Twists and Turns
… going against the grain once you’ve learned how to go with the flow.
As the month of October greets us and I get heavy into putting together investor proposals and advertorial packaging for the Magazine, I’m reminded of just how I got here. Reminded of the moment when I switched gears from being adamant about being a Makeup and Special Effects Artist in film to realizing I had a deeper desire to write.
After a successful run in the industry, I made the decision to go back to college for Creative Writing. I worked for a temp agency to make sure I was bringing in some money and hoped to get something steady so I could take night classes. During that time, I was hired by BET Network (Black Entertainment Television) for what was supposed to be a 3-month temp job as an Advertising Assistant. The woman I was standing in for had taken maternity leave. I worked for one of the first women I had ever worked for – and while I had temped for BET before, I was truly amazed that the Director of Ad Sales remembered me and had asked for me by name.
So, my 3-month temp job turned into a 5-year position which eventually led me to being promoted to Advertising Coordinator. I was the right hand to the VP of Ad Sales West Coast and a team of sales reps. I did everything from expense reports to making travel plans to working with programming to redesigning upfront packages for clients like Nike, Dreamworks, Universal, Paramount, Weiden & Kennedy, EA Sports, Toyota and the like. It was the most educational experience and I needed it. It was also the first time I had an opportunity to learn about publishing as BET had 3 print publications at the time. And subsequently also became a script reader for their BET Films Division. (It’s most likely where my tough editor hat was born. The screenplays people submitted were alarmingly bad. Terrible grammar, story structure, lack of passion – but once in a while, you’d get something worth reading.)
In five years, I learned how to market, how to work with satellite offices in NY, DC, Atlanta, how to understand the ins and outs of a TV Network (which was hugely beneficial since I was already primed and educated on how the ins and outs of filmmaking and production worked), and I gained a keen understanding of things like what running a dual pod meant and how much damage control was necessary to fix the programming faux pas. And honestly, I loved that part. I loved being the person our clients called when they needed something done and I loved that my boss, then the VP of Ad Sales West Coast (now the Senior VP) gave me the freedom to explore, learn, and take control. Ironically, I was also always tasked with finding unique places to dine, to entertain clients, and the most gorgeous hotels. My boss always deferred to me because she knew I was picky and I didn’t want any client lunch or dinner to be anything less than sublime. Don’t even get me started on hotels!
As an aside, I think one of my favorite memories was when me and KL (my boss) would go to the weekly Farmers Market in Century City, buy tamales and fresh flowers and then I would sit and pontificate just how to make the flowers look as immaculate and pristine as possible. And we always had fresh flowers on our desks. It became our thing. In many ways, she opened me up to truly embracing that I had a very unique, stylized taste … and she always encouraged it.
After 9/11 happened, it made me really take a look at my life and what I wanted. During my time at BET, I had met Francis Ford Coppola and had gone to Belize for the Zoetrope: All Story Writing Workshop (and my boss contributed). She believed in my dream and I think, deep down, she knew I needed to pursue it. 9/11 changed me – like it did everyone – and the newfound awakening of the uncertainty of the future of anything threw me into an entirely different life. In an entirely different city. And eventually, I found my way back …
You never really know where one job will lead but that 5-year training I had working for a hugely popular and essential television network opened my eyes to marketing, advertising, branding, target demographics – all terms I’m sure seem boring to you but in essence, is nothing short of critical information. What I learned was what I think is continually missing in the modern world: creating an emotional bond with readers, consumers, brands, and audiences is crucial to distinguishing yourself.
We all want to be connected to someone or some thing. We thrive when we are engaged and we are responsive when we find that “thing” that “understands” us. Years in film and TV, and then learning the business side of it all changed the way I saw the fundamental principles of both. And I am forever grateful for having been given the opportunity.
My point is, the twists and turns life throws your way? Revel in them. Somewhere down the line that knowledge will prove useful and you’ll be reminded that someone gave you an opportunity to grow and learn and that is something to be eternally thankful for. I know I am.
Dawn Garcia, Editor-in-Chief
OFF THE HOOK. Don’t forget to join me on Saturday, October 17th on the Santa Monica Pier for some oyster shucking, delicious food, wine, beer, and cocktails, along with the exquisite VIP Lounge that will take your breath away. Tickets are on sale now.