world? Am I even changing anything that I’m going to notice? “It made me realize that if I was going to throw myself into something, it had to be for something that I could at least relate to.” Liu decided to leave the job and take a timeout to travel around Asia.  While still trying to figure things out, she also went and got an MBA from Harvard Business School. She knew she wanted to live in the United States and be near her family, but her experience in Beijing and Hong Kong piqued her interest in working globally while still being in a “consumer-facing space.” As an avid consumer of media and entertainment, Liu was always fascinated by “the choices that people make day in and day out with their time and their leisure.” So, she decided to make a career pivot into the media industry, where she could bring her finance, strategy, and business development acumen to bear in a meaningful way. She got her foot in the door at News Corporation as a Corporate Development Analyst, then as a Business Development Manager at STAR Television, before moving to MTV Networks International to work in strategy and business development. Liu has been at Paramount (formerly ViacomCBS, Viacom) for 17 years now, rising through the ranks to her current role as COO of the International Markets Division. Today, she is laser-focused on creating strategic value across all of Paramount’s businesses and oversees the international functions of Finance, Business and Legal Affairs, Strategy, Technology, Research and Insights, and Operations. Just as in her investment banking days, Liu still cuts deals—only now the deals often include a sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea. Liu described her current role this way: “You’re trying to get the trains to work on time with the right number of people on the right track going to the right place and stopping at the right time.” To navigate these moving parts, Liu said, “Ultimately, you need to get in a room with people who may or may not have anything to do with you, who may not even like you, and you’ve got to get something done. And I think that’s at the heart of every job.” When Liu first joined the company, it was focused on high-definition linear channels.  Social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube were startups that were barely a concern to the long-established major media companies. But, things would soon change. The speed of technological advancement and innovation was increasing at a rate never seen before, and it would be disruptive, positive, negative, exciting, and stressful...no more business as usual. “In many ways, the evolution of the industry has mirrored… the evolution of our culture,” Liu says. The digital wave kickstarted by YouTube “democratized a lot of things about the industry” by lowering the barrier to entry. Traditional business models and ways of doing things have been disrupted and changed forever, forcing companies to rethink and reimagine the future.  However, there are still underlying constants. At the end of the day, Liu said, “Entertainment… is all about the way people consume, communicate, talk about each other, how they see themselves. I think there’s a lot we can learn about people based on what they do in their free time.” However, how people spend their leisure time varies from market to market, Liu told attendees. A big question that drives her work is “What does your brand mean in the market?” Do customers want localized content, or do they have an affinity for US-produced content? What are their cultural tastes and preferences? As an example, Liu explained that Japanese consumers tend to prefer non-humanoid characters such as SpongeBob and shy away from humanoids like Dora the Explorer, even though Dora was one of Nickelodeon’s biggest shows when it aired. And, despite the massive sea change from linear to streaming in the U.S., some markets, like South Africa, still prefer linear channels. From a professional perspective, working internationally as a woman in oftentimes very patriarchal cultures also has its interesting moments. Liu shared a story about one client who spent most of the dinner trying to set her up with his nephew.  Instead of getting offended, she let his comments slide and focused on securing the deal. “Part of you could get… very offended by this and walk out in a huff, but you know, it’s a big world… This guy had grown up in a very different environment.” “You learn to do business the way you need to do business—obviously within the bounds of good taste and your values,” she says. In the end, “we’re human first. And you try to just be there on a human level with someone.” (Liu recommends Erin Meyer’s book, The Culture Map, which discusses how to connect across cultures in a rapidly globalizing world.) As a global leader, understanding different cultures and their different business approaches and professional norms is critical to success. Liu also keeps the ‘human first’ mindset to connect with her team. “I try to get to know everybody on a human level and encourage… whatever they need to keep that side of their lives very much healthy and in a good place.” She regularly checks in with her team, and while she prioritizes face-to-face interaction, she allows everyone the flexibility they need to get their work done and stay healthy, both physically and mentally. “You have to make time for those things,” Liu emphasized. “You only have twenty-four hours in a day and you only have so much time and energy and money, and you [have to] expend that energy and that time in very specific ways to get done what you need to get done but also to live the kind of life that you need to live.” For Liu, being clear about your values can help you find your North Star. “What drives you as a person?” she asked attendees. “What makes you really interested in something? [When have you read or watched something and thought], I want more of that?” Liu also shared that it's also important to “pay attention to times where you’re like, ‘This sucks!’” Every opportunity can help you “learn about yourself and…bring you closer to whatever it is that you want in life." For those who are looking for a job, Liu has some sage advice. “I want to hire people who are going to make my life easier,” she said. “Show that you have solved problems, delivered outcomes, and made something easier for someone.” A résumé “should be a list of what you got done” and should “show… the outcomes of what you did. It shouldn’t look like the job description.” When sending in a résumé or cover letter, or when preparing for an interview, she strongly recommends that you not only emphasize how much you want the job, but what you will do to be an asset to the team. “How is this going to help me, how is it going to help the company?” Liu posited. And for those whose parents might be pushing for a more traditional career path—like investment banking—Liu acknowledged that “as a parent now, I sort of see it from the other side.  It’s all driven by obviously a deep love of your kids, but also… you want to keep them from the crappy stuff. You want to make sure they’re secure, you want to make sure they’re taken care of… In many cases, your parents just don’t know how to communicate their wishes and their fears and their concerns for you, because it’s very difficult for them.” Liu encourages students to try to understand their parents’ fears.  Are they afraid you won’t be able to pay your rent? Are they afraid you won’t be able to pay down your student debt?  She advises having concrete answers on how you might address their concerns. “I guarantee that will make them feel better,” Liu said. To cap off the talk, Liu referred to an article by her old business school professor, Clay Christensen, which had a profound impact on her, called “How Will You Measure Your Life?” In the article, Christensen writes, “Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people. This is my final recommendation: Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.” Words to live by.

