Mentorship: men·tor [men-tawr, -ter] –noun
1. a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. 2. an influential senior sponsor or supporter. —Synonyms 1. adviser, master, guide, preceptor. © Random House, Inc. 2010. Call me what you want, just hang on, understand what I say, and trust in what you do. Stacy Codikow, “Girltrash: All Night Long” Executive Producer and Mentor.
It never ceases to amaze me that every single person automatically understands what I am saying when I say WAX ON, WAX OFF. This was such a poignant moment between teacher and student, man and boy, the Sensei and the Karate Kid. For the slight chance that one of you missed it, here is the reference: Daniel, a young wimpy kid who gets pushed around by all the bigger boys in High School, comes to the Karate Sensei and asks to learn Karate. But, Daniel is confused and frustrated by the Sensei’s pedestrian teaching methods, because he is relegated to waxing dozens of cars in the hot sun. What Daniel doesn’t realize is that, in the aggregate, these small tedious tasks are, in fact, the exact skills needed to become a Karate champ. Of course, when challenged by the bullies in the Karate showdown, Daniel’s practice of car waxing has provided him with the advanced skills necessary to win. This image has stayed with me for years and is, in fact, the basis of POWER UP’s one-of-a-kind educational program designed by me, the “POWER UP Filmmaking Mentorship Program.”
The Film and Television industry is one of the most competitive industries in the World. To succeed in this industry is especially difficult, since it remains an apprentice industry where 98% of what you must know to succeed can only be learned on the job. Most failures – at all levels – primarily stem from arrogant & ignorant blunders of industry politics, social skills and missteps on the unmapped hierarchical ladder of respect, deference & politics. Most people who blunder in this industry never get a second chance. Therefore, learning these opaque & hard lessons (that can spiral you to failure the fastest) are crucial and best learned in an environment where second and third chances are given (but fourth chances are NOT) … this is the “POWER UP Filmmaking Mentorship Program!”
Future filmmakers apply to the “POWER UP Filmmaking Mentorship Program” from all over the world. On the 2009/2010 “Girltrash: All Night Long” film production POWER UP had 40 Mentees, some of whom came in from Singapore, Australia, Utah, Washington, DC and San Francisco, but all showed up to learn. To be a Mentee you must be available to commit to weeks, and sometimes months, of long hours, hard work and sometimes tedious tasks. A good attitude, good work ethic, honesty, resilience and a desire to learn is necessary to be accepted into and graduate from this prestigious program, which will in turn provide you with the opportunity of a lifetime: to succeed, to learn and gain access & entrée into the most exciting industry in the world.
When Mentees falter, and they all do, I remind them of the basic principles needed to understand the politics and structure of the industry. The most dangerous bosses in this industry are those that will never highlight an employee’s mistake, but they will yield it like a sword severing the head of the unwitting employee when needed. As a result, the best gift POWER UP provides to all Mentees is pointing out the Mentees’ mistakes as they are made while incorporating and helping with the redirection necessary for Mentees to learn. This “coaching” style is the best possible learning method because it teaches while in motion and solidifies the redirection. This protects the Mentees, because in the real world you only get one mistake.
So, for example, when questioned, “why do I have to do craft service, when I am never gonna do this in my career?” or “why do the Mentees have to eat last in line?” or “why can’t I just do the one task I enjoy?” … I remind them that knowing the reasoning, nuance, processes and rules that are the foundation upon which all rests is crucial to your success when you move up, so you don’t step on toes and you don’t blunder … then I repeat … WAX ON, WAX OFF!
This POWER UP Filmmaking Mentorship Program also allows the Mentees to learn, participate and observe while they are being useful and contributing to the bigger picture. Lessons were taught both on and off the set, where they worked as the backbone of the production: production assistants, grips, wardrobe assistants, assistant directors, transportation drivers, stand ins, extras, locations scouts, casting assistants, camera assistants, in the production office and in all other departments that needed them. The Mentees were also able to shadow the Director; visit HBO’s “Hung” Television production office to meet with writer Angela Robinson; have roundtable discussions with director Alex Kondracke & producer Lisa Thrasher; and they always have access to consulting with me. The Mentees had a blast, learned a ton, formed a bond of ever lasting friendships and some even fell in love (more on that next week).
I overheard on the set probably the best expressed sentiments of the mentees, it was said “There’s no other place where one can get this much access and education, it’s like film school meets Universal Studios tour with a trip to Fantasy Island thrown in!”
50% Boot Camp, 50% University, 100% awesome the “POWER UP Filmmaking Mentorship Program” is not for the faint of heart. POWER UP has incorporated this incomparable educational program on the film productions of “Itty Bitty Titty Committee” and “GIRLTRASH: All Night Long” and has the Mentee success rate to prove that it works!
Next week we will hear from a mentee on her experiences…