  • The Great Anime Era Begins!

    One of my favorite childhood memories is waking up early every Saturday morning, grabbing my bowl of cereal, and sitting on the couch ready to watch the newest One Piece episode with my brothers. Anime has changed my life and that of many others. Even though it was created in the ’50s, the Japanese media found success in the ’80s and ’90s with the release of globally recognized titles like Akira, Dragon Ball, One Piece, and Naruto. However, only recently has anime become a truly global juggernaut. 2023 has been a significant year for One Piece in particular. The main character, Monkey D. Luffy is getting his own balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He will be the first anime character to be included in one of the most iconic American events since Goku from Dragon Ball in 2018. This is a big deal for all One Piece fans, but it’s also very special to me as I’ve been following along with Luffy’s transformational journey since childhood. When Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece first hit shelves in 1997, it started out as a typical shonen manga about a young boy’s journey to becoming the greatest pirate ever. Shonen manga is an editorial category of mangas targeting an audience of adolescent boys and is usually action-packed with little plot or character development. However, One Piece stood out with its ability to transport you to its fictional world while still addressing real-life situations that many can relate to. Each character comes with their own compelling backstory that creates layers of meaning in each story arc and helps the audience get to know the characters on a deeper level. While One Piece is hardly the only anime to have gained more popularity recently, it is the first anime to have a successful Netflix live-action adaptation. One of the biggest things fans look for with a live-action adaptation is the production’s staying as true to the source material as possible. Fans were disappointed in Netflix’s past live-action adaptations of Death Note, Cowboy Bebop, and Fullmetal Alchemist because of poor casting and oddly paced scripts. They felt there was no on-screen chemistry between important characters and that the plot was rushed. It’s no wonder that One Piece fans were apprehensive when a live-action adaptation was announced. However, Netflix learned from its past mistakes and wisely hired One Piece super fan, Matt Owens, as showrunner and executive producer on the project. He did not disappoint. Owens interacted with fellow fans via social media in what seemed to be an attempt to ease some of the tension surrounding accuracy and staying true to the source material. He answered questions and provided clarity about plot direction once the show actually aired. Netflix also knocked it out of the park when it came to casting, even flying out the manga’s creator, Eiichiro Oda, to LA to be a part of the casting process. While each and every character casting has been flawless, Iñaki Godoy as Monkey D. Luffy and Jacob Romero Gibson as Usopp are my favorites so far. Their ability to capture the personalities of the characters while adapting to live-action pacing has been impressive. All of these well-executed aspects now have the numbers to back them up. Within the first week of release, the adaptation received a phenomenal 18.5 million views and was number one in the streaming platform’s Top 10 across 84 countries, narrowly passing the records that were previously held by series such as Wednesday and season four of Stranger Things, which held the number one spot in 83 countries at the time of their release. Another way to enjoy anime is by watching them in the theater. It has been a surreal feeling to watch action-packed anime movies on the big screen, in public, with other people, instead of in the comfort of a blanket fort on my bedroom floor. In the past year, the One Piece franchise has held special screenings of previously released movies such as One Piece Film: GOLD and One Piece: STAMPEDE, and its highest-grossing movie to date, One Piece Film: RED, which grossed over US$246.5 million worldwide, making it the 6th highest-grossing anime and Japanese film of all-time, surpassing new gen anime films Jujutsu Kaisen: 0 and timeless classics like Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle. It may not seem like much in the world of today’s Hollywood blockbusters, but it is a noteworthy accomplishment for anime/manga and its community of fans. Alongside other popular anime like Attack on Titan, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Demon Slayer. One Piece has made a name for itself in the industry, setting and breaking records with each passing day. For Macy’s to make it official and give Luffy his very own balloon is a major nod to anime fans across the world. It’s amazing to see this level of recognition on a global scale, and I hope the open-mindedness we’ve seen only continues to grow.

  • Aspiring Filmmakers: Love Is the Answer — A Leadership Talk with Jonathan Coleman

    How do you go from shooting family movies in the backyard as a kid in Iowa to overseeing operations of a production company whose films have earned over half a billion dollars at the box office? Just ask Jonathan Coleman, Executive Vice President of Guy Walks Into a Bar. Coleman recently sat down for a Leadership Talk with FUTURE NOW CEO and Founder, Peggy Kim, and shared how he broke into the business and ended up running the operations of Guy Walks into a Bar, best known for the Christmas classic Elf, Sully, Perfect Stranger, and The Professor and the Madman. Coleman had dreamed of being a filmmaker since he was a boy. He convinced his mother to get him a Super 8 so that he could capture precious family memories. It was an ingenious move that would fuel his passion for storytelling. While film school might have seemed like the natural track for him, he attended Wheaton College, which did not have a formal film program. Nevertheless, he took every film class he could while getting his BA in Communications and Media Studies, and honed his filmmaking skills outside of class, shooting short films with his friends on the weekends. Though he didn’t know it at the time, all that dedication would pay off…eventually. During his sophomore year, he met Wheaton alum and filmmaker Todd Komarnicki, who had just produced Elf and had come to speak on campus. Coleman approached him after his talk and made plans to meet Komarnicki over coffee in NYC. A mentoring relationship was born. After graduating from Wheaton, Coleman was intent on finding a job, any job, to pay off his school loans. “My first job out of college was data entry at a factory in Palatine, Illinois, and it was miserable,” he told attendees. After that, he worked as a financial consultant for nonprofits for two years. Still, he knew he wanted to be in the film industry, and after working at two jobs he didn’t love, he “was really ready to take a giant leap of faith.” Five years after their first meeting, Komarnicki offered Coleman a job as his assistant at A Guy Walks into a Bar in NYC, and the rest is history. Coleman steadily rose up through the ranks to his current position as EVP. He likens his job to being a “conductor, making sure all of the instruments are playing in sync.” Coleman learned about the long cycle of getting a film made. Making a movie—even a small one—is a laborious process. “[The production process is] always seven years, even when the movie doesn’t happen,” Coleman quipped. “It’s not for the impatient, that’s for sure.” “Sully,” Todd Kormanicki’s screenplay about the Miracle on the Hudson, took six-and-a-half years to come to fruition before it scored an Oscar nomination for Tom Hanks. At A Guy Walks Into a Bar, five employees balance the current slate of 55 projects in various stages of development or production, some of which may never come to fruition. Oftentimes, they will be approached by someone in the hope of adapting preexisting intellectual properties, and then Coleman and his team go to a studio to get funding for the production. Even after all this, filming might fail, or, in the case of television shows, the show might not get picked up during the pilot season. “We run a tight ship,” Coleman said. Of course, being in the production world has been precarious lately due to the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America strikes, but when asked about the strikes (this talk was filmed before the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes were resolved), Coleman expressed his wholehearted support. “I have picketed with people in solidarity,” he said, “[and] I’m very much in favor of labor and protecting labor.” Coleman had just graduated from college when the WGA went on strike in 2007 when the threat of artificial intelligence loomed less large on the horizon, but concerns over fair pay remained the same. AI, streaming, and the increasingly consolidated corporations all “come together in this crucible,” Coleman explained, and it’s on this crucible that the WGA, SAG, and major studios have been tested. Due to those issues, Coleman acknowledged that making independent films has become harder. Before streaming, “you could actually get a theatrical release for [your film]. There was more cinema.” But now, it has become increasingly difficult to turn a profit on a film. Still, Coleman is optimistic that the strike agreements and the success of some smaller, independent movies, such as last year’s Oscar-winning “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” will help independent cinema turn a new corner. Starting a career in this environment might seem daunting to industry hopefuls. Coleman was open about his own struggles when he first took a leap of faith to pursue his dream. “New York [after he first moved] was difficult,” he admitted, but he advised students to try and fall in love with what they’re doing. “Love is actually the answer to almost everything in the world, but specifically this career,” Coleman said. It might not come easily, but “you can cultivate [love]” by figuring out how “to turn this from an outcome-based thing to a process-based thing.” What parts of a job can you fall in love with? What little things can you find love in? “The ability to put one foot in front of the other is not something you should underestimate,” advised Coleman. Coleman ended by telling about his pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. During this time, he reflected on “the ability to calm down and just walk, one foot in front of the other, [is] a reminder that life is a journey and we’re all in it together.” No matter how difficult the journey might get, just walk forward with love, and things will turn out alright. “I try to always live my life remembering that we’re walking each other home.”

  • THOSE REALITY GIRLS - A Leadership Talk with Kari McFarland and Pam LaLima

    Executive producers Kari McFarland and Pam LaLima both have more than 25 years of experience in the entertainment industry, developing and show-running iconic reality show hits like Jersey Shore, Mob Wives, A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, and Black Ink Crew. Together, they have produced almost every type of reality, celebrity, dating, and design show. They first met in 2005 while working on the pilot of A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. McFarland worked on the network side at VH1 before the show moved to MTV, while LaLima worked as a Supervising Producer at 495 Productions. It would be the beginning of more reality show collaborations. Most recently, the two worked on “Super-Sized Salon,” a reality show on WeTV about a salon catering to the plus-sized community in Las Vegas. They recently sat with FUTURE NOW Founder & CEO Peggy Kim for a Leadership Talk to share about their intertwined journeys. “We both were huge Real World fans,” McFarland explained. That love drew her and LaLima into the reality TV industry. When A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila peaked, it might have seemed like “the height of the really wild and crazy stuff.” However, reality TV has existed since the introduction of live television in the 1950s. “[Unscripted television] has really kind of always been there," said LaLima. But how does one actually create a reality television show? “From the production side… there are two different ways that we get to the start of a show,” LaLima explained. The production team constantly develops and workshops ideas, and then, pitches them to a network. If the network likes an idea, “we do a pilot to test it, then we get greenlit to series.” Sometimes “the networks bring the show to us… and approach us as a production company,” which is what happened with “Jersey Shore.” But before getting greenlit, there is an all-important step: casting. “Casting is one of the most important parts of making a show,” LaLima emphasized. Though reality television naturally comes with a layer of artifice, “the audience is going to immediately sniff out someone who is [too] fake.” Openness and honesty in casting are critical to the process. “The best things that actually happen… and the ones that really do break through, they’re real,” McFarland added. “How do we create an environment where we can allow for this great stuff to happen?” LaLima shared, “If you watch with the volume off and you’re still watching, you have someone who’s very entertaining.” Casting needs to look for someone outgoing and animated, whose charisma shows through even when silent, but that might look different for each show. “You can tell right away when someone is playing [a] part… [or] trying to get cast on TV,” and LaLima wants to avoid that. Though McFarland has worked most of her career on the network side, she started out in production, giving her valuable insight into how shows get made. “Having that experience from the production side was very, very helpful for me,” McFarland said. She described the process needed both during production and post-production to catch little moments or go back and see where the seeds were for the big finale. “It’s a collaborative symphony,” she explained. On the network side, there is internal collaboration as well, which includes: executive producers; producers; writers; programming and development teams who look at titles to acquire, commission, co-produce, and schedule; legal teams who work on contracts and rights and clearances; sales and distribution teams; marketing, creative services, and public relations groups; and more. For those who might be interested in a career in programming or development, McFarland proffered, “I think it’s much easier to get started… if you start on the production side.” She also disabused the audience of the notion that a job at a network is somehow more stable, noting the cycles of layoffs and belt-tightening in recent years. But, McFarland also encouraged the audience not to wait for opportunities to present themselves. Whether you want to work at a production company or a network, don’t just wait for job listings. “Yes, apply on LinkedIn… but also go look at the shows and the production companies that you like… and write to them, and follow up with them,” she advised. “Write from your heart, and make it short, memorable, and succinct… You [only]need one person to want you.” LaLima also shared words of wisdom from her own experience as an intern. Even though it was low-level, she advised everyone to “take it seriously.” Even a coffee run should be treated with importance because those jobs “are teaching you things you will need in the future. Care about it. You are making a difference.” “There is nothing like hard work, enthusiasm, [and] showing that you’re a responsible person,” McFarland added. “It goes by so fast if you keep working and plugging at it. So, please have fun along the way… It will come if you continue to have the right attitude and do the work.”

  • Hispanic Heritage Month: Where there is Diversity, there is Power

    From September 15 to October 15, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. The nationwide holiday commemorates the beautiful cultures, histories, and achievements within the Hispanic/Latin American community. Growing up in a Latino household, my family taught me and my siblings about our culture primarily through music, food, and stories about their lives back home in Panama, but also through film and television. I strived to find myself within these different media outlets, and they inspired my love for music and film. During this time we acknowledge the incredible diversity within the Hispanic community, including different dialects of language, cuisines, art forms, and customs. It reinforces a sense of belonging and unity among the Hispanic/Latino community living in the United States and around the world. Recognizing Hispanic achievements during this month can inspire younger generations to pursue their dreams and goals. It showcases the community's role models and success stories, demonstrating hard work and determination, and motivating anyone to achieve their aspirations. With that being said, representation plays a huge role in people’s lives regardless of age. So to celebrate this month, I wanted to highlight some incredible films that captivate us all and show the world just how incredibly talented we can be. Disney’s first Latin American Musical: Encanto Encanto shook the world with its release in November 2021 as Disney’s first Latin American musical. The movie tells the story of the Madrigal family, where each member has a special power that allows them to contribute to helping the town they live in. Each member—except for Mirabel, that is. She is the only one without a special power and because of this, she struggles to feel included and seen. When things begin to turn for the worse between the magical house they live in and the town of Encanto, it may be up to Mirabel to figure out how to save everyone. The story tackles relatable topics as well as a common family dynamic. What made me appreciate this movie even more was the fact that the people involved in the filmmaking, did extensive research to convey the culture of the country and its people properly. This included traveling to Colombia to see their day-to-day lives. The Disney directors contacted Colombian filmmakers Juan Rendon, Natalie Osma, and other Colombian consultants who helped them showcase the magic and tradition in its authenticity. Their main goal was to “highlight the specific aspects of the country that they thought were important to the culture” (LaTimes). I also treasure how they displayed that Latinos can be all different shades and skin tones with diversity among families, which made me gravitate toward this remarkable tale. The directors even consulted Colombian journalist, Edna Liliana Valencia on the hair texture of the Black Colombian characters and specific instruments like the Marimba de Chonta. Encanto received an audience score of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and 3 Academy Award nominations, winning Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. Representation grabs the attention of the world, makes history, and opens the door to more opportunities for the community to continue to thrive. Where there is diversity, there is power. Other movies to note with Latin American representation: Blue Beetle (Theaters) Vivo (Netflix) Coco (Disney+) Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (Disney+) You can find ‘Encanto’ and many other incredible stories on Disney+, Netflix (Vivo), in theaters (Blue Beetle), and across all other streaming platforms! Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! ________ SOURCES: Colombia Consultants 'Encanto' is Disney's first Latino musical. How the filmmakers got Colombia right Audience Score Encanto - Rotten Tomatoes

  • From Cadavers to a Career in Media and Learning to Embrace Change - A Leadership Talk with Ian Lynch

    Ian Lynch, the Global Head of Campaign Management at Spotify, took a surprising path to his current role, as he revealed in a recent conversation with Peggy Kim, CEO, and Founder of FUTURE NOW. His journey is a testament to the unpredictable nature of life, filled with lessons of resilience, adaptability, and balance. From Coroner to Wordsmith: Discovering His True Passion An aspiring coroner, Lynch enrolled in the pre-med program at the University of Southern California. But, he discovered that he was much better at writing papers than dissecting bodies. So, he pivoted and became an English and creative writing major. Like many college students, Lynch did not know what he wanted to do after graduation, but—after a stint as a temp—found himself as an editor at PR Newswire, where he stayed for almost four years. The Value of Education: Lessons Beyond Academics From there, his career journey evolved into more operations and managerial roles at companies like LeisureLInk, YP, Amazon, ESPN, Disney, and now, Spotify. Lynch exudes a genuine passion for people and processes, and his career progression is an example of leaning into one's strengths and talents...and the joy of discovery. Despite the seemingly unrelated nature of his degree and career, Lynch emphasizes the invaluable lessons he learned during his academic years. These lessons transcended majors, teaching him to collaborate effectively with diverse personalities and solve complex problems. In his words, "It doesn't matter what major you're in; school helps you find the way to balance partnerships and ensure your voice is heard, without having to be the loudest person in the room." Spotify's Global Maestro: Ian Lynch's Career at a Glance Today, Lynch leads Spotify's Campaign Management team, responsible for ensuring that Spotify's advertising partners achieve their objectives. His team provides essential support by sharing reporting data, managing assets, and finalizing billing, among other vital tasks. In addition, Lynch oversees the technical operations team, responsible for troubleshooting technical issues, as well as the house and labels campaign teams. House campaigns showcase Spotify's latest features, while labels campaigns introduce new artists to the platform. Triumph Over Trials: Lessons from Adversity Ian Lynch's journey to success was not without its challenges. In 2014, right after his wife gave birth to twins, Lynch lost his job and he struggled to find work for the next six months. Though it was a very stressful time, he reflects on it today with appreciation as it gave him a chance to be there with his children and a hopeful and positive perspective on change. Lynch shares, "You look back and think, 'I'm in such a better position than I ever was previously'… and you’re really grateful for having gone through that tough period.” Recent graduates who can relate to the stress of job hunting will find inspiration in Lynch's story. He advises giving oneself breathing room and acknowledges that it's okay to feel upset for a day, as long as you continue to search for the next opportunity and grow. Honesty as a Virtue: Being True to Yourself in Job Searches For those embarking on job searches in unfamiliar territory, Lynch offers a valuable piece of advice: be candid about your experiences. Lynch landed his first role in digital advertising at ESPN despite having no direct industry experience. He boldly admitted his lack of experience in digital advertising but emphasized his expertise in related fields and how he could bring value to the role. In his view, "There is no replacing eagerness, ambition, [and] willingness to learn and grow." Adaptability: Riding the Waves of Change Adaptability has been a hallmark of Ian Lynch's career. He highlights that even when things don't go according to plan, one often ends up in a better place than anticipated. Lynch encourages individuals not to be too hard on themselves and to learn to adapt and go with the flow. This doesn't mean suppressing emotions, but rather channeling them into productive action and exploring new opportunities that arise from change. Leadership as an Ongoing Journey: Learning from Others To continually improve his management style, Lynch prioritizes learning from others. He believes that the most critical aspect of management is learning from different perspectives. This includes insights from managers and leaders at various levels, as Lynch explains that leadership isn't confined to a specific role but can be embodied by individuals at any level. The Importance of Mental Health and Empathy As a leader, Lynch strives to create a culture of support rather than judgment within his team and is open about his own mental health struggles. “In college at the time, [I] was really, really suffering from depression and probably some ADHD.” Spotify promotes "fika," the Swedish equivalent of coffee breaks, and he goes the extra mile to be available to his team members, often meeting one-on-one over coffee. Lynch believes it helps him stay in tune with his team's experiences and be the best manager and support he can be. Banishing the Imposter: Balancing Logic and Emotion Despite his position, Ian Lynch admits to grappling with imposter syndrome at times. “It is very, very important to balance the logical with the emotional,” he advises. Anyone at any level can feel imposter syndrome, and to counteract this, he encourages taking a look back at your accomplishments. “Give yourself credit for what you’ve accomplished in the past,” he said, and “be grateful, be happy, because you’re doing a great job.” Navigating Life's Rapids: Embracing Change In conclusion, Ian Lynch's story offers a beacon of hope to those navigating the challenging waters of life and career. He reminds everyone that periods of stress often precede success. "Right now is the time to go out there and learn, and it's fine to fail because you learn from failure." College and post-graduation life may seem like a series of hurdles, but the key is to give yourself the time and space to adapt and grow. "You don't need to have it all figured out right now." Embrace change and uncertainty, for they are the currents that will carry you to your intended destination.

  • Not Your Typical DragonCon

    Every Labor Day weekend, tens of thousands of people from all over the world congregate in Atlanta to go to DragonCon, a science-fiction and fantasy convention. DragonCon attracts everyone from scientists and puppeteers to celebrities like George Takei and has a storied history, including “cults” dedicated to an old carpet in the downtown Marriott Marquis and another one for a UPS cutout from years ago. The annual parade attracts not only con-goers, but other Atlanta citizens, and traffic downtown is even worse than usual during the weekend. I was able to attend DragonCon for the fourth time this year, and as always, I loved it. There were panels on the cryptids of Georgia, “Legends of Tomorrow,” “Firefly,” and “The Lord of the Rings,” as well as themed parties like “Last Night on Alderaan” and “Heroes and Villains.” On Saturday night, attendees could visit the Georgia Aquarium and see the whale sharks and Belugas, food and drink in hand. However, this year, some things were different. Due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, actors attending the convention were not allowed to talk about their projects, past or present. Only actors in video games could discuss their work, though that might change in the future as the SAG-AFTRA national board has voted to send a strike authorization to video game union members. But what does it look like when you’re attending a panel with Sean Astin and Elijah Wood, but they can’t mention anything about Middle Earth? Or when George Takei can’t say the words “Star Trek”? You get Matt Ryan and Adam Tsekhman from “Legends of Tomorrow” discussing the best way to trim ear hair, or Sean Astin singing Jimmy Buffet to the audience as a tribute to the last musician. References to “The Lord of the Rings” instead became references to a long trip to New Zealand, where the movies were filmed, where everyone did a lot of walking and hiking. Typically, these panels feature questions that have been asked ad nauseam—how was it working on this set, what is your favorite line you said in this movie or show, et cetera, and it was refreshing to hear more creative questions like, “What is your favorite way to eat a potato?” The audience seemed to enjoy this change of pace, and some even came dressed as Fran Drescher, the president of SAG-AFTRA and face of the strike, from her days in the television show “The Nanny.” Astin especially has a strong connection to the strike. His mother, Patty Duke, served as president for SAG in the 1980s, where she prevented a television and film strike with keen negotiating tactics, though she also oversaw strikes for commercials and animation when agreements couldn’t be reached. Astin himself is part of SAG’s negotiating committee and has been vocal on social media and the picket lines. At DragonCon, he was noticeably somber when talking about the strike, especially as the convention came not too long after the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers once again failed to reach an agreement. Still, Astin emphasized that all the actors striking are in “lockstep,” and that SAG will continue to fight for fair streaming residuals and guarantees against AI replacement. He encouraged attendees to support the strike however they could, even if it was just by retweeting or liking a post on social media. This was met with raucous applause, as Atlanta has rapidly gained popularity as a place to film and work due to its production tax breaks, and thus possesses a significant portion of SAG (and even WGA) members. Luckily for us DragonCon attendees, the ongoing strikes did not seem to impact the number of actors attending the convention, and some likely view “cons” as a way to maintain a source of income while they are unable to work. But how long can these actors survive working the convention circuit? What about those who can’t go to cons? Astin encouraged anyone with the means to donate to the SAG-AFTRA Emergency Financial Assistance and Disaster Relief Fund, which has recently seen an influx in cash from the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, and others. But, there seems to be little hope for a swift resolution at this point, and donations can only do so much. Nevertheless, seeing the solidarity between the actors at the convention and the support from the audience, it seems that most stand behind SAG when it comes to the strike. Though not a conventional DragonCon, it was no less enjoyable for the attendees and served as a stark reminder of how the strike won’t just affect the movie or TV release calendar, but everyone who makes a living in the entertainment industry…and those who just want to have a fun weekend in downtown Atlanta.

  • THE NOW archives

    Past issues of the full newsletter 2024 FEBRUARY 2024 JANUARY 2024 2023 No December issue NOVEMBER 2023 OCTOBER 2023 SEPTEMBER 2023 AUGUST 2023 JUNE / JULY 2023 MAY 2023 APRIL 2023 MARCH 2023 FEBRUARY 2023 JANUARY 2023 2022 DECEMBER 2022 NOVEMBER 2022 OCTOBER 2022 SEPTEMBER 2022 AUGUST 2022 JULY 2022 JUNE 2022 MAY 2022 APRIL 2022 MARCH 2022 FEBRUARY 2022 JANUARY 2022 2021 DECEMBER 2021 NOVEMBER 2021 OCTOBER 2021 SEPTEMBER 2021 AUGUST 2021 JULY 2021 JUNE 2021 MAY 2021 APRIL 2021 MARCH 2021 FEBRUARY 2021 JANUARY 2021 2020 DECEMBER 2020 NOVEMBER 2020

  • My FUTURE NOW Journey of Firsts

    My involvement with FUTURE NOW began in the summer of 2022, when a family friend and FUTURE NOW board member, Jessica Masters, encouraged me to attend the annual Media & Entertainment Conference, which was held virtually that year. Despite the remote setup, the 2022 conference had a strong sense of community that I had been craving in my early professional life. Eager to contribute, I contacted FUTURE NOW's Founder & CEO, Peggy Kim, to discuss ways I could give back to the organization. I joined The NOW newsletter team, putting my journalism background to use. I write articles covering the FUTURE NOW Leadership Talks and Meet the Recruiter Info Sessions, as well as the latest media and entertainment news. I also joined the Marketing Committee, actively participating in discussions about content creation and marketing strategy and ideating ways to expand FUTURE NOW’s audience reach. This was the first time I was exposed to social media marketing. In June, I attended the 2023 FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference, which was in person in New York City. My favorite part about this whole experience was seeing the conference come to fruition from start to finish. Being with the organization from pre-production to the final execution of the event was informative and fulfilling, as it allowed me to see and feel all of the tiny details coming together. While the articles I’ve written and the graphics I’ve created may only be a small piece of this large puzzle, being able to take part in this major annual event as an alum, speaker, and volunteer have been powerful. This year's conference marked a series of firsts for me. It was not only my first in-person FUTURE NOW conference, but also my debut on-stage as a moderator. Peggy entrusted me to moderate a keynote session featuring Anne del Castillo, the then-commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (NYC MOME). As the head of NYC MOME, Commissioner del Castillo shaped policies that advance the city’s role as a global media center, ensuring the health of creative sectors while generating revenue. During the keynote, Commissioner del Castillo shared about her career journey, which included personal stories of dedication, perseverance, and many helping hands. Our conversation spoke closely to the theme of this year’s conference, “Innovation, collaboration, and transformation”, shedding light on the role of community as the heartbeat of media and entertainment. Taking on this role as moderator was one of the most daunting yet rewarding experiences of the conference, giving me an opportunity to contribute directly to the event’s programming. As nervous as I was, being surrounded by supportive peers and professionals helped me step up to the plate and get out of my comfort zone. The conference was also a long-awaited chance for me to meet the dedicated FUTURE NOW volunteers I had collaborated with over the past year. After spending extensive time volunteering solely through screens and Zoom meetings, finally coming face-to-face with this team was truly heartwarming. I still remember the way our faces lit up as we gathered to set up the venue in preparation for Day 1. It was a defining moment that brought me so much joy and a much-needed surge of energy for the busy three days ahead. The genuine connections I formed over those 12 months carried through the entire event, enhancing our teamwork. I am forever grateful for FUTURE NOW, Peggy, and the wonderful friends and mentors I have met through this network. From seeing my on-stage debut to fostering many friendships and mentorships, FUTURE NOW has witnessed so much of my personal and professional growth. In fact, following the conclusion of the 2023 conference, the stars aligned in my favor, as I received a job offer from a video game company in Los Angeles. The experience and connections I gained through FUTURE NOW undoubtedly played a pivotal role in this exciting new chapter of my career. As much as I will miss New York, I am looking forward to the sunshine and many career firsts that await me on the West Coast.

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